GameCentral plays Capcoms latest retro revival and talks to its producer about the difficulty of selling the game to Europe.
After an almost decade-long hiatus, Mega Man finally returns. For a series that once spawned frequent spin-offs, ports, and adaptations, these past eight years have been uncharacteristically quiet for the Blue Bomber. In that time Capcom has also changed, successfully refocusing core franchises such as Resident Evil and Monster Hunter while cleverly handling its catalogue of older games, with fan favourites Onimusha and Ace Attorney both set for remasters in 2019.
Mega Man 11 comes as somewhat of an outlier, however. On one hand its a brand new, completely original entry in the long-running series but its also unapologetically old school, refusing to meddle with its simplistic run-and-gun formula, even after 30 years.
Thats not to say Capcom is taking a blinkered approach. Clearly, it wants to retain that same hardcore Mega Man DNA but theres also a refreshing degree of modernisation at play. From a dramatic shift to 3D graphics (but still 2D gameplay) to new features and various quality of life changes, 11 strikes an impressive balance between feeling both traditional and accessible.
Those core elements that defined the 1987 original are still here. A small, albeit robust, selection of stages, each one capped with a challenging boss fight, can be tackled in any order, bestowing the Blue Bomber with a new weapon for his arsenal each time you defeat one of Dr. Lights haywire robots. Mega Man 11 effortlessly evokes its predecessors, even down to the way he leaps, runs, and guns.
One landmark change bound to divide fans is the new art style. Until now, Mega Mans lo-fi looks have been an integral part of the experience, finally usurped by shiny 3D models and lavishly detailed environments. Fans shouldnt be worried; the vibrant visuals still carry that distinct vibe of the series, the same way Street Fighter IV managed pull off a similar transition, perfectly evoking its predecessors without disrupting how the game actually feels.
The only aspect of Mega Man 11 that comes close to changing that is the Double Gear system. You now have the ability to slow time or increase blaster damage in short bursts, both powers governed by a gauge that refills over time. This new addition follows the series blueprint of simplicity; theres nothing severely outlandish about either temporary power up, though it can have a considerable impact when used effectively.
While it initially feels at odds with Capcoms current drive to deliver boundary-pushing sequels, Mega Man 11 still embodies the publishers overarching strategy. It stays true to the legacy those past games built yet offers an accessible gateway for those whove perhaps felt indifferent towards the Blue Bomber.
Aside from going hands on with Mega Man 11, we also spoke to producer Kazuhiro Tsuchiya via email about the games new features, how they fit with the series well-established formula, and current trends and competition within the platforming genre.
Formats: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC
Release Date: 2nd October 2018
GC: Its been eight years since the launch of Mega Man 10. What made you decide that now is the right time for the series to return?
KT: Although there was a lot of fan demand for a new Mega Man game, we had gone silent for quite a while on the series. It was the 30th anniversary of the series that made us think this was the right time to develop a new title.
GC: What was your biggest challenge when developing Mega Man 11?
KT: Its been a difficult journey trying to develop the kind of gameplay that will satisfy all those fans out there who have been waiting so long for Mega Man to return. I would say the biggest challenge was actually in putting together the team internally who would be up to the task!
GC: Why do you think Mega Man has struggled to find an audience in Europe compared to Japan and the United States?
KT: Mega Man has had a passionate fanbase since the NES era, which was a great time for high quality 2D platform action games of that style. I think that maybe, compared to America, Japan or Asia, Europe has fewer game fans who got into that type of game back in the day and are still active gamers today. In saying that, I have heard that Europe has many younger gamers who have got into the 2D platform action genre through indie titles in recent years and they enjoy such games whether theyre retro or modern.
The sales of the Mega Man Legacy Collection were good in Europe so Im hopeful theres an audience there for Mega Man 11.
GC: With recent Metroidvania style games being very popular and scoring well among critics, has there ever been the temptation to do something similar with Mega Man?
KT: We did discuss and consider adding those kinds of elements to the game at the early stages of the project, but as one of the main goals of the title is to bring the series back after the eight-year gap since Mega Man 10, we decided that the Metroidvania exploration and backtracking style was not compatible with the tense linear-progression stages that the Mega Man series is renowned for.
Also, I dont think players would enjoy the intense, trap-filled gameplay of typical Mega Man stages continuing over the many hours it typically takes to complete Metroidvania-type games.
GC: For those who havent played Mega Man before, why should they play Mega Man 11?
KT: If you want a game that will challenge you to polish up your action game technique and give you a great sense of achievement when, after many tries, you finally best that boss, then this is definitely the game for you. Although for those new, the best parts of a Mega Man game is the way that bosses grant you special weapons, so you need to strategise which weapon will be best to use against each boss, and therefore which order you should tackle the stages in. That balance of action and strategy is really fun.
For those feeling the heat, we have added a Newcomer difficulty option. There are four difficulty options in total so we encourage players to pick a difficulty level that best suits their level of experience.
GC: One of the sequels key new features is the Double Gear system. How did this come into creation and what does it add to the Mega Man experience?
KT: Modern game consoles have a rich set of features for sharing your gameplay with others online. Were in the age when many people want to show their gameplay off to others and to view other peoples. We felt that we wanted to implement a new gameplay system that would let players show off their own unique style freely in the game.
Another reason is that, after 30 years, Mega Man fans who have been with the series a long time have built up a huge amount of experience. I wanted to put veterans and newcomers on the same starting blocks when it came to learning how to play this game. I believe this lets as many players as possible get involved in practicing and developing strategies together as a community.
GC: After retaining Mega Mans retro 2D art style for so long, what made you finally decide to change it? What has the fan response been?
KT: With this project, we wanted to establish a team who could expand the series into the future. That doesnt mean keeping the Mega Man 11 style forever, but finding the right style for the times each game is released in. Based on that concept, we settled on the style Mega Man 11 is using.
GC: With other iconic Japanese platformers doing so well (Sonic Mania, Super Mario Odyssey), does this put you under pressure or does it give you confidence to see there is still a demand for these types of games?
KT: I think we must welcome the success of any game, and of course seeing such success stories gives us confidence that Mega Man will also be able to pull off a successful new entry in a long-running series. Not to mention the fact that we are able to point to games like these to convince our bosses that were doing the right thing here!
By Jim Hargreaves
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