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Thursday, August 4, 2011

5 Ways To Save Mega Man

We've discussed what's killing Mega Man games in a previous article. How can Mega Man be brought back from the brink of death?
1) Stop. Just... Stop.

I want to be clear: When I say "stop releasing Mega Man games," I mean for them to end all Mega Man games for the time being. No RPGs. No sports games. Nothing. Radio silence. It's time for Capcom to let Mega Man rest for a while. After almost two games per year in 24 years, he's tired.

After a while, excessive sequels kill any interest that people have in a franchise. The only way to counteract that is to stop making games for that franchise for a while.

You might say that putting Mega Man out to seed for a while is a tremendously risky move for Capcom to make, but on further reflection it's not that bad. The series is doing so poorly right now that Capcom has to be losing money on every Mega Man game. How many copies do you think they sold of Mega Man ZX Advent? 75,000 copies in Japan. That's barely worth talking about.

On top of that, Keiji Inafune, the creator and guiding force behind the Mega Man series, has also moved on. No one has really stepped up at this point to fill that void and be the voice of Mega Man in a figurative sense. Why not let Mega Man lie fallow for a bit, give someone a chance to come up with something really good and then unleash it on the world? As it is right now, every new entry only further dilutes Mega Man down to almost nothing. It's time for it to stop.

So how long is too long? I'd say that if Capcom lets Mega Man sit for three years, that's the absolute maximum amount of time. That should be enough time to come up a with a new, long-term strategy to allow Mega Man to be viable for the foreseeable future. It's a temporary setback to ensure the long-term survival of a gaming icon.

2) Reboot.

The less complicated Mega Man is, the more popular he is. I don't know why Capcom doesn't get this. How much story does Mega Man 10 have? It's minimal. Was it a mild success? Yes, it was. By current standard, it's a rousing success. It's possible that the original Mega Man series doesn't need rebooting.

So which series needs a clean slate? In my opinion, it's the Mega Man X series. If there's a way we can pretend that all games after X2 were just a dream, that would be great. I would even be OK if we avoided a hard reboot. If we just go back to X and Zero blowing up robots, that would be awesome. Jettison dead weight like Axl and Sigma being a virus and lengthy cutscenes and other garbage.

Just like Sega does with Sonic fans, Capcom has a tendency to listen too closely to the most die-hard fans who really legitimately CARE about the minutiae of the Reploids and can rattle off biographies of minor characters. It's to the point that the series is starting to devour its own tail.
Die-Hard Fans: "We want more story!"

Capcom: "Here you go!"

Buying Public: (crickets)

Die-Hard Fans: "See, forget about them! They don't love Mega Man like we do! Give us more story! Satisfy us!"

Capcom: "I guess so, here you are."

Buying Public: (emphatic crickets)

Die-Hard Fans: "Philistines! We're the only ones who truly appreciate Mega Man! MORE STORY!"
And so on. It's time to cut off the maniacal fans and focus on the public at large or face death at the hands of public indifference.

3) No More RPGs.

Look, I played the first Battle Network game and found it interesting. Then I woke up one morning and there were 3 more of them waiting outside my window and peering at me while I slept. That's enough. I know they're cheap to produce, Capcom, because you can reuse sprites and make minor variations of the same battle systems. Here's the problem: NO ONE LIKES THESE GAMES.

Who's buying these games? Honestly? Japan, is this your fault? Because I will come over there RIGHT NOW, I am not even kidding.

If Capcom wants to make 50 RPGs a year in a series no one cares about, fine. Spin off the series. Take the Mega Man name off of it. YOU'RE DILUTING THE BRAND. I wish I could grab Capcom by the lapels and shake them until they understood this.

I would even be OK if Capcom decided to make only ONE Mega Man RPG for every handheld system, but only on one condition: Make Mega Man the star. That dovetails nicely with the next point...

4) Put Mega Man Back In Mega Man Games.

If I pick up ONE MORE Mega Man game that doesn't have Mega Man as the star, I swear to Odin that I am going to lose it. They did this with the Mega Man X series. I am going to make this clear to you, Capcom:

When someone buys a Mega Man game, they want to play as Mega Man.

Sega learned this lesson the hard way with Sonic. We don't want to play as Big the Cat or Shadow or whatever characters that they're loading up Sonic games with nowadays. Now that they're refocusing on Sonic, the series is recovering ever so slightly.

And no, Capcom, you can't bend the rules by having "MegaMan.exe" be an assistant or making an offhanded comment in the game about there being "Mega Men." NO. Mega Man is iconic, and making Generic RPG X or Platformer X and slapping a reference to Mega Man in there is irresponsible and is cheapening your brand.

It's ridiculous that I even have to say this, frankly.

5) Unleash Hell.

So, after you've let Mega Man sit for a few years, reinstated your commitment to quality and spacing out your releases, stopped making RPGs and started putting Mega Man back into Mega Man games, what next?

After the two to three year waiting period, unleash Mega Man 11, the relaunched Mega Man X series, and, what the heck, a Metroidvania Mega Man game for handhelds where your weapons are required to open up new passages while USING THE SAME SPRITES as Mega Man 2. I think I just pooped myself a little bit over how awesome that sounded.

Then, sit back and stagger your releases. NEVER release more than one Mega Man game per year from there on out. Make your releases count. Make sure that each game is quality or it doesn't make the cut.

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Listen, Capcom, we all love Mega Man. We really do. We're ITCHING to play a good Mega Man game again. You have an enormous audience that's waiting patiently. If you play your cards right, you'll end up with more Mega Man fans than you can count.

If you don't? Well, let's not think about that.