Looking Back at Rockman Online - A Lament for Cool

I still don't feel comfortable saying that Rockman Online is officially canned, but last night's surprise news definitely made some closure for what fans had been suspecting for a few months now. And I am disappointed to hear about it, personally. Not that I was a huge fan of Online per se; there was no sign at all the game would have made it to the West (and little sign it would have even hit Japan). It was also an unusual concept for a Mega Man game. And I'll be frank - I hate playing scrolling action games, especially platformers, with a computer keyboard.

But I am still disappointed, and it's because Rockman Online was freakin' cool.

I mean just watch that video. Does it not get you pumped? There's no gameplay footage to speak of, and if you're not a Mega Man fan it may not make any sense to you. Heck, even if you are a fan it still doesn't make much sense. But damned if it isn't cool. You get this slow build up, then a feeling that something major is going down, and gradually more and more familiar characters start to appear. You may not know what's going on, but you know that it's cool.

Let's watch some more cool videos.

Man, this video is even cooler! It's pretty much non stop action and excitement once it gets going. And again, if you're a Mega Man fanboy you're going nuts. The characters just keep coming. Woah, Scarface from that Command Mission game? And then there's like a Battle Network-styled Air Man? And he's fighting X!? I don't know what's happening but it's awesome!

Here's a trailer of the actual gameplay. All kinds of enemies from Mega Man, Mega Man X, and Mega Man Zero coming together. The Mega Man Killers are there. Zero freakin' threw Sting Chameleon into a tree (yeah it's a quick time event, but still). The gameplay itself looks a little janky. Especially when you watch the extended gameplay demo from GStar last year, the game has sort of a rough feeling about it. Of course, it was still deep in development at the time, so who's to say?

The truth is, Rockman Online didn't really need to be a perfect game. It was so full of cool content that the rich world it painted would have likely been good enough to satisfy. You could tell the people working on it really loved Mega Man, and they made sure to use as much material as possible. And isn't that what we all want?

I'm going to make a pretty bold claim. Mega Man hasn't been that cool lately. An easy game to point to is one like Powered Up, with its cutesy graphics and carnival-like music. I'm not ragging on Powered Up here, and it's not like I'm embarrassed to play the game, but I wouldn't be surprised if some are. And honestly, its sugar sweet veneer doesn't make the game any better.

Let's step it up. How about Mega Man 9 and 10? Are those games especially cool? I wouldn't say they're uncool, but they're also constantly screaming "Hey man! It's like you're playing a game from the 1980s! Far out, dude!" It's charming, but is it really necessary for Mega Man now?

Don't get me wrong, I am a gigantic Mega Man-loving nerd. If Capcom announced a brand new Battle Network game, I would soil myself with glee (and hopefully have the presence of mind not to mention it). But look at the past decade of Mega Man games. They've nearly all been starred by children, or at least characters who look like children (even the ultra cool Zero became a malnourished kid in an open vest and thong). And in great, memorable works of fiction, children aren't often that cool.

Rockman Online is like a Mega Man game that grew up. It was saying "You're a big guy now, and you can handle a game with tons of content." It took many great things from each series and mashed it all together in an epic explosion of excitement. It wasn't too hung up on a specific style or gimmicks. It was just pure Mega Man awesomeness.

And I loved that about it.