When it comes right down to it, quite a bit of merchandise has been released to celebrate MegaMan’s 25th anniversary: soundtracks, re-releases of old games, various comic books, action figures, model kits, figurines, statues — the only thing that’s really missing would be a brand new game, which for many in the fanbase is an egregious omission. And while many Capcom employees have argued that the brand’s just as strong as ever and that games take much more time than most fans appear to understand, the void still remains. The problem with MegaMan as a franchise is determining what the next game should be, just due to the multiple incarnations the series can take. But that’s a problem I’m just going to evade: MegaMan 11 is what we’re talking about today, as it would likely be the most obvious choice. After all, when it comes to the Blue Bomber, the original Classic incarnation is still the most recognizable in mainstream circles. However, considering the lukewarm reception that met the series’ most recent release (MegaMan 10), it’s clear that Capcom should definitely try to go in a different direction.
The most common point of contention I’ve heard with regards to the Blue Bomber’s latest outing was definitely aimed at the game’s choice of graphical style. Regardless of how much people went gaga over MM9, the second time Capcom attempted another 8-bit throwback, it was an outrage. Considering the equally bitter response to NES-era graphics being used in the canonized fan project Street Fighter x MegaMan, the answer is clear: we need something new. Many people have responded very positively to the Smash Bros. redesign, which utilizes many of the qualities of Inafune’s old concept art, portrayed with the body proportions and posture of the 8-bit MegaMan of yore, so that seems like an obvious choice. Personally, I liked the redesign we saw in the cancelled MegaMan Universe game, while many other long for a new game that resembles games from the Super Nintendo and PlayStation eras instead. Whatever design choices Capcom ends up making in the long run, they should try to avoid the mistakes of certain games that have shied away from the old-school graphics: just make sure everything’s properly scaled (looking at you, MM7) and that obstacles and pitfalls are properly designated (looking at you, MM8). As long as you keep everything in their correct ratios from the 8-bit era, feel free to experiment.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have gameplay. A significant majority of fans definitely want the Classic series to retain the 2D platformer run-and-gun style that made us fall in love with the series 25 years ago. So try not to deviate from the basic formula for the most part. Bringing back certain elements from non-NES-styled games like certain stage elements that react to specific weapons, would be a nice touch, however. And feel free to add some unique stage gimmicks, those are always fun and keep the game from feeling derivative, while paying homage to its forebearers. There’s nothing more to say on the subject, really.
It seems like if there’s any major criticism I can pose regarding the games themselves, it would have to be that they’ve felt too short. 12 or 13 stages may have been alright back in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, but these days, especially with games like the New Super Mario Bros. series and the recent Rayman games, it’s just not enough anymore. Doing something like the rearranged Doc Robot stages from MM3 would be a good way to increase the length of the game without needing extra art assets for new levels, even though in that context, it led to the game being released in an unfinished state. But these days? It should be entirely possible to extend the game to a decent, beefier length.
One thing the series should definitely bring back from 9 and 10 would be the multiple playable characters. I especially like how they simplified MegaMan back to his MM2-era playstyle, while incorporating his newer abilities (the charge shot and slide) into ProtoMan, so keeping that sort of thing going would be nice, especially if you make every character unique. Be sure to bring back Bass and Roll (with her playstyle from Powered Up, preferably) as well. Better yet, you could modify each stage to better fit with each character’s abilities: for example, you’d be able to reincorporate Bass’s double jump from MM&B without being broken, if he had special variants of stages that would allow him to utilize it properly. This would have the added benefit of increasing the game’s replayability as well. You could also try to make the Robot Masters playable (another idea taken from MMPU), but it’d be even cooler if you used the reformed “Light Numbers” (as they’ve been referred to in other media): you know, the Robot Masters from MM1 and MM9 respectively. It’d be pretty cool to play as those guys from MM1 again.
Similarly, I’d keep the story in the same style of that of 9 and 10. The cheesy 80’s-early 90’s Saturday Morning cartoon vibe is absolutely perfect for this particular series, regardless of however many people want Classic to get more gritty and serious. Those people probably just want MMX9 even more anyway. Speaking of which, try to avoid references to other franchises. I’ve seen a lot of people either ask for a game that bridges the gap between the Classic and X series or just a crossover between the two. Considering that the former would more that likely just lead to a conclusion to the Classic series and the latter wouldn’t make that much sense as a canon game (no, I don’t consider XOver canon), I don’t really see the point.
Then there are some things that are pretty simple and don’t really deserve their own paragraphs, but are still definitely worth mentioning. First off, put in an intro stage. The straight-up NES thing was nice and all, but you kinda bent the rules when you added the shop anyway. Intro stages are pretty much always a good idea when it comes to MegaMan games, it acts as a good tutorial for those new to the series and a good refresher course to those of us who haven’t played the games in a while. Furthermore, try to make some special stages and bring back Endless Mode from 9 and 10. Endless Mode was pretty awesome and the special stages were neat, because they were more difficult than typical stages, and in the case of MM10, they gave MegaMan some bonus weapons, which was pretty cool. Speaking of which, keep it at 8 Robot Masters, unless you’re extremely sure of your ability to balance additional weapons. Upping the Robot Masters would be a good way to expand on the stages like I suggested earlier, but at the same time, don’t go overboard. 9 or 10 seem like a fair amount, but the maximum you should shoot for should probably be 12, and in that case, you would probably want to split the game in half, like in MM7, MM8 and the Game Boy games.
Of course, there are also some minor touches I’d love to see, but definitely wouldn’t make or break the game in my opinion. For example, bring back the “New Rush Coil” (you know, the one from MM5?), maybe implement that as the Proto Coil to further differentiate Blues from Rock. Some cameos from earlier and lesser-known games would also be nice, but considering how they showed up in the last few games, I’m sure that will happen regardless. I’d also like to see a few references to various bits of ancillary media, like Hitoshi Ariga’s MegaMix/GigaMix manga or the Archie comics, you know sort of like how KonroMan from that WonderSwan game made a brief cameo in MegaMan ZX Advent. One final thing I’d like to see would be some more female Robot Masters. I know it really doesn’t matter in the end, but it was cool to see SplashWoman in MM9, so seeing another one would be great.
Of course, there is one last issue to address: should the next MegaMan game be a digital game or a retail disc-based game? Frankly, I’d say that really depends on both the length of the game itself and the amount of resources Capcom puts into developing it. But if Capcom does decide to make MM11 a full retail title, I would hope that it would be at least as long as other disc-based 2D platformers, like Donkey Kong Country Returns, Rayman Origins or New Super Mario Bros. U. This doesn’t exactly seem like an unfair request to make of Capcom. After all, paying $60 for a 2D platformer with only 13 stages is ridiculous.
In the end, there’s really one last piece of advice I can give to Capcom when considering how to make MegaMan 11 or any new MegaMan game for that matter: whatever you do, don’t screw it up. Cancelling Legends 3 and leaving MegaMan out of the loop for the past few years has made the fanbase kind of rabid. Add that to the fact that former Capcom USA VP Christian Svennson claimed that the future of the series was being considered by “top men” (which I always sort of assumed just meant that the source code for the Legends 3 prototype was going to be sealed away in that warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark), it’s easy to tell that there is clearly a lot riding on your next release in the franchise. So put as much effort, love and care into this next game as you possibly can. You’ve got a reputation to rebuild, Capcom, and the first step is delivering quality products, just like you used to.
[Oh, one more thing, get Jake “virt” Kaufman to do the soundtrack.]