The level select screen from Mega Man for MS DOS

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Mega What?!

This week, Anthony John Agnello brought us the latest in our Best, Worst, Weirdest feature, where we take a look at a long-running game series by breaking down three particular entries. The subject this time around was Mega Man, a series that’s so simultaneously seminal and troubled that each category had tons of possibilities. Surprisingly, Anthony’s choice of Mega Man 7 for the title of “Weirdest” was the most controversial among the commenters. Because the aim of Best, Worst, Weirdest is to use those three games to explore the story of a series’ evolution, we were only concerned with the more mainline Mega Man titles. But as Girard pointed out, the Blue Bomber has starred in plenty of strange spin-offs:

Mega Man 7 was the first game I ever played that had a “swear word” in it, which is just another instance of its weirdly scattershot tone. That said, it’s a strange choice as “weirdest” for a franchise that has so many experimental offshoots, many of which were mentioned in the article. The most obvious is probably Mega Man Soccer, which is relatively playable and fun and is certainly more interesting to me than any realistic soccer game.

But Rockboard, a Monopoly-like real estate board game, or Rockman Strategy, a weird Taiwanese tactics game, or Battle & Chase, the fun Mario Kart clone where you win components of enemies’ cars to append to your own—they’re all much “weirder” deviations from the norm than Mega Man 7.

Hell, Mega Man 8, with its balloony cartoon style, hilariously bad voice-acting, full-motion-video scenes, and intermittent snowboarding and shoot-’em-up segments is a “weirder” entry than MM7. And X5 does some weird things with branching storylines and multiple endings that complicate the series’ traditional level-select system in ways that aren’t uniformly good or bad, but are certainly a little…weird.

Honestly, probably the weirdest and worst entries in the series were the PC games by HI TECH Expressions, which were numbered Mega Man 1 and 3 (despite there just being two of them), featured all new, all-stupid robot masters, and were virtually unplayable.

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I’ve gone ahead and linked to YouTube videos of the games Girard mentioned, but I think those little-remembered PC games deserve some special attention. This YouTube channel has videos of some of the stages from both Mega Man and Mega Man 3 for DOS, but for your viewing pleasure, I’ve also gone ahead and embedded footage of Mega Man DOS’ brilliant introductory stage:

While we’re at it, Team Zissou added another weird spinoff to the conversation:

There was one FMV-based rail shooter that only came out in Japan. It was basically a mediocre anime film with bad shooting sequences intermittently thrown in. The later Mega Man X era also had an RPG, Mega Man X: Command Mission, which I read that Inafune absolutely hated because he only viewed that franchise as action games. Even with that, I’ve always wanted to play it.

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By the way, that shooter was called Super Adventure Rockman, and interested parties can watch the entirety of it on YouTube with subtitles:

Elsewhere, Jakeoti ran with Anthony’s pick and remembered some more strange things about Mega Man 7:

I have good memories of Mega Man 7. Not really of the game, but more of watching my roommate play through it and us laughing the whole way. It’s just a bizarre entry. The “Die Wily!” bit is the peak moment, but throughout, it seems to be trying to be big and dramatic while holding a very goofy art style. It can’t quite meet the laugh-out-loud badness that is Mega Man X4’s cutscenes, but it is just trying to be so serious and yet can’t manage it.

Other oddness from it:

—Rather than face eight bosses in any order, you face four bosses in any order, then another four. Not sure if this was a first for the series (I’m not a Mega Man aficionado), but it’s kind of limiting, making the game ultimately more linear than its predecessors.

—Shade Man’s stage has a secret Ghosts ‘N Goblins theme. It’s a pretty neat Easter Egg that I can remember, despite not even playing that game.

—Possibly my favorite: the awkward “You got a weapon” cutscenes. After beating a boss, Mega Man returns to Dr. Light and describes the weapon, and Light then gives a hint as to how to use it. And then they just stare at each other and blink for just a little too long. It’s especially awkward with “The Scorch Wheel,” which “launches a flaming wheel” and can “burn the things it touches.”

And Swaggermuffin made some interesting connections between the series’ aesthetic shifts:

One thing I’ve always loved about the series is how, through each spin-off and successor, the visual aesthetic has evolved and formed a sort of narrative that links them all together. The classic Mega Man games were shiny and chrome, bright and cartoony with fresh paint and bright eyes. Mega Man X took that in a darker direction, adding sharper edges and signs of wear and tear to its characters and levels. Zero showed the effects of destruction and war as it impacted all its locations—and introduced this sort of glowing mechanical eye as a motif in some levels. (You saw it quite a lot in Legends, which I’ll get to.) ZX showed a world in flames, with broken robots and burning cities.

All this ties back together, thousands of years later, in the decayed robots and rotted cities that make up the dank, creepy dungeons of Mega Man Legends. If you play through the series in order, you realize that by the end of it, You’re playing in a world build on top of the corpse of an older one.

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That does it for this week, Gameologerinos. Thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll see you again next week!