About twice a year game publisher Capcom updates their list of sales per popular game license. What caught my attention with this iteration of the list is that the Mega Man series has finally cracked the one hundred game mark. Just think - one hundred games all starring Mega Man or one of his spin-off alter egos! That's a lot of robot masters named ______ Man and such: Elec Man, Heat Man, Magnet Man, Ring Man, Gravity Man...
I first boarded the Mega Man train back in 1989 when Mega Man 2 for the Nintendo Entertainment System was released. A review/map article in Nintendo Power sold me on the game and, when I had saved up my allowance, my mother and I went to the Toys 'R Us in Orlando (a good hour drive from our home and the only place then to find a decent new video game) so I could buy it. Over lunch at The Olive Garden I read the manual including the walk-through of how to complete Air Man's stage. Wow, that takes me back...
Mega Man 3 followed the next year, the first game in the series that was multiplayer. Er, that is, Player 2 would hold the button sequence down on the second controller that allowed Player 1 to leap higher and survive the bottomless pits. It wasn't much fun for Player 2, but it was a primitive time in video gaming and we took our fun where we found it. Snake Man's stage music still rattles around in my brain from time to time during random moments for some reason. That Yuukichan's Papa fellow could really write some memorable tunes.
My father brought Mega Man 4 home for me from a business trip to North Carolina, bringing the game down to Florida before the local stores were even carrying it. These days as shipping and release dates are more solidified we forget that there was a time where Location A would have a game available for sale weeks before Location B a few hundred miles away would have a chance to press Start. I'd hoped to be the playground hero with this, but alas, it was not to be.
I bought Mega Man 5 at Toys 'R Us, bringing my NES Mega Man experience full circle. The blue bomber was beginning to show his age at this point, especially since the Super NES was up and running by this time. I passed on Mega Man 6, not picking up the series again for the home console until Mega Man X. Cutting to the Game Boy series of games, the original Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge and the eventual Mega Man V were both holiday gifts that were played over and over again, consuming many batteries.
Mega Man has been in decline lately. His attempts to adapt to 3D just don't work; the Mega Man Legends series broke from the traditional concept that makes Mega Man such a playable character and the fact that Capcom can't tell a consistent story is hampering the Mega Man X series. Mega Man Zero is a valiant attempt to return to the character's roots, but even it is held back by challenges that are more frustration than fun. Mega Man Battle Network's Pokemon/RPG reboot is aimed at younger players. The original incarnation at Mega Man has largely been at rest since Mega Man 8, although he did appear at last in North America for Mega Man and Bass in 2003.
Capcom keeps trying to redefine and improve Mega Man, but in my opinion each time they come up empty. The name Mega Man used to mean something, but now the character is relegated to poor stories, repetitive gameplay (yes, more repetitive than he was during his glory years), and what appears to be complete misdirection. I want Capcom to do Mega Man right again, and I think to do so they need to go back to the character's roots. Put X and the others aside and focus on the original Mega Man, the one that won our hearts and emptied our piggy banks each year in the classic days of the NES. I want Mega Man #101 to recapture the spirit of the original games in the series. I sincerely hope that Capcom is thinking along the same lines.