Mega Man 9

More than a decade has passed since Capcom released Mega Man 8. One of the most beloved series of the 8-bit video game era, this franchise has long languished in tangential games which attempted to change up traditional Mega Man formula with ideas more reminiscent of the Pokemon series. However, this game is different from its predecessors. Instead of continuing forward with updated graphics and high definition displays, Mega Man 9 reverts to more or less the original mechanics and graphics of the first three in the series, which are now decades old.

The catalyst for Capcom’s venture into retro gaming has to do with distribution. Creating an NES/Famicom-style game would be relatively inexpensive compared with modern outings. It would not have been cost effective, however, to release the game in brick and mortar stores with full packaging. Instead, this game was created exclusively for the digital distribution systems of the modern game consoles– Wii Ware, Playstation Network, and Xbox Live. It will be interesting to see in the near future if other installments in this series or in others are issued through these channels, thus reducing the cost to companies and consumers.

Same Mega Channel, Same Mega Time

Mega Man games have always had an implied plot. A robot, Mega Man, ventures through level after level to defeat ‘Robot Masters’ who are wreaking havoc on the futuristic world of the year 20XX. This game has a bit more exposition, as ‘cut scenes’ drive a plot which most veterans of this series will find familiar.

Dr. Light’s robots have gone ape, and the world is looking to point fingers. Dr. Wily swears it isn’t him, but Mega Man and his friends set out to clear their creator’s name. This carbon copied story, which in the original Japanese title is referred to as ‘The Revival of Treachery,’ is little more than an excuse to haul Mega Man out of mothballs. That series has never been big on plot, though, so the game isn’t missing anything it previously had.

The only interesting thing here is that the back story seems to indicate that unlike previous attempts by Wily to corrupt Dr. Light’s robots or to create some of his own, he needed only to persuade the Robot Masters (Hornet Man, Galaxy Man, Jewel Man, Splash Woman, Concrete Man, Tornado Man, Magma Man, and Plug Man) to join his cause, not reprogram them. He points out to that their date of planned obsolescence is at hand. He vows to help keep them active beyond that time. While ethically, Wily’s manipulation of robots to get money and start a new global domination effort are less than moral, the motivation for the robot masters is merely self preservation.

The Robot Masters were created by Dr. Light to serve mankind, such as Jewel Man working in a mine or Splash Woman helping shipwreck survivors. The ethical issue behind this game then becomes clouded. These seemingly sentient beings– who were competent enough to handle important tasks and then self-governing enough to rebel against their human overlords– were created with a planned date of execution. The game doesn’t make any apology for that, it’s just the way it is.

The threat to the robot masters does not justify the mayhem and destruction they subsequently cause. It does, however, raise a flag for Mega Man, who is no longer fighting a dualistic battle. This is no longer good and evil, but rather, the survival of entities who would otherwise be good, but who’ve been pushed by fear for their own mortality. This is an unusual set up for a game with a style this early and uncomplicated, but one that begs attention. Is Mega Man really the hero in this game, or rather a protagonist with a painful mission?

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