Retro or Reboot? – Golden Axe

Last year, when I tried to revitalize a bunch of old series I left by the wayside, there was one concept that I struggled to revitalize. Considering the fact that I haven’t done an article in this series in exactly two years – and that one came after a similar two-year hiatus – it’s safe to say that this has been a long time coming. Of course, two things kept me from moving forward with it. For starters, many of the old concepts I revisited had either had much longer hiatuses or just never became actual series, essentially dying after a single article. Far more damning, however, was my inability to decide on a topic. Obviously, both problems have since evaporated and due to a lack of any other ideas, I’ve decided that it’s finally time to revive another series. Welcome back, “Retro or Reboot?” – you’ve been missed.

As I said, I haven’t done one of these articles since 2017, so it feels reasonable to do a brief refresher on just what Retro or Reboot entails. Basically, I take a video game series that has lied dormant for a fair amount of time – let’s drop the formalities on generations and just put it in the ballpark of “at least a decade” – and come up with two pitches to revitalize the series for modern audiences. The first (better known as the “Retro” pitch) will be substantially more faithful to earlier incarnations, combining the best elements of previous games and streamlining some of the more outdated concepts for modern audiences. The “Reboot” pitch, on the other hand, takes the original concept and universe of the old games, but recontextualizes them into a more modern video game genre. Of course, sometimes I just pick out a single modern game that would be a perfect base for a complete reinvention of the IP in question. It depends on the game, really.

Today’s topic – if you haven’t guessed – is Sega’s classic medieval fantasy beat-‘em-up, Golden Axe. Debuting in arcades in 1989 and made substantially more popular through its near-perfect conversion to the Genesis, the Golden Axe series technically enjoyed three follow-ups in the same vein as the original, as well as a few spinoffs that tackled other genres. Of course, no other game in the series could come close to the renown of the original, which is still considered a bona fide classic even by today’s standards, receiving several ports and appearing in several compilations of old Sega titles. In fact, I would be shocked if it didn’t manage to find its way onto Sega’s upcoming Genesis Mini retro console. All the same, even if the names Ax Battler, Tyris Flame and Gilius Thunderhead have been lost to most of us, the iconic looks of “the barbarian”, “the amazon” and “the dwarf” are unforgettable to scores of gamers who cut their teeth in Sega’s halcyon days.

Retro

Before we begin, it’s time to address the elephant in the room. Now might not be the best time to pitch a fourth Golden Axe game. After all, Sega has recently given DotEmu and Lizardcube – the companies behind the recent remake/enhanced port of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap – the greenlight to create a fourth entry in the Streets of Rage series, Sega’s other prominent contribution to the beat-‘em-up genre. Still, both games were substantially different from one another, in terms of theming and gameplay. One must remember that Golden Axe originated in the arcades, while the entire Streets of Rage trilogy was built from the ground up for consoles, leading to completely different experiences. Besides, if Sega can license out a third Shenmue while still working on Yakuza games internally, there’s probably room for both IPs to coexist simultaneously.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the four major releases in the series. I think everyone’s familiar with the original arcade game – likely through the Genesis version or some other console port – so I’ll just skip over that. After that, the franchise itself took a forked path, though as I said before, no other game in the franchise managed the success and recognition of the original. Golden Axe II for the Genesis barely managed to drop first – barely squeaking out in December 1991 in Japan, with Western releases in 1992 – but the game itself was nothing special: it was essentially a level pack sequel to the first game, with the original cast of playable characters returning (with slightly tweaked graphics) for a brand-new adventure.

Meanwhile, Sega prepared for another sequel to Golden Axe for release in 1992, one developed on their System 32 arcade hardware, the same tech that gave life to Sega’s Spider-Man arcade game and other obscure sequels in popular Sega franchises like Outrunners and SegaSonic the Hedgehog, among others. Titled Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder, it’s arguably the pinnacle of the entire series. Featuring a brand-new cast of characters: Stern, a barbarian who is essentially Ax Battler; Dora, a female centaur wielding a pugil stick; the pitchfork-wielding imp known as Little Trix and Goah, a giant who carries Gilius in a pouch and wields his axe. Best of all, four characters means four-player cooperative action. It’s a shame that the game never received any home ports, but it’s definitely a fun game and worth trying if you ever have the chance.

One year later, Sega released one final beat-‘em-up in the Golden Axe series. Simply titled Golden Axe III, it’s easily the most obscure of the console trilogy. The game only received physical releases in Japan and Europe for the Mega Drive. In North America, it was exclusive to the Sega Channel service, though it would appear years later in various compilations and was also released on the Wii’s Virtual Console. Like Revenge of Death Adder, III contains a cast of four brand-new characters, with Gilius Thunderhead acting as a non-playable mentor to the new characters. Kain Grinder and Sahra Burn are essentially homages to Ax Battler and Tyris Flame, respectively. Proud Cragger is a descendant of giants who fights with his bare hands and Chronos “Evil” Lait is a humanoid panther created by the black magic of the new game’s main antagonist, who slashes with his claws. The game also adds several new features, including teamwork attacks and various mobility options like double-jumps and wall jumps, and junction points that allow players to choose their path, allowing for alternate stages. Golden Axe III was certainly the most ambitious of the Genesis games, but contemporary critics felt that the game didn’t offer enough to differentiate it from the previous games and praised Sega’s decision to make it a Sega Channel exclusive in America.

Now ideally, any new retro-themed Golden Axe would pay heavy homage to Revenge of Death Adder for two major reasons. For starters, it never received any home ports and emulating System 32 arcade games is still something of a mixed bag to this day, so the only way to properly experience it would be through the original arcade cabinet – thank you, Galloping Ghost! More importantly, it’s easily the best game in the series. Having said that, it would be smart to implement some of the mechanics found in the third game as well, specifically the ability to perform double-team attacks. While this mechanic isn’t particularly special by modern standards, it would be extremely interesting within the context of a new Golden Axe. One aspect that both the third Genesis game and Revenge of Death Adder share that I would love to see in a new entry would be branching paths, a rarity in the beat-‘em-up genre.

Likewise, multiplayer is a must – but a new Golden Axe game should put equal emphasis on delivering on both offline and online co-operative play. In fact, the main reason I bring up Revenge of Death Adder is that I’d love to see any future Golden Axe beat-‘em-up-style games incorporate four-player multiplayer. On that note, I also wouldn’t be opposed to the “Duel Mode” found in the Genesis games. These essentially allowed players to duke it out in a one-on-one fight against either another player or a gauntlet of computer-controlled opponents, using the standard Golden Axe engine. In fact, imagine the possibilities of a Duel Mode with four players: there could even be team battles or co-operative runs for the single-player gauntlet.

As usual, I’m not exactly picky when it comes to the game’s aesthetic. Granted, in ideal circumstances, we’d see traditional sprites on par with the Sega Saturn or even the System 32 itself – but the majority of the gaming public have long since grown beyond those retro aesthetics and my gut tells me that Sega would view the revival of a franchise like Golden Axe as a potential moonshot. With that in mind, chances are they would either go for the hand-drawn look (like the aforementioned Streets of Rage 4) or the all-too-common “2.5D” style – which didn’t exactly pan out well in the Sega Ages release of Golden Axe back on the PS2. Granted, judging the latter art style based on a game that came out nearly 15 years ago isn’t exactly fair, but neither is life. If you don’t think people will dig that sucker up if Sega announces a 2.5D Golden Axe, I don’t know what to tell you.

Finally, we come to what could arguably be simultaneously considered the most and least important decision regarding a brand-new Golden Axe: the branding. Specifically, what would we call this new Golden Axe game? I’d honestly go out of my way to avoid the “same name” title scheme – simply calling this new game “Golden Axe” could lead to some series trouble, given Sega’s history. Likewise, it wouldn’t technically be “Golden Axe IV” – in fact, Golden Axe III was technically the fourth game in the series. Regardless, given the relative obscurity of the two numbered sequels (and that’s far better than the poor reputation they have among enthusiasts), it would probably be for the best if Sega just used a subtitle. That way, they’ll sidestep the strange way previous games were numbered and as a bonus, avoid drawing attention to just how old the series is.

Reboot

The first major concern with developing a modernized Golden Axe revival is that the traditional genre for the series – the humble beat-‘em-up – would need to be abandoned. Aside from retro revivals (like Arc System Works’ recent dives into Technos Japan’s classic IP library and the upcoming Streets of Rage 4) and low-budget titles that clearly lean on nostalgia (like the Scott Pilgrim game, Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds and Fight‘N Rage), the beat-‘em-up genre is essentially no more. While a clear successor has taken up the reins and shows that the spirit of the genre still lives on, the original playstyle itself is simply no longer relevant in the grand scheme of the gaming medium.

Fortunately, Golden Axe has had a few spinoffs in the past that explored different genres. For starters, there was Golden Axe Warrior, which was essentially the Sega Master System’s answer to The Legend of Zelda. After that came Ax Battler: A Legend of Golden Axe on the Game Gear. While there was no indication that this game was linked to the previous game, its gameplay greatly resembled Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, right down to incorporating side-scrolling segments as random encounters on the overworld. There was also Golden Axe: The Duel, a one-on-one fighting game that details the conflict between a new generation of warriors over the titular weapon. The game was originally released in arcades, but also received a home port on the Sega Saturn. And while none of these games were particularly well-received when compared to the mainline games, they do illustrate the IP’s flexibility when it comes to gameplay.

Of course, there is one major hurdle that Sega would have to contend with if they decide to reinvigorate the Golden Axe brand with one of their premier marquee titles: they already tried doing that before… and things didn’t turn out well. Yep, it’s time to discuss the elephant in the room, 2008’s Golden Axe: Beast Rider, an edgy reboot brought to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by Sega Studios San Francisco (formerly known as Secret Level before they were purchased by Sega outright) and was one of the games that ended up sealing their fate as a studio. I’m not going to lie to you: I’ve never actually played Beast Rider – and likely never will, unless I can get it for a laughably low price – but the game’s reputation speaks for itself. While scouring the internet for some gameplay footage, it just appears to be an extremely mediocre hack-and-slash action game that probably would’ve been looked upon kindlier (and probably reviewed slightly better) if it weren’t associated with the Golden Axe name. Fortunately, it’s been over a decade since that game released, giving fans of the series more than enough time to forget Beast Rider, and Sega has really improved the quality on a lot of their output in recent years – so long as Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t the title character – so there could be a good chance that revisiting Golden Axe now could give the series a much needed jump-start back to prominence.

With the series’ past covered, it’s time to discuss the best possible genre for a revival. While the beat-‘em-ups of old have clearly evolved into the modern “character action game” sub-genre, the Golden Axe of yore was cut from a different cloth than the clear ancestors of games like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, God of War and the like. The gameplay in the original game was a bit slower and more deliberate than many of its contemporaries, almost emulating the heft of using a melee weapon compared to more agile hand-to-hand combat. In other words, if Sega just decided to hire Platinum Games to plug Golden Axe characters into the Bayonetta engine, the resulting game would feel just as wrong as Beast Rider did. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the first two Bayonetta games, but if Sega decides to reboot Golden Axe again, I want to be left with a game that feels like a proper successor to what came before.

Having said that, I still think that a modern action game would probably be the best way to approach a modern take on Golden Axe – it just wouldn’t be nearly as stylish as Bayonetta and the like. Instead, I’d pitch something with a more grounded combat system, something almost akin to Bloodborne or Sekiro but with less of an emphasis on memorization. Ideally, this new Golden Axe would end up resembling a modern take on Onimusha: slower combat that would force players to read their enemies’ movements and react accordingly instead of just performing smoking sexy styled combos on hundreds of disposable mooks. Back in the original Golden Axe, while individual enemies weren’t necessarily threatening on their own, they could become incredibly imposing in numbers due to the slower combat. Any new take on the series should be able to recreate the tense feeling I had when I was surrounded by three Skeletons while playing the game solo. That’s my most distinct memory of Golden Axe: how later stages would leave me feeling as each step I took could lead me into an onslaught I wouldn’t be able to overcome.

Of course, there are some other unique elements from the earlier games that might be a bit more difficult to incorporate into the action genre. One that specifically comes to mind would be the rideable mounts. While most people are familiar with the dragons and “Chicken Leg” from the first game, the later games added their own monsters to the fray. While the concept may be a little difficult to incorporate into a modern action game, it’s undeniable that they were a core element of the classic games. Perhaps the best way to approach them would be to just not fix what isn’t broken: essentially leave the mechanic itself in the game unaltered from the old days, certain enemies can be found riding them, they can be knocked off and the player can take the powerful monster for their own (and vice versa). Handling it like that would add a risk/reward mechanic to the game, making it more in line with Souls-style games – albeit on a smaller scale.

Meanwhile, Golden Axe’s signature magic mechanic – casting spells at varying strengths based on how many magic pots (or books, in some games) the player has collected at any given moment – would be easy enough to implement into a modern action game. The real question is whether or not it would need to be tweaked: as I recall, the original game forced players to use all of their available magic at one time, but a more modern take would ideally allow players to use only as much magic as they need, effectively using a small attack when overwhelmed by a group of standard enemies, while saving what they can for the far more threatening boss fights. That would allow for better strategy, but it almost seems blasphemous given how the magic attacks in the old games were balanced. Likewise, I’d tweak the thieves who drop the magic pots in the first place. While they would generally only rob the characters of their remaining magic between stages (in what I can only describe as a bonus stage) in the earlier games, a more modern take should have them become substantially more aggressive in standard play instead, adding another risk/reward mechanic by forcing players to choose to chase them down to stockpile magic – or regain any pots that might have been stolen from them – or play more carefully, as the thieves could hypothetically appear at any time, even during a boss fight.

Multiplayer is also a concern: it almost feels blasphemous to pitch a Golden Axe game without even considering cooperative play. The problem is that modern action games generally work best as a single-player affair: even the maligned Beast Rider managed to get that much right. Frame rate is generally a concern when it comes to the genre and while there have been many examples of multiplayer within the genre, a significant portion of them have been relegated to separate bonus modes, effectively acting as minigames rather than a variation on the standard campaign. With that in mind, I’d have to insist on all-or-nothing when it comes to multiplayer. We should either be allowed to play through the entire single-player mode with friends – ideally with both online and offline options – with the game’s difficulty receiving a proper rebalance to account for the additional player, or the game should just be a purely solo affair.

Enough about gameplay, what about the game’s aesthetic? Personally, I’d like to see a graphical style that evoked the classic box arts from the American home releases of the Genesis cover art, essentially aping the style of Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, the two artists responsible for much of the artwork I’m referencing. One of Beast Rider’s cardinal sins was just how drab and generic everything looked in-game. Attempting a modernized take on the classic look is a mistake. If anything, Sega should lean into the cheese. As for the music and sound design, I’m afraid that the only thing that would match with this art style would be a suitably epic soundtrack with a full orchestral flourish. Hopefully the composers would be able to sneak in some references to the older games’ soundtracks in there, but chances are it’ll end up being one generic composition after another, similar to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow or most modern gaming soundtracks. I guess sacrifices have to be made to keep everything consistent.

That just leaves one question regarding a potential Golden Axe reboot: who should develop it? Now ideally, Sega should be able to handle development internally, but given the fact that the only studio I can recognize within the company that would have anything involving the skill to develop something like this is the aptly-named “Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio”, and I’m pretty sure they’re busy with more pressing projects. Of course, most people would recommend that Sega reignite their partnership with PlatinumGames, but I’ve got my doubts on that for a few reasons. For starters, PG has recently declared their intention to start self-publishing their own games and the sheer amount of other partners they’ve been working since their exclusivity agreement with Sega ended – Activision, Nintendo, Square Enix – tells me that they likely would want to keep their options open. My primary concern is that a lot of Platinum’s action games have stuck to a specific formula: each evoking the kind of “stylish action” gameplay I’d like to avoid in a proper Golden Axe reboot, regardless of how hilarious the mental image of Gilius Thunderhead doing backflips and spin dashing into enemies with his axe may be. The truth is, I can’t really think of a developer that I’d specifically want to work on this game. That’s not to say that there isn’t an ideal choice out there, just none that I’d can either name from the top of my head or seem remotely possible – like wholly-owned developers from other publishers.

On the plus side, if Sega wants to go with a same-name reboot for the series, this would probably be the best way to handle it. After all, while the stink of Beast Rider has been rinsed away from the franchise’s reputation, if Sega intends to go big with any type of revival, they might as well go all in. All but the most dedicated fans’ knowledge of Golden Axe begins and ends with the 1989 classic, so they essentially have a blank slate to work with here. Sure, references and other nods to the other games in the series could easily be woven into this reboot, but a retelling of the original adventure of Ax Battler, Tyris Flame and Gilius Thunderhead’s journey to wrest the titular artifact from the diabolical hands of Death Adder seems like the safest bet when it comes to attracting an audience.

I wish I could promise there won’t be another long hiatus between now and the next time I write another “Retro or Reboot?” article, but let’s be honest: when it comes to series of articles, I have a tendency to think up new concepts way more easily than I revisit old ones. Of course, with all of the old ones I’ve already come up with, can you really blame me? I just hope I can manage to squeeze out another one of these in less than 2 years next time. Of course, by that logic, chances are you can expect the next one by the end of April 2021. But here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that.

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Top 10 Games I Want Ported FROM PC IV: High Noon at Mega Mountain

It’s funny. Despite the fact that this series of listicles started off as an April Fools’ day gag and in the end, simply seeks to undermine any and all advantages my platform of choice has above all others, I almost look forward to them more than the lists of yore where I was portbegging from a much more selfish perspective. Maybe with all the indie games and whatnot making their way to consoles with parity to PC, I just happen to find it a bit more fun to discover some hidden gems and give them a miniscule taste of the spotlight.

It’s been a pretty mixed bag in terms of PC news this year. On the one hand, the Epic Games Store emerged last December, bringing with it some scummy business practices and free games every two weeks – at the cost of your personal data. No game is safe from Tim Sweeney’s onslaught of buying up the (purportedly “timed”) exclusivity rights to any Western game, big or small. At the moment, I feel a twinge of fear any time a game is simply announced for “PC”: chances are Sweeney could wrap his greedy tentacles around it. I pray he never realizes that Japanese games are generally my thing. I vow never to spend a single cent on the Epic Games Store, but I will continue to steal their free games and will likely only buy any of their exclusive games once the exclusivity period expires – and then, likely at a significant discount. Still, the risk of upcoming titles like the recently-announced “Shantae 5” becoming exclusive to an anti-consumer store like EGS looms at every corner.

But on the other hand, quite a few major titles have been announced (and released) on PC. My crown jewel came first: Catherine Classic – based on the original PS360 release of Catherine – hit PC on Steam, meaning that Atlus has finally fallen, thanks to the efforts of our friends over at Sega Europe. Better still, they’ve implied that we may see more from Atlus’s library hit PC in the future. On top of that, Yakuza Kiwami finally launched on Steam sans Denuvo and Sega even seems to be removing the DRM from older titles as well: Yakuza 0 already had it removed and Sonic Mania has it removed in a beta patch currently. Hopefully, Puyo Puyo Tetris will see it removed as well. Square Enix announced that Million Arthur: Arcana Blood – a game I only knew about due to the presence of Iori Yagami from The King of Fighters as a guest character – will be coming to Steam sometime this Summer. Speaking of SNK, they had some significant announcements on PC. Metal Slug XX came out on Steam at the end of January. SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy released the following month, as I predicted. And the new Samurai Shodown game was finally confirmed on PC in March. Although it’ll release after the initial June release of the PS4 and Xbox One versions… and possibly after the Switch version, which is scheduled for “late 2019”. Either way, not a bad haul.

Although, I think there may have been a price for Catherine (and Atlus) coming to PC, because for once, quite a few games that were previously PC exclusives were announced on consoles this year. It got to the point where I was almost worried that the console announcements would outright dwarf the PC ports. For starters, Screenwave Media and FreakZone Games announced that Angry Video Game Nerd I & II Deluxe – consisting of a remastered version of the first game and more importantly, the previously PC-exclusive second game – would be coming to “consoles” worldwide (so far it’s only been confirmed for Switch), while also implying (but not outright confirming) that this new compilation title would also be hitting PC. I decided not to consider putting it on the list because the game’s previous publisher, ScrewAttack Games, totally shot down any chance of AVGN II hitting any sort of consoles. From there, both Evoland titles were compiled into Evoland: Legendary Edition and released on the Switch, Xbox One and the PS4 this past February. On top of that, JoyMasher announced that both Oniken: Unstoppable Edition and Odallus: The Dark Call were being ported to all three modern consoles by Digerati, a publisher that focuses exclusively on indie games. And finally, while doing a last-minute check for this list, I discovered that one game I originally intended to put on this list – RetroRevolution’s METAGAL – was actually released last week on… well, just about everything (even the Vita). Little did I realize that the game was announced for the Switch back in January, while its sequel (prequel?) Metaloid: Origin was announced for consoles back in February. Likewise, I originally intended for Bot Vice to be on this list, but it was announced for Switch awhile ago. But DYA Games – the game’s developer – had one more surprise for me: last week at PAX East, Super Star Path was also announced for the Switch.

There is another announcement that I’d like to discuss, even if it may seem like it’s unrelated to the topic at hand. Konami recently revealed three compilations set for release on all 4 modern platforms, including PC. Konami Anniversary Collection: Arcade Classics is due out later this month and has had all eight of the games included announced. What’s even more interesting is that the other two collections – Castlevania Anniversary Collection and Contra Anniversary Collection – are both set to release sometime this Summer and only announced four out of the eight games on both collections. If it seems pointless for me to bring this up, then you’re clearly not remembering that I requested games from both series in previous PC port wishlists. I’ve got a gut feeling that we might see Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth and Contra ReBirth surface in these compilations, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if Hard Corps: Uprising made it into the Contra collection as well. We’ll just have to wait and see whenever Konami decides to reveal the full line-up for both collections.

The weird part about doing these articles is that many times, just when I think I’m done, a new announcement crops up. Whatever infernal energies allow my wishes to come to fruition are unpredictable at best. Why, two days before this article went live, SNK made one more announcement at PAX East: Samurai Shodown NeoGeo Collection, set to release on all 4 platforms this Fall. Now you’re probably wondering why I’m bringing this up. It’s simple. Samurai Shodown II – specifically the release on Xbox Live Arcade with online play – was on one of my old lists. So not only am I getting what I asked for (including online play via Digital Eclipse), but an additional 5 games on top of that. Granted, both Samurai Shodown II and V Special already had PC ports available via GOG and the Humble Store, but this package should be much more robust.

But before we get to the list itself, I’ll go over my criteria for these lists. I generally stick to games that were released on PC from 2006 onward – essentially lining up with the seventh generation of video game consoles and beyond – that are not currently available on consoles or handhelds by legitimate means. This means that games that were present on older generations of console are omitted, but the games that were present on Microsoft’s discontinued Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) are fair game at this point. I’ll also be listing the platforms I feel would be the most likely (or at least the best fit) for each game in question. And with that brief recap, let’s get into the list itself.

EvilQuest

I guess you could claim that bringing up this game could be considered cheating. But as this game was originally an exclusive to the Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) program – which has since been discontinued – before seeing its only other release on PC, I think it’s fair game. After all, I managed to pick Super Killer Hornet: Resurrection a couple years back under similar circumstances and the service was merely on the verge of being shut down at that point. Now that it’s fully dead, it only seems fair to pick at the carcass with reckless abandon.

EvilQuest isn’t necessarily the best action RPG in existence, but considering the fact that it’s only $2, it’s well worth the cost. I actually streamed the game awhile back at the request of a friend – who actually purchased it for me, so I kind of felt like I owed it to him. Better still, maybe a console re-release would help to fund the game’s sequel, which was greenlit on Steam back in 2017, the last bit of information regarding the game before the developer, Chaosoft Games, went completely radio silent.

Best Platform: While Xbox One might seem like a slam dunk given Microsoft’s current focus on backwards compatibility, the way XBLIG was handled ended up burning a great deal of bridges with small developers. And while Nintendo has a tendency of obtaining the rights to every indie game under the sun, they also have a tendency to curate those acquisitions. That leaves the PlayStation 4 as the winner by default.

Offspring Fling!

You know, it’s funny. This one has been sitting in my queue for years. I kind of expected that I’d never actually have the chance to do a write-up for it, because I kept expecting that it wouldn’t need one by the time I’d actually get around to it. Guess the joke’s on me, eh?

Offspring Fling is essentially one of those single-screen puzzle-platformers where you take on the role of a poor forest creature trying to rescue her babies which have been scattered throughout their home. After picking them up, she has the ability to throw them – which seems counter-intuitive, but necessary to press switches, stun predators and get them to safety. With over 100 levels and a stage editor, the game offers substantial content for its low $8 price tag. I’m actually kind of surprised that the game has yet to hit any consoles yet, especially since it’s been on my backlog since these lists became a yearly tradition.

Best Platform: I have to give it up for the Switch. This game’s been out for nearly 7 years now and while I think it’s probably a long shot all around, Nintendo seems to be the only company that is actively courting independent developers at this point. Of course, considering that the dev doesn’t really have too many newer titles that could be used as leverage, it’s still just a shot in the dark from my perspective.

Skeleton Boomerang

Speaking of obscure games with little chance of actually getting ported, Skeleton Boomerang is another game by ANIM•ACE, the same company that brought us Aliens Go Home Run from last year’s list. While that previous game was more of a modern take on Breakout, Skeleton Boomerang is a platformer where the main character uses boomerangs to fight skeletons – hence the title. Of course, there are many secrets and upgrades that can be obtained and higher scores yield better hauls. What really got me hooked on the game was the soundtrack, composed by one of my favorite chiptune artists +TEK. It’s no surprise that Disco Necropolis – one of the game’s stage themes – became the subject of several remixes.

Best Platform: Considering the developer appears to be on hiatus, I have my doubts that this will ever be ported. But if anyone is going to do it, I’d be willing to bet money this game would appear on the Switch. Chances are, if they really wanted the game, they could just buy the rights to it and farm out a console port to some other studio.

Super Cyborg

I guess I chose a bad time to include this, given Konami’s recent announcement of a Contra Anniversary Collection for… well, everything. Not to mention Joymasher’s Blazing Chrome – a clear homage to the best Contra game, Hard Corps – is clearly going to release in the near future. In other words, fans of Contra and the like are clearly in for some good times in the coming months but adding Super Cyborg to the mix could only make things better.

Super Cyborg is a game that I’d best describe as coming from an alternate reality, where instead of sticking to consoles, Konami decided to make a wholly original Contra game for DOS computers… and they actually put effort into making it worthwhile. Or maybe a world where Apogee was inspired by Super C instead of Super Mario Bros. 3. Regardless, it’s packed with old-school charm, with both fast-paced gameplay and graphics that evoke the EGA graphics of years past.

Best Platform: I think the Xbox One wins this by default. Nintendo tends to go for the most prominent indie games, while Sony has essentially shifted towards commissioning games from independent developers on their own terms these days. Sifting through more obscure titles for hidden gems seems to be Microsoft’s modus operandi when it comes to nabbing indie exclusives these days. …that or just buying out the studios that made them.

Death’s Hangover

Speaking of ripoffs homages to classic video games, my next entry is a Breakout clone developed by Retro Army Limited, the same people who gave us Verdict Guilty. After the Grim Reaper finds that Dracula has stolen several souls, he summons two of the greatest dead warriors he can find. Unfortunately, it’s slim pickings so he’s left with two of the biggest morons who ever lived, Andy and Bob. Giving them new female bodies, the two are tasked with defeating Dracula and taking back Grim’s lost souls. If they fail, they’ll be killed again… so no pressure. With Andy moving a giant paddle and Bob taking refuge within the ball, the two must battle through Dracula’s minions before dealing with the vampire lord himself. The game contains a fair amount of rude humor, but it also comes with a level editor: a pretty nice bonus one doesn’t generally associate with bat-and-ball games.

Best Platform: The thing is, I think this game is equally capable of ending up in an indie sizzle reel for any of the three major console manufacturers. However, since I gave them Verdict Guilty last year, my money would go with the Switch. Besides, they do seem to take risks when it comes to odder titles, so this does seem to be right down their alley.

Tetrobot and Co.

Effectively the sequel to Blocks That Matter – which surprisingly did appear on the Xbox 360 back in the day – Tetrobot and Co. takes place years later. The Tetrobot robot from the first game has become the world’s most popular and reliable robot, leading to several variants. Unfortunately, they’re not perfect: they’re all prone to damage both external and internal. For that reason, a young roboticist by the name of Maya developed a microscopic “little brother” for the Tetrobot line, known as Psychobot. Players are tasked with navigating the innards of the larger robots and fixing them by solving various block puzzles.

While the game itself recommends that it be played with a mouse, there are alternative controls meant for a standard gamepad as well, meaning that the game should be easy enough to port to consoles.

Best Platform: Considering the fact that the Xbox 360 was the only non-PC platform to receive the original game, it seems most likely that the Xbox One would receive the nod should Tetrobot ever hit consoles. The fact that it also has native mouse support doesn’t hurt its chances much either.

Vanguard Princess

You had to know I’d be including another fighting game this year, didn’t you? At first glance, Vanguard Princess appears to be a standard anime-themed 2D fighting game, but its unique blend of mechanics makes it seem more like an homage to several points in Japan’s history with the genre. Players choose a main fighter and an assist character that they can summon at various points in the match. And while the game contains super meters – and by extension, super moves – the combat feels significantly more grounded than most modern fighters, more akin to the earliest versions of Street Fighter II.

Honestly, I’m kind of surprised that this one hasn’t already come out on consoles: there’s no netplay, so couch multiplayer isn’t just recommended, it’s downright necessary. Better still, some of the more fan servicey elements are censored by default, only made available to players after downloading a free “Director’s Cut” DLC. In other words, eigoMANGA doesn’t even have to worry about the ESRB.

Best Platform: Much like Verdict Guilty from last year, my odds-on favorite for VP is the Switch. Even these days, the platform is lacking in fighting game representation and it seems like Nintendo is the safest home for a little-known game with any fanservice whatsoever nowadays. How the tables have turned.

Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt/Princess Remedy 2: In A Heap of Trouble

Okay, technically this entry consists of two games but that hasn’t stopped me before. In fact, this time, it might be more beneficial to just pack them together: the first game is free on Steam in the first place. Both games are essentially action-RPGs with a graphical style reminiscent of retro computers like the ZX Spectrum. The player takes on the role of the titular Princess Remedy uses the healing arts she learned as a student of the Saturnian healing school to cure people of their rare ailments. But she doesn’t heal them the boring way with spells and potions, she fights them head-on by hurling giant pills and syringes at the physical manifestations of the illnesses themselves. Whether she’s healing an ill prince or saving the people of the aptly-named “Boss Tower”, Princess Remedy is ready to keep her Hippocratic Oath by any means necessary.

Best Platform: I’m going to have to give this one to the Switch again. Nintendo’s had a history of partnering up with the game’s developer Ludosity and I think that’ll work in their favor. I’m not sure if Nicalis would be willing to delve into the rest of the catalog for Nintendo’s sake though.

Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale

If you haven’t guessed by now, action-RPGs are clearly among my favorite subgenres, so it’s only reasonable that I include a second. Like Offspring Fling!, Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale has been on my list for a long time, if only because of its premise. Players take on the role of a young girl named Recette Lemongrass who wakes one morning to find that her home has been transformed into an item shop. It turns out her father took out a massive loan and left Recette in charge of paying it off. But don’t worry, Recette is joined by a fairy companion by the name of Tear, whether she wants her help or not.

The game is essentially balanced between two distinct but equally important halves: running the item shop itself – which includes setting prices, managing stock and creating a welcoming atmosphere for potential customers – and traveling through the world, looking for brand new items to sell in traditional action RPG fashion. In fact, Recette can even hire various adventurers to make exploring various dungeons even easier.

Best Platform: I think the PlayStation 4 is the likeliest contender for Recettear. Granted, I think this one’s another long shot in general, but Carpe Fulgur – the translation studio that published the game on Steam – does have a history of working on games that appeared on Sony’s earlier systems. Not exactly the strongest connection, mind you, but it’s the best I can think up.

Post Apocalyptic Mayhem

Our final game answers a question that I doubt anyone has ever asked: what if Twisted Metal were a traditional racing game instead of a straight-up demolition derby? Fortunately, the fine people at Steel Monkeys (in conjunction with their publisher, Next Dimension Game Adventures Ltd.) decided to answer that question and do a decent job of it. Sure, the game isn’t the prettiest out there and the mechanics can be a little clunky at times, but that kind of fits with the post-apocalyptic setting.

Best Platform: This is another tough one. Steel Monkeys does have history working on older systems from all three current console manufacturers with no clear favorite. Nowadays, it looks like both the developer and their publisher stick to PC and mobile games. As such, I’d probably give this to the Xbox One, if only because Microsoft is the standard torchbearer of the former.

And so, with that, another list comes to its conclusion. Much like the PC Ports wishlists of old, it’s getting harder and harder to find suitable games for these lists. But while the issue with the older lists was my inability to find games that excited me, I take the mounting difficulty that these lists are sure to pose in later years as a challenge: to find more hidden gems currently exclusive to PC (and possibly smartphones, but no one cares about that) that deserve their time in the spotlight.

But Is It Art? – DmC: Devil May Cry

Considering the fact that Devil May Cry 5 is coming out later this month, I figured I’d write an article celebrating the series’ imminent return to form. You’d expect me to write some kind of a retrospective on the series – a relatively easy feat, as I’ve recently played through all of them for the first time – but fortunately, KI’s got that covered. So, what’s an Icepick to do to show his newfound respect for the series? Why not explore one of the more detested entries in the series, justifying its existence under the pretense of art criticism. But which game should get the nod? There are two obvious picks there, but I’ll be honest: even I’m not crazy enough to try to justify the absolutely mediocre Devil May Cry 2 – which had twice the characters and half the fun of the first one! Instead, let’s discuss what I would consider the most “overhated” of Capcom’s Western ventures, 2013’s DmC: Devil May Cry.

This is something of a departure from the typical formula of the “But Is It Art?” articles. Generally, I try to find a way to justify gameplay-centered issues as intentional choices on the part of the developer to experiment with the medium or to utilize its unique interactivity to achieve something aside from the typical goal of video games: fun. The problem with viewing DmC through this lens is simple: I actually enjoyed the gameplay! In fact, it seems like the most prominent mechanical criticism leveled at Ninja Theory’s take on the series is simply that it’s unlike the previous games.

No, the hatred most gamers levied toward DmC stemmed from something far shallower: the game was a reboot of a beloved series that attempted to appeal to Westerners – or at least, what the Japanese believed would appeal to Westerners. The game’s storyline, aesthetic and even the way it was revealed to the public is what caused the massive backlash against the game, which fell below Capcom’s sales expectations but it’s still the second best-selling game in the series after my personal favorite, DMC4. It’s going to be a change of pace, but that’s what makes this article so interesting to me. I’ll have to be far more inventive when defending DmC compared to previous articles in the series, justifying something far more subjective than mechanical gameplay quirks.

Fortunately, I only recently played the game to cap off a quick primer through the series after streaming the HD Collection late last year got me interested in the remainder of the series. I’m only a couple of months removed from my playthrough of the game, so my memory of the game is still fresh. And if there’s one thing that DmC’s story reminded me of, it was various film adaptations of popular video games. Of course, Capcom themselves are no stranger to branching out into cinema: with the Street Fighter film earning Capcom money through syndication and DVD sales to this day – though the less said about The Legend of Chun-Li, the better – and Sony Pictures’ Resident Evil series, which lasted for six films and is rumored to be in the process of a reboot as we speak. Dead Rising even received a direct-to-video film and it seems that both Monster Hunter and MegaMan are even poised to make their debut on the silver screen sometime soon. In fact, even while watching the game’s various cutscenes (especially those early in the game), I was reminded more of various trashy film adaptations and not strictly those based around video games. With that in mind, I’d like to pose a controversial hypothesis: DmC: Devil May Cry was not an attempt at a reboot, it was “Devil May Cry: The Movie” – or perhaps even “Devil May Cry: The Movie: The Game”!

In that respect, it actually seems to follow many conventions associated with film adaptations of works found in other mediums. The first game’s main antagonist Mundus finally manages to resurface, after only appearing in a single game. And much like in his first appearance, Dante’s hatred for him is established before he is defeated, never to be seen again. Vergil also gets incorporated into this new origin story, a smart move given both the character’s popularity and his relatively short shelf life in the series proper. As for more contemporary references, the name of Vergil’s underground rebellion faction is “The Order”, similar to “The Order of the Sword”, DMC4’s villainous organization that was simply called “The Order” throughout most of the game. Couple that with a brand-new setting and a significantly overhauled mythology, along with a few original characters to keep the audience on their toes and that’s essentially the standard formula for any American film based on a video game made since 1993. I’m honestly surprised that this wasn’t made a bigger point when people criticized DmC.

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Was this Ninja Theory’s message to the fans or vice versa? You decide.

Much like many other Capcom video game adaptations – their syndicated cartoons from the 1990s spring to mind almost immediately – perhaps the most baffling part about this is just how many simple elements of the core story DmC gets “wrong”. Of course, I’m using scare quotes because this reboot (and by extension, any other adaptation) has no real effect on the main continuity in the first place, so they’re more than free to experiment and change plot points (et al) to their liking with no perceivable consequences felt by the “real” version. What is truly baffling though, is the fact that despite getting simple aspects wrong, they end up almost acknowledging more obscure elements correctly. It’s like when I was rewatching the Darkstalkers cartoon recently and started shaking my head when they called Sasquatch “Bigfoot” or turned Anakaris into a senile nutcase… and then they end up bringing up the fact that Bishamon wasn’t truly evil, he was simply under the control of the cursed armor Hannya and the introduction of Huitzil. It was legitimately more baffling to see a no-budget show that seemed to miss the mark 90% of the time pick up on far more advanced elements of the lore… and yet, I had a similar moment when it came to DmC.

For the entirety of the game, both Dante and Vergil are referred to as “Nephilim”, because they were the product of the relationship between their angelic mother and demonic father. I did a little bit of research and it turns out the most common definition for such a mythological creature is the spawn of “fallen angels” and humans – which is exactly what the sons of Sparda were in the main timeline. Likewise, later in the game, Yamato was used to seal the Hell Gate – exactly as it was in the fourth game in the mainline series. During that moment, I had a feeling of déjà vu, reminding me of those moments in other adaptations I’d already written off as trash surprising me with a lesser-known piece of trivia.

But let’s get to the main attraction, I’ve clearly been stalling long enough. It’s time to address the most controversial aspect of DmC: Dante (or “Donte”, if you prefer) himself. I see no point in lying, given my history with the franchise as a whole: when DmC itself was first revealed to the public, I wasn’t really a fan of the series – so I ended up just laughing uncontrollably at the entire controversy, even deciding to pick up the game out of spite for the fanbase. Even though I ended up coming around on the series itself, I don’t regret my decision in the slightest. However, I don’t think I could ever deny that the way that the game’s producer – Ninja Theory’s Tameem Antoniades – revealed both the game’s existence and the radical departure of the main character from everything associated with Dante since the character’s debut in 2001 was a bold miscalculation. I don’t think it could’ve possibly been more incendiary, even going so far as implying that the classic Dante was more “gay” than awesome – what can I say? It was a different time: 2012! The fact that the new design planned for Dante was simultaneously a hodgepodge of every unpopular element associated with gritty reboots of classic franchises and somehow also resembled a self-insert of the producer himself only served to raise tensions to fever pitch. However, one thing that gets left in the dust is that the producer himself apparently only utilized Brokeback Mountain and Fight Club to illustrate just how little the Dante of yore fit with the aesthetic he was aiming for: that of an American movie, which cements my argument that the game was meant more as an adaptation than as a reboot.

Of course, Nu-Dante’s look changed a fair amount from his initial reveal, opting for a far less sickly and slim appearance for something at least slightly more traditional, but the damage had already been done. Gone was the snarky, lovable, young (or at least, young-at-heart) rogue that was classic Dante, and in his place, we were left with a snide, foul-mouthed punk dressed like an emo teenager. The radical change in appearance wasn’t helped by Dante’s new attitude – at least in the game’s first chapter. He even took a shot at the beloved character after a white wig landed on his head and he tosses it off, dismissing it with a pithy one-liner: “Not in a million years.” Truly a dagger through the heart of any and all DMC faithful and a characterization that would remain constant throughout the entirety of the game’s narrative.

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Cracks me up every time.

…Except that isn’t how things went down at all. Yes, “Donte” started out as a smart-mouthed jerk with little regard from anything and anyone, but as the story unfolded, repressed memories of his childhood begin to resurface and reflecting on the familial bond he had with his younger twin Vergil – again, never claimed DmC got everything right – and his mother, Eva, causes a bit of character growth. On that note, he slowly finds himself becoming attached to Kat, one of Vergil’s followers with a penchant towards witchcraft. In other words, the new Dante wasn’t a one-dimensional character: he was just written like the shallowest possible action film protagonist. That’s not necessarily a significant improvement, but it’s certainly better than the perception that he’s a mere straw nihilist and sociopath. My editor even brought up that the scene that caused so much controversy was merely a case of dramatic irony: by the end of the game, Dante’s hair goes from a filthy black to its more traditional white – to match this new Dante’s more positive outlook. If anything, the game’s story comes across more like a far-flung prequel in a new continuity, showing us how he became a more heroic character in the first place as opposed to just starting with him fully formed. Even if the story itself wasn’t particularly well-written, I can at least appreciate their effort to flesh out the character, when all of his previous incarnations – even the much younger incarnation in DMC3 – stayed relatively consistent.

And if you think defending the decisions that led to Nu-Dante was a controversial stance, get ready for my next opinion. Frankly, I think DmC handled the characters of Vergil and Mundus substantially better than the mainline continuity. Granted, it’s not exactly a fair comparison in that regard, especially in Mundus’s case: in the original Devil May Cry (his only appearance in DMC proper thus far), he was constrained by a limited storyline altogether, effectively acting as the plot’s mastermind, leaving most of what little character development the game had for antagonists to his minions, especially Trish and Vergil Nelo Angelo. DmC’s Mundus, on the other hand, is significantly more fleshed out and given hints toward an actual motivation besides “hate Sparda, take over world, kill Dante” like his DMC1 incarnation. Sure, he’s a gross crime lord, but he tries to justify his position as de facto ruler of the world. His arguments with Dante end up painting him as the kind of figure every teenager views every single adult as, but if we consider that Ninja Theory was clearly aiming for a cinematic storyline in the first place, that makes Mundus’s motivations average at worst.

Vergil, on the other hand, has significantly less of an excuse to be a flat character. Aside from the slight characterization he received through a flashback in the original DMC, he was the main antagonist of the third game – the first one to really focus on story development in any meaningful way. Despite that, Dante’s older twin comes across like every single edgy 12-year-old’s original character with his spiky hair, aloof personality and broken powers that only seem to activate when he’s a boss and not when he’s a playable character. It’d almost be endearing if he weren’t considered the most prominent villain in one of Capcom’s most popular franchises. DmC’s take on Vergil is much different and (dare I say?) my favorite iteration of the character. Vergil first appears in the game as a benevolent character, fighting for the freedom of humanity from Mundus’s demonic horde and genuinely wants to reconnect with his twin brother. As the game’s narrative continues, it becomes clear that Vergil’s kindness is a façade, as he ends up selling out one of his more loyal agents and eventually reveals that his true plan was to rule humanity alongside Dante all along.

As much as I didn’t like playing the Vergil’s Downfall DLC, the storyline reasoning that led to him taking on a much more familiar form was dying and grappling with his inferiority complex, punctuated by some downright erratic 2D animation. The storyline wasn’t highly cerebral by any means and was about on par with the main game’s storyline, but it’s certainly better than his backstory in the mainline games which boils down to nothing. Suffice it to say, while playing through the DMC series proper eventually made me come around to Dante – though to be honest, it was his depictions in the DMC5 previews that clinched it for me – it took DmC for me to find an iteration of his twin even remotely interesting. That has to count for something.

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Alas, a still from the cutscenes in Vergil’s Downfall can’t do them justice.

Speaking of which, another thing I loved about DmC was its setting design. Ninja Theory seemed to take inspiration from both the core Capcom DMC games and their sister series — Platinum Games’ Bayonetta, the creation of DMC1’s director Hideki Kamiya – but seen through a grungier, Westernized filter. In that sense alone, I definitely prefer the look of DmC and I don’t appear to be alone in that assessment. Even Hideaki Itsuno – the man who has been in charge of the series since the tail-end of the second game’s development – seems to have taken a little inspiration from it for DMC5, at least from what I’ve seen of the game so far.

The point is that while the traditional DMC games tended to have the action take place in the real world, DmC had Dante shifting between the real world and “Limbo” for combat, essentially taking a page from the aforementioned Bayonetta. And while calling the game’s setting “Limbo City” is on the nose, the transformation of the landscape when shifting between dimensions is honestly probably my favorite aspect of the game from a design perspective. While Bayonetta’s setting never really changed based on what plane of reality she inhabits, DmC’s Limbo causes the existing structure in the real world to twist and turn into mangled structures. Buildings shatter and their fragments turn into bridges, the twisted metal of a soft drink factory gives way to the demonic flesh-covered structures associated with the later levels of the Capcom games and even Dante’s own mindscape consists of these twisted structures.

My favorite set piece in the entire game is when Dante finally faces off with Mundus’s right-hand man, a demon disguised as a none-too-subtle jab at the pundits on Fox News, Bob Barbas. The boss fight literally takes place on the promotional graphics for the show and he appears as a giant projection of his own head, surrounded by various digital screens, slowly degenerating into a mess of pixels not unlike a weak digital TV signal as he takes damage. Then, between the phases of the boss fight itself, Dante is sent back on a greatest hits tour of events that took place earlier in the game, via some grainy black-and-white footage with camera angles that are both awkward from a gameplay perspective and accurate to what one might expect to see on American cable news. The demented nightclub leading to the fight with Mundus’s lover Lilith (and their unborn child) is another highlight in my mind. The traditional DMC games generally stuck to a recurring aesthetic for the entirety of the game, but DmC just threw random nonsense at the wall to see what stuck and I loved every second of it.

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…you thought I was joking, didn’t you?

Even the game’s user interface seems to take on a more “in-your-face” attitude compared to previous games. The vast majority of the UI is rendered in a stark, fading white text surrounded by chaotic black borders and what few graphical assets there were are rendered in a similar monochromatic style. As Dante reaches high combo levels, an unseen announcer begins screaming the associated phrases – another element that DMC5 appears to be adopting. It almost comes across like that weird strain of “corporate punk” you’ll generally see in media that’s directly attempting to cater to counter-culture warriors while still coming across as devoid of the substance those types claim to crave. Honestly, considering the game’s subject matter and the reaction to it, it was a match made in heaven with DmC.

Somehow, even the gameplay falls in line with this streamlined cinematic approach. The controls of the game are significantly simpler than previous games, with dedicated buttons for dodge rolls and launching enemies upward for air combos. On top of that, switching between Angelic and Infernal weaponry by holding down the Left and Right Triggers respectively and the simplified combo system from the original iteration of the game make the franchise’s stylish combat even more accessible – a fact that was met with scorn from the most outspoken die-hard DMC fans. But they’re missing the bigger picture. While Capcom’s last attempts at adapting one of their own properties back into a video game led to a chaotic nightmare of an arcade release and a weak knockoff of Super Turbo on home consoles, DmC successfully manages to pare down elements from its inspiration into something easily digestible for a broader audience, including players that aren’t well versed with the unique quirks from previous games. Call it a dumbed-down action game if you must, but I’d say it’s currently my third favorite game in the series.

Of course, I can’t disagree that Ninja Theory put much more of an emphasis on style over substance when it came to DmC. The level aesthetics are significantly more diverse in the 2013 title, compared to the areas in earlier games, which generally stuck to a more uniform theme throughout each title. However, DmC’s stages are much more linear than those found in previous games, to the point where backtracking is impossible more often than not. However, this also plays into the more cinematic nature of the game: with passive media like TV and movies, the audience is expected to simply move forward through the narrative. Rewinding isn’t necessary if the media in question has the viewer’s full attention.

Veering back towards the cinematic elements of the game, there are various points in the game that probably would’ve worked better as cutscenes or better still, within the confines of an actual film. There are a few segments where Dante’s movement is slowed to a crawl and he’s unable to jump or attack while having slow world-building conversations with Kat. Likewise, there were a few levels that simply involved escaping a collapsing set piece, essentially like a more advanced take on the quick-time events I typically hate in action games, except utilizing the game’s standard mechanics as opposed to simply pressing a button at just the right moment. Honestly, it was these moments that cemented the game’s ranking in my eyes – and not in a good way.

In the end, I don’t think that I even intended to write this article to attempt to shift the general consensus on DmC: Devil May Cry. Unlike with Bioshock 2 – which I always considered the best game in the series – I’m sure the general consensus on the game will remain constant for the rest of either my lifespan or the franchise’s, whichever expires first. However, there is one heroic action that can be attributed to DmC that even the game’s most ardent detractors must keep in mind: its failure to meet sales expectations caused Capcom to abandon their strategy of farming games out to outside Western developers. In turn, that shift forced them to refocus on internal development, leading to their current renaissance with games like Monster Hunter World, MegaMan 11, the Resident Evil 2 Remake and even the upcoming Devil May Cry 5. Sure, we still got saddled with Lost Planet 3, Operation Raccoon City and Umbrella Corps before that, but I’m sure those games were so far along in development by the time Capcom came to their decision, they felt it’d be a wiser financial move to finish development and release them. Now that didn’t go according to plan, but as they say: nothing ventured, nothing gained. In other words, DmC is responsible for Capcom’s return to form and no amount of bile and vitriol can ever erase that.

Itsuno even stated in an interview that he “really wanted” to make a direct sequel to DmC before being tasked with making a new game in the original timeline. So clearly, he saw something in the game like I did. Honestly, considering the death of Capcom Vancouver (which will likely cause a long-term retirement for the Dead Rising series) and Ninja Theory’s acquisition by Microsoft, I’d love to see DmC2 as a next-gen Xbox exclusive… so long as Itsuno is still up for it. But the most important thing to remember is that in every major DMC release since DmC’s release – Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition and even Devil May Cry 5 – Dante has an alternate color palette resembling his unpopular counterpart. Not in a million years, indeed.

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SEE  YOU  SPACE  DONTE...

Connection Lost

Just a quick warning: this article is bound to fall into “delusional rant” territory pretty quickly – anyone familiar with my personal sideblog probably knows exactly what I’m talking about. If you prefer my more “reasoned” articles, then I’m afraid you’ll have to come back next month. Though the feelings I’m about to express have been bubbling in my subconscious for what feels like years – maybe even a decade or longer at this point – last December’s Game Awards is where everything finally came to a head and I was finally able to understand exactly why I’ve been feeling so bitter toward one of my all-time favorite hobbies. Every category seemed chock full of games I had absolutely no interest in – MegaMan 11 was the one game in any category that I’d actually played that year and I could count the other nominees I was actually interested in on one hand – but worse was the announcements. My reactions were so out of step with (what felt like) everyone else, it was as if I had seen a completely different presentation. And though that feeling only managed to hit me that hard at the 2018 Game Awards, I quickly realized that it wasn’t a new feeling. I’d felt similarly isolated during that year’s E3 and other major events from years past. I’m still not sure exactly when it began, but one thing was clear to me: I’ve clearly lost my connection with the larger gaming community.

It’s a difficult feeling to describe in general, mainly because this isn’t really the first time this happened to me. I keep on bringing up just how much I fell out of gaming after the death of the Dreamcast in North America and the PlayStation 2 going on to dominate the sixth generation. The thing is, that was more of a conscious choice on my part: I saw just how things were going down and decided to jump ship on my own – choosing to insulate myself with retro games and Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance acted as the only form of contemporary gaming I’d remotely pay attention to throughout high school. This feels different though, there was no point where I actively decided to forsake gaming. This time, it’s more like the hobby itself is discarding me.

Granted, even that isn’t necessarily a new feeling from me. You’re reading the words of someone who as a child always chose vanilla over chocolate or strawberry when it came to cheap ice cream cups – even though the only difference was the presence of flavored syrup. Standing out wasn’t necessarily a conscious choice on my part throughout childhood, but I’ve always been reluctant with going with whatever’s standard for the sake of fitting in. Of course, my feelings toward that tendency evolved throughout my life, going from obliviousness to misguided pride (“I’m different, which means I’m unique – which is good!”) to shame (I’ve hated drawing attention to myself for decades now.) to just oscillating between outright apathy and a mild hatred of the people who caused the standard in the first place.

At the same time, it feels like a repeat of another developmental milestone in my life: that point where I realized that people weren’t going to automatically be interested in whatever I was passionate about. At that point in my life, I actively became far more cloistered – choosing only to discuss things I liked with whatever few poor souls I encountered that clearly had the same interests I did. This time, it’s far worse though: if anything, it feels as if other gamers are more likely to be hostile or just bored of whatever I have to say about the medium. The major difference is that this time around I know that quieting myself isn’t the answer, but frankly, that’s probably only because I’ve gotten so used to hostility in general that I’ve come to use my personal stances as a bludgeon against anyone who could possibly disagree with me. Fortunately, I’ve been having arguments for so long – as I feel constant pressure to come up with an entire dissertation to justify each and every single deviation present in my personality on the spot to anyone who disagrees, deciding that a simple “No U” is more than enough to defeat any argument I could possibly come up with to justify my own opinions – it just feels like business as usual.

Of course, if that were the only thing going down, I wouldn’t be writing this article. The problem with my chosen hobby’s newfound tendency of alienating me is that there are concrete consequences to this problem. For quite some time now, I’ve found that many of the games that appeal to me are niche titles. Games built for a small-but-dedicated audience, putting artisan-level craftsmanship into gameplay instead of creating blockbusters with bloated budgets that are more likely to push modern hardware to their limits due to poor coding than because of graphical fidelity. The problem is that, while on the surface, I should be rooting for the games I love to succeed beyond their creators’ wildest dreams, this popularity tends to invoke a caveat.

The new customers become far more important to the bottom line than the old guard, due to their higher number. Alas, this new fanbase is fickle, quickly moving onto the next trend leaving naught but the cult following behind. At that point, there’s a higher than 0% (I generally rank it at about 75%) chance that the company in question will begin to fiend for their fleeting fame to last more than the standard 15 minutes. So, they begin to make changes, claiming that they’re branching out to a “wider audience”. Now, sometimes this isn’t exactly inevitable – but let’s be honest, I can probably count the number of times broadening appeal hasn’t led to a severe drop in quality. Far too often, however, we’re left with yet another bland amorphous blob, trying desperately to reach the lofty heights of the AAA titles dominating the medium but falling ever so short, at the cost of whatever quality the brand had in the first place. And no matter how many cult classics are sacrificed at the altar of mainstream popularity, companies keep whittling away at the things that made people love their smaller games in the first place, proclaiming that “this time will be different” from all of the others who were left with an expensive flop that left old fans jilted and failed to draw a new audience. In some sick, twisted sense, this behavior feels like an attack directed at me. But if anything, it’s an attack on any and all gamers that love niche titles. It just seems like the gaming zeitgeist has been taking a far more calculated aim at me as of late.

Of course, the major problem with pivoting toward a larger fanbase is that the best-case scenario for casting a wider net is simplifying the gameplay to some extent. More often than not though, it will involve a shift into whatever genre is trendy at that point in time. I constantly hear people bray about how “things were always this bad” and that I’m a hypocrite for complaining now when I got so much enjoyment out of the deluge of fighting games and platformers starring cartoon mascots with attitude throughout the early-to-mid ‘90s. The problem with this strain of popular genres is that everything feels the need to incorporate all of them into a single game. Even during the sixth generation, when everything was either trying to be Halo or Grand Theft Auto III, at least those were two separate trends that overshadowed everything else. Nowadays, it feels like just about every game that receives even the most remote amount of mainstream attention has to be an open-world battle royale game with crafting elements. I mean, I don’t remember a single, solitary first-person fighting games starring cartoon mascots back in what I’d consider gaming’s halcyon days – but would appreciate it if anyone who does would point me in their direction, because that sounds like my kind of terrible.

But let’s get back on track – going off on tangents is inevitable when I’m in the middle of a rant. I guess my protective nature over the things I enjoy stems from a childhood (no, a lifetime!) of watching people destroying things of mine after I decide to share with them. You’d either have to be a masochist or downright insane to avoid developing some kind of complex over that kind of shabby treatment. Unfortunately, that tendency of mine tends to spill over into far more abstract territories – like niche titles I enjoy. The smaller the fanbase when I discover something, the more of a claim I feel to the property itself. Then as the audience swells, I often worry over what new directions future iterations may take in an effort to appeal to this new legion of fair-weather fans, or worse to expand the property’s reach to the even larger mainstream. After all, no one can argue that attempting to appeal to a wider audience tends to fare poorly for the quality of “artisanal” games as a rule, with what few exceptions exist in this regard only serving to reinforce the commonality.

The problem is that no matter how hard I try to logically dispel these feelings, there’s little to no chance that they’ll recede at this point. It’s 2019 and it seems as if just how cinematic a game is has become more important than how it actually plays. This feeling isn’t unlike what caused my isolationist approach during the sixth generation, but this time, I don’t have portables to act as a barrier between myself and the trends I find so worrying. No, this time, I worry my alienation may be permanent and might even escalate as time marches forward. Beloved franchises will continue to fall at the uncaring hands of the mainstream. And my vision of the future is just about everything I love is at risk of turning into another Dead Space 3 as the audience they were aiming for proceeds to floss on the graves of countless series I love sent out to die with sales expectations that would make Square Enix blush. Perhaps not quite as intimidating as a boot stamping on a human face forever, but the sentiment’s still there.

The only consolation with this endless march forward into despair is that each time a beloved developer of mine falls to into the same imaginary trap – believing that they will be the next big thing to fall headlong into the never satiated maw of the massive audience that literally only cares about a single established property at any given moment – it seems like I’m able to discover a brand new one, who manages to scratch a long-neglected itch of mine. So far, discovering the new far outpaces being discarded by the old and fortunately, it looks like that trend won’t be slowing down anytime soon. I also seem to be getting better at discovering obscure titles lately – new and old – so my consolation is that even if the entire medium decides to leave me in the dust, I’ve got an immense backlog of video games to work through. Maybe I’m giving these trends too much credit, but it’s nice to have an insurance policy.

Armchair Dev: MegaMan 12

I’ve got to say, out of all the series I’ve written on Retronaissance, Armchair Dev is clearly the least uniform when it comes to format. I’ve only written two so far, but they were both so wildly different from one another. And now that we’ve come to number three, I’ve got an even more radical departure in mind. It makes me wonder why I’d even consider a trio of such disjointed articles to be a series in the first place. In the end, I guess the topic at hand is far more important than adhering to some silly format.

While my certainty that an X9 announcement would surface near the 25th anniversary of the original MegaMan X’s release date was clearly misplaced, I still believe that will be Capcom’s next move – so long as MM11 did as well as I predict it did. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up near the bottom of Capcom’s Platinum Titles list after its next update, if only because it’s a brand-new game that launched on all major titles at a budget price with both physical and digital editions. But listen to me talking about the past: we haven’t had a new MegaMan game since last year! Today’s topic will delve back into the Classic series with a “MegaMan 12”.

Why go straight to MM12, you ask? Well, there aren’t too many remaining avenues for other existing sub-series for Capcom to explore. I’ve already stated that I expect Capcom to revitalize the X franchise next. Battle Network, Zero and Star Force have all come to at least some form of a conclusion – though honestly, I did end up coming up with a plot for a potential MMSF4… that Capcom would probably never use, because it might be a bit too bleak or edgy for the series. On that note, the less said about XOver, the better: even though some members of the fanbase have come around to the game’s world-building, the gameplay would clearly need to be reworked and I’d say chances are that would leave us with yet another 2D platformer.

That leaves us with two other sub-series I’d consider ripe for the picking, but both have their issues. All things considered, I just don’t see Legends 3 happening any time soon: Capcom’s faith in the series is shaky at best and the wounds left among the die-hard Legends fans after Capcom’s failure to greenlight it are still as raw today as they were seven-and-a-half years ago – has it really been that long? And if I were to be honest, my advice for a potential ZX3 can be boiled down to a single sentence: “Hire Inti Creates again.” Like, I would write that article right now and just leave that sentence, but I already gave away the gag, so there’s no point. Of course, that also means that you’re technically getting two pitches in a single article – lucky you! Besides, Advent outsold the original ZX and that still wasn’t enough to convince Capcom to greenlight a conclusion back in the day.

But before I put forth my pitch for another title in the MegaMan Classic line, let’s set our sights back to the far-flung year of 20XX 2018. For the first time since I’ve started writing Armchair Dev, I’ve been presented with a rare opportunity: the latest game in the classic MegaMan series is contemporary. As such, I’ll be doing a short mini-review to show off exactly where my mindset is when it comes to a future title. I won’t be going too in-depth – at this point, I’m hoping we get enough MM games overall to justify a “post-Inafune era” retrospective by the time I’m done with the other sub-lines – but exploring how I reacted to 11 would provide crucial insight into the choices I’ll make when discussing a potential sequel.

MegaMan 11 Mini-Review

Obviously, it’s best to start with what MegaMan 11 did right. For starters, Capcom did an excellent job of recreating the classic 2D platforming gameplay with the use of 3D models. Though, honestly, considering how well they did with Powered Up and even Maverick Hunter X over a decade ago, I was expecting that from the get-go. More impressive is the level design: Capcom clearly wanted to find a way to give players more game without discarding MegaMan’s NES-era conventions. By making the stages longer, they gave long-time players like me a proper challenge, while the easier difficulty settings allowed less-confident players the ability to play with extra lives that seemed properly balanced against the longer stages (in Casual mode) or even infinite lives (in Newcomer difficulty) for those new to the series, as well as additional checkpoints and other perks. The Double Gear mechanic was also interesting, though I generally found my use of both the Speed and Power Gears to be split between the stage and boss fights, respectively. I did pretty much outright ignore the Double Gear power-up itself, just because it had too much risk for far too little reward.

Honestly, 11 could’ve been the game that unseated MegaMan 10 as my favorite of the Classic MegaMan series… if not for one major issue. While most of the complaints I’ve seen about the game have focused on things like the Blue Bomber’s wonky animation or the game’s “bad soundtrack” – which is actually a problem with the composition’s instrumentation, but I’ve gone off-topic again – my major issue was structural. MM11 starts out well, with eight amazing stages, leading into the clear apex of the game’s platforming difficulty: the first Gear Fortress stage. Unfortunately, likely due to either budgetary or development time issues, Capcom didn’t stick the landing. Sure, the second Gear Fortress stage was good, but it was all downhill from there. The third stage was just a short hallway that leads straight to the room with the boss rush teleporters. Somehow, even the fourth stage – which consisted mostly of riding a platform to the final fight with Wily – offered more challenge. In fact, I’d say the final Wily stage did its job fairly well, it just came across as unfulfilling following the complete and utter disappointment that was stage 3.

So, before we move on and look ahead to the future, I’m going to just come through and say how Capcom could’ve fixed this past issue, so that it no longer hangs over my head like a storm cloud of despair. Of course, it’s easy enough to keep in mind that Capcom was clearly making a budget title with MM11 and most of the budget was clearly spent on building the game’s engine and rendering art assets. However, even SNES Master KI has acknowledged that the Dr. Light’s Trial challenge had enough content to make up at least two more stages. In other words, there was clearly enough material to build one more stage: a proper third Gear Fortress stage, that would shunt the third and fourth stages in the finished product into the fourth and fifth respectively. As for dealing with the budgetary issues of another boss for said stage, the answer is simple. Just bring back our old friend Copy Robot: all it would take is a clear palette swap to differentiate him from MegaMan. Better yet, do two of them – one equipped with the Speed Gear, the other with Power – to keep up the in-game explanation that Wily’s own in-universe lack of a budget, tricking MegaMan into thinking he equipped the full Double Gear system into his own copy, but rather using two cheaper robots to achieve the same effect. As for the road to the boss rush, I was surprised that they didn’t use a gauntlet of rematches with the game’s various mid-bosses, leading up to the teleport room. It would’ve been a low-effort way to expand on that stage’s theming in a meaningful way.

Regardless of what few issues I had with MM11, I’d have to say that it’s a sign that the MegaMan franchise is still in good hands, despite the departure of its long-time steward, Keiji Inafune. This is particularly good considering the last time the MegaMan franchise was wrested from his control, we ended up with the sixth and seventh MegaMan X games. Either way, I feel much more confident in the series future. So, without further ado, let’s delve into my own pitch for a MegaMan 12.

Core Concept

Explaining the core concept behind pitch feels so obvious, it’s almost like talking down to my audience. Still, considering this is one of the few elements that remained constant throughout this short series, I might as well continue the trend. MegaMan 12 doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel: it should just be a traditional “level pack” sequel that recycles everything that worked in 11 and refines everything that didn’t, leading to a similar but clearly improved successor. MM11 was clearly built at a budget price – the physical version costed a mere $30 – and as such, it lacked both the resources that many of Capcom’s recent and upcoming AAA releases have had and the proper existing framework that their compilations and HD remasters have had. Fortunately, the existence of 11 itself provides Capcom with a proper (but slightly rough) framework and focus should be put on improving and adding to the existing assets instead of tossing out the new engine and even many of the art assets that were built from the ground-up for the game.

Put simply, I want MegaMan 12 to be the MM10 to 11’s 9. I fully believe that what led to the MegaMan series’ decline wasn’t simply the formula growing stale, but rather exhaustion due to the lack of time between releases for the most part. Likewise, the more recent revival of the Classic series was eventually met with disdain because both games predated the retro trend. MegaMan 9 was considered original for bucking modern trends and opting to return to the Blue Bomber’s iconic 8-bit roots. MegaMan 10, on the other hand, was unfairly maligned because it was considered lazy, despite attempting to take the style in a new direction. Hopefully, the shift to a much more contemporary visual style will prevent a similar backlash against a twelfth MegaMan Classic game, forcing them to completely scrap their existing material and start from scratch yet again. Recycling assets is what allowed the MegaMan series to reach new heights of quality in the first place.

Structure

Doing a gameplay section for a new game in any extant MegaMan franchise is pointless. After all, I’ve written so much about the series as a whole, it’s safe to assume that what I’d want from the game (and honestly, what they should be going for) is more of the same – the traditional “jump and shoot” 2D gameplay at its finest. Hell, I’m even honestly fine either way if the Double Gear Mechanic returns in later games or not. If Capcom wants to branch out and experiment with the Blue Bomber, it would probably work best if they just went back to the old ways and spin off yet another series.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any suggestions about how a new game should be built. Indeed, perhaps the only real input I can provide would be the way that the game itself should be structured. That is, my opinion on how many levels the next MegaMan Classic game should contain and exactly how they should be situated. After all, even from the very first sequel, the MegaMan series underwent some extreme formatting shifts: going from six Robot Masters to a heftier eight from the second game on, the revamped Doc Robot levels in MegaMan 3 gave rise to the fake villain fortresses found in the latter half of the NES games and the 16 and 32-bit era mainline Classic games incorporated both the introduction stages from the X series and the intermission stages from the later Game Boy games to expand their offerings. Alas, by the time MM9 decided to revive the series, Capcom decided to scale back to MM2’s formula and they haven’t looked back since. Hopefully, if MM12 leads to any reinvention for the franchise, it will first and foremost involve ditching this disappointing format.

For starters, I would love to see the return of the intro stage. While typically associated with the X series, other sub-series like the Zero and ZX games started players off by dropping them straight into the action. In fact, the very first MegaMan game to include an intro stage was the 1990 DOS game, published by Hi-Tech Expressions and developed by Rozner Labs – probably the only worthwhile thing about it. Conversely, MM11 started with a brief, optional tutorial sandbox area to help players new and old to adjust to the controls. Now while that’s probably a good idea in the long run, an introduction stage could’ve done a lot more to familiarize new players with exactly what a MegaMan game entails, rather than just teaching them which buttons shoot and jump. I’d suggest taking a page from MM8’s intro stage, which introduced players to the changed underwater physics – 8 opted to let Rock do a breaststroke instead of giving him his traditional moon-jump – and the new Mega Ball weapon.

On that note, I’d also stick to the traditional 8 Robot Masters format that the series has stuck to since 1988. When I was younger, I’d always wanted to see a game that would expand the number of bosses that would reward us with new weapons, but after reflecting on what that would mean, eight is enough. Balancing 8 weapons is already a Herculean feat – one I’d argue that Capcom struggles with even after more than 30 years of experience – adding more would just increase the chances of some weapons being completely useless. Worse yet, it might even lead to the re-retirement of the chargeable Mega Buster, something I definitely want to avoid.

However, a new MegaMan game should definitely have more than the traditional 12 stages. While the false fortresses we saw in 4-6 are kind of played out, I would love to see a return of the Doc Robot concept: that is, remixing the existing Robot Master stage assets with brand-new challenging layouts and bosses. It was an amazing concept back in MM3 and I always thought it was a shame that Capcom never revisited it in future titles. It just seemed like a cost-effective way of extending the game’s length. On the other hand, while I’m a fan of the Game Boy games’ intermission stage concept, the only way it would work would be if they split the bosses into two groups of four – an unpopular design choice among the majority of fans. Still, using additional stages to separate the 8 main bosses from the final fortress levels would be a perfect way to extend the game.

Finally, try to exceed the traditional four-stage layout for the final fortress. I know it’s not that uncommon, but even MM2 had a fifth Wily stage! Honestly, having at least 5 final levels seems like a good way to make sure that having a single weak stage would bring the quality of the entire fortress far less. Ideally, 12 would have roughly 6 levels with at least 4 full-length stages and 2 shorter ones, with the latter leading to the boss rush and final fight with Wily. Better yet, just repeat another one of MM8’s unique concepts and group the two of them together – it might even make for a more satisfying conclusion to the game.

Bonus Features

Now, MegaMan 11 didn’t skimp on extra content, but there was at least one notable omission that people harped on after the game had launched. A mysterious DLC listing on Steam that appeared not long after the game’s launch only served to fuel the fire with regards to one specific category: additional playable characters. While not specifically a series tradition, players have grown accustomed to having alternative playstyles represented in games such as MegaMan & Bass, MegaMan Powered Up and even the ninth and tenth mainline installments. That being said, let’s go over the obvious picks and just how they could differentiate from the Blue Bomber.

For me, the most obvious pick would be MegaMan’s evil counterpart and self-proclaimed rival, Mr. Special Wily Number 001 himself, Bass! With MegaMan boasting his full suite of abilities in MM11, Bass would be a perfect foil to Rock’s traditional playstyle: his aimable rapid fire shot, his X-style dash and even the double jump all feel like they would have been well-suited to 11’s platforming gauntlet. However, if Bass does return, please lock the Treble Boost behind the same criteria MM needs to unlock the Rush Jet – at least on higher difficulties. That thing could be completely broken if it gets the same kind of tweaks the Rush power-ups did in the latest game.

Next comes ProtoMan, perhaps the most highly requested secondary character. Unfortunately, Blues’s main draw in his previous appearances was that he had MM3’s slide and MM4’s Charge Shot – which MegaMan had eschewed in favor of his simplified moveset from MM2 – at the expense taking double damage (and recoil). Granted, he also had his traditional shield, which could be used to block projectiles while airborne, but this tended to be way less useful than one might expect in practice. In MegaMan 11, the Blue Bomber regained these abilities and since every fiber of my being is against dumbing him back down to his previous incarnation, the current playstyle would essentially just leave Protoman as a sort of bland “hard mode” character. And frankly, I think Dr. Light’s first numbered creation deserves far better than that.

Fortunately, we have other incarnations of the character to draw from. MM7 allowed players to use the Proto Shield as MegaMan, essentially allow him to block any shots from the front while standing still. MegaMan Powered Up, on the other hand, had a widely different playstyle from other incarnations.  He has a ludicrously high jump and is equipped with the Proto Strike, which is essentially a fully-charged shot on demand, though only one can be on-screen at a time – as opposed to the standard 3 bullets the standard Mega Buster allows for or ProtoMan’s own two shots in MM9 and 10. The Proto Shield also returned and much like MM7, it protected Blues from front-facing projectiles while standing still. It did have some slight mechanical differences though: powerful attacks would knock the shield away, forcing ProtoMan to recover it to continue using it. Of course, Blues also lacked the ability to slide and equip boss weapons in Powered Up. So perhaps finding a happy medium between his playstyles in MMPU and 9/10 would make DLN-000 a worthwhile addition to future games.

Better yet, maybe they could give ProtoMan another of his little brother’s discarded toys: my beloved Mega Arm from MegaMan (World) V. Couple that with variants on his Proto Coil and Jet that resemble the delightfully broken Rush Jet from MM3 and the controversial Neo Rush Coil from MM5 to add even more distinctive features from Rock.

Of course, when it comes to MegaMan’s siblings, I’d much rather see Roll return as a playable character in future games. While she’s more commonly associated with crossover fighting games like Marvel vs. Capcom and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Roll was also playable in Powered Up. Wielding her trusty broom, she almost came across as a Classic series interpretation of Zero – her broom did a significant amount of damage to make up for its lack of range. Maybe give her the standard buster she had in MvC2, as well as the ability to learn new “cleaning techniques” (like Zero in the X games) or even obtain new cleaning utensils by defeating bosses and Roll could be an interesting addition to future games. Though honestly, if they decide to include any additional characters, it would probably be a good idea to remix the stage layouts to accentuate each characters’ unique abilities in a satisfying way.

Personally, I’d also love to see the Endless Mode from MM9 & 10 make a return in future games. The upshot to 11 forgoing this mode is that Capcom could easily recycle stage segments from both 11 and 12 in a new Endless Mode, allowing for even more segments or even bosses to draw from when (and if) the mode finally makes a return.

Aesthetics

I mean, I’ve covered this in the previous Armchair Devs, so it only seems fair to go back to it again. Frankly, I think MM11 did a good job of updating the Blue Bomber’s look while keeping things faithful to the original concepts overall. Sure, there were a few minor issues, but things could’ve ended up significantly worse all things considered. The various problems 11 had regarding its presentation could easily be tightened up in a sequel. As such, when it comes to discussing the aesthetics of a potential MegaMan 12, I hope they keep what worked from the last game but also fix its issues, most of which I’ll detail below.

The 2.5D artstyle worked better than they had any right to… for the most part. From the very beginning, the Blue Bomber himself was ironically the major source of concern from the game’s debut, specifically his animations. While the final product certainly improved upon the janky motions seen in the first trailer, there’s still a noticeable difference in quality between Rock and some of the other major recurring characters (who generally only appear in cutscenes) compared to the Robot Masters, fortress bosses and even the standard enemies. Honestly, I think Dan Root’s video on the subject showcases the entire topic better than I could, so give it a watch if you have 15 minutes to spare. Granted, this is a pretty common trend in MegaMan games – even back in 1987, MegaMan’s graphics seemed a bit primitive compared to everything else in his debut – but considering that the model looked otherwise great, Capcom should definitely invest some time and energy into tightening up some of his animations.

Granted, I’m not asking for a direct 1:1 recreation of his poses and posture from the NES games. In fact, I think that would be the worst possible design choice for Capcom to make: people may have gushed over that in the latest Smash Bros. games, but frankly, I think it only works when you remember that every aspect of that incarnation is meant to completely ape the classic 8-bit style. When divorced from that context, MegaMan’s movement and posture doesn’t look so much robotic as uncomfortable. Now I’m not suggesting that Capcom goes back to the wild limb movement from 8’s walk cycle. But going for a more dynamic and bouncier animation style would be nice. More important is that Capcom needs to bring back the ability to jump through the boss gates. Now I know that the development staff has cited technical limitations on that front but come on. That’s MegaMan 101 right there. Make sure that works properly next time, guys. Aside from that, keep up the good work: I love the redesigns for the main cast, especially the fact that MegaMan alters his form when he equips boss weapons.

Of course, that doesn’t address the elephant in the room: the vocal contingent who want Classic MegaMan to return to his 8-bit roots yet again, even though an even louder group shrieked that it was a lazy choice when Capcom did it in the tenth game – yet was lauded as a brilliant throwback in MM9. All things considered, the backlash against 11 was far smaller than its predecessor, so I think the silent majority is fine with the direction the series has taken. If I were a little more foolish, I’d suggest offering multiple graphical options there, ala Dotemu’s remaster of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, but I think we all know trying to shift between 2D and 3D is a lot more complex than just swapping between hand-drawn and pixelated 2D graphics. I guess the only legitimate suggestion would be to farm out an 8-bit spinoff to another company – mayhaps christen it as “MegaMan World VI”?

…what? You should know by now that I’ll be begging for that one for the rest of my days. And if it ever does, then I’ll start campaigning for MegaMan World VII and so on.

Next, we come to the sound design. Personally, I think Marika Suzuki did a good job when it came to MM11’s compositions. The major failing point was the instrumentation of the soundtrack itself. Everything just sounds a bit… cheap and lifeless. It’s not quite as bad as Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, but if you understood that reference, then you should understand what I’m getting at. And that’s a damned shame: both the Wily Numbers Instrumental tracks that came with preorders of the game and the arranged versions of said themes from the Original Soundtrack prove that the actual compositions themselves definitely live up to the series’ musical history. As far as I can tell, people really liked the Stage Select and Gear Fortress Stage themes and they didn’t receive any official remixes or rearrangements. Just come up with a more vibrant set of instruments the next time around – maybe draw inspiration from Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or Street Fighter V’s soundtracks – and that should fix all the issues people had with MegaMan 11’s music.

Just as a quick aside, I really enjoyed the Wily Numbers Instrumental tracks and would love to see future games in the series attempt something similar. Maybe include some 8-bit NES-style demakes of MegaMan 12’s entire soundtrack or even aping the musical trademarks of MegaMan 7 or especially 8. Recreating the awesome sounds of the Complete Works rearrangements or the arrange albums from 9 and 10 would also be great. Even just attempting to recontextualize the MegaMan music into various musical genres like rock, techno or jazz would be appreciated. Just so long as Capcom includes a digital soundtrack with any of them if they decide to sell them as DLC, I’d totally buy them! Honestly, I’m still a bit sore that those preorder bonus tracks weren’t included on MM11’s soundtrack, but including new arrangements was a nice consolation prize.

The sound effects were good and personally, I liked the English dub. Sure, there was a vocal contingent against it, but at least Capcom decided to implement dual audio to keep them at bay. Even more baffling were the people who just hated the game having voice acting in general. I mean, it is possible to just turn down the volume on the voices all the way and remove them from the game, but I guess that involved pressing the D-Pad too many times for the truly hardcore. Maybe Capcom should just include three voice options next time: English, Japanese and None. In fact, circling back to my 8-bit arranged soundtrack idea, maybe a full-on 8-bit audio option – with its music composed on NES hardware, old sounds ripped straight from the first 6 games (and 9/10) and no voice acting whatsoever – would better suit this hardcore audience. Though if this audio setting were included in a new game, it should probably just be one of many presets. If that many options are present in a new game, I’d love to experiment with them and mix-and-match various audio outputs to see what works best for me.

As for the game’s presentation, it was a little on the cheap side, but I liked it. MegaMan 11 paid homage to its 8-bit roots, shifting between the pantomimed cutscenes that used the in-game graphics and static images. Though this time around, instead of 8-bit sprites, they had 3D models (with full voice acting!) and hand-drawn 2D images. Of course, it would’ve been nice if Capcom had used the 3D nature of MM11’s new graphics to their advantage, producing more dynamic poses and camera angles for the in-game segments. I’m sure most people would want fully-animated cutscenes in a future game, but unless Capcom decides to partner with an anime studio to produce an OVA or even an animated short, I don’t see that happening. The funny thing is, I wouldn’t be surprised if the people who bashed MegaMan 8’s presentation are also the ones demanding that the next game have hours of cutscenes attached to it.

Final Thoughts

There’s really little else to say at this point. I think Capcom already has a pretty good framework to base future games in the series on. In the end, it all comes down to how well MegaMan 11 did in the first place. I’m holding out hope that it did exceptionally well, especially considering the fact that MM11 producer Kazuhiro Tsuchiya has hinted that a new game in the series may enter pre-production this year. I’m just glad that the Blue Bomber – easily Capcom’s true mascot – is finally back in a big way.

But what do you think? Would you like to see a level pack sequel to MegaMan 11 or go back to his roots yet again with another 8-bit outing? Is there a benefit to Capcom constantly ping-ponging back and forth between retro and contemporary styles with every new game? Did you also dream last night that you held a sixth MegaMan World game in your arms? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

Mega Menagerie

When I first came up with this concept, I’d originally intended to post it on my sideblog – it seemed like a nice, simple way to pay homage to the end of the Blue Bomber’s 30th anniversary festivities (and usher in the start of the Blue Bummer’s 25th birthday) while itching that pathological itch I seem to have for wishlists. In fact, my original plan was to use that X9 pitch article to cap off my own personal celebration of MegaMan, but I decided I’d rather attempt beating Capcom to the punch, so I moved it up a month. That just left the question how to finish things off. After all, the X retrospective ended up being two articles, although they’re probably about as long as the 4 Classic Retrospective segments put together (if not longer). Still, I wanted to do something special for this unique occasion, bridging the gap between important anniversaries for the first two MegaMan series.

So, if I was so worried about Capcom beating me to the punch with X9 speculation, what topic of similar importance is left to tackle? Well, last December, before Capcom announced MM11 in the first place, they also announced that they would be re-releasing the eight mainline MegaMan X games on just about everything – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and the Switch. That was it, no other details: no mention as to how they would be handling it, no clear footage of the project in progress, just the announcement and various staff members discussing their favorite moments in the X games. Maybe Capcom will make a similar announcement sometime soon. Maybe they already have. The point is that if they do, chances are there will be plenty of wiggle room for speculation.

That’s where I come in. You know by now that I’m a wishlist fiend, so I’ve got a variety of pitches for just how I’m hoping Capcom does the next time they decide to take a stroll down memory lane with the MegaMan franchise. I’ll be breaking things down, one hypothetical collection at a time: starting with the games, explaining why I chose to break things down in certain ways, my guess at potential pricing, various enhancements and other special features I’d like to see included and topping it off with two scores – one for how likely I think it would be for Capcom to go with this breakdown and one explaining just how much I want it to happen – and my reasoning behind them. I will be trying to keep things realistic, using Capcom’s current lines of compilations and re-releases (MegaMan or otherwise) into consideration, so I can avoid asking for things like 12 games in a $20 collection. And with all that exposition out of the way, let’s get into the actual lists. Continue reading

Retrospective: MegaMan X – Part 2

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Welcome back to my retrospective on the MegaMan X series. I’ve covered the best, now it’s time to cover the rest. I’ve long said that MegaMan X was my least favorite sub-series of the entire franchise and these games are a big part of the reason why. Just to illustrate why that is, take a quick skim below of the remaining games headers. Notice how only two of them don’t link playlists from my personal YouTube channel – links which are replete with frustration, anger and plenty of language that’s, shall we say, not safe for work. The two games I present sans video accompaniment are the only ones in this batch that I managed to play through on my own when they first came out, where I didn’t need the incentive of livestreaming to complete them. Of course, I’d only say that I absolutely needed to stream two of these games to actually beat them without quitting, but streaming tends to be a pretty big motivator for me in general – I’d already livestreamed the first two games I never played through, might as well do the rest too, right?

Either way, let’s get started. We’re going to start by easing into this decline but be forewarned: the worst is yet to come. Continue reading

Retrospective: MegaMan X – Part 1

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Around this time last year, I did a retrospective covering the vast majority of the original MegaMan franchise. Given the entire franchise’s connection to the month of December – after all, that’s when many of its major titles were released – it only seems natural to continue the trend with a second retrospective. The logical choice this time around would be the first sub-series that spun off from the original mainline concept: MegaMan X. Making its debut on the Super Famicom on December 17, 1993 – exactly six years after the first game released on the Famicom – MMX was one of the major standouts among other similar releases on the SNES: games that managed to take classic franchises from the NES and bring them to a new level, both in terms of presentation and gameplay. To this day, the original MegaMan X is considered by many to be the absolute pinnacle of the entire MegaMan series, dwarfing its predecessors and yet to be surpassed by future releases.

Of course, while that’s the prevailing opinion, I don’t share it. I’ve made it clear multiple times that I don’t exactly understand the sheer reverence that many people (my fellow Westerners in particular) have for this particular flavor of MegaMan. I’ve written multiple articles in the past where I’ve made it clear that, of all of the existing MegaMan series – i.e. anything with at least two games, meaning that XOver isn’t even in consideration – the X series is my least favorite of the bunch. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy many of the games in that particular line, just that the devotion that many fans have for it unnerves me to at least some extent. The major difference between the Classic and X games is more tonal than other offshoots, which have more obvious mechanical differences from the original concept.

While the X series didn’t have nearly as many games as its predecessor, there’s still a lot of ground to cover. Fortunately, due to the fact that it had substantially less in the way of spinoffs, this retrospective will definitely be more complete than the previous one. In addition to the 8 mainline X games that exist at the time of writing, I’ll also be covering the Xtreme titles, which are analogous to the “Rockman World” games on the Game Boy; Command Mission, a turn-based RPG that appears to take place in a non-canonical alternate future and Maverick Hunter X, a 2.5D remake of the original MMX done similarly to the Classic games’ Powered Up. Of course, considering just how many games I’ll be covering this time, I’ll obviously be splitting the retrospective in half. Let’s be honest, you were probably expecting this in the first place, especially after last year. So with all of that out of the way, let’s delve into the games themselves. Continue reading

How The PC Port Wishlist Stole Christmas!

Another year has come and gone and once again, the itch returns: it’s time to go port-begging for the holidays! Admittedly, it’s become a lot more fun doing these write-ups on a yearly basis – well, as long as you don’t count my April Fools console port article and the GOG article in August, but those have different criteria. It’s way less stressful discovering games new and old that were skipped over when it comes to my platform of choice over the course of a year than it was every other month. Of course, that also means that I have to be substantially more careful with my choices, but that adds to the fun. I can’t tell you how much filler there was on my old lists – Tekken Revolution doesn’t even exist anymore!

All three of my lists from last year will be reappearing this time – my top 5 gains of the year, a list of 10 brand-new port requests and even the overall rankings – but I’ll also be adding a fourth. It’s probably going to be a one-time deal: I had a hard enough time coming up with this list in the first place and frankly, given the subject matter, I honestly hope I won’t ever be able to find another 10 games that fit the bill.

But before we move onto the actual meat of the article, I’ve got to brag about what’s been announced for PC since the last list came out. First up on the docket, we’ve got Grasshopper Manufacture’s free-to-play rogue-like Let It Die, which was announced a little more than a week after my last article on August 10th and came out the following month. Later that month, Capcom would announce an HD re-release of Onimusha: Warlords – one of my favorite games from the sixth-generation – on everything, including PC. Things would go quiet after that until the following month where two announcements would come from an unlikely source: a Nintendo Direct. Capcom Beat-‘Em-Up Bundle and Katamari Damacy Reroll were both announced for the Switch and the PC. The former essentially takes care of what I wanted most of all from Final Fight: Double Impact – specifically the original Final Fight arcade game with online play – while Reroll is an HD remaster of the original Katamari Damacy, something I wouldn’t have dreamed could ever come to PC, regardless of how much I wanted it. Beat-‘Em-Up Bundle is already available – despite an unexplained late launch on PC compared to consoles – while Katamari is due out later this month. Tokyo Game Show didn’t bring much on the PC ports front for obvious reasons, but Capcom did announce that an HD release of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy will be gracing all three major consoles and PC sometime next year. Just shy of a week after that announcement came the big one: ARIKA officially announced that Fighting EX Layer would be coming to Steam, though they implied that this was only possible due to their arcade port and the title’s future may very well depend on the sales of these new releases. Finally, there’s Sunset Overdrive, which wasn’t technically announced officially until the day the game was released – November 16th – but we’ve had leaks going back to May, where it was rated in South Korea. Then it was rated by the ESRB… and then a store page appeared on Amazon. You have to give Microsoft credit for sticking to their guns and still pretending like it was a surprise release, though.

Of course, there were some cool things popping up on GOG as well. The entire Jill of the Jungle trilogy was released there on November 2nd for FREE! Meanwhile, three more King of Fighters games – The King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match Final Edition, The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match and The King of Fighters XIII (rechristened as the ”Galaxy Edition” after GOG’s client) – were also added to their library. That’s all I’d consider relevant so far, though considering the fact that Sony managed to nab Battle Arena Toshinden on both the Western and Japanese versions of their upcoming PlayStation Classic, that implies that we know who GOG would need to ask to relicense those games. Also back in August, THQ Nordic released some of Microsoft’s Windows Store-exclusive titles on Steam, as well as physical releases. I mainly cared about Super Lucky’s Tale and ReCore: Definitive Edition out of their first batch, but there were also Disneyland Adventures, Rush: A Disney – Pixar Adventure and Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection. It’s been speculated they might be handling a physical release of Sunset Overdrive on PC as well, but there’s been no concrete information on that front. Speaking of rumors, we’ve also seen evidence that Yakuza 6: The Song of Life may be coming to PC at some point, based on one of their quarterly reports which listed the game as a PS4 and PC title. Nothing new on the console front, I’m afraid. I’m sure that more games that were previously PC-exclusive before getting ported to PS4 and/or the Xbox One have since received additional Switch ports (and vice versa), but that’s not really my scene.

Top 5 Successes of 2018

Time for my usual round of yearly bragging. This time around, three of my picks weren’t even on any previous lists in the first place – so I can’t even really take credit for them. Granted, two games were too old to fall under my criteria in the first place and are only coming to PC due to the creation of new remasters across multiple platforms and one of them was only released this year anyway. I guess if I were to pick an honorable mention, I’d give it to killer7, coming to us courtesy of Grasshopper Manufacture and NIS America (with Capcom’s blessing). Despite NISA’s history with PC ports – still waiting for actual confirmation that their Ys VIII port was legitimately fixed (as opposed to “I played 50 hours and it only crashed 15 times!”) – apparently this game turned out amazing, adding new features and opting for a silky smooth 60 FPS framerate.

5. Ys: Memories of Celceta – Nihon Falcom/XSEED Games (PlayStation Vita)

Nothing against Celceta – it was a fun game and I’m glad it hit PC – but this probably would’ve ended up being higher if it didn’t feel like a foregone conclusion. Hyde Inc. definitely learned from their PC port of Ys Seven, as this game turned out looking amazing – easily becoming the definitive version of Falcom’s in-house take on the Ys IV legend.

4. Metal Wolf Chaos XD – From Software/Devolver Digital (Xbox)

The former Japanese Xbox-exclusive where players take on the role of the President of the United States as he pilots a mech suit is finally coming out in America – and on modern platforms, no less. Devolver Digital had been showing interest in publishing the game since 2016 and an official announcement was the centerpiece of their E3 conference this year. It’s not due out until sometime next year, but the fact that it’s coming to PC makes it worth the wait.

3. Onimusha: Warlords – Capcom (PlayStation 2, Xbox)

I legitimately freaked out when I heard about this. All things considered, Onimusha was one of those cult classic Capcom franchises that seemed out of reach for legitimate reasons: specifically, the likeness rights of the actor who portrayed the main character, Samanosuke Akechi – who was modeled after and even voiced by Japanese/Taiwanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro. In fact, the only game that doesn’t have this issue is Dawn of Dreams, the unpopular fourth game and I’m sure that’s why we only have this first game, as opposed to a full-on HD collection. Regardless, I’ve got some good memories playing through this game one night with two of my buddies back in 8th Grade and I can’t wait to go through it again.

2. Fighting EX Layer – ARIKA (PlayStation 4)

I was originally going to put this on this year’s wishlist, as a sort of “gimme” game, simply because ARIKA had expressed interest in releasing FEXL at some point if it did well. I wasn’t even expecting an announcement on this until next year at the earliest, but ARIKA surprised me with a simple trailer on YouTube back in late September. Better still, they only plan on selling the “Full Version” – which includes fifteen Gougi decks (to the Light Version’s five) and Hokuto as an additional character – at $40, the Light Version’s price on PS4 Clearly the best of both worlds. While I likely won’t be able to grab this on day one – despite the generous 25% discount – I do hope to grab it before the end of this year.

1. SEGA’s “Best in Japan” Line-Up at E3 2018

It couldn’t have been anything else. When I listed the Yakuza series on last year’s wishlist, I was honestly being flippant. I never would’ve guessed that Sega would’ve brought one of its big console exclusives to PC but here we are: Yakuza Zero’s already on Steam and Yakuza Kiwami has already been announced. On top of that, they also announced Valkyria Chronicles 4 would be coming to PC and reaffirmed recent releases, claiming that they were bringing “the best Japanese titles to PC”. Hopefully, we’ll see even more announcements next year.

10 Broken/Delisted Games I Want on GOG

This is that new list I mentioned near the start of the article. While I’ll often extoll the virtues of a digital-only future for the PC platform, it’s not a perfect concept. We’ve seen various games removed from storefronts like Steam and GOG due to expired licenses, company closures and various other issues. Worse yet, there are games that are still available that are ridden with defunct DRM programs or worse, incompatible with modern operating systems. Of course, GOG will attempt to circumvent the technical issues of these games, with their re-release of Fallout 3 last year being a chief example. So why not pick 10 digital releases that are either gone or stagnant and point out that, in the end, they’re just some Good Old Games?

Street Fighter IV – Capcom

I’ll be honest with you: SF4 was the game that inspired this list in the first place. Back when I was researching for that Street Fighter retrospective I spent the better part of this year on, I popped in the original home release of Street Fighter IV and had a pretty good time going back to it. These days, it’s more of a curiosity piece – especially due to its exclusive cinematics that didn’t appear in any other iteration of SF4 and its gallery mode – but certainly not worth the $20 Capcom is still asking for it on Steam. Just give it the Blazblue Calamity Trigger treatment: strip out the GfWL-powered online mode entirely and sell that sucker on Steam and GOG for $10, with 50% or higher sales on the regular.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions – Activision

I’ll level with you: I’ve yet to play the recent Spider-Man game on PS4 and I’ve got my doubts that I’ll play it before the decade’s through. With that in mind, I feel confident in my assertion that Shattered Dimensions was the best Spider-Man game ever sold on Steam. It’s a shame that the PC port was only compatible with Windows XP and Vista – especially considering that it was on sale on Steam only a few years back. It’s been taken down again – that’s the problem with licensing agreements – but I’d love to see it come back, stripped of Games for Windows Live and able to run properly on modern Windows builds.

OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast – Sega

Well, this one’s strictly a licensing issue: Sega clearly didn’t want to pony up to renegotiate their license with Ferrari. I’m still bummed out that I missed picking up this port – the OutRun games are some of my favorite racing driving games of all time – so obviously a straight-up re-release is all I really want here. Granted, the game might have some compatibility issues since it was released back in the days of Windows XP, but as far as I can tell (based on the PC Gaming Wiki), there don’t appear to be any compatibility issues on modern systems, which means that anyone smart enough to pick it up before its removal can still play it to this day.

Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse – Aspyr

This is one of those games from the sixth generation that I missed out on, but it looked interesting. I mean, zombie games are a dime a dozen, but a game where you take control of a zombie would be an original concept today, let alone today. It’s also got a sense of humor, which is also a plus for me. It was also apparently on Steam at one point – but it looks like it was taken down because it can’t run on modern hardware. So yeah, this is absolutely perfect for this list: maybe a GOG release will mean a complete removal of its SecuROM DRM.

Wolfenstein (2009) — id Software (Bethesda)

Apparently, the only reason this game has been taken down is because Bethesda – the current rightsholder for Wolfenstein and id Software’s other IPs – is ashamed of it. All I’ve got to say to that is that both versions of Doom 3 are still up for sale on Steam and the BFG Edition is up on GOG – so using “quality concerns” as an excuse is invalid. Frankly, I’d just want it as a curiosity piece more than out of sheer enjoyment. I mean, every other Wolfenstein game since 3D is available on digital storefronts in one form or another and I’ll never believe that the 2009 game was so much worse than every other game in the series.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game – Atari

I mean, I already own this game on Steam, so I can vouch for its quality. Granted, I think it was taken down in the first place to help boost sales of the 2016 game, which was apparently a slapdash cash-in on a box office bomb. And now that’s even down as well. Might as well allow audiences to enjoy the best Ghostbusters-related video game ever released in North America once again. There’s not even any way to implement the multiplayer from the console versions and I even played through the game on an OS no older than Windows 8.1, so it should be as simple as literally flipping a switch.

Driver: San Francisco – Ubisoft

I’ll be honest, I never really got into the Driver series that much – but I did like Burnout Paradise. Driver: San Francisco looks like a game made in a similar vein and given all of the good reviews I’ve seen regarding it – for both the console and PC versions, no less – it’s made me curious about the game’s quality. Unfortunately, it looks like the game may be bound by Ubisoft’s own proprietary DRM, Uplay: so the chances of the game hitting GOG are pretty low, even though it’s only available on Amazon as a digital download at the moment – and the reviews on there seem to imply that there are compatibility issues with Windows 7 and its successors.

Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection – WB Games

Hey look, another game I already own on Steam! I’m not sure why WB took down this collection off of Steam – maybe because the online multiplayer was handled on Games for Windows Live – but even if it weren’t, it does offer something different from the current line of classic PC ports available on GOG. While that collection contains the original Mortal Kombat 3, a childhood favorite of mine, the Arcade Kollection has Ultimate MK3 – the much more popular version – instead. Granted, I think the best thing WB could do would be to just re-release it on Steam and GOG with improved online multiplayer – but just making it available to the masses again would be nice.

Midnight Club II – Rockstar

Man, I’ve got a real thing for racing games this time. Did you know that Rockstar used to make games that weren’t sprawling open-worlds? It’s true! From what I’ve heard about it and seen in gameplay footage, it seems like a pretty good arcade racing game – the type I like. Midnight Club II was apparently the only game in the series to receive a PC port, which makes it a prime candidate for re-release.  Again, the issue stems from the age of the game – apparently this port’s so old, the non-Steam releases aren’t even stable on Windows Vista, let alone 10.

Narco Terror – Deep Silver

This game actually came as a recommendation from my editor: while I wasn’t opposed to having two games from the same developer on this list, making it to nine without any repeats made me reluctant to resort to that. From what I’ve seen, Narco Terror is a twin-stick shooter inspired by top-down, free-movement shoot-‘em-ups like Ikari Warriors, Commando and Renegade Ops. It doesn’t necessarily have the best reviews, but that kind of pedigree makes it sound like an interesting game. I’d give it a shot if it resurfaces at a reasonable price. Besides, Deep Silver seems to be pretty chummy-chummy with GOG. I’m not sure why the game was removed from Steam in the first place – but Steam keys can still be bought on Amazon for some reason, so I’m not sure what problem there was with the game.

The Main Event

With those lists out of the way, it’s time for a fresh batch of PC port-related wishes. Before we begin, let’s recap the rules I’ve tried to keep since I started doing these lists a few years back. I’ve been sticking to the seventh (PS3/Xbox 360/Wii) and eighth (PS4/Xbox One/Wii U/Switch) video game console generations, as well as their portable counterparts. Porting anything else would likely require a remaster – like Onimusha and Katamari Damacy – and these lists are more about run-of-the-mill ports. I also generally limit myself to a single game per company, though given the sheer amount of mergers we’ve seen, I will often allow entries from wholly-owned subsidiaries and their parent companies in the same list. In other words, you could see entries from Sega and Atlus on the same list, but not Square Enix and its various divisions, except maybe Taito – Squenix seems to have given them a lot of headway. I generally consider a “series” an entry, so every game would be considered together, as long as all of the games fall into the console generations I’m covering. Last and certainly not least, I’ll be keeping this limited to third-parties and Microsoft – who seem to have gotten even better about putting the games I care about on PC. Asking for Nintendo and Sony first-party content is a waste of time, so don’t expect to see stuff like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Marvel’s Spider-Man on this list. That being said, let’s get down to business.

Spyro: Reignited Trilogy – Activision/Toys for Bob (PlayStation 4, Xbox One)

…what? I always stack the deck in my favor whenever possible. We’ve already seen evidence hinting to the existence of both a PC and Switch version in development and while the game is currently exclusive to the HD Twins of PS4 and XBO, I’d much rather grab it on PC all things considered – especially after the whole debacle surrounding just how much of the content is actually on-disc. On the other hand, I worry I may not be able to spare the 67.455GB needed to download the game (on PS4, anyway) at this point. Either way, I liked what little I played of Spyro on the PlayStation 1 and would love to experience the rest of the original trilogy in full HD.

SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy – SNK/NIS America (PlayStation 4, Switch)

Sure, it’s another game where we’ve got at least minor evidence that a PC port could be in the works. I told you I don’t always play fair with these. In an E3 magazine special, it was mentioned that Abstraction Games handled the Switch version of SNK Heroines and the same write-up mentioned that they were working on a PC version as well. Considering they were the dev team behind The King of Fighters XIV, it only makes sense that they could be making a PC version of this game as well. Taking all that into consideration, I’ll assume that we’ll hear some kind of confirmation about SNK Gals’ Fighters’ spiritual successor hitting PC sometime next year.

Lunar: Silver Star Harmony – Game Arts/XSEED Games (PlayStation Portable)

This is usually the point in the list where I beg for yet another PC port of a Falcom console-exclusive. Alas, I’ve already exhausted all of their games that have been translated into English in recent history – and I’m not enough of a fool to suggest that anything besides the Japan-only Kiseki games receive even a passing glance by any translation company at this point. What’s an Icepick to do? Easy: dig up another XSEED translation of a game I’m fond of. Granted, I would obviously prefer seeing a re-release of the old PS1 version – because that’s “me nostalgia” – packed in with the original Sega CD version, but honestly: the PSP release is not only the newest release of the game, but it’s the only one I haven’t played at all – “Lunar Legend” was a mistake. Game Arts has mentioned interest in bringing more of their games to Steam and XSEED’s been doing a bang-up job of bringing their stuff to PC, so let’s just kill two birds with one stone.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective – Capcom (DS, iOS)

When it comes right down to it, I’ve got enough requests for Capcom games to keep them in the running for years to come – it’s just difficult to narrow down which one gets the nod each year. I almost considered putting Ace Attorney on this year’s list, but even before Capcom announced a re-release on every modern platform that matters, my gut went in a completely different direction. Ghost Trick is easily one of the most underappreciated games in the DS’s library and the fact that it’s only seen a re-release on iOS feels like a mystery not even Sissel and Lynne would be able to solve. Use the iPhone version as a base, add mouse support and improve the resolution and BAM! You’ll introduce another of Shu Takumi’s masterpieces to a much wider audience. Think of it as a well-deserved tribute to the late, great Missile.

The Legend of Dark Witch Episode 3: Wisdom and Lunacy – INSIDE SYSTEM/M2 (3DS)

This was honestly my first pick for this year’s list – a choice that was solidified when the game was first released on the 3DS last year. I’m fond of the first two Dark Witch games and would love to play the latest entry on my PC, even if its gameplay supposedly deviated significantly from previous titles. Considering the fact that the second RPG spinoff in the series, Brave Dungeon: Seigi no Imi, has already been confirmed to be releasing on PC via Steam next year, I like the odds that this game will hit the platform as well at some point. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.

The Prinny Duology – Nippon Ichi Software (PlayStation Portable)

Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? And Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood! were two of Nippon Ichi’s more interesting releases. Spun off from their popular Disgaea series, these games were actually platformers starring the series mascot in a similar vein to the Ghosts ‘n Goblins games of old, both in terms of platforming mechanics and apparently difficulty. It would be a shame to keep these games constrained to a handheld long gone like the PSP, especially when the PC is so enduring. I’ve honestly been wondering if NIS America bailed on releasing the rest of the older Disgaea games and just skipping straight due to issues with porting games from the Vita or because they just wanted to focus on their latest release. Well, the Prinny games don’t have either issue – NISA’s ported games from PSP before and there aren’t any more recent titles in the series to worry about – so they’d be a perfect choice for a new project.

3D Dot Game Heroes – From Software/Silicon Studio/Atlus USA (PlayStation 3)

Man, I’ve been holding onto this one for a while. 3D Dot Game Heroes is essentially a voxel-based version of classic action-RPGs, borrowing elements from Final Fantasy Adventure, The Legend of Zelda and even Dragon Warrior to create something both familiar and new. Best of all, the player character can be completely customized using the game’s 3D sprite editor. This is such a cool little game, it deserves a re-release on modern platforms and a PC port would probably be the easiest way to make that happen. Better yet, it would give Atlus USA a little needed cred among the PC gaming community, given their consistent failure to do anything with the platform besides publishing ACE Team’s games on Steam.

Sonic Colors – SEGA (Wii)

Truth be told, before I decided to go all-out and ask Sega for the Yakuza series last year, I originally planned on asking for Sonic Colors. Colors is probably my favorite Boost-formula Sonic game – no small feat, given my general distaste with the mechanics in general – and I definitely think it deserves a release on modern platforms. Of course, many publications assumed that this port might already be in the cards, simply because promotional art from a Sonic-themed Steam sale included artwork from the DS version of Colors. Not necessarily the smoking gun I was hoping for, so I figure there’s no harm in asking Sega directly.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst (Gal*Gunvolt Burst) – Inti Creates (3DS, Switch, PlayStation 4)

I feel like this might’ve been telegraphed with one of my choices last year. Either way, from what I’ve heard, Mighty Gunvolt Burst – rebranded as Gal*Gunvolt Burst when it was released on the PS4 – is the closest thing we’ll ever see to redemption for Mighty No. 9. As one of the thousands of people suckered into contributing to that second-rate MegaMan knockoff – even though I think the widespread response to it was overblown, to put it mildly – I’d love something resembling vindication on this front, particularly on my platform of choice. It doesn’t hurt that much like Gunvolt 2, we’ve already got the game’s direct predecessor on Steam as it is. So, come on Inti Creates, hook us up – you don’t even have the excuse of this game being a “Nintendo-only” thing, given its presence on the PS4.

Persona series – Atlus (PlayStation 3/Portable/Vita/4)

I’ll be honest: I struggled with this one. I almost opted out of doing listing this game this year for a couple of reasons. First, despite the fact that I do count Atlus and Sega as separate companies – despite the latter owning the former at this point – I just feel a little sketchy doing both in a single list, even if all but one of the games I’m even considering asking for here were made prior to that buyout. There’s also the fact that despite my (limited) success with Yakuza last year, I always worry about getting greedy with these.

Regardless, I’ve seen my opportunity and I’m taking it, because that’s what heroes do. Atlus USA has recently undergone a bit of a reshuffling in terms of its corporate structure – with key figures at Sega America and Sega West taking over as President and CEO, respectively. Considering Sega’s own implied emphasis on PC as of late, not to mention the fact that both Yakuza and Persona were on “that list of games Sega wants to bring to PC” and Atlus USA’s downright impotent acknowledgement that PC gamers wanted to play Persona 5 after trying to shut down a PS3 emulator, I think this could go either way. Still, if it happens sometime next year (or later, I’m not picky), I wouldn’t mind being able to claim at least a modicum of credit for it coming to pass.

Since I’ve only played the original English release of Revelations: Persona, I’d love to see Atlus start with an upscaled port of its PSP remake, if only so I can play through the Snow Queen quest at some point. I’d be willing to guess that Atlus would probably just end up starting with Persona 5 though. As for other games I’d want, I’d like to see PC ports of both Persona 2 remakes on PSP – with Eternal Punishment receiving a new English translation, obviously – Persona 3 Portable (with the additional content from FES, if possible) and Persona 4 Golden. I guess I’d also like to see their fighting game spinoff Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, but I’m sure Arc System Works would be willing to handle that with Atlus’s blessing.

Top 10 Most Wanted

I’ll be honest with you, I almost considered dropping this list, at least for this year. After all, only one of last year’s entries – Ys: Memories of Celceta, the former number one – managed to come to pass. However, upon further reflection, I decided a reshuffle was worth the effort anyway. A few other entries from previous years have been dropped from consideration for various reasons – something I probably should’ve considered doing last year anyway – and I decided to look into other older lists to replace them. As with last year, I’ve decided to rank them not only based on how much I want them, but also on how realistic I think it is that they might receive some form of a PC port in the near future. Here’s hoping next year’s list changes even more – for the happiest of reasons, of course!

10. Splatterhouse (2010) – Bandai Namco (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Considering this went from number 3 last year all the way down to the bottom spot, you’re probably assuming that I’ve fallen out of love with the 2010 reboot of Splatterhouse. Valid guess, but it’s more like I just think it’s become less likely of a port as of late. Maybe in 2020 – the game’s tenth anniversary – things will change, but for now, I just don’t see Bandai Namco revisiting this game. I mean, Katamari Damacy was a popular game but considering the last we’ve heard of Splatterhouse was as an understated part of the Namco Museum on Switch and that was last year, I don’t like the odds.

9. Dragon’s Crown Pro – Atlus/Vanillaware (PlayStation 4/3/Vita)

I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I think the critical moment to get a Dragon’s Crown PC port has passed, especially given Vanillaware’s lack of a partner willing to port games to the platform, not to mention the fact that development on 13 Sentinels, their next title, seems to be swinging into full gear. I’ll keep the faith alive but I’m not expecting this any time soon.

8. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 – Bandai Namco (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U)

You could easily argue that Tekken 7’s continued success will probably kill any chance of a TTT2 re-release anywhere, but honestly, who can really say? Tekken’s one of Namco’s big series, so I guess I could see some kind of a revival – after all, they did a re-release of the original Tekken Tag on PS3 years back to help promote a Tekken animated film. I doubt it’ll happen until Tekken 7’s done receiving new content and considering its second season just started and it reached another sales milestone, that might be a ways away.

7. Catherine: Full Body – Atlus (PlayStation 4/Vita)

This is probably the largest jump forward of any of the games from last year and it’s due to a number of factors. Aside from the shift in Atlus USA’s leadership I mentioned previously, there’s the fact that a new version of the game was announced altogether, one that Atlus USA confirmed would be making its way to the West but offering no other details, particularly which platforms it would appear on. Since then, Sony’s begun censoring some of their racier titles after moving their headquarters to California – even ones that aren’t intended for the Western market, which has led to some pushback from both Japanese developers and fans. Worries began to surface over Catherine: Full Body receiving a similar treatment, something which wasn’t assuaged by Atlus’s recent response to these new policies. I’m not sure if all of these factors will finally put Atlus over the edge, but here’s hoping.

6. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix – Capcom (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Huh, this one is in the same exact spot as it was last year. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. While the death of the Puzzle Fighter mobile game could have positive or negative repercussions regarding a re-release of the seventh-gen HD version, Capcom does seem to be on a roll when it comes to re-releasing their older titles in general. Of course, that could mean a straight release of the latest release of the original game, but I think it’s equally possible that we could see some other releases. I’d personally champion an “Ultra Puzzle Fighter” which would combine elements from all previous releases: the Street Puzzle Mode from the PS1/Saturn version and its various unlockable bonuses, the “X/Y/Z” game modes present in the Dreamcast and HD Remix versions and the ability to choose between the classic 2D sprites (with various filters) and the redrawn graphics from the latest release. On the other hand, they might also do a compilation package similar to their Beat-‘Em-Up Bundle, packaging the original arcade release with various other arcade games that could be considered “puzzle games”. I guess as long as I’m able to play Puzzle Fighter online with friends on PC, I’ll be happy.

5. NeoGeo Battle Coliseum – SNK (Xbox 360)

I guess something similar could be said for NGBC, which jumps ahead two spots from last year. SNK has been focusing on a single new game at a time but reinforcing their finances with various re-releases. We’ve got the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection on Switch handling the pre-NeoGeo era and the various NeoGeo Mini consoles representing their Golden Age, but we’ve still got a significant lack of their games from the Playmore era at hand. Given the rumblings of a NGBC2 being a potential project after Samurai Shodown and the all but inevitable King of Fighters XV, it would only make sense to re-release the original game, just to remind people how awesome it was.

4. Cyber Troopers Virtual-On/Virtual-On Oratorio Tangram/Virtual-On Force – Sega (Xbox 360, PlayStation 4/3)

Oh wow, our first legitimately new title! Ironically, Sega recently announced that these three games – the exact three games I requested from the Xbox 360 way back when – would be making their way to the PlayStation 4 in Japan very recently. That makes them even more primed and ready for port-begging. We don’t have any details about a Western release at this point, which is why they end up so low on the list, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being a one-year wonder on the cumulative list. I wonder if those crowdfunded controllers that recreate the classic Virtual-On control scheme will work on PC…

3. Rare Replay – Microsoft Studios/Rare (Xbox One)

The hits just keep on coming. With Sunset Overdrive having just made its way to PC, this is the only Xbox One exclusive I still want – well, aside from Super Ultra Dead Rising 3′ Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX + α, but I don’t think Capcom even remembers that spinoff. A collection of some of the best games from Rare’s halcyon days, lovingly recreated on modern platforms? Yes please. This would even manage to kill three birds with one stone, considering how I requested the Xbox 360 versions of the Banjo-Kazooie games way back when, and that’s just a fraction of what Rare Replay has to offer.

2. Brandish: The Dark Revenant – Nihon Falcom/XSEED Games (PlayStation Portable)

I mean, you kind of had to be expecting this. With all of the modern Ys games available on Steam, I was clearly going to branch out into XSEED’s other Falcom offerings. Fortunately, most of those have either already been ported to PC or are just essentially exclusively available on the platform at the moment. The only game they’re holding back from me would be the 2009 remake of the original Brandish on the PSP, which XSEED localized back in… 2015? Strictly a digital-only release, it’s a shame that this game didn’t get more love, especially considering how the translation was literally a labor of love by Tom “Wyrdwad” Lipschultz. This would probably have ranked at #1 – given Falcom’s emphasis on releasing their games on PC – but with Tom leaving XSEED, I’m not so sure it’s a slam dunk anymore.

1. MegaMan Powered Up/MegaMan: Maverick Hunter X – Capcom (PlayStation Portable)

These two are literally the perfect storm. We’ll be celebrating another MegaMan milestone this December – MegaMan X’s 25th anniversary, which has its own logo and everything – Capcom’s been knocking it out of the park with re-releases (even games like Onimusha that I’d long given up on seeing again in a legitimate form) and MegaMan managed to rack up another 2 million franchise-wide sales as of late. Honestly, I’d say more, but since I’ll be discussing this concept in-depth later in the month, I’ll just hold my tongue for now. I’ve had a pretty good track record with my number one picks on these cumulative lists, so here’s hoping for a three-peat.

And with that, my itch to talk about PC ports has been sufficiently scratched. Here’s hoping that I get enough announcements in the next four months to overshadow my next list – my traditional April Fools’ tradition of mentioning PC games that should be ported to consoles. I’ve nearly got that list completely planned out as it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Armchair Dev: MegaMan X9

I’ll be honest, this will be the second article I’ve written on the topic of building a new MegaMan X game. The last one I wrote was a few years back, as a part of my “Sum of Its Parts” series. You’re probably wondering what’s changed since then that would justify me writing another MMX9 proposal – especially when I’ve made it clear that the MMX series is my least favorite iteration of the MegaMan franchise. Well, a few things have changed from that previous article. For starters, I’ve managed to play the remainder of the series – X6, X7, X8 and Command Mission – which has given me various tips and tricks on how not to build a MegaMan game. Second, Capcom has recently been trying to redeem themselves in the eyes of customers and as such, a new MMX game feels way more possible especially with their refreshed approach to game design, remembering the games that brought them to prominence in the first place. Finally, the most important change is that this is a different series: I’m no longer limited to crafting a new game entirely from elements of the games of the past. This time, every aspect of design is subject entirely to my whims. A dangerous prospect from someone who claims to dislike the series, but I promise I’ll be gentle with my assessment – believe me, my editor will make sure of that.

Originally, I planned on doing this article as a sort of conclusion to my upcoming MegaMan X retrospective, which is coming out next month in honor of its 25th anniversary. However, I’ve got a gut feeling that if I wait until then to post this write-up, I’m going to get sniped again. The same way Capcom beat me to the punch last year by announcing MM11 well before my Classic series retrospective got posted – which concluded with a virtual obituary for the series. You know the old adage: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. This time around, I’m going to put it out there well before I assume Capcom will make an official announcement of MMX9 – which I’m assuming will come in December, just like last year.

Of course, on the other hand, it seems a bit presumptuous to write up an article without playing the latest game in the series: the aforementioned MegaMan 11, which came out last month. So, I decided to wait until I’d finished that game before starting this write-up. After all, it’s a good idea to know what direction Capcom is taking the series as a whole in the effort to refresh it for audiences new and old. And don’t you worry, I’ll plan on doing an article about a possible “MegaMan 12”—still need to decide the format – but you’re not going to see that until early next year. I’ve been advised by my editor to point out that X9 should happen before MM12, but let’s be honest – the X fanbase, like most fanbases, is full of zealots that would probably threaten anyone they came across who didn’t make that abundantly clear in the first place. I have few delusions about the size of my audience, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

I’ll be changing up the format a bit from last time. The headers will remain for the most part, but since there’s significantly less for me to micro-manage with a platformer than a fighting game – at least without outright turning this article into a fan fiction – there will be significantly less sub-headers, which should simplify things a fair amount. Also, considering the fact that I’m almost positive that MMX9 is already in development, I’ll be discussing both my own personal preferences and the path I believe Capcom is most likely to take, just to make things a little more interesting.

Story

Let’s start with the game’s storyline… or more specifically, where this new game could end up in the MegaMan X series’ timeline. You’d think it would be as simple as just setting this game after all of the mainline games that came before it, but both the history of the MMX sub-series and the tendency some Japanese publishers (Capcom especially) have of shunting unpopular games to the end of the timeline and setting future releases between them and their more popular predecessors put this certainty in jeopardy. The MMX series left us on a sour note – with two straight disappointing releases, ranging from mediocre to outright bad, capped off with a game that tried to right the course of the series but came up short. To make matters worse, from what I’ve seen, a majority of fans either consider the first or fourth game as the best in the series. That means that, best case scenario, the franchise peaked only halfway through what’s already been released so far. Not exactly the best sign, at least in my opinion.

The X series has a greater emphasis on an ongoing storyline than the original “Classic” MegaMan series, which opted for more episodic adventures akin to Saturday morning cartoons of a bygone era. MM11 opted to expand the storyline by exploring aspects of the franchise’s lore: specifically detailing what led to the end of Dr. Light and Wily’s friendship and the experiment that led to Wily becoming a pariah in the field of robotics. MMX, on the other hand, probably has the shallowest lore out of all of the MegaMan sub-series. Expanding the setting of 21XX would probably be a good idea overall, but that’s Capcom’s decision to make.

It’s also somewhat difficult to determine exactly what is canon within the X series. As far as I can tell, the RPG spinoff Command Mission is the only game that Capcom has outright stated is non-canon. Considering it takes place in 22XX – the same time period the Zero games are supposed to take place – I’m not surprised. The Xtreme spinoff games for the Game Boy Color are generally accepted to take place early in the game’s timeline: the first Xtreme takes place between X2 and X3, while the second takes place between X3 and X4. Maverick Hunter X is just a remake of the first game, but they made some changes to the story – such as the fate of Dr. Cain – so it’s hard to say if Capcom will consider either the SNES original or MHX canon when revisiting the series (or even mix aspects of both games).

To make matters even worse, even the mainline games fall victim to arguments regarding their canonicity. The first five games are safe – after all, X5 was originally meant to wrap up the X series. The remaining three are where arguments flare up. Some claim that because X6 was being made around the time the first Zero game was in development (managing to be released before it) as well as having an ending that seems to tie into MMZ, it’s the true final game in the franchise. Thus, X7 and X8 take place in a non-canon alternate timeline, much like but distinct from Command Mission’s timeline. I’ve seen some argue that X7 & 8 are canon, stating that the Zero and ZX games are non-canon – and then not really going into their opinions about whether or not Legends is still canonical. Then you’ve got a third camp that insists that both X7/X8 and Zero/ZX are canonical somehow: I guess they think that the Elf Wars should take place in future releases within the X series.

I’m not exactly sure which of these theories I follow: I guess I sort of oscillate between the “X5 was the last X game” and “everything mainline is canon” camps, but I outright hate the “Zero/ZX is non-canon” concept. I only bring this up to hammer home the fact that the X series will be difficult to continue in the first place. Every other active MegaMan series? The answer is obvious – MegaMan 12, a ZX3 to wrap up the trilogy, Legends 3 – progression is fairly simple because none of the other sub-series has the problems the X series does. Of course, none of these points are anything new if you’ve been reading my criticisms on the MMX series. Fortunately, in this case, they yield something positive: we actually have a topic worth discussing.

The first clear option is the most obvious: a true X9 – that is, a direct sequel to MegaMan X8. After all, X8 ended on a pretty big cliffhanger – one I’m not afraid to spoil right now, because the game literally came out over a decade ago. While the production of next-generation Reploids with copy-chip abilities would be delayed after it was discovered that they could still go Maverick, Lumine’s last attack on Axl has left him comatose, his forehead gem flickering with an ominous purple spark of energy. I’m not sure if Capcom meant for that to be such a blatant cliffhanger but that’s definitely how it came across back in 2004. This does seem to be the most popular option when it comes to fan demand – which is weird, given how much Axl is despised. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Capcom seems to be coming around to pushing other franchises past their most controversial points: Street Fighter V appears to be pushing towards revisiting the events of SF3 in some form and there’s been speculation that the upcoming Devil May Cry V might actually take place after the extremely unpopular DMC2. Either way, X8 was included in the recently released MegaMan X Legacy Collection 2, so fans at least have a refresher in case Capcom decides to continue from there.

Axl_Hitted

Subtle, but it’s there.

On the other hand, the least controversial option for a revival might be an interquel. It’s not exactly new territory for the X games: the Xtreme games fill in the gaps between X2 and X4 rather well, whether they’re considered canon or not. Going backward could allow Capcom to revisit the franchise’s less controversial days without nixing existing canon, allowing them to weigh their options about how to continue the franchise while sating the howls of hunger coming from the MMX contingent. In other words, an interquel may be Capcom’s best option of having their cake and eating it too. And it’s not like there aren’t other gaps that could be filled in the X timeline. Several new characters were added to the Maverick Hunters’ base of operation between X4 and X5, so that’s a plausible option – better yet, it could reintroduce these characters to lapsed fans who fell out of the series after the SNES games. Another option could be exploring what happens between X6 and X7: was there some kind of trauma that led X to temporarily retire by the start of X7? Finally, Capcom could do a game that takes place between X7 and X8. After all, Axl seems to be a fully-fledged Maverick Hunter by X8, while X7’s ending seems to put this status in doubt. Finding out how Axl proves himself to the seasoned X and Zero could be interesting to some extent, maybe even redeem the scrappy young Reploid in the eyes of the fanbase. Regardless, if Capcom decides to go this route, they’d technically be giving me something I’ve wanted for a long time: a third “Xtreme” game.

But aside from the clear ringers, are there any other options Capcom might have when they revisit the X series? Capcom could always decide to go with a soft reboot: effectively ignoring some of the more sweeping changes made to the status quo in future titles, while not necessarily undoing them. They could do a traditional X and Zero adventure while Axl is still healing from the injuries he received during X8’s conclusion, put decidedly little emphasis on Maverick Hunter HQ and just bring back Sigma without any explanation yet again. This might be a little harder to swing than it was for the Classic series – which is strictly episodic in nature – but honestly, the running storyline of the X games didn’t really begin to take shape until the fifth game anyway. While jettisoning some of those concepts might not be popular with everyone, it would probably do the best with bringing those aforementioned lapsed fans back into the fold with a story-light adventure clearly cut from the same cloth as the first 3 games.

My final two options don’t really necessitate separate mentions, but they are both clearly the most extreme options of the bunch. Capcom could choose to continue the attempted reboot that started with Maverick Hunter X or just completely reboot the series as a whole. After all, the scrapped first-person shooter “Maverick Hunter” was clearly a separate continuity from the traditional MMX games, so it’s not like it’s a completely foreign concept to Capcom. Meanwhile, Maverick Hunter X (along with its sister title, MegaMan Powered Up) was meant to spawn an entire series of remakes. I mean, it would probably be smarter to re-release MHX in some form before continuing that line of remakes – but whether they decide to do more straight remakes or just create an entirely new continuity from MHX’s modified premise, it could be a good way to refresh the X series as a whole: effectively keeping what worked and changing what didn’t.

So, what do I think Capcom’s going to do with their next game? My gut tells me they’re going to go with option 1 – an X9 that is a direct sequel to MMX8. Now that declaration may come across as arrogant, but fortunately I’ve got a piece of evidence to support my argument. The cover art for this new Legacy Collection’s soundtrack includes X and Zero jamming on guitars, a tambourine-clad Mettool and Alia and Axl singing a duet. The interesting thing is that both Alia and Axl have some slightly tweaked designs. They aren’t quite as radically different as the new MegaMan and Roll designs that popped up before MM11 was officially announced, but it does seem suspect that both of these characters from later games in the series would receive that kind of attention, while X and Zero’s designs don’t look all that different from the PS1 era, though the art style better resembles that of Maverick Hunter X.

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I think it’s funny that Alia’s the one with the mic stand.

As for me, I’m going for option 2. I’ll base my proposal as an interquel – I’ll be contemplating a game that takes place between X4 and X5. Personally, I wasn’t really a fan of how X5 felt almost like a total non-sequitur compared to its predecessor and given the following games’ greater focus on interconnected storylines. I also thought it was weird how many additional members of the Maverick Hunters were given focus from that point on, especially considering how even some of those characters – like Douglas and Lifesaver – fell by the wayside themselves in future titles. They don’t even really seem to get properly introduced within the context of X5: they’re just suddenly there, like they’ve always been there. I liked how the second Xtreme game “introduced” Iris as a Navigator for the Maverick Hunters, so seeing an interquel actually introduce some (if not all) of those new members might be a good pick.

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What a cute character. I’m sure she’s got a good long life in store for her.

I’d also love to see more of an exploration of the Repliforce concept: they were probably my favorite antagonistic force in the X series, but their history wasn’t explored nearly as much as it could’ve been. By X5, The Skiver Spiral Pegasus seems to be their last surviving combatant, but who’s to say there weren’t more before him? There’s a lot that could be explored during that period and it would also allow for a storyline that’s less muddled by some of the more controversial additions to the series, while also providing proper introductions for characters that became prominent from X5 onward. It also doesn’t hurt that X4’s my favorite game in the series, so of course I’d want to continue on from what I’d consider the pinnacle of the MegaMan X series in a new release. As such, I’d want this game to be given the same treatment as the Game Boy’s MegaMan V – an assortment of 8 unique bosses crafted exclusively for this game. Maybe even split the Mavericks into two groups of four, much like the previous Xtreme games (among others).

Gameplay

Now personally, I think that when it comes to the revival of MegaMan, the X series is probably the worst possible direction to go. You’d think this would come down to my personal preferences, but honestly – it’s strictly due to the fact that Capcom’s already brought back the Classic games. MegaMan X was originally built to effectively be a “Super MegaMan”, a game that was meant to update the conventions of the classic 8-bit platformer on the NES for the 16-bit era. In other words, bringing back X would be akin to starting an ice cream parlor that only serves French Vanilla and Vanilla Bean. Both styles have their respective fans and while I’d probably end up buying whatever new X game Capcom produces (as long as it looks as good as MM11 did), the MegaMan franchise is still in critical condition and in the past, the Classic and X series were pretty much never able to coexist without issue. There’s a certain cannibalization inherent among both sub-series: they could play nice with offshoots in different genres (Legends, Battle Network and Star Force) and even some of the more radical departures among 2D platformers (Zero and ZX), but the rise of one always seems to be predicated by the decline of the other.

Maybe Capcom’s learned their lesson about managing to give the same amount of attention to the Classic and X series, but warring fanbases is probably the least of their concerns. Avoiding series fatigue among the mainstream audience could be difficult, considering that’s what led to MegaMan’s decline in the first place. The best solution I can think of would be to emphasize the differences between the two. Bringing X into the third dimension was a clear mistake, so this will be a difficult task. Maybe borrow a few elements from some of MMX’s own successors, but perhaps the best way to handle it would be to play up some of the different gameplay elements found across the first six five X games.

In fact, MegaMan 11 is the major reason that I decided to wait so long to do this write-up: the trailers seemed to imply that in addition to regaining his slide and charge shot from later games, the Blue Bomber was going to be getting some new moves. New moves that might have aped some of X’s trademarks, making differentiating them more difficult. The one that caught my eye the most was using the Power Gear in tandem with the boss weapons – obviously a take on X’s ability to charge them. Fortunately, MM11 made that distinct enough from X’s concept. If I could use some fighting game terminology, the Power Gear-enhanced weapons resemble EX Specials, effectively just more powerful versions of the original weapons. X’s charged weapons, more often than not, were completely different from the standard versions. So that convention can help to differentiate the two, while remaining essentially unaltered.

On that note, the basic maneuvers typically found in the X games can be left unaltered for the most part. There’s enough overlap with a buster charging mechanic to allow it to appear in both games. X’s platforming is far more momentum based, relying upon dash-jumps, clinging to walls to slow descent and combining the two mechanics to scale to new heights with ease. Hopefully, the level design would be modified to actually rely on these abilities, as opposed to just making traditional MegaMan Classic-style stage layouts far more manageable – which is how many of the SNES games worked out.

Of course, the fifth game introduced a few new abilities to both X and Zero’s repertoire, ones that I’d say had mixed success. The duck was probably (aside from Dynamo) the best addition to X5 and fulfilled a long-running request among the fanbase: I’ve seen people begging for a crouch mechanic in NES MegaMan games. It was dropped in X8, but if Capcom wants to set a possible X9 away from MM11, bringing back the duck seems like it would be a simple fix. Given the fact that Classic’s slide allows him to navigate through specific passages and dodge some enemy attacks while X favors a much more momentum-based dash, the duck clearly has value within the X series.

The other major addition that came into play in X5 were the ziplines. I kind of want to like the mechanic, but for the most part, they were just used to navigate spike-lined areas. I do recall a few interesting instances where players had to jump from zipline to zipline to scale a specific area, but more often than not, it was just “don’t touch the spikes for less than a screen length”. I’ve got a gut feeling that this mechanic has some real potential, I just can’t work out how. Maybe use the Zero games for inspiration…

As for more good luck regarding the revival of the X series, MegaMan 11 (at least upon its initial release) has stuck to a single playable character, an absolute godsend for X fans. Later games in the X series – technically starting with X3, but I’d argue it really took shape in X4 – offered players the choice between multiple playable characters. While other series (specifically ZX and especially later releases in the Classic series) would use these mechanics, they were likely used best in the X games. Zero’s melee combat added a new dimension to the MegaMan formula – and one so complex, it served as the premise for yet another spinoff – and no other attempt really managed to be such a game-changer: Bass probably came the closest in Rockman & Forte, boasting aimable rapid fire, X-style dashing and his incredibly overpowered double jump. As a brief aside, Protoman’s playstyle in MM9 & MM10 relied on exclusively possessing the charge shot and slide, so I’m wondering how they’d tweak his playstyle if they decide to bring him back in future installments.

Speaking of, I guess it’s a good time to break down exactly how each character should work in these new games.

X

Let’s start with the Blue Bummer title character himself. X’s playstyle shouldn’t vary too much from the previous games: as per usual, he should start out with the most basic moveset of the three, only to be augmented with armor collected throughout the eight boss Maverick stages. In other words, most of what X’s base form is capable of is what the other playable characters should be capable of. His mobility options consist of the dash, dash-jump, wall-grab and wall climb. Obviously, he should also have a two-level charge shot, just like always. Oh, and since Classic didn’t end up using this in MM11, give X the ability to use his X-Buster while he has a weapon equipped. Give him the duck and zipline if the other characters have them too. Basically, base form X should probably be the benchmark for what any other playable characters should be capable of doing.

As for the armor, I’m a little torn. While I sort of liked the later games’ option of offering X multiple armors, the fact that he needed a full set to utilize any of their parts was unacceptable. Eventually, I decided on a compromise between the way extra components were handled in X3 and X8. All eight Maverick levels will have their own capsules – two apiece for Head, Arm, Body and Leg parts. The first of each type of Capsule the player finds will grant them the base armor. If they find the second one, they have the choice to upgrade them in one of two ways. So, for example: when the player finds the first leg part capsule, they gain the ability to air dash. When they find the second, they’re given the ability to choose between the vertical air dash from X3 or the ability to air-dash out of a dash-jump.

These are just examples, but essentially, there would be greater emphasis on player choice and customization. Each part would look distinct from the rest, allowing players the ability to understand what X is capable of at a glance. Obviously though, the basic parts would allow for X’s standard armor upgrades: the helmet would decrease the amount of ammo used by special weapons; the body armor would halve damage taken and the Buster upgrade would allow X an additional charge level for his buster and the aforementioned ability to charge boss weapons.

The Ultimate Armor would likely return, allowing the player full access to all of these enhanced abilities without choice. On top of that, give it an exclusive Giga Attack, perhaps based on a Street Fighter technique for old time’s sake? I’d also suggest reserving the Ultimate Armor as a hidden power-up in one of the Fortress levels – like in X3 and X5 – as opposed to making it strictly accessible via cheat code: make it both a reward for the players who clearly don’t need it (complete with achievement!) and an extra crutch for less-skilled players.

One last thing: if they decide to do another Street Fighter Easter egg – either with the Ultimate Armor or otherwise – I’d like to throw my support towards Blanka’s rolling attacks.

Zero

Next, we come to my personal favorite: the ultimate creation of [REDACTED], Zero. For Zero, I’m clearly going to be drawing from a number of sources – the PS1-era games, X8 and of course, the MegaMan Zero tetralogy. He’s got all of base form X’s mobility options, as well as the double jump and air-dash he has by default in many of the MMX games where he’s playable. Zero should retain his standard 3-hit combo attack and air-slash from X4-X6 (and the crouching slash from X5-X6), but also gain access to the charge slash from the Zero games, just for the sake of adding something new to his gameplay. Zero’s standard techniques – his own prizes for defeating the Maverick bosses – should be a mixture of old favorites and some original attacks, if at all possible. It’s a little boring cycling through the same techniques with different elements attached to them all the time.

Speaking of which, I was trying to think of a possible power-up for Zero that would effectively fulfill the same “collectable” niche that X’s armor fills. At the same time, I considered implementing the Element Chips from the Zero games, but those seem a little ham-fisted for Zero’s playstyle in the X games, particularly due to his emphasis on techniques rather than using two weapons in tandem. It was at that point that it hit me: Zero’s Weapons (introduced in X8) could fulfill a similar niche. While the Z-Saber itself would be an all-around weapon with the standard properties present for each technique, the optional weapons could be associated with a specific element, change up specific moves (like they did in X8) and maybe finding them could even unlock special techniques of their own that can be used by Zero with any other weapon, but are significantly more useful with their corresponding weapon. Better yet, they could even be prizes for defeating exclusive mini-bosses hidden in specific stages, like how X gained the body armor in the original MegaMan X.

Bonus: Axl

While my pitch doesn’t actually include the newest playable member of the Maverick Hunters, it still seems like it would be worth it to put forth my own ideas about the character. Keep the hover and aimable rapid fire from X8, but Capcom, please, take this one suggestion under advisement. I have a foolproof 3-step plan to fix Axl’s playstyle. Step 1: play MegaMan ZX Advent. Step 2: Just use the boss copy mechanic for Axl’s boss abilities. Step 3: That’s it, there is no step 3.

It’s infuriating that I even have to say this, but considering the fact that Inti Creates came up with a Biometal that was clearly based on Axl (but somehow also wasn’t based on him) in order to point this out to you is obscene. To make matters worse, you actually ended up using this concept for his Action Trigger – he was literally the only character in the game that got legitimate rewards after defeating the game’s major bosses! – in Command Mission. To make matters worse, it’s clear that Axl was always capable of this. He turned into Red in X7 and other Reploids outfitted with his copy chip technology also transformed into Sigma to survive planetary impact in X8. Like, I get that in X7, he was meant to be a replacement for X… but in X8, you just gave him his own set of alternative boss weapons. Just let the kid transform into the Maverick bosses already!

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The worst part is that Model A wasn’t even based on Axl in-universe, it was just a coincidence!

It’s so simple, it’s actually infuriating that this didn’t occur to them back in 2004. And I don’t even like Axl – mainly because he never uses the cool gimmick he has in any meaningful way! Instead, Capcom just allowed him to transform into random standard enemies. Honestly, that could probably be his Armor/Weapon equivalent: special non-boss transformations that improve his mobility or grant him abilities he wouldn’t have otherwise. Like, maybe one of these minor transformations would allow him to travel over spikes without taking damage, but severely hamper his mobility. Or he could transform into a flying enemy but doing so would limit his attack or defense abilities substantially. That way, his traditional transformations remain, but they would be significantly less useless than they were in the first place.

Regardless of whether we’re talking about X9 or “Xtreme 3”, I’ve got my doubts about including any other playable characters outside of X, Zero and yes, even Axl. Much like MM11, a new game should reestablish the existing property in the eyes of fans, new and old. Yet, I guess I’d be in remiss if I didn’t mention Vile from Maverick Hunter X. He had a unique playstyle, having access to three different weapon types at any given moment – taking a small arsenal of weapons into each stage. To make matters more interesting, many of Vile’s weapons are unlocked by defeating multiple bosses, as opposed to just getting a single weapon per boss. While I’ve got no doubt that Vile will likely return as a boss character in any new MMX game, I see two avenues for bringing back this playstyle. The first would be to introduce a brand-new Maverick Hunter character that takes on Vile’s gameplay. I don’t really see that happening just due to the sheer number of reintroductions a new X game would have to contend with in the first place. Personally, I prefer my second idea: a DLC expansion – with unique bosses and levels – from Vile’s perspective. I doubt Capcom would put something like that in the base game, but it could be a smart way to expand on whatever Capcom puts out.

Now when it comes to the method of separating playable characters, I’m a little bit torn. While I think making completely separate playthroughs for each character – the way X4 handled it – was probably for the best overall, I was a fan of some of the tag-team maneuvers from X8. Still, the negatives of allowing players to switch characters on the fly outweigh the positives: while X8 was able to mitigate some of the harm by tying power-ups to a haphazardly-implemented store system instead of finite power-ups, the fact is that the other games that allowed for character swapping within a playthrough seemed to punish players for attempting to branch out. In X5, the player not chosen for the intro stage loses a unique power-up permanently – but even then, Zero got the short end of the stick. Every game aside from X8 tied health upgrades to finite Heart Tanks or other character-exclusive upgrades, so players were stuck with a choice between playing strictly with one character or effectively gimping both to some extent. As such, just go back to X4 method of separate modes for separate characters. Best of all, that would mean extra replay value.

On that note, I’d just go back to the classic health upgrade system from the earlier games: 8 heart tanks, each one hidden in one of the Maverick boss stages. Same goes for the Sub Tanks, though I’d probably use the breakdown from X4: 2 health tanks, 1 weapon tank and an EX tank that increases the default number of lives. On that note, considering how much better Classic handles the shop mechanic, all power-ups in any new X game should probably be limited to collectibles. X8 attempted to mesh the two, but let’s be honest: finding schematics for power-ups that needed to be purchased later harmed both the shop and collectible aspects of the game in equal measure. Besides, if Capcom forces separate playthroughs per character (like X4 and Xtreme 2 did), there’s no need to worry about balancing upgrades anyway.

I guess the important distinction between MegaMan 11 and a new X game is they’re best approached from opposing angles. MM11 was built from the ground up to breathe new life into the Classic series not only due to MegaMan’s hiatus as a whole, but specifically because the latest two games – MegaMans 9 and 10 – were full-on throwbacks, right down to their 8-bit presentation. MegaMan X had the opposite problem with its last two mainline entries: X7 was an extreme departure from the gameplay of previous titles, attempting to reimagine the classic platforming gameplay in the third dimension, while X8 attempted to bridge the classic and more experimental styles into a single game with mixed results. In other words, MMX would benefit from the exact “back to basics” approach that people grew tired of in the Classic games. Although, if there’s one thing I’d want “X9” (or whatever Capcom decides to do with the X series) to carry over from MegaMan 11, it would have to be the length of its stages. Also, it would be nice if stages had different layouts depending on the player character.

Aesthetic

A game’s presentation is a funny thing. In the grand scheme of things, it really shouldn’t have that much importance in game development. But in practice, it both acts as advertisement – being the first things prospective customers recognize about a game – and help to solidify good memories of the game, with gorgeous visuals, catchy music and vivid storylines coming to mind as easily as engrossing gameplay. Keeping that in mind, what style of aesthetics should Capcom explore when reviving a franchise that hasn’t been seen since the mid-2000s?

Graphics

The previous times where I’ve explored the concept of a MegaMan X9, I pointed out that determining the art style would likely be the most controversial decision that Capcom would have to make. While my opinion hasn’t entirely shifted on that, my understanding of the argument has changed since then. It’s clear that going 2.5D – again, using 3D models in a 2D space as games like Maverick Hunter X and MegaMan 11 did – is probably the safest answer at this point. While I’ve no doubt that there are significant contingents of the fanbase demanding a return to both 16-bit (styled after the first three games) and 32-bit (X4-X6), there are now three factions likely to be against either decision to consider.

Obviously, you still have both younger and modern-minded gamers that consider sprites passé to contend with, but the other two couldn’t be any more different from each other. There are gamers that are just outright sick of retro throwbacks in general. After all, when MegaMan 9 launched in 2008, reviving the 8-bit look of the Classic NES games was lauded as original by audiences. But a mere two years later, MegaMan 10 was considered lazy and outdated while using the same art style. Since then, we’ve been inundated with several similar pseudo-retro throwbacks – particularly common among indie games – and as such, there’s been a growing backlash against anything of the type, even games that take inspiration from later generations. On the other side of the coin, you’ve got retro connoisseurs that will turn up their noses at anything that isn’t 100% accurate to whatever hardware the game’s aesthetic is trying to evoke. If a game has too many colors onscreen or too many sprites without flicker or slowdown, then it’s automatically just poseur trash.

While that last demographic likely won’t be pleased by anything that isn’t on a SNES cartridge, the other two will likely look upon any art style aside from a totally hand-drawn 2D game with disdain. And I sincerely doubt that Capcom would put in for a budget large enough to sustain that, even if MegaMan 11 ends up being the highest-selling game in the entire series. The question is, how do they differentiate it from MM11? After all, it did end up kind of resembling Maverick Hunter X more than MegaMan Powered Up. I mean, the promotional artwork for both the Classic and X series didn’t really differ that much from one another in the first place but as I said before, it is absolutely critical for Capcom to differentiate MMX from the Classic series. I’m just not sure how Capcom could go about doing that.

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Seriously, tell me with a straight face that this doesn’t look like a SNES-era X game.

Originally, I considered suggesting going with a darker color scheme overall, but MM11 managed to transition seamlessly between brighter environments and some with color palettes and even background designs that came straight out of the 2D MMX titles.  Maybe they should style the entire game around those alternate outfits from Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite. You know, the ones with those glowing details like out of Tron? After all, the original MegaMan’s new look in 11 was clearly inspired by his appearance in the recent Smash Bros. games. The only other option I can think of would be to go for a grittier, less saturated art style. I mean, going realistic probably wouldn’t mesh well with the existing designs – unless they decide to go for the look they went for in that cancelled “Maverick Hunter” reboot.

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…well, maybe it needs a few tweaks.

My own pitch for a third Xtreme game, on the other hand, would be better suited with classic sprites. However, at the risk of catching a bullet through the temple from my esteemed editor, I’d say that emulating the 32-bit sprites of the games that debuted on the original PlayStation would be a more apt choice, given the fact that I’ve set it between the first two games in that style – X4 and X5, respectively. Given the implication that the game would be a spinoff, I think a more retro aesthetic would be appreciated. After all, both episodes of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 suffered from criticism due to using modern designs while Sonic Mania received praise for attempting the same thing with a suitably retro-themed aesthetic. My only real suggestion would be to emulate the 32-bit art style as opposed to outright recycling old graphics. Maintain the familiar look – maybe even try to find a happy medium between the SNES and PS1 designs, if it can be done – but utilize modern conventions, like more fluid animations or an aesthetic that manages to mimic the limited resolutions of old while being far more detailed.

Music

I’ve said it too many times before and I’ll keep saying it forever, it’s impossible to ignore just how important a good soundtrack is for any MegaMan game is: there’s a reason they call it “Rockman” in Japan. MegaMan 11’s soundtrack was subject to intense scrutiny because of the series’ reputation, though I’d say that the game’s musical flaws stemmed from the instrumentation rather than the compositions themselves. If you don’t believe me, try tracking down the “Wily Numbers Instrumental” pre-order bonus tracks sometime – they’re amazing.

Each MegaMan sub-series went for their own unique styles to differentiate themselves from their sister series.  The X series is unique in the sense that it straddled multiple styles across its lifespan. The first game had a diverse soundtrack, but the second and third games went for more of a heavy metal-inspired sound, clearly emboldened by the more mature setting of 21XX. However, the shift to 32-bit with X4 on the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation brought a much more electronic sound to the series: a move considered controversial in retrospect, but frankly, I preferred it. Later games in the series would attempt to bridge the gap between both prominent styles. Personally, I’d like to see a game implement a diverse soundtrack like the original MMX with tracks that emphasize both the hard rock and techno influences from previous games. You’d have tracks that were strictly heavy metal, songs that are strictly electronic and others that utilize both motifs in their composition.

Most of all, I’d love to see an X game’s soundtrack rip off the main concept behind MegaMan 10’s soundtrack: bring back composers from the previous games and put each one of them in charge of one of the Maverick bosses’ stages. This might be a little more difficult than it was in MM10, simply because more of the X games’ soundtracks were composed by multiple people, but it would still be an interesting gimmick to implement into a new game. Best of all, it even ties into my previous concept: farming out the music to different composers would result in a varied soundtrack by default.

Presentation

This is a new sub-header, so I believe an explanation is in order. Effectively, in this context, “presentation” would refer to things like how the game presents its storyline. In the grand scheme of things, this really shouldn’t matter. It’s still fun to speculate on what Capcom should do here. Besides, the main purpose on this article is to find more ways to differentiate a potential new X game from this year’s MegaMan 11 and presentation seems like a safe and easy way to do that.

MM11 handled most of its story like the 8-bit games of old: through classic slideshows (with lovingly hand-drawn art rendered in high definition) and cinematics using the in-game models (with voice acting). While these are the same methods that various X games have employed in the past, it may be for the best to go in a different direction where possible. The latest games in the X series were able to create both pre-rendered and in-game cutscenes with voice acting using 3D models, so that might be something worth emulating in an X9. It would help to create a cohesive aesthetic across the entire game if the cast of characters retains a similar appearance from in-game action to story material.

In “Xtreme 3’s” case, I’d probably want some anime-style cutscenes for pivotal moments – like those found in X4 and the “CD-ROM” version of MMX3 – but would be fine with voice-acted slideshows like the ones found in X5 (and MM11) for plot exposition. It does seem like the least realistic thing I could ask for though: 2D animated cutscenes seem to have gone the way of the dodo – I think the last Capcom game that had them was one of the Street Fighter IV games and that only happened because they partnered with an anime production studio to produce some OVAs. I’ve got my doubts that Capcom would set up a similar deal for X9, but I guess stranger things have happened.

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This is probably the second coolest thing X has ever done.

If there’s one thing I’d like to see in the game, regardless of what Capcom does, would be full dialogue exchanges with the Maverick bosses. I was a little disappointed that we simply got quips in MegaMan 11 similar to the ones present in MM8, but honestly, that probably fit better. So, in the end, it works to our advantage when differentiating the two. MegaMan X has many more examples of full pre-boss battle conversations throughout its existence, especially when they added multiple characters which had their own unique exchanges with each boss. Every mainline game from X4 on as well as Command Mission and Maverick Hunter X had them, with later titles even including full voice acting. Hopefully, Capcom will continue that streak with whatever new games they make in the X series. Obviously, these conversations should be skippable – in fact, it would be nice if Capcom added a “speedrun” setting that would just automatically excise dialogue, preferably as an unlockable bonus after completing the game or just as an option by default.

On that note, I guess I might as well discuss the Maverick bosses themselves. As per usual, I’m going to avoid coming up with any specific ideas for Mavericks – those days are far behind me – but I will give a few comments on design elements I’d like to see in general. For starters, I’d like to see them take on a variety of styles, ranging from the typical “animal head on generic muscular robot body” style typical of the series to designs that are much more evocative of the flora and fauna that serve as the basis for the bosses themselves. It would also be a good idea to make one of the Mavericks a female. There were female Reploid bosses in the Zero and ZX series and people seemed to be dismayed when MM11 didn’t have a female boss. It wouldn’t even be that out of the ordinary for X fans: for years, people apparently believed that Commander Yammark and somehow even Cyber Peacock (which is debunked by his name alone) were female.

Aside from that, I’d love to see a variety of different types of animals represented among this batch of Mavericks. That means at least one bird, one sea creature, one type of plant, one insect and probably either a lizard or amphibian. I’d rather not see a breakdown like MMX3, where the Mavericks were all either insects, sea creatures or mammals. On that note, I want Capcom to revert to the classic naming conventions for the boss Mavericks: the English versions should be literal, while puns should be exclusively reserved for the Japanese names. Seriously, what is “Vanishing Gungaroo” supposed to be mean – is it a reference to the bad camera angles during his boss fight? And I can’t find any explanation for “Commander Yammark”, I’m assuming he was a dragonfly but what does “Yanmaku” mean? If MM11 was able to break conventions and give two Robot Masters distinctly unique names in English and Japanese (as opposed to a mere Crash/Clashman scenario), then X9 can do the same.  I’ve got one final note on the naming front. I would love it if a new X game didn’t recycle any of the previous adjectives from previous games – we’ve got 3 “Flame” Mavericks in English versions already. Bonus points if they manage to get titles that haven’t even been used in any of the other series for boss names.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, this section is meant for various other miscellaneous points I’d like to bring up that don’t necessarily fit into any of the prominent categories or their sub-headers. For example, I believe that this game should probably get the same treatment as MegaMan 11 in terms of its release: a $30 price point with a physical edition on consoles – not to mention a slightly more expensive special edition. While we haven’t seen any confirmation of DLC in MegaMan 11 – aside from the preorder bonus – I completely support any sort of Vile-centered “remix” campaign as post-release content.

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This is the only legitimate reason to like this character.

It would also be interesting if they attempted to recreate the X Challenge mode from the recent Legacy Collections – either as DLC or bonus content. As such, this mode would contain bosses from the new game as well as full-on recreations of classic boss fights. Both MMX8 and Maverick Hunter X would easy to source for classic fights, considering that they also had 2D boss fights relying on 3D models, so they could probably be implemented into the base game with relative ease. Bosses from other classic games would need to be rebuilt from scratch, so they’d probably make more sense as additional post-release content, though weapons from other games would probably be easy enough to recreate for launch. On that note, why limit this mode to just X? Let Zero and Axl in on the action too, if they’re playable in the new game. Aside from that, maybe a new set of challenge stages – perhaps themed as training simulations for the Maverick Hunters?

And with that, my second article in the Armchair Dev series comes to its conclusion. But what do you think? Am I completely offbase for saying that a retro-themed art style would spark a backlash? Would you also rather see a third game in the Xtreme series than a continuation of X8’s storyline? Would you rather see another MegaMan series get a revival? (I know I would.) Feel free to sound off in the comments.