"We are ROCK-MEN! 2" Expanding its Horizons

Are you excited for the new album by Capcom's own ROCK-MEN? Last year, the crew produced a CD covering a delicious variety of Mega Man and Mega Man X tunes, as well as a track from Mega Man Legends. For this new album, while we still don't have a track list, it sounds like the variety of content will be pushed even further. Capcom of Japan's summary of the new arranged soundtrack states "On top of a foundation of classic Mega Man and Mega Man X tunes blasted in rock and techno, there are richly arranged tracks from series up to Battle Network and Star Force adding to the variety!"

Honestly, I'm both excited and frustrated by this news. I love variety in my arranged soundtracks, and Battle Network is especially overdue in having some sweet arranges. However, the original "We are ROCK-MEN!" was pretty loaded at 17 tracks, and adding more series may mean fewer available songs from each. Man... there are so many arranges I'd love to hear! What would you want to see in this multi-series music tsunami?

Capcom Trademark Points to Mega Man... or Not Mega Man (Update: Not)

Here's a curious little story from GoNintendo. Apparently two Capcom trademarks have surfaced in the US trademark database. They are EXE D and EXE S. Already speculation has it that these are pointing to the Rockman EXE series, and if this were in Japan I'd say that's a good possibility. But as the series is known as Mega Man Battle Network here, that makes it a little more shaky. It may, small chance, be indicative of a US release of Operate Shooting Star, but for now it's just too little to go on. I'll put an Operate Shooting Star image in this post regardless. Edit: A couple commentors are saying this trademark is probably related to a Capcom game known as Exed Exes, but I think they're insane and can't be trusted, and you should mock them. By the way, have you checked out our Mega Man 10 contest?

Edit again: And hey, it's not like Exed Exes and Mega Man have nothing in common.

News Credit: GoNintendo

A look into Rockman EXE Official Complete Works

Rockman EXE Official Complete Works, the latest continuation of the uber-big Rockman artwork books, has released in Japan this week. And for those wanting a nice look inside, Nigoli has got you covered. His photographic report of the book contains a lot of nice pages with content not commonly found in what's been released on the Battle Network front in the west. The fantastic book covers 18 games in 176 pages, with reportedly over 5,000 images. A must-have for not just Battle Network fans, but perhaps all Mega Man fans. Imports of the book at Play-Asia seem to be a little delayed right now for unknown reasons. Of course if you can wait it out a little bit, we do have more than enough hints that this will be one of UDON's future projects.

Update: Play-Asia is now shipping copies of EXE Official Complete Works.

News Credit: Sketch Redoku, Nigoli's Rockman Series Blog

Review: Rockman EXE Operate Shooting Star - The Case for Content

ossboxRockman EXE Operate Shooting Star, Capcom's "plus alpha" remake of MegaMan Battle Network for the Nintendo DS, was released in Japan last week. Having had the chance to play the game and try out its new features, I'm here to give you my impression of this title. I must warn, this review contains a fair bit of spoilerish information concerning the game. I'm normally not this candid about a game that has yet to release in North America, but considering the kind of game Operate Shooting Star is, it's hard to get around. Regardless, if you don't want to be spoiled you should not read on. Now, there's something I want to make clear right away about my impression of Operate Shooting Star. It is not a remake of MegaMan Battle Network. It IS MegaMan Battle Network, with some additional features thrown in. If you have played MegaMan Battle Network before, you have essentially played this game already. "Plus alpha" is a Japanese expression that roughly means "a little something extra," and in Operate Shooting Star's case the emphasis is on "a little." I can't say this is a bad game though, because I do like the original MegaMan Battle Network. But I cannot understand why this game needed to be made. It is truly disappointing just how little new content was put in this game when you consider the whole package.

Since the game essentially is MegaMan Battle Network, I'll only bother to discuss the game's new elements. The largest new addition, of course, is what gives the game the subtitle of "Operate Shooting Star." Capcom has made a lot of effort to hype the game as a crossover with MegaMan Star Force, a "dream collaboration" between both MegaMans. Star Force MegaMan, aka Geo Stelar, even makes a large, mysterious looking presence on the game's box design.

ossrev04In actuality, though, the Star Force connection this game has is incredibly weak. It amounts to little more than a side story about Geo needing to go back in time 200 years to stop ClockMan, an out-of-control experimental Net Navi who has kidnapped Harp Note. You first get the gist of this story in the game's prologue, which curiously is separate from the game itself - you can only watch it from the title screen, and return to the title screen when it's finished. Aside from that, this involvement only plays into a single additional scenario, where Geo finally does arrive in the past to stop ClockMan, who has taken Roll as well. The event itself is pretty fun and feels fresh, though it's fairly short. The banter between Lan, Geo and Omega-Xis is very entertaining. What's truly surprising, however, is that the event doesn't take place until after the ElecMan scenario, which is well three fourths into the game. By this point you've probably forgotten that this game had any connection to Star Force, especially since the previous scenarios are exactly the same. What's more, once the Star Force scenario is done, it's back to Battle Network as usual. The event makes no impact on the rest of the game's story.

Of course, after this event you can choose whether you want to play as BN MegaMan or SF MegaMan in battle. SF MegaMan generally has all his abilities from his own series. He charges automatically and rapid fires when you hold down the B button. Pressing Y generates his shield, and pressing X enters his lock-on mode, which lets him warp in front of enemies to perform chip attacks. This is way better than BN MegaMan, who doesn't have such an easy time with short ranged attacks, although using X to lock on is a little cumbersome. SF MegaMan's demerits are that he cannot use Program Advances, and if he's hurt in the middle of a lock-on attack he'll become paralyzed for a few crucial seconds. As much fun as he is to battle with, the game is nearly over by the time you get him.

ossrev01The other major new feature is the Star Colosseum minigame. This is also available from the title screen, and can be played with up to six people wirelessly using just one copy of the game. The main competitive mode of this minigame plays out in the style of the game's overworld view. Players, who can use either BN MegaMan, ProtoMan or SF MegaMan, compete to gain the most stars in either a free-for-all match or a team match. Stars appear on the overworld to be collected, but you can also steal stars from opponents by attacking them. The catch is, every player has a rock-paper-scissors attribute, and your attribute has to best theirs (i.e. if you have rock, you can only steal stars from people who have scissors). Aside from stars, other items appear on the field that can be activated with the B button. You can only carry one at a time, and there are items that can change your attribute, give you a temporary advantage, or set traps for other players.

Additionally, there is also a Vs. Bass cooperate mode. Instead of collecting stars, all players must work together to defeat Bass by using bombs on him. Bass is capable of knocking players out in one hit, though knocked-out players can be revived if another player comes to touch them. The game is over if Bass is defeated or if all players are defeated, but Bass is definitely challenging, as he continuously hunts players down, and becomes faster as his HP decreases.

I was only able to try the Star Colosseum mode with one other friend, but we both had a bit of fun playing it. We definitely enjoyed the Vs. Bass mode the most, and though we tried about seven or eight times we couldn't defeat him. The star capturing competitive modes are a little more complex but just as frantic. I don't think my friend got into as much, especially since he couldn't read Japanese, so he wasn't sure what was happening all the time. But it was still fun, and I imagine it can get extremely exciting and chaotic with six people. The matches are short but sweet, lasting roughly three to five minutes.

ossrev06There are other additional features in the main game of Operate Shooting Star. The internet areas now have maps in the lower screen which can be helpful, though personally I think it would have been more helpful to make different areas of the internet have a different visual style, as all the successive Battle Network titles did. The game's battle system takes a few elements from Battle Network 2, such as the inclusion of * coded wildcard chips, limitations to the amount of same chips in your folder, and the amount of chips you can gain with the add button. There are also a few new chips, a couple new program advances, and slight graphical updates here and there (mostly some new character mugshots).

All in all, though, Rockman EXE Operate Shooting Star is largely identical to MegaMan Battle Network of the Gameboy Advance, and I can't really feel that its new features justify the game's existence enough. The story is the same, the graphics are the same, the music is the same and unarranged, aside from the title theme (the Star Force event and Star Colosseum use music directly from the Star Force games as well). All this sameness makes for a rather tepid attempt at an exciting new game.

As far as I'm concerned, it's not a big issue that what they did use from Battle Network isn't updated at all. I can accept the same graphics and same music. Some believe they make the game feel dated, but I don't think this is a major concern. What is a concern to me is, since Capcom did just port over so much of Battle Network's content, why did they not very much new content? Why couldn't they throw in more new scenarios, or switch up the game's events a bit? Why couldn't they add more new Navis and new enemies? As I've mentioned before, enemy characters are one of the biggest draws to Mega Man games, and having more new Navis would have made this game much more appreciated. As it stands, the only new Navi really is ClockMan. And I'll give it to OSS that ClockMan is a pretty cool new character, if not very unique at the least (his personality is quite eccentric). But if you knew that Operate Shooting Star were to only include a single new Navi, would ClockMan really be your first choice? I didn't think so.

ossrev02There has been some comparison of this game to Ace Attorney on the DS. After all, it's the same game as the Gameboy Advance version, with the same characters, same graphics and same music, with a single new scenario and other minor new features. However, this argument is rather flawed. First of all, just because Ace Attorney does it doesn't necessarily make it a fine practice. But more importantly, before its DS porting, Ace Attorney was only available in Japan. While the new features in the DS port were to test features they intended to include in the series' fourth installment, it was also to see how well the game would sell in North America and Europe. Of course, the game was eagerly enjoyed in those regions, which prompted the more hasty porting of the second and third titles for the DS as well. Still, I cannot imagine Japanese consumers had much reason to purchase these ports (although the original port did have a new scenario, and an additional secenario in a game like Ace Attorney amounts to much more new content than does an additional scenario in a game like Battle Network). Since MegaMan Battle Network has already been released worldwide, it will not enjoy this same advantage the Ace Attorney games had.

Additionally, people have also argued that this is a typical Capcom "cash-in;" that it's a simply made game to maximize profits. However, I disagree with this argument as well. While I can't imagine this game did take a whole lot of effort to make in a year's time, I also can't see it being that profitable since I think most Mega Man fans will realize there's not much new going on here. Imagine this. Capcom could have instead made a brand new entry in the Battle Network series, with new characters and events, and still had a Star Force crossover and the Star Colosseum minigame. They could have still used many assets from the previous games, such as character and environment graphics, combat systems and other engines, and so on. But the game would be much more attractive for having actual new content. Such a game would not take too much more effort to create, but would easily be much more profitable because people ultimately buy (and don't buy) games for their content.

So I cannot honestly understand the purpose this game was made. It's hardly original. It's a poor excuse for a cash-in. And I don't feel Capcom had a need to make a game just to gauge how much people are still interested in Battle Network. The strong worldwide sales of Battle Network 6 should alone prove that. The only conclusion I can draw is that Capcom just needed to buy time as they work on the direction they really want to go for Mega Man's future. I can only hope whatever they're working on is worth it for this disappointing excuse of a remake. With the excitement that Mega Man 9 created in 2008, 2009 will look pretty pitiful in comparison with this being Capcom's only offering for Mega Man.

ossrev05In the end I can only recommend Operate Shooting Star to people who have never played the original MegaMan Battle Network, or to fans who are just really excited over Geo and other Star Force characters entering the game, however briefly it may be. And again, it's not like Operate Shooting Star is a BAD game. It's just hardly a new game, and I don't think it lives up to the hype Capcom of Japan drove up for it. I just want to make sure you understand what kind of game you're getting if you do decide to purchase it once it comes out in the western regions.

Announcing a TMMN music project: BN Remix!

exemusicWe've had this in the planning stages for a couple of months now, but we can finally let the cat out of the bag. In honor of Operate Shooting Star, some of us at TMMN are putting together a special arranged album of the original MegaMan Battle Network called BN Remix, and the project homepage is now online. We already have a few samples available! Right now we're aiming to have the album released in the summer of 2010 to coincide with the North American release of Operate Shooting Star. Aside from the arranged music itself, we will be creating a digital CD booklet, and possibly some other features. Nothing is entirely set it stone at this point. But we definitely want to make sure the album is representative of the Battle Network fans' voice.

So we hope you'll enjoy the project, and keep up with updates as they occur (they probably won't all be posted via TMMN). We do intend to open site affiliation sometime soon, so keep your eyes peeled for updates. Thanks!

Capcom announced Rockman EXE Official Complete Works

exeocwWith Rockman EXE Operate Shooting Star out now, it only makes sense that Capcom would continue their Official Complete Works books with the Rockman EXE series. Releasing in Japan December 21st for ¥2,100 (roughly $23.42 USD), the big will be 176 A4 format pages of promotion images, character artwork, conceptual artwork and planning sketches. It will also feature special artwork from guest contributors. To sum it all up: FREAKIN' AWESOME! The Official Complete Works series definitely leads with the amount of beautiful artwork it publishes. My only complaint is I don't know if 176 pages is enough for a series as big as EXE!

Rockman EXE mobile games re-releasing, delicious character artwork

capcom18Perhaps in honor of Operate Shooting Star, Capcom is re-releasing its two mobile phone Rockman EXE titles today on its iMode site "Capcom Party," according to GAME Watch. These games include Rockman EXE Phantom of Network, and Rockman EXE Legend of Network. With both games only released in Japan, Phantom of Network deals with a mysterious Net Navi known as Cache who is reviving cache copies of defeated Navis for his own evil purposes, while Legend of Network has Netto teaming up with an Ameroupian official named Sherrice, who battle to stop a doomsday device created by an ancient advanced civilization. Both games will go for ¥525 (roughly $5.80 US). What's more, though, this GAME Watch report is actually perhaps the first real good look we've gotten at the exclusive characters from both games; especially Sherrice and RideMan, since Legend of Network came out after Capcom published their various Rockman EXE art and guide books. So, this is quite a fantastic find for us who don't have the opportunity to play these games! I now hope for an EXE Official Complete Works more than ever.

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Speculation Train: Rockman EXE Operate Shooting Star part 2

exe_oss_logoMake sure your luggage is packed away well, and that you have your ticket ready to be checked by an attendant, because it's all aboard again. In my last segment, the primary argument in my speculation was that Rockman EXE: Operate Shooting Star would more likely be a brand new Battle Network game instead of a remake. Well, I was wrong! I must concede that. However, the reasoning I used to come to that conclusion has not been far off; in fact much of it still applies. The primary reason I argued that EXE:OSS would be an all new title is because ultimately people want new content, not recycled content. But at the same time, fans of a series will want content that also feels familiar. I know it sounds like I'm contradicting myself, but it makes sense, trust me. We'll cover this near the end.

For now, we must speculate how much of an influence Star Force is going to have on this Battle Network remake. Will it just be in the game's gameplay, or in the plot and characters as well? To me the gameplay makes a lot of sense, especially battling. While Battle Network and Star Force have fairly similar battle systems, Star Force's system allows for simpler, faster-paced battles. By removing Battle Network's alphabet system, you're assured to be able to select at least two cards at the start of a battle. Also, Star Force's Mega Attack lets yo get right in the enemy's face no matter how far back they are - no more area stealing just to slash an enemy with a sword attack.

The original Battle Network's battle system feels incredibly clunky in comparison, which is ironic because it's the simplest. Your HP refreshes at the end of battle, you can stuff up to ten of the same chips in your folder, and there's no standard/mega/giga limitations. And yet, it still feels slow somehow, especially in the beginning. While hardcore Battle Network fans might complain, adopting Star Force's battle system would be a big boon to the game.

I also suspect that the game will have some kind of transformation system, or at least an improved armor system (the original Battle Network did let you equip elemental armors). To what extent this system will go is anyone's guess, though, since it will likely be tied to the game's story. It would also be necessary for Capcom to release two versions of the game, if they're planning to go that route. Other features, such as wireless and wi-fi gameplay seem obvious, since it's on the DS. It may even have its own form of Brother Band system (maybe setup like more of a friends list, or an instant messenger program). And of course, the internet worlds will be much more distinct and easier to navigate. They were really a mess in the first Battle Network.

bnandsfBut what of the story? Will it be a faithful reproduction of the events in the first Battle Network? Is that picture of both Mega Mans shaking hands figurative, or a literal meeting? In my last speculation article, I reasoned that the story would somehow involve time travel, likely via the character Clock Genius, and let Star Force characters go back in time to the Battle Network era. However, I was also assuming then that EXE:OSS was going to be an original game. But... it still looks like it's going to have time travel. We have this enigmatic message from Japan's Ryuusei no Rockman 3 website: "Currently, it sounds like the Satella Police are secretly developing a new program to be included in Wizards. It’s rumored that if used one “can control time” but… is something like that really possible?"

This can't have anything to do with the Star Force series, that series isn't continuing right now. And the message came up th same day Capcom of Japan opened their EXE:OSS teaser site. Thus, we may be facing an "alternate reality" Battle Network, one where the same general events occur, but in a different manner than before. To be honest, I had actually pictured this possibility, but it was one of my least favorite ideas. I really don't like when stories are changed because of time travel. Of course, this is reasoning from my personal opinion on storyline, and not from logic. So, it's something we may be facing. Oh well, it worked pretty well for the new Star Trek movie (uhh, spoilers?), so maybe EXE:OSS will do it nicely.

I think the main reason this would hurt the game would be having two Mega Mans in the same game. It means either they'll both be vying for the spotlight, or one (the Star Force Mega Man, certainly) will take a back seat, and not have much to do with the gameplay. Granted, I do think Geo's and Omega-Xis's commentary on the times might be charming.

Geo: I don't know what's going on, but let's go, Mega! Omega-Xis: Yeah, time to get buck wild on the past! Geo: ...Ahh! There... There's no wave road! Omega-Xis: ...Geez, what kind of backwards caveman world did we end up in?

My main issue, however, is how much new content there will be, and how well that content will fit. As I said above, gamers always want new content. But fans of a running series will want that content to feel familiar. In my last article, I argued that this put a lot of importance on the Net Navis of the Battle Network series. These allowed older Mega Man fans to feel comfortable in a new type of game. And yet, each game always had a batch of new Navis. After Battle Network 4, however, the number of new Navis in each game decreased. After Battle Network 4, sales of the series also started to drop. While there may be many reasons for this, a lot of fans were disappointed with what 4 did to the series, and I have to think one of the main problems was a shortage of new Navis.

I argued that this would be a great chance to introduce new Navis, but since this is a remake I'm not sure how well that could be handled. The original Battle Network was pretty rounded on its amount of characters and content, and any new characters introduced here would likely be Star Force themed. This makes me think that Capcom still might not realize how important Navis based on classic characters really are to the series. Still, nostalgia for the Battle Network series might be enough to keep this game afloat.

For now I think I've considered enough. I may do one more speculation article in a month or so, but at that point CoroCoro will release its first major scoop on EXE:OSS and we ought to have a good idea by then what this game will try to do, and speculation will only be necessary for the smaller, more specific details. Until then, watch your step getting off the train.

Speculation Train: Rockman EXE Operate Shooting Star

bnsf2All aboard the choo-choo, boys and girls. It's time to get speculatin'! Sometimes I don't know why I do this to myself, since it's become a bit hard to predict what Capcom is doing with Mega Man lately. But I have to admit it's fun too. It's kind of like gambling, but with more logic involved, and nothing to lose (except my credibility I guess, but I don't stake much on that anyhow). So we got ourselves a nice upcoming Rockman game here: Rockman EXE: Operate Shooting Star. Very little is known now. We know that it's a game that's being made, it'll be for the DS, it's releasing in Japan in the winter season, and it's somehow a collaboration between Mega Man Battle Network (Rockman EXE) and Mega Man Star Force (Ryuusei no Rockman). What could it be exactly? A cross-over game? A remake of the original Battle Network? Just something else completely weird?

My money is on a cross-over, sort of. It's definitely going to be a game in the Battle Network series - the main title of the game is Rockman EXE, after all. If it were more of a balanced combination, your Flintstones meet the Jetsons kind of cross-over, I'd expect it to be called Rockman EXE & Ryuusei, or some such. But clearly this is going to be a Battle Network title with Star Force hitching a ride.

clockgeniusIf this were simply a remake of the original Battle Network, I don't see why there'd be a need to tie it to Star Force at all. Furthermore, there's one more thing we know will likely be part of the game that I didn't mention above. Clock Genius. Remember that fellow? He won the CoroCoro boss character contest earlier this year. He's destined to appear in a Rockman game, and this is most likely it. Now we don't really know much about Clock Genius either, but his name does not seem of the Battle Network ilk. It definitely sounds more like a Star Force character's name, otherwise I think he'd be Clock Man or something.

One of the confusing aspects to a Battle Network/Star Force cross-over is that the series take place 200 years apart in time. But now we have a time themed boss expected to make an appearance. Knowing that, it's not hard to conceive a storyline where Shooting Star Mega Man and some other SF characters get sent back through time to the Battle Network timeline thanks to this Clock Genius. I'll admit I'm not crazy about time travel plots, but it seems like a very reasonable element with what we've got here.

The next thing I wonder about is whether or not there will be two versions of this title. Since Battle Network 3, having two or more versions of the game has been a staple. Yet this EXE game already has a subtitle: Operate Shooting Star. Are we yet going to see Operate Shooting Star Versions 1 and 2? Or is this just a standalone title?

Or is it something more unique? While the announcement boasts a collaborate between both the Battle Network and Star Force series, this game is in effect a Battle Network game, we presume. So, what if the second version isn't? Whereas this game is grounded in the Battle Network timeline, its alternate version may be grounded in the Star Force timeline. Ryuusei no Rockman: Operate Battle Network, or some such. This would surely make for an equal collaboration, although it's also a bit out there I'll admit. Rather than having two versions of the same game with slight differences, this would practically be two different games, but tied to the same story. It would present some problems for sure, such as how the differing battle systems of both series would work in linked gameplay. A possibility perhaps, but not as likely in my opinion.

Finally, all I can wonder about is why Capcom decided to go this route. In a sense, I feel this is Capcom's way of admitting that the Star Force series wasn't going as well. While sales can't be the sole measure of how good a game is, I think it's evident that the Star Force series hasn't captured the same spark that the Battle Network series did. Among fans, there is generally a preference for Battle Network over Star Force. It's a little hard to see why, since both series essentially have similar themes, similar characters and similar storylines. The only thing I can think of is that the content indicative of Battle Network had greater appeal.

What content is this? For the most part, it's Net Navis. I believe these characters are one of the biggest draws to the Battle Network series. By redesigning the classic Mega Man bosses, Capcom provided a way for older Mega Man fans to relate to the series. In fact, I'd say the "downfall" of the Battle Network series was Capcom's recycling of previous Navis, and making fewer new ones. Star Force doesn't really have Navis. In fact it has very few connections to any other Mega Man games. I feel this is a major detriment to the series. I said as much in a previous editorial.

So, I feel that this game is largely a means of Capcom creating move Navis. It may seem kind of trivial, but Mega Man is very much a franchise that's carried by memorable characters. Many of the original robot masters have that strong of an appeal, you see them everywhere. There are still a handful of robot masters yet to be transitioned into Battle Network style: Crash Man, Hard Man, Wave Man, Crystal Man, Spring Man and Frost Man, just to name some. On top of that, one of last year's big releases gave us eight new characters with the potential to be Navi-fied. I'd definitelty expect a MagmaMan.EXE, since Capcom used up its pure fire characters pretty fast. New Navis would be a big driving force for a return to Battle Network. That's another reason why simply doing a remake wouldn't be as viable an option. Expect new Navis.

So, the two versions thing aside perhaps, these are my predictions for this upcoming title. The announcement in August should give us a definite idea what direction the game's going. Until then, why not share some of your own thoughts on what you think.

Battle Network/Star Force crossover announced

During this weekend at the World Hobby Fair in Japan, Capcom announced the Battle Network/Star Force crossover "Rockman EXE: Operate Shooting Star" for the Nintendo DS. Scarce details are known at this point, but it's expected to be a data action RPG that will probably be released this year in Japan. Details will be formally announced in the September issue of CoroCoro. It is likely the title that will include this year's boss character contest winner Clock Genius. At the event, series producer Takeshi Horinouchi stated he has a variety of ideas for projects in mind leading up to Rockman's 25th anniversary.

News Credit: Dark Messiah Blog and COCOROG