All aboard the choo-choo, boys and girls. It's time to get speculatin'! Sometimes I don't know why I do this to myself, since it's become a bit hard to predict what Capcom is doing with Mega Man lately. But I have to admit it's fun too. It's kind of like gambling, but with more logic involved, and nothing to lose (except my credibility I guess, but I don't stake much on that anyhow). So we got ourselves a nice upcoming Rockman game here: Rockman EXE: Operate Shooting Star. Very little is known now. We know that it's a game that's being made, it'll be for the DS, it's releasing in Japan in the winter season, and it's somehow a collaboration between Mega Man Battle Network (Rockman EXE) and Mega Man Star Force (Ryuusei no Rockman). What could it be exactly? A cross-over game? A remake of the original Battle Network? Just something else completely weird?
My money is on a cross-over, sort of. It's definitely going to be a game in the Battle Network series - the main title of the game is Rockman EXE, after all. If it were more of a balanced combination, your Flintstones meet the Jetsons kind of cross-over, I'd expect it to be called Rockman EXE & Ryuusei, or some such. But clearly this is going to be a Battle Network title with Star Force hitching a ride.
If this were simply a remake of the original Battle Network, I don't see why there'd be a need to tie it to Star Force at all. Furthermore, there's one more thing we know will likely be part of the game that I didn't mention above. Clock Genius. Remember that fellow? He won the CoroCoro boss character contest earlier this year. He's destined to appear in a Rockman game, and this is most likely it. Now we don't really know much about Clock Genius either, but his name does not seem of the Battle Network ilk. It definitely sounds more like a Star Force character's name, otherwise I think he'd be Clock Man or something.
One of the confusing aspects to a Battle Network/Star Force cross-over is that the series take place 200 years apart in time. But now we have a time themed boss expected to make an appearance. Knowing that, it's not hard to conceive a storyline where Shooting Star Mega Man and some other SF characters get sent back through time to the Battle Network timeline thanks to this Clock Genius. I'll admit I'm not crazy about time travel plots, but it seems like a very reasonable element with what we've got here.
The next thing I wonder about is whether or not there will be two versions of this title. Since Battle Network 3, having two or more versions of the game has been a staple. Yet this EXE game already has a subtitle: Operate Shooting Star. Are we yet going to see Operate Shooting Star Versions 1 and 2? Or is this just a standalone title?
Or is it something more unique? While the announcement boasts a collaborate between both the Battle Network and Star Force series, this game is in effect a Battle Network game, we presume. So, what if the second version isn't? Whereas this game is grounded in the Battle Network timeline, its alternate version may be grounded in the Star Force timeline. Ryuusei no Rockman: Operate Battle Network, or some such. This would surely make for an equal collaboration, although it's also a bit out there I'll admit. Rather than having two versions of the same game with slight differences, this would practically be two different games, but tied to the same story. It would present some problems for sure, such as how the differing battle systems of both series would work in linked gameplay. A possibility perhaps, but not as likely in my opinion.
Finally, all I can wonder about is why Capcom decided to go this route. In a sense, I feel this is Capcom's way of admitting that the Star Force series wasn't going as well. While sales can't be the sole measure of how good a game is, I think it's evident that the Star Force series hasn't captured the same spark that the Battle Network series did. Among fans, there is generally a preference for Battle Network over Star Force. It's a little hard to see why, since both series essentially have similar themes, similar characters and similar storylines. The only thing I can think of is that the content indicative of Battle Network had greater appeal.
What content is this? For the most part, it's Net Navis. I believe these characters are one of the biggest draws to the Battle Network series. By redesigning the classic Mega Man bosses, Capcom provided a way for older Mega Man fans to relate to the series. In fact, I'd say the "downfall" of the Battle Network series was Capcom's recycling of previous Navis, and making fewer new ones. Star Force doesn't really have Navis. In fact it has very few connections to any other Mega Man games. I feel this is a major detriment to the series. I said as much in a previous editorial.
So, I feel that this game is largely a means of Capcom creating move Navis. It may seem kind of trivial, but Mega Man is very much a franchise that's carried by memorable characters. Many of the original robot masters have that strong of an appeal, you see them everywhere. There are still a handful of robot masters yet to be transitioned into Battle Network style: Crash Man, Hard Man, Wave Man, Crystal Man, Spring Man and Frost Man, just to name some. On top of that, one of last year's big releases gave us eight new characters with the potential to be Navi-fied. I'd definitelty expect a MagmaMan.EXE, since Capcom used up its pure fire characters pretty fast. New Navis would be a big driving force for a return to Battle Network. That's another reason why simply doing a remake wouldn't be as viable an option. Expect new Navis.
So, the two versions thing aside perhaps, these are my predictions for this upcoming title. The announcement in August should give us a definite idea what direction the game's going. Until then, why not share some of your own thoughts on what you think.