For any Mega Man superfans like myself, the news of Mega Man Universe’s cancellation stings. It’s never a satisfying moment when a promising game gets canned, especially when it brings forward some interesting ideas for the franchise. The series has been on Capcom’s back burner recently and the only notable console releases of late have been retro-revivals made available via download platforms. Mega Man 9 and 10 are great games. 9 is especially excellent and is pure 8-bit fanservice to long time fans. Still, not many things of note have happened since then, and fans like myself have become a bit uneasy.
Remember this is MEGA MAN we’re talking about it. He’s every bit a part of Capcom as Resident Evil or Street Fighter, and he’s been around for a long time!
Universe was a game bustling with great ideas, mostly taken from the PSP exclusive Powered Up. Right off the bat, the developers seemed to focus on a game that focused on the charm of Mega Man 2 for the NES. It had that unintentionally silly air of the 1980s, rife with self-parody. The game actually featured “Bad Box Art Mega Man” as a playable character–yes, the notorious Mega Man 1 cover art actually would be canon. In addition to different incarnations of Mega Man, the game would have featured other Capcom characters as well, like Street Fighter’s Ryu. Also, the ability to fully customize levels and characters would have been welcome. All of this in a comprehensive and fun XBLA/PSN game? Why not do it?
So why was the game cancelled? Capcom cited “various reasons” but kept the exact rationale quite vague. Given the current circumstances in Japan, it’s fair to assume developers will scale back their development processes. Even so, there also remains the possibility that Capcom just didn’t want to deal with having to use the resources on Universe. There are many other games coming and by cancelling it, they free up attention in other areas and can reassess their development focus. Luckily Mega Man Legends 3 didn’t get the axe. If anything, Capcom may be able to re-evaluate their stance on the franchise and decide what to do moving forward. Maybe that means focusing more on Legends 3. Or maybe that means delivering Mega Man 11 or the anticipated X9. Let’s not forget the co-developed online game either, which is shaping up to be one of the most interesting titles in the series. Keiji Inafune’s departure from Capcom may be another reason–he was clearly the passionate force behind the franchise. What will happen now?
Mega Man fans are typically accustomed to hearing news about upcoming games in relatively quick fashion. But for the past decade, console games have been few and far between. Most have been sent to handhelds. With the series on the verge of its 25th anniversary, something has to be done, and certainly (hopefully) Capcom recognizes this. There is some internal dispute for sure, and it seems as though Capcom of Japan has the notion that the series is no longer popular in the US. Do I believe that to be true? With the success of the Battle Network/EXE series and Mega Man 9/10, no, I don’t believe so. Capcom representatives in the US don’t appear to believe it either.
Do I think the series is done far? Heck no. Capcom would never forget about the Blue Bomber, and I doubt they could even if they tried. The fanbase will always be there. My prediction is that Capcom is in the process of deciding where to take the series moving forward and the direction they take it may be different than the fans’ expectations. The common criticism for the franchise has been oversaturation–in other words, too many similar games. While many of the releases are actually good (Mega Man has not had the same issues Sonic has), the main complaint is the number of “safe” games released. However, with each successive anniversary for the franchise, Capcom has tried to reinvent it in some way. X came around the 5th anniversary, Legends came by near the 10th, Zero arrived close to the 15th, and Star Force close to the 20th. It wouldn’t surprise me if Capcom would try and deliver something new, or at least continue something the fans have been demanding for a long time. The development cycle of Legends 3 has been extremely transparent thanks to the Capcom Unity dev-room, and even though the game hasn’t been officially green lit, fan demand is extremely high. Fans have also been frothing at the mouth for a revival of the X series, which I expect will return in some form soon. Mega Man X was the most wanted character on fan-polls for Marvel vs. Capcom 3 DLC characters. I’d expect focus to shift on that game and then something unexpected to come.
What about you guys? Where do you see the franchise going? Sound off in the comments!