When I first heard that Archie was planning a followup to the Worlds Collide arc which would be entitled Worlds Unite, my first thought was, "Oh, goody. Another way for them to up their subscriptions for a short period of time." Admittedly, this was a particularly cynical thought on a particularly cynical day, but the more I think about it... the more I feel like my first snap judgment was the right one.
Now that I've got your attention...
Looking back on Worlds Collide through the lens of hindsight, I asked myself some weeks back, "Am I really excited for this kind of a ride again?" And the answer was no. No, I wasn't excited about it.
Certainly, there's an element of time involved... like many of you, there are many things which occupy what little free time I do have. Real life, or whatever passes for it, does tend to drain the batteries. And writing The Blue Inks, while rewarding, takes a bit out of me. When Worlds Collide happened, I was in a different place in my life. That spring/summer, I had enough time to manage three reviews in a month. That isn't the case this time around.
Some of you might then ask, "So what? You don't have to do this." And you'd be right. Doing The Blue Ink is entirely pro bono. Neither myself nor anyone else who puts up stuff for The Mega Man Network (Including me. --Ed.) makes any money doing this stuff. It's entirely a time sink of our own choosing. And yet, I enjoy writing these reviews and their connected editorials for the ongoing adventures of Mega Man. I enjoy examining the psychology of the characters, the motifs used by Ian Flynn and the gang as they spin a yarn that's been going now for nearly four years strong. They've been getting better and better at it. They give us a look at Mega Man that's both true to form and yet wholly original. I'm glad to give of my time and energy towards looking at this comic, praising what works and criticizing what doesn't. Lately, I've found more to praise than criticize... that is, until now.
Crossovers are a tricky business. I think I said that once somewhere along the line over the 12 issues of Worlds Collide. If done well, they're memorable. If done poorly, you try to ignore them. Think of the time the Power Rangers teamed up with Kamen Rider/Masked Rider back in the 90's, or Star Trek: Generations. Or the Ben 10/Generator Rex crossover. You remember any of those, or have you tried desperately to remove them from your memory? In my nearby public library, there's a copy of a Star Trek/X-Men crossover novel, of all things. I'll let you make a guess how many times it's been checked out. Ever. Go ahead, I can wait.
When it was just Mega Man and Sonic, I said, "Yeah, okay. Makes sense, why not? They're doing Blue on Blue with Archie Comic's longest running guy and adding Mega Man to the mix. Exposing Sonic fans to a blue robot we Mega Man fans know and love." When I got wind that they were planning on involving Mega Man X and the gang, I blinked a few times but shrugged. Well, you want to mix Sigma and the Maverick Virus into it all now? It could get awfully messy, but... it's your show, fellas.
Then we got the reveal of the poster at the top of this story. And that's when it hit me. Underneath all the excitement, the hype, and the "holy crap, did you see that?!" moments... it's all a subscription drive. A money grab. That was made clear in a podcast linked up not long ago when-- and I had to check with Nyte on this point-- we were told in so many words that if we wanted a Mega Man X comic, they needed more subscribers.
It's the nature of the beast. Archie Comics isn't Marvel or DC. It's a third party, independent publisher. It's got a dedicated fan base, but it's always lingering not very far from insolvency. Just like newspapers, Archie Comics lives and dies by the measure of subscribers. When they try something new, it's done for the same reason any of the big boys do something new: To drive up interest, to try to pull in fresh blood, to increase profits.
Point in fact: Worlds Collide involved Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Universe, and Mega Man. This time around, Worlds Unite will be featured in Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Universe, Mega Man, and Sonic Boom. Same idea, but they've added their new comic line to the roster for this crossover. It's not a coincidence; it's just the bottom line.
But suddenly, we're being treated to the vast panoply of SEGA and Capcom characters as well? For fans of those series, sure, it seems cool. But there's a cautionary tale present as well.
You ever been in a kitchen with too many cooks? Or a ship where everyone thinks they're the captain? It doesn't always work. And that's what I'm afraid of this time around: That in their desire to rope in as many characters, as many series as possible, the quality is going to suffer. And crossovers, by their nature, tend to have a short margin of error to begin with.
In many ways, Capcom and SEGA are quite nearly in the same boat. They both came out with games and characters that revolutionized the gaming industry, they both spawned legions of die-hard fans, and they've both fallen from grace in the last seven years. SEGA puts out more bad games than good, after all, and Capcom's leadership was so staid that they refused to adapt when evolution was required, causing the resignation of the only guy high enough in their ranks who could have done anything about it.
Anymore, the only Sonic games we see fail to meet the luster and polish we expect, and Capcom's more interested in developing the next re-release of Street Fighter and Resident Evil than doing a game for the mascot which gave them their start. Capcom and SEGA have in effect become pimps, whoring out their characters on the cheap rather than putting their money into giving them the new games they deserve, laughing at us in secret the entire time. Again, the bottom line. They see more profits in doing business as usual than in going in a new direction, but that's a flawed approach. (And yes, I'm aware Super Smash Bros. is the one large hole in that theory, because while Mega Man may be a slow fighter, I use him because he hurts people.)
A similar relevant example is the utter lack of research and development being done on antibiotics by drug companies. Pfizer was the last one who had a dedicated antibiotics division, and they closed up shop less than ten years ago. Why? There was more money in making those infamous little blue pills than putting out new drugs that cured diseases. Now we've got broad-spectrum antibiotic resistant "superbugs" floating around in California, and I guarantee you that we'll see more trouble, and more than a few deaths, with no way of solving it.
Big game companies have the same flawed mindset. I can see the disease coming, and it's gonna be a doozy for them. They're already feeling the pinch from third party developers, I guarantee you that.
There's one thing I agree with Ian Flynn on: Some of the characters featured in that poster deserve a lot more love than they get right now. Vyse from Skies of Arcadia, for instance? I still pull my GameCube version of that game out every so often, because it's a decent role playing game with elements of exploration that just makes your jaw drop. And airship combat!
Yes, Vyse and his two leading ladies, Tsundere Red and shy demure naive Blond deserve a new game. Finding out that there's trouble in the Dark Rift as a result of the fallen and shattered Black Moon, for example? This may end up being a poor substitute for it.
Worlds Unite could end up being well done, and it may be that my fears are unfounded. I desperately hope that's the case. Ian Flynn and the crew at Mega Man shine brightly, after all. I'm just wondering if they can keep the magic going when they're given three chessboard's worth of pieces and told to play a single match.
In the end, they have jobs working for a company, and their livelihoods depend on that company's success. The people in charge of that company are always looking for ways to make more money, however unsavory we may deem them to be. Crossovers give them a chance to force people to subscribe to their other series, yet as I've said before, tend to be more difficult to pull off well (one of my largest beefs in Worlds Collide, for example, was the lack of a uniform feel in the artwork).
I'll probably end up biting the bullet and buying the entire crossover series just to keep my collection up to date... but I won't be writing about it. If anyone else out there feels the need to review the Worlds Unite crossover, all the more power to you. I think I'll sit it out this summer, and wait for things to get back to normal on the flipside, when there aren't so many characters jockeying for screen time that nobody gets to shine like they deserve to.
Sometimes, it doesn't hurt to take a small plate to the buffet. The last thing you want to do is go home with a stomachache.
For the Blue Ink.
When he isn't writing "The Blue Ink" reviews for The Mega Man Network, Erico (The Super Bard) spends his days keeping track of the "Legacy of Metal" fanon, dabbling in cooking and tea-brewing, and exploring the human condition from his Iowa stomping grounds.
The views expressed here reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mega Man Network.
If you'd like to fill in by reviewing Worlds Unite this summer, drop a line to the.mega.man.network (at) gmail.com, preferably with a comic review sample attached, and we'll get back to you!