I consider it to be a great shame that we never ended up getting Mega Man Mania. And although the Mega Man Anniversary Collection had its flaws, it still showed the bevvy of interest remaining in classic Mega Man, even though it would still be years before we got legitimate advancement in the series. While the Game Boy titles largely just recycled content from the NES predecessors (with the exception of Mega Man V), they still had their own uniqueness and their own charm, and most importantly of all they were still fun. Personally, while I did own the NES games growing up, it was the Game Boy games that served as my initial entry into the series. The Game Boy games were the first I played in depth, and the first that I conquered. So indeed I do find it a shame Mega Man Mania just sort of sank away. The following essay is how I think the concept could be resurrected, and although it will essentially read like a pitch, it's also my intention to illustrate the strengths that classic Mega Man possesses. Frankly, I'm not sure how good of a job I'll do there. But I do hope you enjoy the essay and find something insightful, or at least something to be excited about.
Now a lot of fans certainly have their own Mega Man games, and I in no way look at this as something like "the best possible Mega Man game." I think this is more like "a very effective Mega Man game." It wouldn't be as much work to plan and develop, because the content already exists. Furthermore, it is a lot of great content in one package. Five games worth. It's the same principle that made games like Mega Man Anniversary Collection and Mega Man X Collection work so well.
I also think it would be a particularly good game to have in the initial years of the Nintendo 3DS launch. Granted, this concept could work on any hardware, but coming from what were originally portable games I think it's best suited for a portable system, and I would like to make some use of the additional touch screen. Furthermore, the 3DS lineup as we know it so far has very few games of a simpler, arcade nature. Therefore, a Mega Man Mania-type compilation could really stand out from the other numerous games for the 3DS, and appeal to people looking for a more classic, simple gaming experience.
However, I would like to do more than a simple porting of games. I'd really like there to be a level of consistency in the feel and design of the games, and there's also room for additional features. And really, given the monochrome Game Boy origins, the games could stand to have something of a face-lift.
Here is something just to convey a sense of what's possible. Truthfully I'm not really concerned over what kind of visual style it should have. Hand-drawn sprites? 3D models? It makes little difference to me, so long as the game has a fresh and consistent look. If anything I would prefer it to look "video gamey" and not try to be particularly stylish in any sense. I also don't think the 3DS's 3D effects will play a very important role. But for an example this is pretty attractive looking, don't you think?
As I was saying, given the advancement of gaming technology it does make sense to update the look, without putting in needless amounts of effort. New Super Mario Bros. is a great example of this. It also helps to give each game a good, consistent feel. This mostly applies to Mega Man II, the black sheep of the Game Boy titles. It has content from two of the best selling Mega Man games ever made, but its mechanics and execution are terrible. Even Keiji Inafune commented in Mega Man Official Complete Works how poorly Mega Man II turned out. However, with the right effort and care, Mega Man II could be a fantastic game! I'd even retain its original music, which can sound great given the right treatment.
Anyway, the top screen is pretty easy to figure out, so let's focus on the bottom screen. This is where the weapons and options menu will be permanently fixed. Now instead of always pausing the game, you can switch weapons with a touch of the lower screen. Not only that, but you can access certain items as well. As long as you have at least one E Tank, for example, pressing the icon for it will instantly use it (though it'd probably be required to press the icon for a second or so, to prevent accidental use). Of course, you would still have the option of pausing the game and navigating the menu with the directional pad if you preferred, or if using the touch screen doesn't feel natural.
Of course, adept fans probably noticed something in that last picture which gives way to the concept's most prominent features, and you'll notice it in this one too.
Simply put, in the primary game mode, once you beat a Robot Master and obtain his weapon, you can bring that weapon into any of the other four games. The same goes for support items, use items and other abilities. You can build up a whole arsenal and play with it. Experiment how effective different weapons are against bosses you could never fight with those weapons. Novices, who may be only able to beat a couple bosses from each game, could still build up equipment and feel rewarded. It also allows for new areas and functions in stages that can be manipulated with the various other weapons (although this steps into the realm of generating new content).
Some of you may already be thinking that such a feature would make the game far too easy. I disagree with that notion, but moreover I don't care. Games that are easy aren't bad. It's games that are uninteresting that are bad. And a lot of the games out there that are very interesting and fun do so by making you feel empowered. This is why the Metal Blade is so well remembered (and why I need to disagree with my own comment from a couple years back). It was broken, but no one cared because it was so awesome and fun to use. Great games let you break them. It's the same phenomenon as getting to run on the ceiling in Super Mario Bros. and finding a hidden warp zone to further worlds. Certainly Kirby's Dreamland is "too easy" because you can just fly over every stage. But instinctively, you will probably not want to do that. You will want to make things happen.
So I do honestly think giving the player an impressive gamut of weapons to earn will only make the game more enjoyable, and provide more new experiences on subsequent replays. Support items like the Rush adapters would only need to be earned once. And the options screen would allow what type of Mega Buster you want to use, whether you want to enable sliding or not, and so forth. Of course, outside of the main game mode, you'd certainly have the ability to play each game as an individual experience, without bringing weapons and items into others games, if you so desire.
I do think the features and content described above would easily justify a retail release, but it's always possible to add more. Here are some additional features that would probably be easy to implement given the nature of the concept.
- Difficulty Setting: Makes changes to damage data and the aggressiveness of enemies. I think my greatest interest here would be giving the enemies new attacks and such for a harder difficulty. With how this was implemented in Mega Man 10, it made some of the battles like fighting entirely new bosses.
- Endless Attack: My favorite feature, and probably one of the greatest things to happen to Mega Man since the password. With a game of this magnitude, a really tremendous Endless Attack mode could be culled together. Well over 100 unique stage segments, randomly assembled together each time you play. And why stop there? We could even add enemies not appearing in the main games. Maybe represent all the NES Robot Masters. Maybe even Bond Man. Wouldn't that be a fun surprise!
- Challenges: I really enjoyed the challenges from Mega Man Powered Up and Mega Man 10. Making a variety of little challenge stages would be a piece of cake.
- Stage Creator: Probably the feature I'm least keen on. Stage creation is a fun concept but in practice I don't think it's often used to its fullest potential. But I did consider that custom stages could be propagated via the Nintendo 3DS's StreetPass/SpotPass functions, and that might be interesting. Or better yet, instead of creating stages, create challenges. Make your own challenge stages, pass them onto friends and see who can get the best rank!
Those are some possibilities, but again it's all flourish. The core is a game with classic gameplay and lots of content, with lots of replayability thanks to the weapon holdover system. It's simple but it's never been done. And while other recent Mega Man games have done a good job focusing on the core values of Mega Man, they have not done much to expand on the content of the core game. With the level of technology today, a classic Mega Man game could have hundreds of stages, tons of Robot Masters. It's time to push the content envelope!
All in all, this would be an easy to develop, powered up game collection which would look great on the handheld market. There are many players who miss the Game Boy games, and many more who have yet to really experience them at all. It may not the game Capcom develops down the road, but I do look forward to games in a similar vein.I must give immense thanks to Jason Howell for providing the mock screenshots used in this article. Going into this idea, I knew my words alone wouldn't be enough to motivate everyone. The pictures illustrate what could potentially be, and frankly are just beautiful. Thank you, Jason! Additionally, the top original Game Boy screenshot was found on GameSpite.net.