The Big Bang and Sudden Implosion of Capcom's Mega Man Universe

A certain wiki aside, the first time anyone had heard of anything called "Mega Man Universe" was when Capcom USA's trademark for the name as the title of a video game was discovered in April of 2010. And amusingly enough, it seems that as many visitors to The Mega Man Network were concerned of what this would mean for that wiki as there were curious of what the game would be about.

Some suspected the possibility of a massively multiplayer online (MMO) title, a theory which picked up a lot more momentum when it was discovered that in the far east, Capcom had revealed that they were working on such a title, there known as "Rockman Online." At that point, the question became one of whether or not the two were one in the same.

Soon after, we got our first glimpse of Rockman Online, which was clearly taking a strong influence from the Mega Man X series. More details and rumors continued to surface surrounding the MMO from developer NeoWiz, and all the while, there was no word of what relation-- if any-- it had to the Mega Man Universe name.

That the two entities were, in fact, separate started to become apparent in June. It was at that time that the Mega Man Universe trademark had been registered abroad, including in Japan, where the Rockman Online news had originated. If anything, it would seem that the game would at least be dubbed "Rockman Universe" there.

July would see news about Mega Man Universe begin to pick up, as we learned early on that Keiji Inafune would be attending the San Diego Comic-Con in two weeks, where those in attendance would "hear details on an exciting new game announcement."

But, before that time would come, Capcom would go ahead and officially announce Mega Man Universe to the world for the first time. In addition to a logo unlike any we had seen associated with the franchise, there was also an enigmatic video created by the artists at i am 8-bit, which featured a stop-motion Mega Man running around a young boy's bedroom, adopting the forms and abilities of other Capcom heroes (such as Ryu from Street Fighter and Arthur from Ghosts 'n Goblins) as he fought off enemies from the Classic series of games.

Mega Man transformed into his 8-bit pixelated self as the trailer ended, but before things faded out, a claymation rendition of the version of Mega Man seen gracing (or disgracing, depending on how you look at it) the cover of the original game appeared, looking around before clumsily falling to his demise.

Fans were left with perhaps more questions than answers after viewing the video, but Keiji Inafune had made it known on his blog that unlike other then-recent titles, "he is fully in charge of the concept and design of Mega Man Universe." He went on to describe it as a nostalgic experience which would be "everyone's Mega Man," where "imagination is the star of the game," expecting it to be enjoyed by fans the world over.

As the date of the San Diego Comic-Con panel drew nearer, Capcom revealed there would be some Mega Man Universe swag in the form of foam Mega Busters for those who attended the event. As for the panel itself, little new information (aside from our first tease of Mega Man Legends 3) was provided, though Inafune did discuss the thought process behind Mega Man Universe to some extent.

With the official announcement made, Capcom of Japan would go on to open their very own Mega Man Universe homepage.

The following month, an interview with Inafune was published. Though it was not strictly regarding Mega Man Universe, he did reveal that "some aspects from older Mega Man titles that I wanted to revisit might find their way in there, but it’s going to expand far, far beyond that and be all about what fans want to see."

It would not be long before Capcom revealed that the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) would be the destination for eager fans to find out more about the mysterious title, promising that "the curtain would be lifted a little more" on the project. This would soon be elaborated on, with the promise of not only a look at some Mega Man Universe trailers and levels at the event, but also more swag! In this case, Mega Man Universe-branded headbands.

On September 2nd, PAX arrived, and with it came the promised trailers. There were, in fact, several trailers, each depicting a different version of Mega Man traversing levels which seemed more than a little inspired by Mega Man 2, all preceded by a message from Keiji Inafune himself.

As for the versions of Mega Man, we were introduced to "Mega Man," who appeared to be an angry, "Americanized" version of the Blue Bomber, replete with lines seemingly inspired by the movie Tron; "Rockman," who was essentially the Inafune version known and loved the world over; and last (but not least), "Bad Box Art Mega Man," who had blue and gold armor, a handgun, and probably about 30 years on either of the other versions.

During that same period, the Mega Man Universe homepage would update with some new visuals. In addition to the three Mega Men and Ryu, a little Photoshop magic revealed many other robots around them. Specifically, Robot Masters from Mega Man 2.

In addition to that, a little detective work from Heat Man would reveal that an appearance at the Tokyo Game Show should not have been unexpected, despite Capcom not having announced it. Elsewhere, Destructoid's Jonathan Holmes would slip on his reporter's hat and question Capcom's Seth Killian about how something like Bad Box Art Mega Man wound up in the game.

As it turns out, Mega Man Universe was indeed going to the Tokyo Game Show. Not only would it be playable, but with more swag, at that. This time, the prize was a Mega Man Universe towel with a Met-inspired pattern.

Capcom Unity would go on to reveal new screens and info about the title. It was here that the ability to customize your own Mega Man with different body parts and dual-weapons was revealed, along with a stage editor which would eventually lead many fans to regard the game as either "Mega Man Powered Up 2" or "LittleBigPlanet with a Mega Man theme."

MMN staff Mainfinger and Gelgameth were also able to attend PAX, where they spoke to Capcom representatives and learned that the title was slated for a release in Spring 2011, and that the game's appearance at the Tokyo Game Show would "make more sense" of everything we had seen up to that point.

On September 15th, we got to see new videos from the Tokyo Game Show, which highlighted the game's customization features. More important than that, however, was the revelation that was Air Man's mouth, as well as some other unidentifiable characters.

With a playable version of the game now on display at the Tokyo Game Show, reports came in from sites such as 1UP and Destructoid. Unfortunately, the impressions taken away from the demo were not especially positive, at least in the case of 1UP's Jeremy Parish, who felt that though there was much to love about the game, something about it "felt a little bit off."

Another event at the Tokyo Game Show was a special stage event for the game, which revealed that a special downloadable character would be a "Megafied" version of children's television character Gachapin. The costumed character appeared on stage with a new costumed Mega Man (the angry American version, who actually looked sort of cool this way) to make the announcement, which also made clear that Capcom seemed to have hopes of some sort of mainstream tie-ins with the title.

That same month, interviews with Mega Man Universe Producer Akiko Ito appeared in Game Informer magazine and on Joystiq and Kotaku, giving us a little more insight into what the developers were trying to do with the game. Similarly, GameTrailers conducted a video interview with her about the game mechanics, which at the very least explained why they kept the "Mega Man" name in Japan.

As September continued to roll on, it seemed nothing could stop Mega Man Universe. Plans were revealed for the game to not only be at New York Comic-Con, but also at a special event at the Brooklyn Library. Oh, and just as with all the other big events prior, there was swag to be gained at NYCC: a Mega Man Universe-branded Ghosts 'n Goblins lance, four feet long and perfect for throwing at your siblings alongside "zombie" accusations.

And after that?

Things went quiet. For months, we heard nary a peep about Mega Man Universe, until early February, when Capcom USA's Senior Vice-President Christian Svensson would only say through the Ask Capcom forum on Capcom Unity that he had "no news to share on the project," save for that "it's not dead," and "it’s changed a lot."

Once more, silence reigned, until March 25th, 2011. On that day, Capcom of Japan removed the title from its front page. There did not seem to be any true cause for alarm yet, however, as the game remained listed on the company's complete lineup of titles.

That all changed six days later, when Capcom officially announced that Mega Man Universe was no more, due to "various" unspecified circumstances. Some might say we had something to do with it, but whether the full truth will ever come out remains unknown.

Looking back, it seems a little strange to see a game with all that marketing effort put into it suddenly canceled without warning, especially after it had reportedly seen a lot of changes, perhaps to address the grievances given to it by the press. Granted, games get canceled all the time, but as Mega Man games go, it seems a little more rare to see a title announced, but never come out (Mega Man Mania notwithstanding).

Though we have no official reasons, there is speculation, as always. Some believe that as the game seemed to be a pet project of Inafune's, his departure from Capcom in late October 2010 was reason enough for the company to ax the title. Others, meanwhile, believe that Svensson's words may be more significant than we at first realized, and that perhaps while "Mega Man Universe" is dead, the game which bore that name may still live on in some other form. If that latter point is indeed the case, then perhaps we will hear something about it from Capcom at the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo, which is only a few months away.

Nevertheless, here's to you Mega Man Universe. Wish we could have gotten to know you better.