Thoughts, Musings, and Other Ponderings on Mega Man in Super Smash Bros.

WiiU_SmashBros_scrnNew02_02_E3As you might have noticed, I don't tend to do many editorials on here, but after this week's events, I've just been compelled to just write and express my thoughts. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge Nintendo fan-- not to such a point that I'll defend anything they do, but at least enough that I'm comfortable with theirs being my "main" console and others being by and large secondary. But in an E3 week that's shown us Super Mario 3D World (fun game, by the way), Mario Kart 8 (looks gorgeous), Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, two The Legend of Zelda games, Yoshi's New Island, and more, not to mention an absolute killing by Sony at their press conference, my mind just keeps wandering back to one thing: Super Smash Bros. (which is more or less the full name, by the way; no "Melee" or "Brawl"-style addition) More than that, it keeps coming back to one particular part: You guessed it, Mega Man.

There's the video again, for those who want to follow along as I dissect it.

First, I'm sure I'm not the only one who suspected that the end of the other video wasn't really the end, not after Snake's reveal for Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and sure enough...

It was about the 13 second mark when it clicked. The hair? That could probably be any of countless characters' hair. But the limbs... they were different, but does anyone else really have those proportions? Anyone that would be likely to appear in a Super Smash Bros. game, anyway? Of course, as the unmistakable helmet appeared in a distinct yet different way only seconds later, I knew it had to be true.

That didn't prepare me for what came next, though, as Mega Man's eyes lit up in a way we haven't really experienced before.

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If you follow The Mega Man Network's Rock Tumblr, then you probably saw the enormous image dump I made the other night as I finally had time to go through two pages' worth of posts (sorry about that, by the way). Of particular note is this reblogged post, wherein ClevelandRock said:

So, did anybody else know Mega Man’s eyes are actually screens? I didn’t. In fact, they remind me of CRT TVs. Didn’t they have LCD screens in 200X? Could Dr. Light not afford them? Personally, I would want only the best parts to go inside my son’s eye sockets.

As far as Mega Man's redesign goes, this is definitely an interesting aspect, as we've always known him to basically look more or less human whenever he's not all armored up. It works from a robotic standpoint, but I can see how some might be apprehensive about it, too. At the same time, you'll notice that the glowing is only in effect in the cutscenes, which is set at night. Perhaps it's a form of night vision? After all, he was just standing on the cliff with nothing at all lit up, and his eyes seem normal in all other shots.

In short, it's a cool touch, and probably nothing to read too much into right now. That said, I also dig that the crest on his helmet-- which has always appeared as little more than lighter-colored pieces of metal-- are now glowing as well.

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See more model-sprite comparisons here.
All said, I'm really enjoying this new design. I've seen some say that it throws out the years of evolution his design has had since the NES days, but I disagree. Rather, much like the modern Mega Man and Hitoshi Ariga's take on the character, I see this as a third, separate evolution from the same basic source. Capcom's official art elongated the limbs and made the design make a little more visible sense in how the parts all fit together, while Ariga's kept the more ballooned limbs and added lots of details such as vents, panel lines, bolts, and rivets.

Both have served the character well in the past, but moving forward, one might argue a change might be needed, if only for the prolonged survival of the series/franchise/character outside of our relatively little (and possibly dwindling) niche. Mario, Link, Samus, Sonic, Snake, and even (rather abruptly, intentional though that was) Pit have all evolved and changed over time. Mega Man, in his Capcom form? Not so much.

What's more-- and what possibly makes this better-- is that this might have been Capcom's doing.

People have been quick to write off Capcom as doing nothing but licensing merchandise while they've said they're trying to figure out how to proceed with Mega Man, and I'm wondering if this might be the first step in that-- the first clue towards what they're doing. To those believing Capcom just scribbled a signature on a piece of paper and just passed the whole thing off to Nintendo, Capcom Unity community manager Brett Elston had this to say on Twitter:

Nintendo doesn't "care" about Mega Man more than Capcom. Those are logos. PEOPLE on both sides made SSB happen. That design is collaboration

This quote may be very telling, as if you go over to the official Super Smash Bros. website and click on Mega Man's profile, you'll see the following picture that has been making the rounds:

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What makes this significant is not only that it's hand-drawn (or not a 3D model rendering, at least) is the text below it:

Illustration / Ryuji Higurashi(CAPCOM)

For those unaware, Ryuji Higurashi is an artist who has been working on Capcom for quite a while, and on Mega Man in particular. Previous titles he's created art for include Mega Man X5, X6, and Command Mission, the PlayStation Portable versions of the two Mega Man Legends games released exclusively in Japan, the Mega Man Battle Network series, the first and third Mega Man Star Force games, and most significant and relevant, the PlayStation Complete Works versions of Mega Man through Mega Man 6, as well as Mega Man 9.

It's not conclusive how big his role is, whether this image is all he did or he was helping out from the ground floor on up until now, but the simple fact is that this is the guy who has been drawing the modern version of Mega Man for over a decade. If there was a person to help update the design while sticking to what he's become, then he seems like a good choice.

Furthermore, director Masahiro Sakurai had this to say about the inclusion of third-party characters into Super Smash Bros. in general when asked by IGN about Namco Bandai characters making an appearance as a result of their part in developing the game:

Just because the game is being cooperatively developed with Namco Bandai involved, that doesn’t at all mean that they’d be given any special consideration for having characters in the game. Smash Bros. can still be considered as an all-star collection of Nintendo characters. Just like with Mega Man or any other third-party character, it would have to be a very special situation.

Adding third-party characters should be considered a very special case. In the last game, when we added Sonic and Snake, there were lots of different hoops to jump through as far as getting approvals and making sure all the parties involved were happy with the way things went. You can consider it a very special circumstance for that to happen. Even in cases like adding Pokemon characters, there are a lot of parties involved and there’s a lot of wrangling. It’s much tougher than people can imagine. I know lots of people have requests and their own ideas about third-party characters that would work, but I want people to understand that adding a third-party character like Mega Man is a very special situation.

Another thing we know is that there is a certain reverence towards the NES games, Mega Man 2 in particular, both inside and outside of Capcom (to a fault, one might even argue). It's that version of the character which is considered most iconic, and it was that precise style of gameplay they attempted to recapture with Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10.

Therefore, it's not at all difficult to believe that Capcom would like to be able to move the series forward in a way which resonates with today's audiences while still allowing the character to evolve to some degree. And this could be the result of attempting to reconcile the two; Sakurai himself even said that having him move as he did on the NES was a "top priority," though he didn't say precisely whose priority it was.

Or perhaps not. This is all just my own supposition, theorizing, and hypothesis. Until we see something more from Capcom or just get more details from Sakurai (who else is hoping we see "Japan Time" return?), all we can do is rationalize what we've been given.

Suffice to say, I think this design does a fantastic job of updating the NES Mega Man into something more contemporary, keeping his basic proportions and movements while assembling everything in a way that still works as well as some other designs, and perhaps even better. While I do like the previous designs, I will say that at least this one makes the wrists look believable.

Moving back to the trailer...

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At right about 37 seconds in, we see Mega Man charging the Mega Buster for a charge shot. One thing I like here, though part of it may be the camera, is the vibration involved as he braces his Buster; it feels like it's adding a greater sense of power, of "oomph" to the blast. Shortly after, we see the tide turn against Mega Man-- did you notice that he gets a special death animation, exploding just as in the games?

We've all heard the Mega Man 2 title theme, which has basically become Mega Man's personal theme, remixed plenty of times, as well as the Dr. Wily's Stage 1 theme from the same game, and both sound great here. What I personally enjoyed was at 44 seconds in, when we get a remix of the "Weapon Get" theme from it, too. It just works so well here.

48 seconds in, we get to the Special Weapons. In a clever touch, they chose to use the silhouettes with lit-up eyes for each of the Robot Masters whose weapons he'll be using. We probably won't see this much, if at all, in the game, but it is clever as it allows them to use existing assets in a fashion which complements the style of the new Mega Man without having to redesign and render each Robot Master. In other words, it's making the old art look like it belongs with the new Mega Man.

At 51 seconds, another great part:

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I absolutely love the way the Mega Buster transforms here. Over the years, this has often been something of a weak point when watching Mega Man in animation. In the Ruby Spears series (which actually kept true to the original designs in this regard), Mega Man's hand would simply pull into his forearm, and maybe a smaller barrel would come out (more often not).

In Super Adventure Rockman, there's a bit of glowing shape-changing during at least one point, with Mega Man sliding the forearm armor down past his hand, then pulling it back up with the barrel revealed. That was neat... and then in the next moment, the other arm just changes in the blink of an eye. Kind of lame, though you can't argue it doesn't fit the rapid changing of the games.

But this? I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for mechanical transformations like this. I love it in Transformers, of course, and wherever else it tends to show up. Heck, after seeing Man-at-Arms transforming his arm into a cannon in the 2002 He-Man and the Masters of the Universe reboot, I began using it for my own characters who had similar armaments in RPGs and such (including those that were Mega Man-based). To see it used on the original Mega Man in an official capacity is just terrific, in my view.

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If you didn't think this part was awesome, please check into your nearest medical facility: It's possible that you may not have a pulse.

The craziest thing is that watching Mega Man perform these attacks and basically just move around in action, I feel like I already know how to play the character. If he winds up being as intuitive to play as it feels like he would be by watching him now, I'm definitely going to have some fun.

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Again with the transforming Buster. I just love how detailed this all is, and by design. Sakurai even explained the reasoning for this particular transformation in this video:

The Spark Shot and Flame Blast will morph his hands into the Mega Buster, but he needs to vent it out since he will overheat if he uses both hands.

I do believe that is the canon reason for why Mega Man rarely ever uses both arm cannons at once, too. As always, Sakurai and his team's attention to detail is nothing short of marvelous (and helps better justify using D-Arts figure's two Mega Busters at once). Which brings up another point:

Ever since someone first thought of the idea of Mega Man ever appearing in Super Smash Bros., there has been talk of his ability to steal weapons from his opponents, with some claiming that would basically infringe on Kirby's gimmick. If we think about this in the context of Mega Man, the way they're doing it here makes more sense; after all, Mega Man gets his weapons by defeating robots and then copying the data from their weapon chips.

In other words, if Nintendo kept it true to form and tried to implement the Weapon Copy function, then-- looking at the roster of Brawl, just as an example-- he'd only be able to copy attacks from a whopping one character. Two, if you decide to be generous and count Samus Aran's Power Suit as something compatible. Everyone else is an organic being of some form or another.

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At the end of the trailer, we get this little teaser for a battle with the infamous Yellow Devil. Did you notice he's coming in from the top of the screen, rather than the sides?

One has to wonder just what his role will be in the game. Some are expecting a boss battle, which is possible, but look again: They're on Mega Man's Dr. Wily Castle stage, which-- as far as we can tell-- is a regular fighting stage. I see this as likely meaning one of three things:

1) Whatever Adventure Mode they include this time utilizes regular fighting stages, much like the ones in Super Smash Bros. Melee. I'm okay with this, to a degree, as while I liked "The Subspace Emissary" well enough, my biggest beef was that the vast majority of its stages didn't feel like they had anything to do with any of the characters' native worlds-- only generically so (Donkey Kong in a regular jungle, for example), if ever.

2) He's an Assist Trophy. This would seem a little odd, as the Yellow Devil's normal horizontal movements seem like they'd be more appropriate for that. Can you imagine trying to dodge?

3) He's a stage hazard. Remember the Metal Gear in Snake's Brawl stage, or those legendary Pokemon in another? This could be the Dr. Wily stage's version of that.

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So, that's more or less everything I have from the trailer specifically, though I still have some other thoughts.

For one, I'm going to have a difficult time choosing between Mario and Mega Man now. Mario's always been my "main," and I'd hate to just ditch him. I'll probably just use both, though a swap-out Marvel vs. Capcom-style tag team option would be great.

As it stands, there are three big mysteries left for Mega Man in Super Smash Bros.:

The first is the question of Assist Trophies: Who does Mega Man get? Sonic got Shadow, and Snake got Grey Fox, the Cyborg Ninja. Who do you think it should be for Mega Man? I've seen a lot of people say Bass, though I think Proto Man makes more sense; after all, he'll gladly fight or help Mega Man at the drop of a hat, though I suppose the same could be said of Bass.

The next is about alternate colors/costumes. Everyone has them, for better or for worse. Some only change colors to familiar schemes from the past-- something Mega Man has no shortage of-- but others change the character's appearance a bit more. Princess Peach can look like Daisy, while Wario can choose between his WarioWare biker and Wario Land classic duds. If Proto Man weren't an Assist Trophy, would you want him as an alternate costume? He and Mega Man are practically twins, after all, and their silhouettes wouldn't be so different that it should require much work.

Or would you rather it be alternate forms of the Blue Bomber? Mega Man? from Mega Man Powered Up, Quint, or even other Mega Men like X (who would likely appear a bit shorter than usual)?

Finally, what do you think should be Mega Man's Final Smash? Should they bring back Hyper Mega Man from Marvel vs. Capcom? Maybe allow Super Mega Man to fly around the stage like Super Sonic, using his Mega Arm to smash opponents off the stage similar to the Hard Knuckle's Meteor Smash? Call in a bunch of other characters like Duo, Auto, Tango, and Beat? Or is there a particular special weapon you think would do the job, like Astro Man's Astro Crush?

Consider the comments an open thread to discuss it, or anything else I've talked about here-- in other words, treat them as normal, I guess.

Whew, just shy of 3,000 words... no wonder I don't write these very often.