Steve’s Living in the Past: Mega Man X

April 20th, 2011 by

I’ve been gaming my whole life. Seriously, if you went to my first grade journal, all it would contain are entries like “Today was good, I hope I can rent Willow on Friday. I like the Willow game.” Child-Steve really liked Willow. Adult-Steve loves it. In these young days, one of the first franchises I ever grew addicted to was Megaman. Amazing soundtrack, character advancement, and the ability to choose my own level to start on? Way awesome.

Never in all my years could I have imagined the greatness that the franchise was destined for.

God bless my lovely mother for accepting my obsession. You see readers, Megaman X was one of those games that flew under the radarof yours truly. That means that I wasn’t obsessing over its release date and running around my house screaming about its strong points, as was the norm for most titles that held my excitement. As a surprise, my mother rented a few games for me while I was camping one weekend, and Megaman X happened to be among them. After being told this, the drive home consisted mostly of me reminiscing of the greatness that was Megamans 1-6.

From the first level I realized my world was about to be turned upside down.

“Wall jumping? WHAT??! AWESOME!!!”

Once I finally gained an understanding of how the new gameplay worked, I reached the first fight with Vile and became “vile”ated in more ways than a 14 year old Bangkok prostitute. Then, out of nowhere, came the mighty Zero, glowing blade of light in tow. My mind was officially blown.

Choose your own level dynamic? Check. Rock, paper, scissors boss design? You got it. Secret Hadouken technique that was spoken of only in whispers? Winning, duh! The game took everything we loved about Megaman and made it more engaging. Then it added more features  on top of the original design to make the game we didn’t realize we wanted. It gave us the Megaman we pined for, plus a Megaman we never imagined.

Megaman X represents re-imagining a series that met the expectation of fans and more. It hit that sweet spot where developer vision overlaps with fan expectation, more so than any game of its time. I feel like that lesson is lost in the modern age, where developers either decide that they want to completely ignore fan expectations or become confined by them and stunt the natural evolution of their franchise.

Developers: You don’t need to change your game genre to reinvent your IP.

You don’t need puzzle elements to diversify every adventure game and you don’t need RPG elements to diversify every action game. If you have a successful IP, fans want a shift in the gaming experience that justifies the sixty dollar purchase. That doesn’t mean we want a God of War that uses Final Fantasy gameplay. We want YOUR game. We like YOUR game. If a developer holds on to its core concepts, but changes how we experience those concepts, they’ll have a success on their hands.

The term “reinvent” has been taken too literally in recent years, and I feel that it will end up dooming more fantastic games than it revitalizes. Take a hint from Megaman. If  your game design rocks, your sequel will, too.

 


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