Everything Old Is New Again? – The Troubles With Mega Man 9

Mega Man 9 was a pretty big deal when it was first released back in 2008. It garnered a lot of praise, and led to a direct sequel pretty quickly. It was created near the beginning of the retro gaming boom, and is one of the best, and most successful examples of how to pull retro gaming off. It took the graphics and gameplay from fan favourite Mega Man 2, and set the blue bomber against a new set of eight robot masters. This post may seem a little out of date, five years too late to be exact, but there’s a reason for that. I had never really played through many of the Mega Man games. As a child, I attempted several of them, failing every time to even get past the easiest of the robot masters. Now, as an adult, and one going through the summer lull, I have beaten the original six Mega Man games on my 3DS. There is no nostalgia here with me: everything’s fresh. And I’m not sure Mega Man 9 was a good idea.

Similar to Mega Man 2 – And nothing else.
The original Mega Man series is one that was known as a stagnant series. In its basic structure, each game was exactly the same as the one before. It’s important not to be nostalgic when examining this fault. Mega Man was a yearly franchise, with six games being released from 1987 to 1993. Each game was tweaked, but there was very little difference, and, surprisingly, many bugs still existed. The same thing is happening right now with Call of Duty, or Assassin’s Creed, and many gamers attack those games relentlessly for their release schedule. While this was twenty years ago, Mega Man was being ‘whored’ out exactly the same way. People were getting tired of the same old formula back in the day, and each Mega Man game was receiving less and less intention even if Mega Man VI was substantially better than V.This exact thing happened with the Resident Evil series. It didn’t get six games, but people grew tired of the same formula and no matter how good Code Veronica ended up being, people were tired of the whole thing.

I’m still not sick of the old Resident Evil formula, so I really enjoyed this game.

My question today flies in the face of everything that retro gaming stands for in a way: do we really want to bring back series that were stagnant because of their formulas? Isn’t that a horrible precedent to set? Tell developers to drive their games right into the ground with no innovation and barely any improvement, and then trash the series so it can be revived ten years later as a retro series and get sales based on nostalgia. This seemingly incentivizes developers to use and abuse their franchises and to not look for improvement. Resident Evil 6 had many problems, but at least it tried to be different unlike everything Assassin’s Creed has put out since the first game. I like retro gaming, and sometimes it is a great idea to bring back older styles of gameplay and graphics, but sometimes it isn’t and I’m not sure if Mega Man was the best example.

I could write a whole post on this cover. It exemplifies so much wrong with this industry.

The problem is that Mega Man, though similar in structure, did evolve somewhat over the six games. Features such as the slide (Introduced in Mega Man 3) and the charge shot (Introduced in Mega Man 4) were so popular that they were built in as default features in Mega Man X (Or really close to default for the dash). The developers of Mega Man 9 chose to take Mega Man 2 as their model, a game that is archaic even by Mega Man standards. While the menu selection of weaponry had been improved, and there was an item shop, not much changed. As a celebration of the old school Mega Man games, it is astounding that they threw out all of them except for one. It is true that Mega Man 2 was and still is the most popular, but that doesn’t mean the others didn’t contribute. The reason it’s popular is because it mainstreamed the series. Mega Man 1 was an awful game with some really poor level design. Mega Man 2 wasn’t. It took the basic ideas from the first game and created something new and exciting. I’m not blinded by nostalgia here, or looking at it from the lens of a modern gamer. I’ve been playing NES releases that I’ve never played before recently and I can say with confidence that Mega Man is a poorly made game, while Mega Man 2 isn’t.

This was weak even when it was released.

The whole thing comes across as lazy. The developers took old ideas and shoved them out as if they were new. The internet loves this kind of thing and you see constant fan projects doing the same, not to mention the memes. However, just because the internet is enamoured with rehashing doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Retro gaming has to be more than a cheap copy to survive. I’m sure the developers of 9 were Mega Man fans who wanted to bring the old series back. I’m also sure that they got the go ahead from Capcom because of how cheap development of the game would be. Retro throwbacks that don’t evolve might spur some nostalgic gears in the minds of gamers, and may be functionally effective, but those games miss the point. Why was Mega Man 2 so successful in the first place? It was because of all of the evolution and enhancements it brought over the first one. Mega Man 3 has its fans as well from bringing more improvements. As the series became more stagnant, it became less popular. Do we really want our retro games to celebrate the stagnation, to bring nothing new to the table in some perverse way of praising games that did?

At least there is the first ever female robot master, but why robots even have genders is beyond me.

I’m conflicted, internet, possibly hypocritical even. I like retro gaming. I think most gamers who grew up with the NES or SNES do. However, I simply can’t help but feel like a lot of retro games are missing the point. I’m not saying that there should never be throwbacks, but gaming has evolved so much in the last twenty years. I think that developers can think of a couple of ways to innovate using the old style structure and graphics without losing the old school charm. Without innovation, I question what they are trying to accomplish. Holding an older game reverently and copying it exactly isn’t doing anyone any favours. It isn’t like the successes of Mega Man 9 led to anything. Mega Man 10 was a quick and cheap followup, but then everything went dark for the blue bomber. I enjoyed playing Mega Man 9. I would give it a very high score if reviewing it today. My enjoyment and the fun I received from the game isn’t the problem. The problem is that such massive rehashes are dangerous for the industry, and a waste of the potential of retro gaming, which could be so much more.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer


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