Genre Hopping – Part 1: History

When gamers hear the name “MegaMan” (or if you’re from Japan, “Rockman”), they think “Jump ‘n’ Shoot Man”. The Blue Bomber is pretty much synonymous with run-and-gun platforming action. Hell, even Rockman XOver managed to get that bit right (to some degree). But there have been many occasions where MegaMan has branched out and tried new things, even before Sonic and Final Fantasy did. Most of the time, these experiments failed, but even in those cases, the results were interesting to say the least.

One of the earliest MegaMan spinoffs was 1993’s Wily and Light’s Rockboard: That’s Paradise for the Nintendo Famicom. The game itself really isn’t that much special, effectively being a Monopoly-inspired board game where you played as one of five characters from earlier MegaMan games: Dr. Light, Dr. Wily, Roll, Dr. Cossack or his daughter Kalinka. There are some unique gameplay features that make the game a lot more interesting than Monopoly, such as the ability to build property on lots owned by other players, the ability to buy out lots and properties owned by other players, the ability to transform into various Robot Masters for an entire lap of the board (like Gutsman, who allows you to destroy other people’s properties), a space that triggers a racing segment involving Mets going through an obstacle course which you can bet on (fun fact: Nintendo of America’s no-gambling policy is the major reason this game never got localized) and the card system, which grant various perks such as not paying rent when landing on another player’s space or preventing them from collecting rent on any of their properties due to a power outage. Of course, the best improvement of all is that there are actual victory conditions in this game besides just waiting for everyone else to go bankrupt: buying up the majority of lots, placing properties on the majority of lots and having the most money (referred to, fittingly enough, as zenny) all put you right in the winner’s circle. As a person who was traumatized as a child by a Monopoly game that lasted more than 3 hours, I find that kind of take on this game pretty refreshing. Another interesting fact about Rockboard is the fact that it’s also where Dr. Wily’s cackling bird sidekick Reggae made his debut. Aside from Reggae’s design, Keiji Inafune’s only contribution to the game was the cover art.

Next up, there’s Mega Man’s Soccer which is fittingly a sports game. Mega Man’s Soccer was also the first game the original Mega Man headlined in on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, beating Mega Man 7 to the punch by over an entire year in both Japan and North America. I’ll be honest, I’m not really a big fan of this one: the controls are wonky and though I find soccer fairly interesting to watch on TV (as far as sports go, anyway), I’ve never felt it translates to an arcade sports-style game as well as [American] Football and Basketball do. It is pretty interesting to see what got cut out of the game though. Multitap support and actual endings for both the single-player modes? There’s probably a joke in there somewhere, but I’ll just write it off as a colossal oversight instead.

Speaking of sports, doesn’t NASCAR count as a…you know what? Let’s just scrap that terrible segue. Another interesting genre swap for the Blue Bomber was the Playstation kart racer, MegaMan Battle & Chase. It was only released in Japan and Europe, until it hit North American shores many years later via the MegaMan X Collection, for some inexplicable reason. It was your typical Mario Kart knockoff as far as gameplay is concerned, though in typical MegaMan fashion, if you defeated an opponent in Grand Prix mode, you could gank one of their parts, allowing you to customize your own kart, which could also be used in the game’s other two modes. The Japanese version also had some interesting pre-race interviews, but these were cut from the European version. The game let you race as the usual suspects: Megaman, Protoman, Roll, Bass, but also threw in some slightly more obscure character like NapalmMan from MM5, SpringMan from MM7 and in some versions, Duo, the mysterious robot from outer space from MM8.

Of course, if there was one thing Capcom was famous for back throughout the 90s, it was their fighting game division. And MegaMan is no stranger to fighting games, as shown by his appearance in the first two Marvel vs. Capcom games and recently in Street Fighter X Tekken. But what few people know is that he had a couple of arcade fighting games of his own. MegaMan: The Power Battle and its sequel, MegaMan 2: The Power Fighters were released on the Capcom Play System 2 in 1995 and 1996 respectively. The original featured three playable characters: the Blue Bomber himself, his older brother Protoman and his evil counterpart Bass, while the sequel added in a fourth: the aforementioned Duo. Both games allowed for two-player coop play and had three scenarios to choose from, each containing 6 Robot Masters from MegaMans 1-7 and two final bosses to be fought in Wily’s Skull Castle fortress. Like in most MegaMan games, you could obtain the Robot Masters’ weapons by defeating them, but the methods of doing so differed between Power Battle and Power Fighters: in the original, both players would get the weapon, while in the sequel, each defeated boss dropped a power-up and whichever player grabbed it got sole rights to using that boss’s particular weapon. These games would later see a port to the PS2, Gamecube and Xbox on the MegaMan Anniversary Collection in North America and Japan got their own two-pack around the same time, but before that, both games were ported to the SNK’s handheld, the Neo Geo Pocket Color, of all things, under the title Rockman: Battle & Fighters.

Speaking of weird Japanese-only Rockman games, Super Adventure Rockman released on both the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn is probably one of the weirdest MegaMan games Capcom directly had a hand in making. It’s hard to accurately describe what type of game it is, but I’ll give it a shot. It’s one part Genesis-era lightgun arcade shooter port (where you control the crosshair with your D-Pad instead of an actual lightgun), two parts Sega CD FMV interactive movie, with a dash of one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books you read as a kid for extra flavor. The game’s actually more interesting than fun: MegaMan dukes it out with the various Robot Masters from MegaMans 2 and 3, in order to stop Dr. Wily from using an alien supercomputer to take over the world. Better still are all the cameos from the MM1 Robot Masters…as allies, thus being the first official piece of canon that acknowledged that they survived the events of the original MegaMan, which would later be touched on in Powered Up. And if that’s not interesting enough, Keiji Inafune actually disliked the game for its darker tones compared to other games in the series.

Weirder still is a game that was never even released in Japan itself: Rockman Strategy, also referred to as Rockman War, was actually a game released exclusively in Taiwan for the PC. Very little appears to be known about the game, aside from the fact that it’s a strategy game featuring MegaMan characters, but the fact that it’s an official Capcom licensed game, not unlike the terrible PC-DOS games released in the US back in the early 1990s, means that it still counts as an official game. Oh, and before I forget, Taiwan also got another exclusive Rockman PC game, Rockman Gold Empire, which was basically another board game like Rockboard. Seemed like an interesting thing to mention, at the very least.

Rounding out our look at the various non-platformer games Classic MegaMan has appeared in, we must also consider all the cell phone games he appeared in. In addition to ports of the first 6 Rockman games and Rockman 9 appearing on cell phones, MegaMan actually has had a staggering number of cell phone games, even if you don’t include Rockman XOver. Rockman no Dot Art Logic is your basic Picross game, Rockman Solitaire and Rockman Poker are both card games, Rockman Bugsweeper is your typical Minesweeper clone, Rockman Tennis is well, a tennis game, not unlike Mario Tennis, Rockman Diver is like Falldown except you’re playing as Mega Man and trying to avoid an never-ending corridor of spikes and Rockman Pinball is…well, a pinball game. Some other interesting games include Rockman: The Puzzle Battle (MegaMan meets Puzzle Quest), MegaMan Rush Marine (the odd non-Japanese exclusive game which plays not unlike a shmup) and Chokkan! Rockman (a WarioWare clone featuring a whole heaping pile of old Robot Master cameos). I’d love to see some of these ported to other more gaming-friendly platforms down the line (or at the very least, outside of Japan), especially that last one. MegaMan and WarioWare sounds like a match made in heaven.

Of course, Classic wasn’t the only MegaMan who attempted to genre-bend in the past. Take, for example, MegaMan X. MegaMan X Command Mission was a turn-based JRPG that attempted to try to shed a little more light on the storyline behind the X series. The game did eschew from the franchise’s traditional stage select layout, opting for a more linear storyline. The turn-based battle system was interesting, allowing you to field 3 Reploids at a time, each of whom had their own special abilities and the added bonus of being able to switch out party members without wasting a turn. While considered a cult classic by some, I can honestly say I have no real intention of playing this game. So that’s as far as I’m willing to go.

Of course, then there were those MegaMan series that was, by its very nature, subversions of the traditional 2D platforming/run-and-gun gameplay associated with the series. The MegaMan Legends series were the Blue Bomber’s first foray into 3D, effectively playing more like a cross between an action-RPG (not unlike The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time) and a third-person shooter more than anything. Bonus points to The Misadventures of Tron Bonne which deviated even further, shifting between “traditional” MegaMan Legends gameplay (with the added element of directing Servbots), puzzle segments where Tron manipulates cranes and forklifts in order to steal containers in a limited amount of moves and an adventure-style mode where controlling one’s Servbots is of upmost importance in completing missions. And then you’ve got the MegaMan Battle Network series, and its spiritual (and canon) successor, the MegaMan Star Force series. These two series were JRPGs with a twist: melding turn-based chip equipment with real-time 3×3 (or in Star Force’s case, 3×1) grid-based arenas. Still, Battle Network did the ultimate subversion: returning to classic MegaMan-style platforming in MegaMan Network Transmission for the GameCube.

Legends and Battle Network both had their own Japanese-exclusive cell phone games: while Battle Network’s games (Legend of Network and Phantom of Network) were based heavily on the same style as the GBA games, Legends’ cell-phone spinoffs were much more esoteric. There was Rockman DASH Golf (obvious), Roll’s 15 Panel (a puzzle game), Kokkai Kobun (where you construct a Servbot [or Kobun, as they’re known in Japan]), Oshioki Kobun (where you play as a Servbot trying to run on a conveyor belt, while avoiding weights and spikes) and Kobun ga Tobun (a game where you direct a Servbot trying to fly over cliffs using a propeller that has been attached to its head). Of course, the most famous Legends cell phone game was Rockman DASH: 5tsu no Shima no Daibouken! (Rockman DASH: Great Adventure on 5 Islands!), which effectively stuck to the gameplay style of the main Legends series.

So while most people tend to think of MegaMan as shorthand for “Jump ‘n Shoot Man”, clearly video game history proves that the Blue Bomber is capable of so much more. Perhaps the best way to bring MegaMan into the mainstream once more would be to divert from his roots. But how would someone go about doing that while honoring the franchise’s storied history? Stay tuned…

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