"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?

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