Mega Man, and the franchise’s parent company Capcom, have had it rough for the past few years.
Mega Man has not had not a retail release for a major home console since Mega Man X8 back in 2005 on the PlayStation 2, a game which sold poorly (though I personally adored). The series, according to Capcom’s investor relations page, has managed to sell 29 million total units. However, that number should be considered in context—there are 129 total releases for the franchise and the series is now 25 years old. To put that in perspective, Pokémon Red and Blue have sold approximately 31 million units in their lifetime alone. That’s right; the entire Mega Man franchise collectively can’t stand up to the first generation of Nintendo’s collect-a-monster RPG series. Even though Mega Man 9 was an 8-bit masterpiece and helped reinvigorate interest in the series in the public eye, the franchise’s troubles were far from over. An uncertain future, a fragmented brand identity, a convoluted canon, and a difficult position in the market meant trouble for the blue bomber. So, Capcom had cancelled its projects for the year. Among those was Mega Man Legends 3, a game that I, like many other fans, was eagerly waiting for with rabid enthusiasm. Cancelling that game was simply the last straw for the fan base.
Perhaps it’s a good thing though. Because of that cancellation (among cancellations for the promising Mega Man Universe and the interesting Mega Man Online), the fan response has been significant. It would be fair to point out that the level of hatred aimed at Capcom is, most of the time, rather unwarranted. Fans were willing to find fault in everything that the company did, taking any available opportunity to voice their disgust. However, considering everything that has happened, the company has tried to gamble on the blue bomber a lot. The games in the series have not typically sold well. The original games were not on par with Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog, yet Capcom pursued it. We’ve even seen several spinoffs and reinventions, including the fan-favorite Mega Man Legends and the Mega Man Battle Network series (which is still rather unique and unorthodox).
With the fan response, Capcom has re-evaluated their position on Mega Man. Hopefully now the series might be taken seriously again and a full, retail, console release might be in the realm of possibility. The series has certainly not died out among its fans and this has been the best time ever for merchandise based on the franchise. The excellent comic adaptation from Archie, the great English-adaptations of the Megamix and Gigamix manga series, and of course, the thoroughly awesome D-Arts line of collectible figures have been real treat for fans. December 17th is Mega Man’s official birthday, and this year marks the 25th anniversary for the franchise. To commemorate this event, Capcom has released Street Fighter X Mega Man, a company-backed fan project. The game can be downloaded now directly from Capcom’s website, for free.
This game is a real treat for fans of both series. It’s a labor of love from fans to the rest of the fan base—and it’s great to see that the Company has recognized and supported this project. Zong Hui and A_Rival deserve large amounts of praise for working on this game. Capcom has been a rather supportive company, even in times that fans would like to claim otherwise. What other company gives fans an early look into the development process? Reaches out so well online, via blogs and forums? Actively pursues user content and feedback? While there are many fair criticisms that can be leveled against the company, they have frequently sought innovation, tried new things, partnered with other companies, and done everything to reach out to fans and others in the industry.
Download Street Fighter X Mega Man and give it a try. Even if 2D side-scrolling isn’t your thing, it’s an excellent project, and one worth supporting. The game plays like every other in the classic Mega Man series, with simple jump and shoot mechanics. The charge shot and slide mechanics seem like they were ripped directly out of Mega Man 4. The game is certainly challenging. The level design is simplistic and can appear rough around the edges, but the game has some clever ideas and fun enemies to face. Hopefully after this, Capcom will start to look into other games to release. Mega Man 1 through 6 are being prepared for release on the 3DS eShop and some new merchandise is in the pipeline.
What’s next for Mega Man? As a fan, there are many projects I would love to see. A revival of the Legends series and Mega Man X9 are the games I would most like to play. Some new games on the home console and new innovations in the franchise would also be appreciated. If I had to make some predictions about what may come out for Mega Man’s 25th anniversary, I would place my bet on some kind of ultimate anthology collection. I’m also willing to bet that the company is looking at a franchise reboot, to try and provide some innovation for a series that many accuse of growing stagnant. Perhaps it is the right time, as well. Mega Man X reinvigorated interest in Mega Man after people grew tired of the 8-bit adventures. Mega Man Legends brought the series into 3D, infused it with adventure gameplay a la Legend of Zelda and even some trace elements of sandbox gameplay. Mega Man Battle Network dramatically altered the face of Mega Man and was one of the franchise’s more notable successes. Maybe it’s time for a new series to help bring it back into the spotlight.
NOTE: You can download Street Fighter X Mega Man here. This game is only available for the PC at this time, though it may come to consoles at a later date. It is completely free! Gamepad controls are supported during play and it is highly recommended that you use a USB controller rather than a keyboard.