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... wait...

... hold up...

... what?




I knew it! I fucking knew it! I never lost the faith! Oh, happy days are here again!

I'mma dance a little jig now.


I honestly didn't plan on responding to this month's Community Assignment until just a couple of days ago. You're all more than aware of my love for the Mega Man series, so my harping yet again about robots and jumping through boss doors and villains who may or may not actually be evil seemed like it would be rather redundant. Besides, Mega Man 2 is such a popular game -- I assumed that at least a couple of folks would want to write about it.

But here we are, the last day of September, and not a single Mega Man-themed musing. I ought to be happy that no one went for the low-hanging fruit, yet the lack of even a single post of either the "Mega" or "Man" variety has left me feeling anxious. How can I sleep at night knowing that words about things haven't been written?

So now you're going to sit there while I prattle on like a five-year-old who has just figured out that people will pay attention to him as long as he keeps making sounds with his mouth.

This isn't the first time I've offered my thoughts on which Mega Man games reign supreme. Five years back, I gave a list of reasons why Mega Man 6 is objectively the best in the Classic series. In celebration of the franchise's 25th anniversary, I explained why Mega Man X is objectively the best in the overall franchise. You've probably gathered that neither of those are Mega Man 2. Am I having trouble keeping my story straight?

Yes, Mega Man 6 and X are indeed fine videogames, and I enjoy them dearly. But neither have affected me as much as Mega Man 2, which had as much an impact on my childhood as would an inspiring high school teacher or a whirlwind summertime romance. It was the start of a relationship that would become an unending source of joy, comfort, and reassurance well into my adult years.

I did play the original first, by the way. This was back when I was living in Japan, where my dad played baseball for Yokohama (that's another good story, by the way!). I was hanging over at a friend's place, and he introduced me to the Family Computer. He showed off a few games, like Contra -- the Contra series would eventually become one of my top game franchises as well -- but Mega Man (or Rockman, as it were) was the one that really captured my imagination.

I mean, what little boy doesn't like robots? And these weren't just robots; they were, like, superhero robots! And their world was just so colorful and bright, and they had these cute little faces that even in 8-bit pixel form were unfathomably expressive. I sometimes let Rock stand motionless for an extended period, taking pleasure in his simple blinking animation. He felt alive, truly alive.

I enjoyed being able to tackle any boss in any order I wanted. If I couldn't get past one part, I'd just try somewhere else -- a good thing, too, because I never could get past the stupid flippers in Guts Man's level. Speaking of which, "Guts Man"? That's a bizarre name, preschool-age me wondered.

When I finally received a Family Computer on my fourth birthday, my parents bundled it with Rockman 2 rather than 1. I never did get my own copy of Rockman until just recently, and once we left Japan, I never had an opportunity to play it again until I was in eighth grade. Had it been packed with my Famicom instead of the sequel, it very well could have been the game I now fondly recall as my favorite of all time.

No, it was Rockman 2 rockin' my cartridge slot. Everything I remembered loving about the first was amplified tenfold here -- the freedom to choose the stage order, the bizarre environments, the super cool bosses with their awesome weapons that I could use on other bosses. I especially loved the grid-based password system, jotting down passwords on loose paper or even concocting mnemonics in order to memorize certain dot patterns.

By the way, want to know a secret that very few people are aware of? Here, check this out:

That's the Japanese Rockman 2 box. Cool, right? Stomps all over the European and American covers! What you probably don't know is that there is secret artwork on the inside flaps, and the only way to see it is to open the box from both ends.

On one side, you've got Baby Rock with a pacifier and rattle:

On the other side, you've got Teen Rock wearing a bomber jacket and jeans:

Rock is supposed to be a robot, yes? And robots aren't supposed to age, yes? Obviously, these were just fun pieces drawn up by character designer Keiji Inafune, but I wasn't aware of any of that at such an impressionable young age.

To me, this cemented the idea that Rock was a living person. And not only that, he was just a kid like me! While other game heroes were big, burly men or oddball cartoon characters, this Rock "Boy" was a sprightly youth living every boy's dream of being a crime fighter. He probably went to school and had friends he wanted to protect. Maybe he could be my friend!

And so a connection was made between me and the helmeted hero on the other side of the screen. I would commit his exploits to paper with my trusty Coupy Pencils, then I would pick the controller back up and try my hand at Dr. Wily's fortress for the umpteenth time.

Unlike other games that seemed so exciting back when you were a child, only to lose nearly all of their luster when reexamined as an adult, Mega Man 2 has stood the test of time for anybody who ever gave the Blue Bomber a sporting chance. And 25 years after my first encounter, I continue to find reasons to love this timeless classic.

The domains of the Robot Masters are just so... ambiguous, even by NES standards. Everyone understands that the limited hardware of the time resulted in very vague approximations of what people and places were intended to look like, thus it was up to players to "fill in the blanks" and bring the world to life. Even so, it was clear in many games what most objects were supposed to represent -- a car, a dog, a forest, a desolate city street.

Mega Man 2, however, took that ambiguousness to unprecedented heights. Consider Heat Man's stage -- no, really, consider it! What is it? The brick pattern and round wall portals suggest a sewer of sorts, but what sewer is filled with magma rather than water? Or what about Quick Man's tower? The floors and backgrounds are a curious assembly of grooves and panels that scream "generic sci-fi studio set."

And my personal favorite: Flash Man's stage. I guess it's supposed to be some sort of crystal cavern, right? But let's fast-forward to Mega Man 5 and that game's Crystal Man, who also resides in a crystal cavern. Compare the levels side by side:

Crystal Man's cave has the more cohesive theme -- this is a facility to mine precious jewels. It's very rich in detail, which is great for showcasing the team's familiarity with the NES hardware after so many years. But Flash Man's "cave," as basic as it is, has more of a "fun house" quality. It certainly doesn't look like a place that could exist in the real world.

This isn't a bad thing! Whereas other NES games show the chinks in their armor with failed facsimiles of the real, Mega Man 2 is a playground for the dreamer. Its world is an abstraction, so rather than lose its luster as the decades tick by, it retains its attractiveness because it's whatever you imagine it to be. It's the reason Mega Man 2 can remain so visually appealing even though its sequels objectively improved in the art department.

On the topic of improvements, Mega Man 2 is not a perfect game by any stretch. It's flawed, and extremely so. As the story goes, Mega Man 2 was a passion project -- the first game didn't sell well by Capcom's expectations, but the higher-ups allowed the team to go forward with a sequel only if they worked on it in their spare time. The finished project is clearly the result of a rushed development cycle, sporting many troublesome design choices that wouldn't fly if the game were made today.

The mile-long disappearing block marathon in Heat Man's stage? At least you could acquire a jet board from Air Man in order to bypass it. The Boobeam Trap in the fourth Wily stage? Unless you know exactly where to plant the Crash Bombers, beating this boss will almost always require you to die once in order to refill your weapons meter before replaying the battle.

But those are what made the game so great! The team knew they had one final chance to demonstrate that there was real value in this property, so they packed as many ideas and concepts as they could. Some may call it rough around the edges; I call it raw, pure, honest. And history has shown that those risks paid off in spades -- Mega Man 2's flaws are remembered not as game-killers but as unique quirks.

I could continue to list the areas where Mega Man 2 succeeded as a game, but the truth is that it's more than a game to me. I'm happy that there is a consensus of high quality, but that's true of many games. On a personal level, Mega Man 2 is incomparable.

When Capcom dropped the ax on Mega Man Legends 3, it stirred such profound emotions that I had to convey them in a heartfelt farewell letter. Since that post, I've come to realize that Rock is like the friend who moved out of state but still drops by to visit now and then. At least I can replay any of his past adventures and never be bored. And whenever we get together, I can recall the key events in my life, both happy and sad, which always seem to be tightly intertwined with a particular playthrough or game release or action figure sighting at an anime shop in San Francisco.

And I have Mega Man 2 to thank for that.

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The other day, the lovely Brittany Vincent posted an AMA so that the readers could get to know their favorite new editor a little better. I love it when the "big dawgs" open themselves up to the community like that. I love it when anyone opens up -- I remember years ago when "10 Things You Don't Know About X" swept the Cblogs and we got to be so intimate with one another.

But despite how much I love these moments of candid conversation, I don't think I've ever once engaged in such activities. And that's dumb. How come, Tony, you bastard? Don't you want to make friends? Don't keep those secrets bottled up!

I mean, what do you guys even know about me anyway? Aside from my unhealthy obsession with Mega Man merch, but c'mon, that's hardly a secret. Did I ever tell you about the time I ran with the bulls? No, of course not, because I'm a jerk who doesn't share his amazing life experiences.

(By the way, I totally almost got stomped on by some bulls!)

I want to give this whole AMA thing a shot. I want to answer some off-the-wall questions about nothing in particular. I want to be your friend, hero, lover, sugar daddy, etc. Let's make it happen!

So... ummm... begin, I guess?


Hey, everyone! As you might have noticed, I've decided to start doing musings again in my spare time. It's been too long since I've written anything that wasn't weighed down by deadlines or the need to be run past a group of copy editors. I had forgotten just how much fun blogging for the sake blogging could be, so expect to see more of this in the near future.

As for the article I wrote yesterday, I chose a sensitive topic to get my motor running. I think it went really well, all things considered. It got a bit heated in the comments, but that's okay. It's all part of the festivities.

But I do want to return to that earlier article for a brief moment. A short while ago, I came across some critical information regarding Linkle, the gal in green from the Hyrule Warriors artbook, and I think it deserves an addendum. So... here we go.

In my article, I linked to a post by Steven Hansen about the page from the Hyrule Warriors artbook with the character design in question. His post originally stated that Linkle was female Link, but a number of commenters pointed out that the Japanese text indicated that this was actually a relative of Link -- a sister or daughter, perhaps -- and not Link himself. Thus, Steven updated the post with the corrected information.

This piece of news resurfaced in the comments section of my article as well. The argument was that Nintendo wouldn't dare make an actual female Link, so instead here's this new sister character as a concession. Link would still be the strapping young lad he's always been, and those who desire a playable green-clad female would get his twin. Everybody wins, right?

But now the plot thickens.

The fans who first spotted and shared the finer details of Linkle's identity had misinterpreted the text from the book. Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft, who's fluent in Japanese, was able to decipher the page completely and get to the bottom of the mystery once and for all.

It turns out that Steven's original story was true all along. Linkle is the female version of Link! The text explicitly states that this is a "girl version of hero Link." Why the different name, in that case? The simplest explanation is that "Link" is a masculine name, so the character designer came up with a feminized version -- just like how there's "Ramon" and "Ramona," "Gabriel" and "Gabrielle," and so on.

Okay, then where did the idea that Linkle was the male Link's sister come from? Someone apparently spotted the kanji for "sister" and jumped to conclusions without the proper context. The complete translation of that particular line states that the character was "devised as being little sister-like" -- like the girl next door you knew since childhood but for whom you hold no romantic attachments (or do you?).

Of course, you won't find Linkle in the final version of Hyrule Warriors since that page of the artbook was dedicated to rejected characters. But this clarification does clear some misconceptions that have been floating about since her discovery.

I think this all is fascinating for two big reasons. One, the idea for a female incarnation of Link was proposed very early in the game's development; she even received the full concept art treatment before she was quietly shelved. I don't recall if we've ever come this close to a proper female Link before.

Two, despite being the Link through and through, there was just enough thought given to her conception to assign Linkle a different persona than male Link. That she was to come off as a "little sister-type" to other characters in the game made her unique, even if just in a minor way.

Why do I think she was ultimately scrapped? My guess is that Eiji Aonuma had the final vote in this decision. Maybe he saw some merit in the idea but figured that a spin-off developed almost entirely by a third party was not the proper place to explore that avenue. Clearly its not just the fans at home who want to see a female Link become a real thing anymore.

We're at the cusp of something great here. I really do think that we will see a female Link in our lifetime.

(Also, I'm shocked that even though the Kotaku article was posted last Monday, nobody here caught wind of it. Your web fu is getting weak, denizens of Destructoid!)

I just got around to watching the Book 3 finale of The Legend of Korra (heart-wrenching ending, I might add). I'm always amazed by how good that show is. Sure, it doesn't quite reach the same lofty heights as The Last Airbender, but that doesn't prevent it from being amazing in its own right.

What really endears me to the show is Korra herself. She's tough, brash, impulsive -- everything that the previous Avatar was not. It's entertaining to go from the wise, collected Aang to this vastly different incarnation, only to realize that they both share the same righteous conviction. Two sides of the same coin -- a fitting analogy for a show so firmly rooted in themes of duality and harmony.

Oh, and she happens to be a girl.

Just two weeks ago, some photos of the Hyrule Warriors artbook began circulating the net. One image in particular, of a female Link concept, captured a sizable amount of attention. Was this a proposed gender option that was left on the cutting room floor? And what of the name "Linkle" associated with the design? Was this really a female Link or rather someone related to him who shared a similar name?

Whatever the truth may be, it got people talking. Hell, any time the subject of Link as a female is brought up, Zelda fans are bound to congregate in droves -- a good chunk are all for the idea, while others think we ought to leave well enough alone. The latter think, Link has been portrayed as male in every series installment for nearly three decades. He's an established icon. Why change that just to satisfy a vocal minority?

But Link isn't a single character, is he?

In the beginning, we all assumed that the Link and Zelda in each new game were the same people. Things started getting a little murky, so we switched gears and proposed that each game was the same "legend" retold, with the same characters assuming similar but subtly different roles.

Ocarina of Time came along to illustrate a clear progression from one game to the next. Then The Wind Waker explicitly stated that the Link living out on the Great Sea was not the same Hero of Time who vanquished Ganon in Ocarina of Time.

And even though these Link share visual traits, namely the green tunic and pointed ears, they often come from different backgrounds. He could be an orphan living amongst the forest folk, a child living with his sister and grandmother, a young man attending a high school in the clouds -- different people stretched across time, all linked together by the red thread of fate.

Kind of sounds like the Avatar, doesn't it?

In the Avatar universe, there's an individual once every generation who's chosen by an unseen hand to be the world's protector. When one Avatar dies, the spirit is reborn within a different race than the one before -- Fire Nation, Air Nomads, Water Tribe, then finally Earth Kingdom. And the kicker? Some of these Avatars are *gasp* female!

That the issue of any Avatar's gender is never once brought up as either a boon or a hindrance to their preordained role is a testament to how progressive the show is. The Avatar is both one and many; the residents of the world acknowledge that. Even regular benders are respected for their talents -- I can only recall a single episode in the entire series when female benders were marginalized, and it ended with the man in power realizing just what a misogynist ass he was being.

The Legend of Korra is in no way worse off because the protagonist has two X chromosomes. In fact, if you were to replace Korra with a strapping young waterbender named Korraq, there would be no need to make any significant changes to the story whatsoever -- save from making Asami the target of Korraq's affection rather than Mako, since I doubt Nickelodeon is ready to rock the cradle with a little swordplay action just yet, if you catch my drift.

What I'm trying to say is, the gender of the main character doesn't make a difference. And that right there is why it makes a world of a difference. Does that make sense?

Did girls young and old thoroughly enjoy The Last Airbender? Of course they did! It was a phenomenal show that appealed to people of all ages, races, and genders. And The Legend of Korra taps that audience as well, female lead be damned. In an interview with NPR, creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino shared how Nickelodeon execs were worried that boys wouldn't enjoy the show. Then the results of the test screening came back, and you know what? The boys didn't care that Korra was female!

You know who does care? That one nervous girl who sees Korra as this empowering, ass-kicking figure and is subsequently inspired to be a little more proactive in school and life outside the home.

Aside from that, it's refreshing to see a popular piece of pop culture use its standing to promote gender equality in such a major way, and to do it in a manner that doesn't feel cheap or pandering.

So coming back around to The Legend of Zelda, why should Nintendo give female Link a shot? The real question is, why not? Is it really that drastic of a suggestion?

Like Avatar -- as well as most Nintendo franchises -- Zelda appeals just as much to girls as it does to boys. The hook here is that Nintendo has an opportunity to take Zelda in a unique direction that can't necessarily be done for its other properties. Mario is a defined character, as are Kirby and Donkey Kong and so on. But Link is special.

Shigeru Miyamoto once explained to French site Gamekult: "Link's name comes from the fact that originally, the fragments of the Triforce were supposed to be electronic chips. The game was to be set in both the past and the future and as the main character would travel between both and be the link between them, they called him Link."

But if you interpret the name differently, it could mean that he is the player's "link" to the game world. You are Link, and that's why you are free to rename him however you please. Zelda is a princess, because the legends state that there will always be a Princess Zelda. Ganondorf is the same character in every appearance, simply reborn like Dracula from Castlevania. But Link is whoever fate needs him to be at that moment. He could be a child or an adult or a brother or a student.

How about a girl? There's nothing in the in-game lore that says otherwise. The character of Link if but Zelda's right hand of justice, meant to come to her aid in her hour of need. That task doesn't have to always befall a male. I mean, wouldn't it have been something if Aryll had been The Wind Waker's Link and her brother was the bystander?

There is the issue that Nintendo has always presented Link as a boy in green. Avatar established from day one that no two Avatars are ever alike, so the jump from Aang to Korra wasn't met with much if any incredulity. Link's design and characterization have been far more consistent in comparison, but as I've discussed before, nothing's set in stone.

What exactly would change if Link were female? She'd still have a sword and shield. She'd still run around fields and dungeons, collecting rupees and items. Okay, she might attract a following of in-game fanboys, but is that any different than male Link and all the girls who fawn over him every other minute? Seriously, the only real difference would be the pronoun used to address her. Hardly a deal-breaking concession for the sake of letting a girl save Hyrule for once.

Such a simple change, but the effect would be profound. There's a reason why we have Korra instead of Korraq -- there's a nuance to her journey that simply wouldn't be there if she were just another dude. Many people don't notice it, but for those who do, it's made a significant impact, one that's difficult to quantify.

I watch The Legend of Korra and, despite its flaws, it makes me feel warm inside. Here is something special, something that is rarely seen on television (without resorting to magical girl transformations and sexualized fan service). I see the parallels between this show and the Zelda series, and it makes me want to see Zelda achieve something just as incredible.

Yesterday, I tweeted this picture. What is this a picture of? The new Regular Show DVD, of course!

But wait a minute, you reply. There is no Regular Show DVD in stores! How did you get hold of this? Simple: Cartoon Network GAVE it to me. This DVD doesn't go on sale until April, but a copy was shot my way because I wrote this article last year.

Let's crack this bitch open.

You won't believe how lazy the box art for this thing is. It looks like the text was written in Paint. I would expect no less from this show.

Boom! "Over the Top" is in this collection! Instant gold!

Just like with LSP and the Adventure Time DVD, Pops adorns the disc art here.

Now, I didn't get this DVD just because I'm a big fan... no, no. Naturally, there was something more to the offer.

I'm not saying anything, but if I were to happen to, I dunno, talk to series creator JG Quintel in the near future, what kind of questions would you want me to ask him in regards to how he incorporates his love for videogames into the show? This is just a supposition. I'm not "saying" anything, wink wink.
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