Sum of Its Parts: MegaMan X9

Originally, the next topic in the Sum of Its Parts series was going to be something completely different. However, both due to some recent developments with the franchise’s owner and because my last article in the series involved the same genre, I felt that this make for a less monotonous article this time around. As this series itself was inspired by one of my Megarants from last year, it seemed only fitting to revisit the series in a full-fledged article. After all, despite the fact that we’ve got Inti Creates’ Azure Striker Gunvolt coming out later this month in North America, as well as Comcept’s Mighty No. 9 set to release sometime next year, people still long to see a new entry in the MegaMan series.

I’ve already covered my wishlist for a potential MM11, but what else is there? The MegaMan Zero and Battle Network series both came to definite conclusions. People are still clamoring for Legends 3, but considering the controversy regarding the cancellation (sorry, failure to greenlight), it would probably be best to let things cool down before deciding to go anywhere with it. The Star Force games were fairly unpopular, even among fans of its predecessor. So I guess that leaves…MegaMan ZX3! Okay, okay, I know, I’m just dancing around the obvious. Despite my personal distaste for the series, if Capcom doesn’t decide to make another Classic MegaMan game, the obvious choice is MegaMan X9.

Why MegaMan X9 over anything else? Well, it’s obvious: the X series is quite popular among many fans of the series, arguably second only to the original Classic series at this point. A better question is why should I, someone who professes to hate MegaMan X (and I do), be considered the arbiter of what would make for an ideal new game in this series? Well, I did like the first 4 MMX games (the fifth was okay, but X6 was so incompetently designed, it killed any interest I had in continuing the series), I do have something of an inkling of where the series came from and where it should be going. There’s also the fact that I was actually a fan of the X games’ sequel series: Zero and ZX. Most important, at least in my opinion, is the fact that the first X game is not my favorite of the franchise.

What’s so important about that particular opinion of mine, you ask? Well, most people (with the exception of an ill-conceived article on Game Informer) I’ve seen write on their opinion of how to create an ideal ninth game in the X franchise tend to say that it should be as close to the original as possible. But why try to imitate the original, when we can try to exceed it? MegaMan 10 is my favorite game in the Classic MegaMan sub-line because it attempted to exceed MM2, where its predecessor only succeeded in aping it. Shouldn’t we try to apply the same principles to the X series?

As usual, gameplay will be the main topic we tackle in this article. First off, let’s discuss the game’s base style. For X9, I feel like as with MM9 and 10, there should be a return to the game’s base roots. Yep, make it a full-on 2D platformer, just like the SNES and PS1 games. Well, the first PS1 game, anyway. Dashing, charge shots, armor upgrades, all that good stuff. Make the engine as solid and responsive as the SNES games, X4 and 5. Actually, speaking of 5, maybe you should bring back the crouch mechanic from X5 (and by extension, X6). Hell, maybe even just make it exclusive to specific characters.

Speaking of which, definitely bring back the multiple playable character options first introduced in X4. I personally preferred being able to choose a single character for the duration of the single-player campaign and the differences seen in X4 (different bosses for specific characters) could be further expanded in X9. X and Zero are both must-haves at this point, but we could have more than just those two. Personally, I found Vile Mode to be the most interesting part of Maverick Hunter X, so bringing him into the fold would be interesting, especially if that led to some sort of alternate universe where the Mavericks in this game were Maverick Hunters instead and there was an entirely different fortress stage, where Vile storms Maverick Hunter headquarters and blasts everything to cinders. Of course, we’ve also got to deal with the elephant in the room, Axl. Since I’ve got very little experience with the games he appeared in, I’m not exactly sure how he plays. From what I can tell, he gets different types of ammo for his guns, somewhat like a cross between X and Vile, but his main ability in X8 appears to be Copy Shot/“A-Trans” which allows him to transform into various enemies. He’s also got an aimable rapid-fire gun, similar to Bass from MM&B in X8. So how do we rectify this? I say, let him keep the rapid-fire pistol, but instead of giving him random weapons from bosses, we implement his A-Trans ability similarly to the way ZX Advent handled it with Model A: allow Axl to transform into the Mavericks he defeats, giving him access to their weapons and some special abilities. Now that would be pretty cool, at least in my opinion.

That brings us to my next point, my ideal X9 would implement some elements from the X series’ direct sequels in order to improve on the original, especially the MegaMan Zero games. Frankly, I’d like to see an X game with the difficulty of the second or even the third Zero game. Hell, give Zero a choice of a secondary weapon he can use. Maybe not anything exclusive to the Zero games themselves, because they would be anachronistic, but hell, getting a MMZ-caliber Z-Buster would be pretty cool. Make it smaller and weaker than the X-Buster for balancing. Some original weaponry would be pretty interesting too, especially if it makes Zero a more versatile character. Throwing in a hub world (like those from the Zero and ZX games) would be an interesting addition as well. Having the option to explore Maverick Hunter HQ would be better than simply being forced to switch between stodgy menus, though I’d leave the menus in, as some people don’t care for that level of detail. Better yet, you could even throw in some optional interactions or even sub-missions with various NPCs, like the Navigators, Signas and various other Maverick Hunters to extend gameplay.

Of course, this leads to an important point I touched on in the MM11 article: the game’s length. Let’s face it, MegaMan X games are typically about as long as their Classic counterparts and in today’s marketplace, you just can’t charge that much for a game that short. So we have two options: charge less for the games or increase their length. This is another area where emulating the Zero games would come in handy for X9. In addition to the typical 8 stages and multi-staged fortress we see in most MM platformers, the Zero games also typically threw in some additional stages that took place outside of that typical format. Considering X3 attempted something like that with Vile’s mini-stage and both X5 and X6 attempted something similar with Dynamo, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. Maybe utilize some Mechaniloid bosses as opposed to Reploids, in order to further distinguish them from the main 8 bosses. Though honestly, increasing the number of Mavericks X et al. fight in the ninth game would be pretty cool.

Now typically, I don’t get involved with any sort of a storyline for games I write up in the Sum of Its Parts series, but considering my musings on this topic in previous articles, it’s only fair that I discuss it yet again. For those of you out there who are familiar with this controversy, the eighth (and at the time of writing, latest) game in the MegaMan X series kind of ended on a cliffhanger. As such, part of the fanbase wants to see the conclusion to these plot points in the ninth game of the series. On the other hand, another faction within the MMX fanbase doesn’t really care much for where the storyline went in later games and are much more in favor of a sort of “soft reboot”, ignoring certain games’ effects on the canon. Obviously, there’s no way to please both sides of the audience. While I may not care for many of the story elements of the later games, I think it’ll be easier to win back the soft reboot group if Capcom puts enough effort into the gameplay itself. The people who want to see the plot threads wrapped up are likely more die-hard about how the game’s storyline turns out. It’s probably for the best to just let them have that one.

Next up, let’s discuss the graphics. Again, this will be a bit of a retread for some of you, but it’s still worth revisiting. The majority of the people I’ve seen pitch ideas for how their ideal MMX9 would turn out either want the game to utilize the same artstyle as the SNES games (arguing that they are the equivalent to using NES graphics for MM9 and 10) or they want to see them use the same artstyle from the PS1 games (for the same reasons, I guess?). I’ve also seen some people ask for a 2.5D artstyle, not unlike Maverick Hunter X, because I dunno, wave of the future. My personal choice? I’d love to see some high-definition sprites or some hand-drawn graphics, but as long as the sprite-to-screen ratio remains the same as the SNES/PS1 games, I think I’ll be fine.

There’s one last thing I’d like to discuss on this topic. Which company would be the best to make a brand new entry in the MegaMan X series? Inti Creates is, of course, at the top of my list, due to their work on the Classic, Zero and ZX series. Similarly, I brought up WayForward as a potential company for a Classic game, but they could probably work somewhat well on an X game. Of course, I wish Yacht Club Games’ debut release had been out when I was brainstorming the best company to take over MegaMan Classic, because Shovel Knight leads me to believe they’d be an even better choice for any MegaMan platformer than WayForward themselves. Of course, SNES Master KI once said that he’d love to see Nintendo’s Retro Studios make a MMX game exclusively for Nintendo platforms. I must admit, that would be interesting to behold. I’d personally like to see Treasure’s take on a MegaMan game, and the X series seems like the best fit for their style of run-and-gun games. Hell, Capcom would be better off using them for X9 than just making an expansion for that massive bomb Gaist Crusher. Capcom Vancouver might also be an interesting pick, they seem to be fans of the MegaMan franchise in general and it would be cool to see them work on something besides Dead Rising (as much as I love the series). Of course, considering Capcom’s currently hiring staff for game development, it could even be internally developed. Whoever Capcom ends up going with for this project, hopefully they pay tribute to the better games in the franchise and don’t leave us with just another rushed blunder like X6. Hopefully, if X9 does well, we can see some other MM spinoffs return. Maybe even get the conclusion to the ZX series?

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One thought on “Sum of Its Parts: MegaMan X9

  1. Pingback: Sum of Its Parts: Garou: Mark of the Wolves 2 | Retronaissance: The Blog!

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