Capcom’s Megaman debuted in 1987 on the NES. It essentially became the guide to creating a challenging platformer. You could run, jump and shoot, fight bosses and gain new abilities, the core of the genre. After its success, Capcom created a sequel, and another, and another, who cares about five iterations of the same game?
Fast forward to 1994, when Capcom released Megaman X for the Super Nintendo in North America. To this day, it is considered one of the best Megaman, and SNES games ever made. This time around, the player could jump up walls and use a short dash to move around quickly, two small things that changed the way platformers were made forever, even today, Super Meat Boy uses the very same wall jumping mechanic over 15 years later.
The two subsequent games after this didn’t change greatly from the first, and it was only until Capcom decided to switch over to the Playstation did anything change. Graphics became much more detailed, and proper cut scenes and voice acting were introduced. This happened again after the sixth instalment, with the series moving onto the Playstation 2, in full 3D. I played Megaman X on PC, only to fail miserably after the first level no matter how hard I tried... until I was shown how to play it right, like using specific weapons against certain bosses, and how to obtain all the secrets. The sequel, Megaman X2 remains my personal favourite of this series, if I hadn’t been taught; I believe my experience would have been much different. Another game that was developed for the PS one was Megaman Legends, a full 3D adventure shooter which got a sequel, as well a port for the N64.
Meanwhile, a smaller studio called Inticreates was commissioned to produce a spinoff of the Megaman X character; Zero. Megaman Zero received outstanding reviews for its fresh faster paced twist on the proven mechanics of the older games. Capcom, pleased with the success, gave the green light for three more games, of which would receive slightly less favourable reviews. Though, they were still considered incredibly well made games, with a deep and darker storyline that I believe is better than any other Gameboy Advance game out there. It was also one of the most difficult set of games, with some reviewers complaining that the learning curve was nightmarish and unforgiving. I played these games for years before I became skilled enough to beat them.
Simultaneously, Capcom themselves made a completely new game that combined card games, RPG elements, and ultra-fast paced action into a title called Megaman Battle network. Its popularity spawned 11 more games, each one less interesting than the last. This resulted in the fanbase diminishing, not to mention annoyance for having two copies of each game, similar to how the Pokémon games are released (white/blue etc.). I got on board with the third title, and likewise with the Megaman Zero games, it was quite difficult, and to this day I’ve still never completed it. I would easily say that it has the most enjoyable fighting in any RPG on the Gameboy Advance.
After the release of the Nintendo DS, the aforementioned series each received treatment on the Dual screen handheld. Megaman Zero became Megaman ZX and ZX Advent, which kept the same gameplay and visuals, but with fully animated cut scenes and a whole world rather than individual levels. Meanwhile, the Battle network series became Megaman: Star force, essentially the same game but in 3D with over the shoulder view. Neither of these were close to as good as their counterparts, but remain to be fun and interesting. The issue here was that they each took what they had done previously, and made it easier, added new visuals and features, but didn’t actually innovate, you can’t impress an audience by tacking things on. This was where portable Megaman stopped.
Since 2010, there hasn’t been a new title produced. Capcom has said that Megaman is still a “key brand”, yet they cancelled development on the highly anticipated Megaman Legends 3, after they used a forum to gauge fan interest. The problem here not being interest, but the advertisement of this forum, essentially unknown by many fans. It’s been said that Capcom is very disliked these days, due to various decisions regarding how their franchises are changing, as well as their bizarre behaviour regarding on-disc DLC, and releasing four Resident Evil games in two years. A Facebook group has been created to demonstrate fan interest, which is growing at a steady rate. Capcom also released a “HD” version of Megaman X for the most inappropriate platform, the iphone. Alongside the initial cost of the game, you could purchase all the upgrades with real money that would otherwise only be acquired through skill. This version is an abomination, and I strongly recommend ignoring it, even if you’re a diehard fan.
So what happens to a franchise that has more games under its belt than any other Capcom series? With relatively poor reviews for a lot of the more recent titles, will this platforming prince ever be revived? Honestly, with Capcom behaving the way it is, I believe they should have Inticreates make the next Megaman game, they managed to take a formula that was already good, and completely change it without simultaneously ruining it, I’m sure they can do it again. Regardless of who does what, the chances of a new game being released for Xbox or PS3 is very small, if it does, it will most definitely be downloadable only. The reason I say this is that It’s very difficult to justify having a disc for a game that is famous for having simplicity whereas a downloadable title would be widely accepted and even welcomed with crisp hand drawn sprites or such. All this considered, Capcom really need to bring back the Megamen, that are so adored by the massive number of fans.