It seems fitting to me that my first blog entry is about Mega Man, who led me into gaming when neither he nor I could yet walk properly. Today (4/9) saw the revelation of the long-cancelled "Maverick Hunter
," and the voices of a hundred thousand fans went up in a mix of "What?" and "What the hell is that crap?" A Mega Man X fps developed by the same group responsible for Metroid Prime? On paper, the concept sounds like it has some promise.
Whether you approve of the changes made to the title or not, rest assured that it won't be resurrected. I've been a Mega Man fan longer than I've known how to spell, and I won't deny that I've always wanted a "good" 3D Mega Man game (we'll talk about Legends another time). Mega Man X was my favorite. There was something about the way the game carried itself- both an evolved form of the classic titles and a perfect identity all its own, where elements like the dash, the charge shot, the armor upgrades, and the wall climb were welcome additions integrated perfectly into the gameplay, not useless gimmicks tacked on to the classic formula. If they were to take any of the core series titles and turn it into a first-person shooter, this would be the one.
Yeah, X looks a little weird. I'm not much of a Marvel fan, so telling me the same dude responsible for Iron Man detailed X's new getup does little for me. It could have been changed (though oddly, I like the red "X" face mask, it's very Platinum Games). I miss the giant boots, and the X-Buster shouldn't really be shooting bullets; energy shots allow for the possibility of growth (a prominent theme in the X series), and the charge shot being a giant energy wave helped that. But when you take it all for what it is, it looked like a rather appealing FPS. Granted, strip away "Mega Man" from it and you have a guy who looks like a blue Iron Man/Spartan-IV reject shoulder-tackling giant robots, but as someone who enjoys a good shooter, is there anything wrong with that as a beginning?
A lot of people felt that this was cancelled "for the best." I agree that it didn't- yet- capture the spirit of Mega Man, but what was there looked no less fun to me than Vanquish, Halo 4, or <insert shooter here>. Understandably, a lot of people compared it to those titles. Maybe people didn't like his arm cannon being what was essentially just a machine gun, and his unnecessary grenades (that mimic Gravity Beetle's power) and rocket launcher weren't in keeping with a true Mega Man vibe. I saw a fair few comments that derided the dash-tackle moves and what appeared to be context-sensitive kills. Some commented that the shooting action on offer looked unimpressive and joyless. The idea of Mega Man having a human cop sidekick as he drops into some enemy installation and acknowledges his orders with a too-cool "Got it" just goes too far.
As much as I say, "I'd play it!" I recognize we're talking about a handful of small clips in prototype form. Not much to go on for the interested, and easy to write off for the disinterested. But I can't help wondering if people really legitimately thought it looked like a terrible game, a game that lacked even the potential
to be intriguing, or if people were up in arms that our hero had been so transformed? The sad truth is that it's been a long, long time since we saw a Mega Man game that did him justice. We had Mega Man 9 and 10, and before that we had, what- Maverick Hunter X in 2006? The Zero Collection is fairly recent, but as a collection, I'll set it aside. It's no secret that we want a new Mega Man game, but before we're ready to take the wild risks implied by a title like Maverick Hunter, we want to see him as we last saw him, safely back in the 2D style we know and love (or in Legends' lighthearted 3D). Once we're sure he's back for good, then we might be willing to entertain some spin-offs. So rather than looking at Maverick Hunter as a new and possibly reinvigorating sub-series that may or may not have brought in a new audience (notice: "Mega Man" was not part of the title's codename, just "Maverick Hunter." If the main character went by "X" the whole game, this new audience who would necessarily know nothing of previous Mega Man games would come to know him as "X" and the arguably childish/outdated name of "Mega Man" wouldn't factor into it.), we look at Maverick Hunter and, thoughts on the state of the playable build aside, see another game that doesn't star the blue bomber.
Before writing this, I had to do some interior design on this blog and settled on the above image of X, as he appears in Maverick Hunter, as a reminder of a game that could have been, or if you'll permit me, how another culture views our icon, in the same sense that lots of fan art might depict a slightly different X than we're familiar with, but one we recognize all the same. There's no getting around that people were and are resistant to the idea of this kind of Mega Man. There's no sense in arguing it- if you read the article and watched the videos then you are basing your opinion on exactly the same stuff I am; it's not like we'll play the game to compare tastes. I think it wouldn't be out of the question to think that the next time we see him, the next time we get to play his game, he might look a little different than we remember. What's most important to me is that the next Mega Man game we get is a good one. It may be different or "unfaithful" to the series' structure, but a good game is a good game, and so long as he's a part of it, we can welcome him back and go forward from there. Seeing Capcom's business practices of late, I wouldn't be surprised at all if they take some ridiculous risk on a project not unlike this one and cancel future plans of expansion based on fan vitriol.
Perhaps on some level I don't even care what type of game the next Mega Man is, so long as it's fun to play. We've been used to disappointment ever since Universe and Legends 3 were cancelled, and I don't think a little cautious optimism the next time we see him would be such a bad thing. In the mean time, the games we have and cherish haven't gone away. We have 3 collections of the main series, and even if those make us yearn for more, at least they keep us tethered to the reasons we keep waiting.