There was a time in my life, when all that mattered was Mega Man. Other boys focused on athletics. I however, was the boy on the playground with a notebook and a #2 pencil, quietly conceiving the next Mega Man game. Where almost everyone's binder consisted of helpful notes, mine was scribbled with possible names of Robot Masters: Wreck Man, Glue Man, Blaze Man, etc. Underneath my name of my Class of '92 Elementary School Yearbook is a caption, "Best Known For: Mega Man". It was evident to me that at some point in my life, I would be playing a Mega Man game I would have designed myself. The wait however, for that defining moment, would be made easier by none other than Capcom.
In the early 90s, the gaming community was completely enamored with Capcom's Astro Boy inspired superstar, so much so that Capcom released an average of 2-3 Mega Man games a year. With the advent of the Super Nintendo, began the evolution of an 8-bit hero in Mega Man X; the first but certainly not the last of the Blue Bomber's many incarnations. The blue bot was all over the place – he even had his own freakin' cartoon series. From its inception and up until 2010, it was clear that Capcom fully intended to support the series that had garnered it so much success. There was just always something to look forward to. Even when the franchise seemed addled by spin-off after spin-off - Mega Man Battle Network, Mega Man ZX, Mega Man Star Force – Capcom rallied around its fans and released Mega Man 9, promptly followed by not only 10, but also by surprise of the century announcements of Mega Man Legends 3, and Mega Man Universe. Mega Man was riding the retro-resurgence wave and nothing was about to get in its way.
Or so it would seem.
On March 31st, 2011, Capcom cancelled Mega Man Universe. Shortly thereafter on July 19th, 2011, Capcom cancelled Mega Man Legends 3. I, among many fans, gathered en masse to condemn Capcom's actions. It was, at the time, the only recourse. Like many, I was beside myself with anger. It was bad; I'm talkin' pitchforks and torches sort of bad. After Capcom had embraced the franchise like never before, it was now treating it like toxic waste. Fans' only vestige of hope was Mega Man's 25th Anniversary. Capcom assured the gaming community that something was coming down the pipeline, something that would possibly quell the fan-rage – and hopefully prevent Capcom headquarters from being lit up like a Christmas Tree. And as promised, Mega Man fans got that something.
Announced last week, was Rockman Xover (pronounced "crossover"), a new iOS title intended to celebrate Mega Man's upcoming 25 Anniversary. According to the game's homepage, series antagonists Dr. Wily and Sigma have confined every incarnation of Mega Man in a pocket of space-time. As a result, Dr. Light and Dr. Cossack (of Mega Man 4 fame) have come together to construct a new kind of Mega Man, a Mega Man that the players themselves take an active part in assembling.
Now, regardless of what fans make of the Mega- amalgam's feathered boa, the announcement of Rockman Xover left many just the tiniest bit affronted, to put it lightly; and honestly, who could blame them. But more than just anger, is a confusion among the Mega Man fanbase that I am just beginning to see. And Rockman Xover is the crowning touch of that confusion. It would be easy to say that after two years, Capcom's announcement of an iOS 'social RPG' just isn't good enough. It would be easy to say that after the inclusion of Bad Box Art Mega Man in Street Fighter X Tekken and Mega Man X as a DLC 'character' in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Mega Man could be perceived as nothing more than a joke among the powers that be. But I just don't have it in me anymore.
So I ask plainly: What have you done to my childhood hero, Capcom?
I don't ask because I'm angry, or because I wish the worst upon the company that ran my icon into the ground. But in the course of a year, Capcom has put the kibosh on one too many games, and the announcement of Xover as a MM 'anniversary' title just comes with a deep and heavy sigh. I'm all raged-out, folks. Mega Man isn't necessarily as doomed as many perceive to be; its many intractable problems however are now left for others to solve.
From a design standpoint, conceptualizing a Mega Man title, at least in my Blue Bomber-addled brain, was genuinely no biggie. Even as a child I thought,"'Well, this isn't hard at all", commenting on my Glue Man concept, inspired of course by a bottle of Elmer's Glue. All that was required, save for the imagination, was the tools necessary to go from paper to pixel, from dream to reality. Thanks to programs such as Game Maker, Multimedia Fusion, or just good old fashioned Flash, I can have the Mega Man games I want.
Currently in development are a pair of Mega Man fan games that most any MM devotee would be interested in. Mega Man X: Corrupted and Mega Man Unlimited exemplify what made the series so beloved. A less ambitious but equally notable project is the Mega Man Mania revival, cheeky in its declaration of, "If Capcom can't finish it, we can!" If waiting around is simply too much to ask, there is always the delightful Rokko Chan, a charming yet faithful homage to the classic Mega Man series. The point is that fans are taking matters into their own hands. Capcom, it has been a lot of fun, but I don't need you anymore.
Hope, at least where Mega Man is concerned, is a fool's game. I'll continue to support Mega Man in all its non-game related merchandise splendor. I won't wait for the quiet cancellation of Rockman Online (due any day now). I won't expect the best nor the worst with Rockman Xover. No more curses and epithets to the high heavens. No more waiting around for things to get better. I'm done. I am going to complete my Mega Man game someday, I've only been manipulating sprites since I was old enough to handle my Tandy 1000 computer. But more importantly, I am now in the company of a collective more supportive and nurturing of Mega Man's legacy than Capcom could ever aspire to be.