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Okay, let's face facts, Capcom. The Mega Man franchise is obviously a huge cash crop for you. You have a tendency to follow a formula and basically run with it until, well, you can't anymore. Sure, you'll up the ante when the market demands you move on to another platform, but Mega Man 6 was released for the NES in 1995! You can't tell me you wouldn't have kept pumping out more and more Mega Man games in that style if people hadn't moved on.
You can't tell me because you did exactly that last year, Capcom. Now, I don't hate you for it. I don't have a lick of animosity for that. Mega Man 9 was exactly what I wanted as a gamer in 2009: a return to 2D, sprite-based graphics, with solid controls and a hearty helping of challenge underlying it all. It gathered us as gamers around the TV, passing a controller, grunting in frustration in unison as a damn Elephant nearly drains all of Mega Man's life, or oohing in anticipation as we almost beat a Robot Master with the totally wrong weapon. The graphics and music were an invitation for anyone to join, but the tough-as-nails game design kept only the few and the brave in it until the end. I loved it.
For years this type of "NES" style game would be relegated to handhelds only. Mega Man 9 would be perfectly at home on some descendant of the Game Boy. But Capcom had the balls to take the high road and release it on the main home consoles for a shockingly-cheap ten bones. There's really something to be said about sprite-based graphics, especially those of the 8-bit variety. They're representations of characters instead of accurate depictions; they have big, expressive eyes and simple but endearing animations; they're fucking cute, man.
And I'm real glad it was a success for you, Capcom. You did the right thing. And even though you made us pay extra for it, we still bought Proto Man, the Endless Level, the Hard Modes, and Fake Man's level. Hey, at least you included like fifty achievements from the get-go. All of this stuff did really add to the value of the game and made it feel innovative -- well, as innovative as an 8-bit Mega Man game in 2009 can be.
There are still a few missteps, though. As lovely as it is to finally see a lady robot, Splash Woman, her stage is a little on the derivative side. (Okay, more than derivative, that bubble riding sequence is ripped directly from MM5's Wave Man level.) Some of the Robot Masters bear some strong resemblances to past antagonists, as well: Concrete Man and Guts Man, anyone? Needle Man and Magma Man? Oh well. At least the majority of them had really cool levels with really cool music, and really cool weapons that didn't disrupt the balance of the game anything like Metal Man's blade from MM2 did. (However, I maintain that the Plug Ball is pretty useless!)
But what Mega Man 9 really did for me was inspire some hope. It made me think that maybe more game developers would return to their franchises 2D roots, at least on occasion. It gave me some hope for a real new 2D Mario Brothers, a sequel to Super Mario World that we never got. (Yoshi's Island doesn't count, but is a masterpiece in its own right.) A new sprite-based Zelda. A new 2D Ninja Gaiden. A new Blaster Master or Guardian Legend. Maybe somebody would come along with some brilliant new IP.
But no. We haven't really seen any of that. Nintendo continues to segregate its own 2D properties to the DS, even its Mario RPGs. New IPs on downloadable services, even ones with 2D gameplay, almost exclusively continue to use 3D graphics, like 'Splosion Man and Lost Winds. Remakes of classic games like Bionic Commando: Rearmed and Turtles in Time: Reshelled have gone the way of 3D graphics, and at least in the latters' case, it didn't really help a god-damn thing.
Hell, maybe you won't rest on your laurels, Capcom. Maybe you'll give the MM9-treatment to Little Nemo, Dream Master or Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers. Or maybe you'll make an SNES-style franchise entry in the Mega Man X line. Maybe you'll make the next 8-bit Mega Man online-capable with co-op play and levels designed to take advantage of that. Maybe it'll have a level editor or a sprite-editor to modify characters. Maybe it'll prove that as awesome as MM9 was, there's still a hell of a lot left to do to advance the series in 2010.
Or I guess you could just announce Mega Man 10 and tell us to expect more of the same.
Hell, it can't be that expensive to develop, you've got an easy-ass formula to follow, and honestly, it's gonna be pretty hard to muck up too badly. Hey, there's a Sheep Man, and that sounds pretty cool, right?
I mean, gosh dang it, we're all going to buy it anyway.