Mega Manvania: Symphony of the Blue Bomber

Confused by the title of the article? You shouldn’t be. There is rhyme and reason to be found here, and I’m going to explain myself. Obviously the title hints towards a connection between Mega Man and Castlevania, but why? It’s simple, I feel that I’ve thought of how Capcom could make Mega Man marketable and hugely successful once again.

First, before I get into the specifics of my idea, why has Mega Man become boring and/or stale to the public? Why are his games not selling as well as they used to? There are a few reasons for this.

1. Oversaturation
Capcom made a huge mistake between 2000 and 2006. They simply made too many Mega Man games! Here are all of the Mega Man games released between 2000 and 2006, at least as far as I am aware.

Mega Man Anniversary Collection
Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge
Mega Man Battle Network
Mega Man Battle Network 2
Mega Man Battle Network 3
Mega Man Battle Network 4
Mega Man Battle Network 5
Mega Man Battle Network 6
Mega Man Legends 2
Mega Man Maverick Hunter X
Mega Man Network Transmission
Mega Man Powered Up
Mega Man Star Force
Mega Man X5
Mega Man X6
Mega Man X7
Mega Man X8
Mega Man X Collection
Mega Man X Command Mission
Mega Man Xtreme
Mega Man Xtreme 2
Mega Man Zero
Mega Man Zero 2
Mega Man Zero 3
Mega Man Zero 4

Remember these games? Yeah, there were eight of them in six years. Can you say overkill?

Wow, right? That’s twenty five Mega Man games. That’s almost five Mega Man gamer per year. It’s honestly no surprise that the general public grew a little tired of Mega Man, especially considering how Capcom tried to balance three different Mega Man series at once (Battle Network, X, and Zero) while also tossing around a bunch of minor remakes and spin-offs. A quick look at the above list makes it easy to understand how Capcom seemed to have lost sense of what Mega Man was, and how the Blue Bomber seemed to have no identity anymore. Gamers didn’t know what the heck to do with all of these Mega Man games and, thanks to the relentless onslaught of Battle Network and Zero games over a few years, pretty much everyone reached a point where they would say, whenever a new Mega Man game was released, “Oh boy, another Mega Man game?”

Too many games in too little time, Capcom. It’s no wonder the Blue Bomber has been struggling to garner attention and sales throughout the past five years. It’s simply because the market became oversaturated with Mega Man games and pretty much all of us lost interest, or…

2. Fan Abandonment
… Capcom betrayed their loyal fans. I know, that sounds a little crazy but hear me out. I’m not a disgruntled fan who is calling Capcom out or anything, it just doesn’t take much thought to realize that Capcom lost focus of Mega Man’s identity and who/what he was. The rehashing of different formulas was evidence of this. How many fans of classic Mega Man or the X series felt alienated by the non-stop Battle Network games? They didn’t feel right at all, at least not to me. They just weren’t Mega Man. The Zero series seemed alright, but I had trouble getting into them. There seemed to be clashing art styles and the overall presentation didn’t satisfy me very much. I guess portable Mega Man titles just couldn’t meet my expectations. Capcom perhaps demonstrated fan abandonment the most when they decided to make a Mega Man X RPG called Command Mission. This was a VERY peculiar game to say the least. Command Mission came out during a period when the RPG genre was incredibly profitable, and Capcom wanted a piece of the pie. I don’t think Command Mission sold well, and reviews were pretty mixed all across the board. IGN was one of the very few professional gaming websites that scored the game highly. As an RPG nut, I actually really enjoyed Command Mission although it did indeed have a lot of boring or dull moments. It was an interesting experiment to thrust Axl, X, and Zero into a Final Fantasy style RPG. It may not have been the best thing for the Mega Man franchise since most fans of the franchise are primarily fans of platformers rather than RPGs. It was an extremely bold and risky move and, despite being enjoyed by some, Command Mission wasn’t much of a success. It was simply far too different. Capcom didn’t know how to market Mega Man effectively anymore and it was definitely showing.

Mega Man X Command Mission was a very risky move by Capcom which, ultimately, didn't work out.

3. Been There, Done That
Eight stages, eight bosses, eight powerups. How many times have we done this? For over twenty years, this was Capcom’s design plan for Mega Man games. Heck, it still is to this day. While it is hard to say anything bad about the older Mega Man games that use this generic design, I have trouble forgiving the newer games that still use the 8-8-8 formula. In 2011, Capcom should be able to do a lot more than this. Eight linear levels and then three or four following levels that lead up to the final boss were a lot of fun until around Mega Man X2 or X3. After that point, the 8-8-8 just grew really stagnant. It was still fun to experience the different locales of each level since there were always the mandatory fire, ice, and water levels along with a few unexpected level themes such as the futuristic junkyard stage in X6. Still, level themes weren’t enough to carry the games anymore, nor were the stage boss designs. Mega Man game design was simply becoming archaic and stagnant.

Fond memories, but times have changed since the 1980s.

And that all brings us to my idea.

What Mega Man needs is a bold new reinvention, similar to the jump from Classic Mega Man to Mega Man X. The Blue Bomber needs a new look, a new armor. It needs to be “cool” in the year 2011 or 2012. It needs to grab gamers’ attention and appeal to them. There has not been a terribly interesting look for the Blue Bomber since his first two versions, Classic and X. Both are designs from the late 1980s and early 1990s. So, Mega Man has not had a bold new look in nearly twenty years. Wow.

What is the game plan? I say take the original Mega Man look and simply give him “edgier” looking armor. Don’t cute him up like the Battle Network or Star Force designs. A new Mega Man needs to look “hip” to have mass appeal across the entire age spectrum. Classic and X are beloved designs by young and old, but I don’t know a single person over the age of twenty who thinks that the Star Force design looks cool. Capcom’s habit of making Mega Man games look cute has to go NOW for the series to have any kind of significant future again. The safe method of doing this would be to stick with the Classic or X look (no other iterations have mass appeal) or go with an entirely new Mega Man design.

These are not appealing designs for the Blue Bomber.

So we’ve got appearance out of the way. Mega Man needs a cool look for mass appeal. Where do we go from there? It’s pretty simple – design. As I said, the fundamental flaw that ruins Mega Man these days is the fact that Capcom has been using the 8-8-8 formula since 1987. This needs to change entirely, and this is where the title of the article really comes into play. Mega Man needs a huge change, and I think it is such a huge change that I’m going to put it on its very own line.

Mega Man needs to become Castlevania.

After reading that line, it doesn’t sound too crazy, does it? Think about it for a moment. Imagine a huge, sprawling 2D world with tons of different landscapes and environments. Take Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and simply replace the gigantic castle with tons of connected outdoor areas, as well as a few indoor locations as well. Would this not be a good idea or what? A free roaming 2D Mega Man platformer that takes a page out of Castlevania’s book would be an exciting idea while not seeming too “scary” for the long time and devoted fans of the franchise. It would also get rid of the 8-8-8 formula. No longer would players have to select from the same ol’ eight stages on a select screen. They would now have an open world to explore, and they would have to discover the location of bosses rather than follow a linear path to them. There would be tons of seemingly dead ends or unreachable areas, at least until players would find necessary armor upgrades to reach new locations. Mega Man could be upgraded to have long jumps, double jumps, increased run speed, temporary flight/hovering, magnetism (sticking to ceilings in areas), as well as buster upgrades to break through various walls and such throughout the game world.

Capcom needs to rip off Konami if the Blue Bomber is to have any further success.

Essentially what is brewing in my head is Mega Man Legends, only 2D and playing like classic Mega Man or Mega Man X with a huge helping of Castlevania influence on the side. This would also allow Capcom to throw in a lot more than just eight robot masters. Since the game would probably be considered an RPG, Mega Man could easily amass between ten and twenty powers from various maverick/robot master bosses. Would that not be awesome?

Due to the game likely being considered an RPG, this would also mean Mega Man would be able to level up. Rather than gaining life bar extensions from beating bosses, the Blue Bomber could accomplish this by leveling up instead. He could also gain power bar extensions as well, allowing him more frequent use of his powers as he levels up. The higher levels could also grant him cool passive abilities, like being able to restore lost energy over time. This could result in some really fun cat and mouse encounters with bosses where, after depleting your energy for a weapon, you could hop around for a bit and let the bar regenerate enough to dish out more attacks while avoiding the opponent’s onslaught.

An example of how Capcom could incorporate leveling up.

Non-linear games have become the norm over the past years, and Capcom has embraced it with many of their other series… so where’s non-linear Mega Man at? It seems like the only logical step to take with the Blue Bomber. With all of the gameplay elements that would come with making Mega Man into something resembling modern Castlevania games, there would be enough familiarity mixed with new ideas to please old fans and probably attract new gamers to the franchise.

And what would make the game even more interesting? Make it into something that bridges the gap between Mega Man and Mega Man X. Perhaps it could showcase the rise of mavericks and reploids while still retaining Dr. Light, Dr. Wily, Mega Man, Roll, and Rush. Heck, it could even lead to the downfall of the original Mega Man after suffering a temporary defeat at the hands of an early Zero prototype, which prompts Dr. Light to start working on Mega Man X in secrecy.

Come on Capcom, there’s a gold mine here. I just threw two great ideas out there! A Castlevania style Mega Man title that bridges the storyline gap between Classic and X (which a lot of fans have been curious about) would be really interesting. It sounds like a bold and exciting move while not being at all risky. Going freeroaming and RPG-esque has helped out a lot of series thus far, so why can’t Mega Man join the fun?

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Top 10 Best Video Game Themes

There have been lots of really memorable video game songs and themes over the years, and we all have our favourites. I would like to present a list of what I feel are the ten best pieces of music to ever come from video games. Feel free to disagree, but remember that of course this is all opinion!

Now, here’s my list.


#10

Street Fighter IV – Main Theme/Volcanic Rim


Capcom used to play the hell out of this piece of music in every Street Fighter IV trailer to hype the game, and I don’t blame them. This theme has “resurrection” written all over it, which is what Street Fighter IV did to the series. It is also very energetic and damn, it’s loud! This is the perfect music to listen to while overly-stereotyped fighters beat the pulp out of each other. I look at this piece of music as the definitive Street Fighter theme song now, and I hope that Capcom does too. It’s just that good.


#9

Diablo Series – Theme of Tristram


This is such a depressing piece of music, but at the same time it is just as great. I cannot think of any other gloomy, soul destroying piece of music that I actually LIKE listening to. Tristram’s theme fills you with such a strong feeling of desolation and destroys all hope you have of vanquishing Diablo. This theme slaps you in the face and tells you that you’re going to fail, and that the demons of Hell will invade and take over.


#8

Castlevania Series – Divine Bloodlines


I believe that this theme has been in a few Castlevania games, and this is the tune that always stands out to me when I play one of these skeleton and vampire infested games. Whenever I hear Divine Bloodlines, I really feel like I am in the game and am on a quest to kill Dracula. I feel like it is MY adventure. Divine Bloodlines really gets you in the mood to kick some Count ass, and is the perfect start to some Castlevania games, such as Dracula X.


#7

Stider Hiryu Series – Theme of Strider Hiryu
Also used in Marvel Vs Capom: Clash of Super Heroes


One of video gaming’s coolest ninjas has one of the most awesome character theme songs ever. This tune plays in the official Strider Hiryu games but is also used as his theme in Marvel Vs Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes. This was an awesome theme that, in Marvel Vs Capcom, could turn the tides of battle. I found that, when fighting Strider, my mind was always on this music more than the character. I can’t say that it defines him well, but I can say that this is the best theme for a character ever in a fighting game.


#6

World of Warcraft – Login Theme


Before Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, and Cataclysm, we had this. From 2004 until 2006, this is what players of the colossal MMORPG heard each time they loaded up the game. Three expansions later and this theme is still the login music, though it has been butchered and remixed so many times that it has lost it’s original soul. This theme defines World of Warcraft as a whole and is the definitive tune for the MMORPG as a whole.


#5

Mega Man 2 – Intro Theme Music


In my opinion, this is the ultimate Mega Man theme. Mega Man 3, a game that I actually don’t like at all, comes a distant second to Mega Man 2’s theme. How the piece just starts off so gentle and peaceful before slowly escalating into a really powerful and energetic piece is the best transition ever in a video game theme. I love it!


#4

Tetris – Theme Music


This theme is the embodiment of all things Tetris, and no puzzle game has ever come close to having such a fitting theme. The Tetris theme has this aura to it that gets you into the mood to play with blocks and have a blast, but when you are faced with a possible game over situation, this theme song feels incredibly ominous to the player, pressuring them to lose and get game over. The Tetris theme does all this despite never changing even a single note. If that isn’t mind control or real power over the player, then I don’t know what is.


#3

Final Fantasy Series – “Final Fantasy”


What started as a adventurous and energetic opening to what Squaresoft assumed to be their final game before dissolving has turned into one of the gaming industry’s ultimate game over themes. I don’t mean game over as in losing all your lives, no. I mean game over as in you completed the game. The Final Fantasy theme often plays at the end of each game during the ending sequence or credits, serving as a passionate piece of music that will make you feel glad that you adventured with Square’s latest band of misfits. The most moving piece of video game music ever, in my opinion.


#2

Super Mario Bros. – Original Theme


Perhaps the most iconic tune in this top 10. Everyone knows the Mario theme. Even people who have never even played a Mario game know what this little jingle is! The Mario theme transcends gaming. When people who barely even know what Mario is can identify the main theme, it says a lot. In terms of being iconic, this one is certainly at the very top… So why isn’t it #1 on the list, especially considering the fact that I am a huge Mario fanatic?


#1

The Legend of Zelda Series – Main Theme


… Because the Zelda theme, while not quite iconic as the Mario theme, is a superior composition that evokes a real sense of adventure from the player. Hearing this theme, even in the very first Legend of Zelda on the NES, can pull anyone into the mood required to play a Zelda game. It pulls you into the magical world of Hyrule, and it won’t let you go. Chances are you won’t want to let go anyway. In terms of being iconic, this theme is second only to the Mario theme, but it is a far more engrossing theme that takes hold of you and rocks you to the core.


Several of these themes are available on my MP3 Downloads page, so head on over there if you want to download some tunes.

Return to December 2010 Articles

Super Mario Bros. Crossover (Review)

“One hell of an addicting flash platformer.”

I’m not really too keen on reviewing flash games, but will do so when a particularly enjoyable one grabs my attention. Today I am reviewing one such flash game, which happens to be the quirky (though nostalgic) Super Mario Bros. Crossover.

As one would probably be able to guess, the game has at least something to do with the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES. There is a little bit more to it than that, as Super Mario Bros. Crossover takes the original 8-bit adventure and completely recreates it in Flash. Yes, the complete SMB game that you played as a kid is now available in your browser! There is a catch though, and this is where the “crossover” in the title comes into play. This may be a Mario game, but everybody’s favourite plumber takes a surprising back seat role.

Joining Mario in this excellent flash game are several other iconic characters from the Nintendo era. They are Billy, Ryu Hayabusa, Link, Mega Man, Samus Aran, and Simon Belmont. If any of those names are unfamiliar to you, then shame on you! Billy is from Contra, Ryu from Ninja Gaiden, Link from Zelda, Mega Man from his own self titled franchise, Samus Aran from Metroid, and Simon Belmont from Castlevania. All in all, it’s a very iconic cast of selectable characters, each with their own play styles.

Billy is probably my favourite character. He plays exactly as he does in any Contra game. He jumps high, has a machine gun, and can fire in virtually any direction. Super mushrooms enable Billy to have a slightly more powerful machine gun that has more range, and the fire flower gives Billy the trademark spreadshot gun. I find that Billy is practically unstoppable when he has the spreadshot, and I only had difficulty playing as him in the water levels.

Ryu has several fun tricks. He can wall climb, slash with his sword, and throw shurikens. When you power him up, his attacks become stronger and he can do things such as throw out boomerang shurikens, which are fairly devastating.

Link is a difficult character to use, I feel. He’s very small, his range is terrible, and his boomerang can be tough to use if you are faced with paratroopas and the like. Thankfully Link’s fire flower ability makes up for this slightly, as it allows you to shoot sword beams just as he does in the original Legend of Zelda when he has full health.

Mega Man is a very fun character to use, and he plays exactly as you’d expect him to. He has a ground slide, which I haven’t found many uses for, but it’s good to have it regardless. My only complaint about Mega Man is that he can’t jump high on his own. You need to call Rush down to give you a boost up to higher platforms and, in levels where high platforms are plentiful, you’ll find yourself losing a bit of time to just calling Rush down. Aside from that minor issue, Mega Man is very fun to play as, and he somehow fits into the Mario universe strangely well!

Samus feels a bit plain, but possibly because I’m not a huge Metroid fan. She is able to turn into a ball and roll around, which doesn’t feel as fun here as it does in her native Metroid setting. Her weapons feel a little bit underpowered to me and her range isn’t too exceptional, but her rate of fire is actually pretty fast. Her powered up weapon is a sort of zig-zag projectile that, in my opinion, feels worse than her default weapon.

Simon is a pretty cool character. He has a double jump ability and his whip powers up differently depending on which power-ups you get. His secondary attack is his trademark axe, which he throws diagonally into the air. I’ve had a bit of trouble hitting enemies with the axe, but it’s fantastic for clearing bricks!

I won’t even bother mentioning how Mario plays because, well, it’s Mario! The game even pokes fun at this as well, questioning why you are playing if you don’t know how Mario himself plays.

It’s a lot of fun to play with these characters in a Mario setting. Many fond feelings towards various NES games from my childhood are contained in this game, and it’s great to relive some old sensations that I have not felt in twenty years. There’s so much nostalgia here, thanks in part to each individual character and the music from their own games that accompany them.

Beyond the addition of new characters, everything is reproduced one hundred percent faithfully. All graphics and sound effects are as they should be, and the level design is completely like the original game. Overall, this is a very fun game to play. If Nintendo made this game and released it for a few bucks, I’d definitely buy it. Hats off to the creator, Jay Pavlina (aka Exploding Rabbit). You’ve created a very enjoyable flash game that I find myself coming back to again and again, just to experience various levels with different characters. Good job, sir!

Click here to play Super Mario Bros. Crossover.

Final Score

8.8/10

15 Great Games to Play In October

October, the month of DEATH. Everything dies in October. Leaves fall to the ground as trees reveal their true gnarled forms, the night starts earlier as the sky is grey during the day more often. Barbecues and laughing children no longer fill the night air, instead being replaced by nothing other than the eerie, shrill wind.

So! Basically October is a crappy time to enjoy the outdoors, so it’s probably best to just hole yourself up indoors and play some games that fit the mood of October. I am talking about some good old fashioned spooky games!

Here is a list of games that I think are “must plays” for the month of October. This isn’t necessarily a list of games that will make you wet yourself, but more of a compilation of games that are just fun for October, and Halloween. Enjoy!

#15 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

My time with this Castlevania was short, and I did not get the opportunity to play it nearly as much as I would have liked to. I’m a big fan of the series however, so it’s impossible for me not to recommend Symphony of the Night since it is regarded by most as the best game in the series. Hunting Dracula in a sprawling platformer RPG seems like a very appropriate game for October.

#14 Penumbra

Sometimes loneliness can be your worst enemy. I found Penumbra to be one of the most unnerving games that I have ever played, simply because there is such an intense feeling of loneliness. There’s a bit of action to be had in this game, but if you want to hopelessly and utterly alone, then this is the game to play.

#13 Half-Life 2

While the overall experience of Half-Life 2 isn’t terribly creepy, there is one portion of the game that puts even most survival horror games to shame. I am speaking of Ravenholm. Zombies practically own the city of Ravenholm, and Gordon Freeman’s stay in the city, while brief, is particularly suspenseful.

#12 Prototype

You can’t go wrong with a game that is full of a quickly spreading zombie plague! Of course, the scariness is remedied by the character you play as, a genetic superman who can pretty much kill anything he wants in the blink of an eye. While the tone of the game can be eerie, the gameplay is the furthest thing from scary and is fast and action packed, as well as very bloody!

#11 Left 4 Dead 2

I’m not a Left 4 Dead player, but I’ve witnessed my fair share of it and even endured watching a friend play the original for a few hours. If frantically trying to flee from a zombie horde that drastically outnumbers your team of four is up your alley, then this is without a doubt the game for you.

#10 Clock Tower

The Clock Tower series is regarded as being fairly creepy, but there is only one that I would really care to recommend, and that is the very first on the Super Nintendo. I never would have imagined that an SNES game could be suspenseful or even mildly scary, but Clock Tower was. It was a great game, and you never knew when the killer was going to come for you. The unpredictable nature of the killer alone makes this game worth playing.

#9 Folklore

Not a frightening game at all, but the depressing and mysterious gothic-like comic book presentation is very captivating and cool. Folklore feels a lot like a Halloween-ish comic book come to life. If you have a PS3 and enjoy action RPG games, then check out Folklore!

#8 Eversion

I reviewed Eversion and gave it a bit of a lousy score, but the game has a wonderful mood for this time of the year. Eversion starts nice and happy and cute, but quickly degenerates into a dark and brooding nightmare. It’s a neat game to try once or twice, so hunt it down. It’s on Steam for a few bucks.

#7 Manhunt 2

In Manhunt 2, you play as a psychotic freak who kills people in really horrible ways. The gameplay itself is a little dark, and it’s hard not to feel a little turned off by the actions of your character. If you want to play as a dark and disturbed killer, then this is probably the game for you.

#6 Resident Evil 5

While not terribly scary, Resident Evil 5 has lots of very cool creatures and a few dungeon crawling moments. A few supernatural plot twists make this game all the more cooler. While not living up to the Resident Evil name in terms of scary gameplay, it’s still an awesome game with quite a few suspenseful moments.

#5 Alan Wake

I do not have a 360, so I’ve never tried this game. However, everybody who plays it seems to think that it’s absolutely incredible. The game sounds like it relies heavily on dark shadows and a flashlight that you carry around with you. Afraid of the dark and want a few chills? This might be the game for you.

#4 Dead Space

EA’s break into survival horror sure was a doozy. In fact, it was a doozy that made me jump. A lot. I was even apprehensive to venture down several corridors in this game. Dead Space is cool because it relies on a gimmick that carnival owners abuse, and that is cheap scares. Dead Space likes to make horribly mutated human “creatures” pop out of nowhere, or sneak up on you from behind. Definitely a good way to creep somebody out! Play Dead Space, and you may find yourself looking over your shoulder quite frequently.

#3 Resident Evil

The grandfather of survival horror still has it! Despite the laughably bad voice acting, the original Resident Evil still has a few spooky bits if you don’t know what’s coming. I recall feeling very on edge several times throughout this game. Definitely worth playing even today, at least just to say that you played the original Resident Evil.

#2 Amnesia: The Dark Descent

I’ve only played a little bit of this game so I don’t know a great deal about it beyond the fact that it has amazing atmosphere, but I’ve watched YouTube videos of it and am aware that the makers of Penumbra made it. I can definitely say that Amnesia is probably far more creepy than Penumbra could ever hope to be. The fact that a few parts of the game even gave Yahtzee (of Zero Punctuation fame) a few moments of creeped out apprehension is a HUGE achievement!

#1 S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl

Not the scariest game by far, but deserves a high spot on this list. Imagine traversing the Ukrainian wilderness near Chernobyl and fighting off invisible ghouls that stalk you, zombies, and some pretty mean guys who don’t care who or what you are and only want to put a bullet through your head. S.T.A.L.K.E.R takes the players through underground sewers, irradiated fields, zombie infested swamps, and even the deserted town of Prypiat, which I have a bit of an obsession with. S.T.A.L.K.E.R will make you feel dreadfully alone, and the landscape is particularly depressing. A very fitting game to play on the eve of Halloween.

Return to October 2010 Articles