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A LOOK BACK AT MEGA MAN - A RETROSPECTIVE

Mega ManHaving grown up in the 1980s and 1990s, it should come as no surprise that I have a deep love for retro video games. I have many fond memories of the original Nintendo Entertainment System and its successor, the SNES, and there is no shortage of game series that I could talk about at great length. Yet, the recent release of 'Mega Man 11' has kicked my love of the beloved Capcom franchise into overdrive, which has given me a lot to reflect on about one of my favorite series of all time.





As strange as it may sound, Mega Man 2 was actually the very first Mega Man game I played -- not the 1987 original. I remember seeing the game at a local rental place up the street from where we lived, and despite knowing nothing about it, I was still drawn in by its interesting premise and strange cover design. After taking it home and firing it up for the very first time, I was immediately hooked by the game’s opening line: “In the year 200X…”. Wait a minute! 200X? As in, the future? How cool was that? And, after being told a brief story about the evil scientist, Doctor Wily, hell-bent on world domination, and a fighting robot named Mega Man, who was out to put a stop to his schemes, I was presented with a stage select and eight different choices at my disposal. At the time, with a few notable exceptions (such as The Legend of Zelda), games were a lot more linear in their design, so this effort to give the player a greater deal of agency in regards to how they went about their adventure was a very neat idea.

Mega Man
Needless to say, Mega Man 2 was obviously a big hit with me, and we eventually picked up our very own copy, with this early experience sparking up a decades-long love affair with the Blue Bomber. As time went on, I eventually got the rest of the NES games, even having my parents order the original Mega Man from the now-defunct Funcoland mail-order catalog, and then got the more modern entries as console generations moved forward. Yet, what was it that drew me in so deeply with Mega Man - a series that seemed pretty basic at its core? Was it something intangible, or is there really a reason that I came to love these games so much?

The Mega Man series gives us an interesting look at an alternate timeline in which humans and robots coexist. The story largely focuses on Doctor Thomas Light and Doctor Albert Wily, the two engineers largely responsible for the greatest developments in the field of robotics and AI, and the rivalry that began after the two had a falling out. Doctor Wily, who believed in a potential for robots that far outshone that of human beings, strove to show the superiority of his creations by proving his former partner wrong, while Doctor Light, ever a champion of peace, was always there with his former lab assistant, Rock, who was upgraded into a fighting robot to counter the evil scientist. Each game in the series centered around a new scheme by Doctor Wily in his efforts towards world domination, and presented players with a whole new cast of Robot Masters to do battle with. Despite the formula remaining fairly consistent, on occasion new gameplay elements were added to each game: battle the eight Robot Masters in their unique stages, gain their abilities, and then tackle Doctor Wily’s latest fortress in order to bring the scientist to justice.

Mega Man
As time went on, however, new gameplay mechanics were also added to the games (such as the ability for Mega Man to charge up his main weapon to unleash stronger attacks), new characters and companions were added to the story, and efforts were made to make the world feel more alive and relatable. A whole slew of titles were released between 1987 and 1998, but then there was a ten year period before the eventual release of Mega Man 9. By then, fans had felt that Capcom had all-but-forgotten about their beloved series, so Capcom brought back a return to the 8-bit style in order to pay homage to the franchise, and MM9 was like revisiting an old friend, but with a breath of fresh air. Then Capcom decided to follow up on this retro craze by pumping out a fairly lackluster sequel before taking nearly another decade off. Mega Man 10 had been met with lukewarm response from both critics and fans alike, so Capcom wanted to go back to the drawing board and play with a bunch of ideas before bringing Mega Man back once more.

Mega Man
And so, here we are, in 2018, with their latest game, Mega Man 11. While I have already reviewed this game elsewhere (click here to check that out), suffice it to say that I absolutely love this latest game. Whatever Capcom did in the eight years since MM10 definitely paid off for them, because this new game takes the series in a fun, modern direction with some really interesting gameplay mechanics and wonderful graphics and music, while still keeping things familiar and welcoming. The bosses each feel like they have a deeper personality to them, the stages all feel alive and active, and the story goes back to the roots in an attempt to explain the rivalry between Doctor Light and Doctor Wily in a much greater detail. It’s the love and care that went into Mega Man 11 that makes the game feel special, and it gives me hope that Capcom will apply this same care to the greater franchise at large.

Yes, that's correct, I did mention a greater franchise, because while this article has mostly focused on what’s normally referred to as the “classic series,” Capcom greatly expanded the series over the years to include Mega Man X (set 100+ years into the future), Mega Man Zero, Mega Man ZX, Mega Man Battle Network, Mega Man Star Force, and the cult-classic, Mega Man Legends series. That’s an awful lot of Mega Man, I know, but it was part of Capcom’s efforts to create a larger metaseries that could encapsulate many different types of gameplay experiences.

Mega Man
Now my favorites out of the bunch are the original series (as I mentioned), Mega Man X (which is much more action-oriented than its older brother), and Legends (which sadly ended after only two games!). I wish I could go into greater detail about the connections between these series, the countless hours I spent trying to piece together a cohesive timeline, and the wonderfully detailed lore these games present beneath the surface, but sadly we don’t have nearly enough time for that. However, maybe one day I’ll talk about some of the other entries and connect them back to this piece. I guess we’ll see!



Anyway, those are my thoughts on the topic. So please stay tuned for more crafty content coming your way, care of Jessica's Journey, as written by Joypad Jess from NerdyButFlirty.com.

A LOOK BACK AT MEGA MAN - A RETROSPECTIVE A LOOK BACK AT MEGA MAN - A RETROSPECTIVE Reviewed by David Lee Andrews on November 12, 2018 Rating: 5

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