History is repeating itself

Perhaps the only thing worse than waiting for the announcement of a brand new Mega Man title is waiting for the announcement of a brand new Mega Man title and having no idea what it might be. Since 2001 we've been fairly comfortable with predicting the followups for the Battle Network and Zero series, and then their successors. But lately it feels like Capcom's intentions for the Blue Bomber are harder to predict. Waiting for a new game announcement gives you a lot to ponder about, enough to make you a little nutty. However, this isn't the first time the franchise has been in such a state. Conditions were similar in the last three years of the 90s. After Mega Man 8 and Mega Man X4 released, it's my belief Capcom went through some trial and error in how do adapt Mega Man to the oncoming 3D revolution. 2D action games were starting to be looked down on, and as a result Capcom tried some odd things. They produced a so-so racing game, a choose-your-adventure game that Keiji Inafune himself despises, and a curious new 3D series that really should have done better. Legends was likely the big bet for Mega Man's future in 3D, but for whatever reasons it didn't click. Instead of going to 3D, Mega Man's future would be relegated to handhelds, where Capcom did finally find success.

So after having enjoyed the success of Battle Network and, to a lesser extent, Star Force, Zero and ZX, I think it's possible we're entering another of these "uncertain times," and the one heralding of this age is Mega Man 9. Mega Man 9 was a totally unexpected title and fairly risky as well, though being a downloadable title helped reduce that risk. But nonetheless, that makes Mega Man 9 the first in a handful of potentially unpredictable and risky titles to come. Mega Man 9 is basically the modern Rockman & Forte. Capcom's enigmatic boss contest, which is to draw to a close in the next couple of days, is further proof that Capcom wants to experiment rather than stick comfortably with sequels.

Unfortunately, that would indicate that Capcom isn't intending to follow up on Mega Man 9, and instead MM9 is merely a distraction until Capcom can decide on the next "big thing." Other series revivals could amount to the same thing - even Legends 3, which I do believe will be announced by the end of the decade (purely a hunch, of course).

This leads me to believe that Capcom is cooking up an all new series, and what it will be depends if they want to make another Battle Network spinoff or not. I stated in a previous editorial that I felt it was too soon for a revival of Battle Network, but what Capcom is working on may not be far off from that. What makes Battle Network essentially better than Star Force (and made it sell more, IMO) is its content. Gameplay-wise, the two series are very identical. Even their battle systems, which have different rules and perspectives, are essentially based on the same idea. What makes Battle Network win out is its content was more closely tied to earlier Mega Man content. Star Force cuts off relations to earlier franchise content, Battle Network included. I think this is what hurts Star Force the most. I think it's the same reason Legends didn't do better when it first came out. Those content connections are very important. The main reason people still want new Mega Man X games is to find out what happened to the original Mega Man.

Regardless, as I said before, series revivals are probably going to be distractions. However, I am still holding out for Mega Man 10. I'll admit I'm somewhat biased and I want Capcom to make Mega Man 10. But moreover, I don't see Capcom abandoning downloadable games any time soon. Sequels to Mega Man 9 would be perfect for downloadable content to keep Mega Man fans satisfied while Capcom works on the more important titles. This means, of course, that Mega Man 10 is taking a back seat. It's not going to be nearly as profound as Mega Man 9 was, but that's to be expected. Even if not Mega Man 10, I do feel certain Capcom will continue gracing downloadable content with Mega Man.

But ultimately, if we are in one of these "uncertain times," we really can't tell what Capcom is doing. Based on Mega Man 9, however, I do think what games are coming out will be good. We won't see new Battle & Chases or Super Adventures, but instead games that have more planning and effort put into them. Capcom no longer needs to worry about how to adapt Mega Man to new mediums, but instead just needs to keep working on what makes Mega Man so good.