What Capcom Could Learn from Archie’s Mega Man Comics
NOTE: This post contains some spoilers from the Archie Comics Mega Man series. If you haven’t read the comics yet, 1) what’s wrong with you !?, and 2) steer away unless you don’t mind the spoilers.
I recently read every issue of the Archie Comics series based on the Mega Man franchise. I’m ashamed of myself for neglecting such a great series based on my all-time favorite franchise, but comics are a serious investment, and on top of that, storing them is another issue altogether. However, I’m happy to say that I’m in for the long haul now, even if I have to find some way to store all of these comics. I also just received Part One of the Worlds Collide series, featuring both Mega Man and SEGA’s speedy mascot and long-time Archie comic hero, Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s a solid start so far, but I’m sure it’ll really take off here soon.
While I read all of these comics, it dawned upon me how awesome this adaptation of the Mega Man franchise is and, better yet, how it would fare in video game form. Sure, it’s based off of the games, but it’s far deeper than them from a story and character development standpoint. For instance, Mega Man starts to see himself as a killer, no better than the Robot Masters he’s chosen to face in order to save the world. He also starts to lose his mind, letting the powers he’s copied from all of them turn him into a power hungry, rage-filled and boastful machine. The comics also tackle the issue of whether robot development has gone too far, to the point where they begin to blur the line between human and machine and the potential threat they could pose to humanity should they cross that line. Wouldn’t these developments and plot lines be fantastic in game form?
See, Capcom is struggling to come up with a direction for the Mega Man franchise. We even recently learned that a Metroid Prime-style Mega Man X first-person shooter was in the works three years ago before it was scrapped due to it being too risky. This is on top of all of the cancellations related to the franchise that we’ve heard about ad nauseum. It seems like Capcom is taking their good ‘ole time coming up with a solution, and seeing as the character’s 25th anniversary has come and gone, and the apparent “celebration” this year, outside of the comic crossover, is a snoozefest. They can stop looking for a solution right now, as the it’s lying right in front of their faces. I know we all want a Mega Man X9, to finally see how the classic series and the X series officially connect, and badly want the development of Mega Man Legends 3 to return. However, if all else fails, and Capcom can’t come up with any sequels, why not start from the beginning?
I’m not talking franchise reboot or anything, as we all know that hasn’t exactly paid off in spades for several publishers, including Capcom and their Devil May Cry franchise. The comics already follow the original series canon. However, they add more substance to the plot and characters, as well as introducing new and meaningful characters to the fold, like the polar-opposite detectives, Rosie and Gil, and a possible love interest for Mega Man in the form of Tempo. Boss fights highlight weapon weaknesses very well, but the fights aren’t simply Mega Man dashing through a shutter, blasting the Robot Master with his weakness, taking his weapon power, then warping out without a care in the world like in the games. He actually has brief discussions with them, injecting personality into each of these nefarious foes, and upon defeating them, has an overwhelming sense of guilt as he stands over their remains and struggles with his pacifist personality. Why can’t the games have this sense of depth?
If there’s one thing that needs to happen, it’s that Mega Man needs to be brought to a new generation. There are still plenty of hardcore fans, like me, out there, but what about the young’uns? Every issue of the comic has an art section in it, and the drawings submitted from readers are primarily those of folks much, much younger than I. Kids are aware of Mega Man’s existence, or at least, the comic-reading kids. Why not give these kids exactly how Mega Man is meant to be experienced? As great as the comics are, he’s a video game character, and kids should learn his roots. Starting over from the beginning is one way of doing that.
Here’s what I’m getting to: Mega Man 1 needs to be remade. In order to celebrate 25 years of gaming history, a remake of the very beginning seems like a great way to do it, at least to me. I know Mega Man Powered Up exists, but considering the PSP is a dead platform in the US and the fact that the game will never be available on the Vita due to issues converting it into a digital version to be sold on the PlayStation Store, its availability is limited. Not only that, its chibi (big head) art style was always off-putting, and while it did add a little substance to the plot, it was very simplistic in its execution.
In this remake, the first step is to throw out the 8-bit graphics and sound. I love it just as much as the next guy, but it’s time to move on. We’re in an era where truly beautiful 2D sprite art is possible (think Rayman Origins), and I think Mega Man would be an excellent candidate for such treatment. Or, it could always go the 2.5D route like the new Duck Tales Remastered coming out this Summer, which is coincidentally coming from Capcom and being developed by WayForward. As for gameplay, Mega Man is a platformer through and through. Don’t touch it. In order to appeal to the younger crowd, though, there could always be an Easy Mode put in to make it more accessible. Level designs can remain largely the same as the original game, but with far more detail in their looks. The comics treat each level like a certain location within a city, so giving it that sort of look will make every level feel more connected as a world. Floating platforms even exist in the comics too, as a nice homage, so it’s not like including them in the game will somehow ruin the believability of the environments.
For every Robot Master encounter, there should be dialog between Mega Man and his opponent. Mega Man does attempt to reason with them in the comics, but it never usually works, and the result is the destruction of the Robot Master, the taking of his weapon, and then Mega Man has a sort of inner monologue, albeit very brief, but it shows that he constantly struggles with his pacifist side and how destroying the Robot Masters goes against his “code of honor”, so to speak. Delving this deeply into Mega Man’s character would allow fans young and old to engage with and relate to him on a whole new level. No longer is he just a Super Fighting Robot that blows away enemies without so much as a second thought. He’s practically human.
Cutscenes could be implemented, as well. Mega Man Powered Up used them, but not to any serious extent. They more or less consisted of “Stop, Dr. Wily! I won’t let you get away with this!”, to which Wily usually responds with a cackle. That’s not exactly how it goes down, but you get the gist. There’s a portion of the comic’s plot where Mega Man has to be forced back to Dr. Light’s lab because he’s started going haywire with his hunger for more and more power. At this point, Dr. Light has to reason with Mega Man and let him know that he is different than the Robot Masters and not built for killing. It’s a heartfelt discussion that could really do quite a bit to boost Mega Man as a character, as well as Dr. Light, while also showing the player the bond these two share is far beyond that of creator and robot; it’s more father and son. Roll is also more fleshed-out as a character, too, as she’s horrified at what Mega Man was becoming, before regaining her composure as Mega Man came to grips with his true purpose. She cares for her brother and hates the fact that he’s forced to destroy as much as he does.
There is one other idea churning around in my head, and this may seem outlandish, but what if the original Mega Man were recreated as a third-person shooter? Whoa, whoa, whoa, put down the knives! I’m not talking Gears of War stuff here! I’m talking about the game playing like another familiar Mega Man franchise, known as Mega Man Legends. Sure, the essence of classic Mega Man is gone, as the side-scrolling gameplay disappears, but that doesn’t mean platforming doesn’t have to exist. On top of that, imagine Robot Master battles done in this style. All-new possibilities open for battle patterns and strategies. Another idea is that all of the locations could be connected via a hub world of sorts, where Mega Man can interact with NPCs and key characters, and even warp back to the lab to chat with Dr. Light and Roll.
Whichever way it were to go, 2D or 3D, I’d approve of either direction for a remake of the original Mega Man. People love the old school side-scrolling style the series is known for, but I think we’re all hungry for a new Legends, and a remake done in the same vein could work wonders in regards to satiating that hunger as well as taking the classic series in a different direction. The main point is that I think the franchise could benefit from fleshing out Mega Man as a character and his world like the Archie comics do, drawing in more players who are open to a good story and engaging characters. Regardless, the wait for some sort of news on a new Mega Man is eating away at all of us. I just hope Capcom figures something out, and soon. In mean time, I continue to ponder what could be.