Almost Made It: A Mega Man Character Creation Retrospective

Last week, the internet was abuzz as SEGA unveiled the latest trailer for their upcoming Holiday 2017 release, Sonic Forces. If you haven't seen it already, here's the trailer:

Indeed, for the first time ever, players will get to create -- or in some cases, maybe even port/adapt -- their own Original (the) Character into a Sonic game and play as them throughout.

The reaction online has been pretty much what you'd expect, except that it's almost surprisingly skewed towards overall positivity. Perhaps being preceded by any number of custom character creators in games such as Dragon Ball Xenoverse, among many others, has softened the blow a bit?

Details are still fairly sparse -- we know that you can choose from some seven different species, each with their own special abilities, and customize various other features, but the full extent remains unknown. Despite this, I've still been putting some thought into what sort of character I'd like to create.

The thing is, I've never really had a Sonic fan character before. Sure, I've been a longtime Sonic fan, but beyond an idea for an evil black hedgehog powered by a Chaos Emerald (which predated Shadow), it was never really quite my thing to come up with such ideas for. Transformers or Mario, certainly.

And of course, Mega Man.

That brings us to the point of this piece. As I've tried thinking about what sort of character I'd make for Sonic Forces, I couldn't help but think about other characters I have created, which led me to think about those opportunities I might have been able to bring them to life.

It's kind of a funny thing, in that another popular video game property is capitalizing on something that Mega Man very nearly did first. It was only a couple of years ago that Nintendo released Super Mario Maker, a game in which players could design and share their very own Mario levels (including a good few based on Mega Man levels).

But while level creation was the main thing, that's not what Capcom led off with in its announcement of Mega Man Universe. Rather, the focus was on the fact that you could effectively create your own character from a hodgepodge of parts taken not only from familiar faces in the Blue Bomber's series of games, but other Capcom titles as well:

Unfortunately, we never did get to witness the full extent of what the game could or would allow for character creation beyond the simple Frankensteining of character parts, as less than a year following its announcement, Mega Man Universe would go on to be the first of Capcom's infamous kill streak of Mega Man game cancellations which followed producer Keiji Inafune's departure from the company.

While I'm sure that creating some sort of Capcom-flavored gestalt would be fun to toy around with, I'm not sure it would have lent itself to the same sort of satisfaction one might crave when it comes to playing as their own character in a world they love. Were that the case, I'd probably have defaulted to Bad Box Art Mega Man most of the time.

Fortunately, another game had been announced around that same time which might have possessed that satisfactory punch: Rockman Online.

Of course, casting a shadow over the entire Massively Multiplayer Online game was the fact it was being made by NeoWiz as a game by South Koreans, for South Koreans. While I was happy to cling to hope that some clever fans would use their ingenuity to somehow make it available for everyone else, the cold reality remains that there was a good chance most of us weren't going to get to play it anyway -- not in English, at least.

As it turns out, though, the character creation aspect might not have been any more robust than that seen in Mega Man Universe. In fact, it was perhaps even less so, as players would take on the role of Reploids who were able to duplicate the DNA of past heroes to take on one of three classes: X Type, Zero Type, and Duo Type. Each also had an upgraded form, though to what extent customization would be available was unknown.

Incidentally, this suited me just fine. While I might not be able to recreate my own namesake fan character, I could at least duplicate the earliest fan character I could remember creating:

I'll be the first to admit that Sunfire was about the furthest thing from originality, inspired by a dream I believe was brought on by looking at ads for Bandai's Mega Armor series model kits (the translucent orange X, specifically) in the ads at the back of Diehard GameFan magazines. He didn't stick around for long, either, as I eventually came to realize what I was doing and retired him.

You can imagine my surprise when details about Rockman Online began coming in, and I discovered that the backstory for the characters was effectively the exact same thing I'd come up with over a decade prior! So I dusted off the concept and made the above image, eagerly awaiting the chance to get to play as my now-canonized (or close enough) character in an actual game.

Sadly, it would not come to pass, as NeoWiz announced the cancellation of the game almost three years after it had originally been revealed to the public, the last of the three big Mega Man projects announced in 2010 to be shut down instead of being released.

Finally, that brings us to the one new game that did come out during this time, yet never made its way westward due to the backlash it received online. I am of course speaking of Rockman Xover.

All of the Mega Men across time and space have gone missing, and do Dr. Light and Dr. Cossack work together to create a new fighting force to take up the battle against evil in their stead: The OVER-1 series of robots.

While not a character creator in the most traditional sense, this mobile title did allow some degree of customization so as to allow players to make each OVER-1 unit their own, upgrading to other OVER numbered armors and even taking on the appearance of some heroes. All the while, they could team up with other players and their tricked-out feature sets to fight off Mavericks, Robot Masters, and the like. It was limited, but to date, it's probably the closest thing we've had.

And even though this is the one Mega Man/Rockman game seen here to actually be released, nothing lasts forever, especially in the realm of mobile games, as Rockman Xover's servers were shut down on Christmas Eve 2014.

With this trip down memory lane concluded, we can only wonder (as ever) what the future holds for Mega Man. There is, of course, the upcoming cartoon, but the addition of a character creator in any sort of tie-in seems unlikely at this point.

Even so, before things died down, it seemed clear that there was more of an intent to somehow bring fans into the world of Mega Man like never before. As we watch other franchises pick up what Capcom left laying, one has to wonder if any of these intentions would have helped to reinvigorate the franchise somehow, or if it could still somehow play a part in its resurrection.

For now, however, we remain left to our own devices.