Why Mega Man 9 on Wiiware is a bigger deal than you think

It could be the extra Nintendo gene I was born with talking, but this morning I can’t help but think that the Mega Man 9 WiiWare news is much bigger than it initially appears.

Sure, this is a major coup for Nintendo’s infantile WiiWare service, and it’s incredible news for anyone who grew up playing Mega Man on the NES (or other, *cough* CD-ROM systems in the 1990s), but there’s something more to it than that.

On its face, the decision to go backwards in time with Mega Man 9 could be seen as a hat tip to the 8-bit generation (me, and others like me), in the same vein as Super Dodge Ball Brawlers and the entire Virtual Console collection to date. It is, but beneath those primitive pixels is a conscious decision by one of the biggest publishers in the world to buck the trends and, gulp, take a risk.

Capcom could have easily gone the 3rd person super graphics route, like they’re doing with Bionic Commando, but they didn’t. They could have continued the slick 2-D graphical updates, as they did with my copy of Mega Man anniversary Edition on the PS2, but they stayed their hand. Actually, dare I say it, Capcom is making the Mega Man series more, well, accessible, to a wider audience. I think they’ll be rewarded for it in spades. Big, piles of money-shaped spades.

In fact, Mega Man 9 hearkens back to a day when game playing people valued the challenge of a video game over the length of time it took to complete it. There were no “well, how long does it play for?” questions in the 80’s and 90’s—and that wasn’t because the graphics weren’t realistic, not at all. He’ll probably sue me for copyright infringement, for all the copy I lift from his news site, but Sean Malstrom addressed this the other day with a post on challenge versus length.

“One more turn” was mostly described to games like Civilization but “One more go” was also described for many other action type games. Games had to be ‘addictive’. They were descendants from the arcades (and arcades tried to get a player addicted so they would keep shoveling quarters). ‘Challenging’ also was loved back then because there were no stupid unlockables or achievements. BEATING THE GAME was considered the achievement. Gaming has become like the Little League where everyone gets a trophy just for ‘participating’.

When people played Super Mario Bros., they didn’t care that they could beat it in X amount of hours, they cared about the various levels and the pride they felt after completing a particularly hard one (World 4, for example, resulted in me breaking off the little game flap of the first generation NES’s). The Mega Man series, too, is one of the more challenging series ever to grace a console. I don’t feel the same way about some of today’s blockbuster games, because by and large they’ve become a rather passive experience. Isn’t that right, Snake? There’s nothing “addictive” about a cutscene. A challenging game, however, will continually have me coming back for “one more try.”

But something with Nintendo and the WiiWare service caught Capcom’s eye. Instead of a 3rd person Mega Man shooter, or re-imagining the main character as a beefed up throwaway character (see: Super Joe in the “next gen” Bionic Commando), they continued the series right where it left off in 1996. They saw a greater return in a game with predictable, pattern-based enemies and bosses, than anything the world’s most powerful gaming consoles could cook up with AI algorithms. They valued challenge over the vocal minority, with its insatiable appetite for high-res art, style over substance mentality.

Sure, Mega Man 9 is probably headed to Xbox Live Arcade and PSN too, but now that the Wii is market leader, with no end in sight, I’m all but certain that WiiWare was the platform driving the game to completion. I wouldn’t be surprised if it became one of the most popular Wii digi-distro downloads to date.

Does Mega Man 9’s pending retro-related success mean the death of JRPGs, Solid Snake, or any of those types of games? Not at all. It’s merely another game on the growing pile of video games, in an industry that’s finally starting to realize that appealing to everyone is not only worth tons of money, but beneficial to everyone involved in the medium. I’m just glad Mega Man is one of the series that’s going to help the process along. It’s about time.

27 Responses to Why Mega Man 9 on Wiiware is a bigger deal than you think

  1. Jonkind says:

    It certainly doesn’t hurt that there is still a demand for good 2-D games(or at least a resurgence of interest). People still have a fondness for the simpler style, as long as gameplay is good. The successes of DS titles like New Super Mario Bros, Contra 4, the Castlevania DS games, Yoshi’s Island DS and now also the success of the Virtual Console and WiiWare has only solidified that fact.

    I think it’s great news for the MegaMan franchise – you always hear about people’s love for the old days, he should have been in Brawl, etc, etc, etc… definitely a step in the right direction.

  2. Bryan says:

    meh

    I’d take a Metal Gear game over a Mega Man game any day of the week. The Mega Man games were terrible in the 80’s and they’re terrible now.

  3. Johnny Lee says:

    your face was terrible in the 80s too.

  4. Hey Jack, I just wanted to quickly chime in and thank you for writing this. I’ve really enjoyed your work, and I’m really happy you keep bringing Malstrom back into it. He’s set to write some more later today (including about Mega Man 9), and he has already mentioned that Mega Man 9 is an example of value innovation.

    So you’re definitely on the ball.

  5. samfish says:

    What’s great about Mega Man 9 is how clearly it cuts between people who grew up with the NES and those who grew up with the Playstation.

  6. DRock067 says:

    @Bryan

    maybe old school Metal Gear.

    this is a great idea. Mega Man 2 and 3 were some of the hardest, but most fun games I ever played. Hopefully more companies follow suit!

  7. Joltman says:

    Yeah, I just can’t wait for Mega Man 9 – the 8-bit games in the old days were definitely challenging!
    Anyone remember Quick Man’s stage in Mega Man II?
    That was challenging! (Especially if you didn’t use the Time Stopper from Flash Man.)

    I’m so glad it’s coming back in 8-bit format.

  8. nil says:

    I’m very excited for MM9. I’m hoping that Capcom spruces the 8-bit look with some very high-quality animation, resulting in a rather unique look for the game. That would make my day.

  9. Andrew G. says:

    @ Bryan: *Gasp!*

    That’s all I’ll say to him.

    Anyway, Jack, while I don’t always agree with your radical views, this was a well-thought-out, all-too-true article that really hits the nail on the head why so many people really love classic video games and are geared up for another classic Mega Man title.

    To further support your “challenge vs. length of game” argument, it was often considered amazing (in my household at least) to get a warp whistle in Super Mario Bros. 3 because they were both challenging to find and made the game even shorter! It’s funny how your argument fits right in with that example.

    Anyway, well done. Seriously, I think I said it before on the original MM9 article, and I’ll say it again: this is the best gaming news to come out all year for me, bar none. I am really thrilled about this!

  10. RPGeno says:

    I think they’ll have to make the connection between the Megaman series and the Megaman X series with this one. X? Yaknow, roman numeral ten?

  11. HyperSonic says:

    Never got to play the original Mega Man games, I only got to try 64 and one on the GameCube. I look forward to this!

  12. dubnobasswithmyheadman says:

    @RPGeno

    The “X” in Megaman X was never meant to be “10”. It’s just a spinoff series.

  13. dubnobasswithmyheadman says:

    Aww man… that makes me realize.

    When Megaman 10 comes out, we’ll all spend more time explaining the situation than enjoying the game…. 🙂

  14. Derek says:

    RPGeno: dubnobasswithmyheadman is right. The letter itself is irrelevant. Could’ve been “P” or “K” or anything else…it was never supposed to represent the number 10.

    Jack, I’m with you on Mega Man 9 being a big deal. In fact, I think it is a HUGE deal. One of the biggest game announcements of the year, easily. But I’m still not happy about the decision to go with 8 bit graphics, for several reasons.

  15. peshue says:

    Actually I don’t think this is a large risk at all for Capcom. They already have a huge amount of art at their disposal, and if indie games have taught me anything one person is very capable of making a game like this entirely on their own. I think this falls somewhere between a risk assessment and pandering to nostalgia more than it is striking out in a brave new direction. I’m still excited about it, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near as big of a deal as lots of people are making out of it.

  16. Carlos says:

    Off topic, but you were right Jack
    * PSP: 59,531 (5,325)
    * Wii: 41,037 (4,527)
    * NDS: 36,599 (2,602)
    * PS3: 20,336 (54,975)
    * PS2: 6,346 (951)
    * Xbox 360: 2,555 (392)

    Back to topic.
    Thank God dev. understood that no everything has to be 3d with massive visuals…. Wario Shake, Mega man 9, and hopefully a 2d DK game.

  17. gametaku says:

    I’m more of a fan of the Megaman X series, the whole original set I’ve played and enjoyed, but this game doesn’t make me giddy at all. If it’s priced right I’ll definitely get it, but a new Megaman X or Legends would have really boiled me up.

    Capcom knows in the least that they’ll get their money back on this game. I hope it does sell as well as everyone believes it will, but I believe it’s being developed just to stop people from begging for it. wish the same would happen for Super Mario RPG.

  18. Andrew G. says:

    @ gametaku: Well, the spiritual successors to Mario RPG are the Mario & Luigi games on the handhelds (and the first two Paper Marios, if you think about it). Superstar Saga is really good, and if you haven’t tried it, you definitely should get your hands on it.

    Anyway, not speaking directly to gametaku anymore, I must say that while I enjoy the “X” series, it’s by and large a dated affair. Everything in that spinoff reeks of the generation each game came from. But classic Mega Man had production values, style, music, and gameplay mechanics well ahead of its time, and I can still play the old titles and not feel like I’m playing something that was from the 80s/90s. (For the record, the reason I am not a fan of the old Sonic games is for the same reason: they’re incredibly dated and it feels like they’re from the early 90s, and not in a charming way.)

    Classic Mega Man is just that: classic. X is stuck in a time warp.

  19. Sean says:

    Although I am happy to hear this news, the first thing I could think of is – is it actually programed in NES assembly? If so, will anybody ever find a way to extract the rom, copy it to an old NES cart (it can be done and it’s awesome – hacked/custom roms on your actual nes,) and if so, when can I expect to have an actual NES cartridge of MegaMan 9?

    Sometimes I hate being a retro obsessive.

  20. Derek says:

    No worries, Sean. I was thinking the same thing.

    Capcom should release a limited run of Mega Man 9 NES cartridges. I’d buy one in a heartbeat, and I’d be willing to pay a ludicrous amount of money for it.

  21. XCWarrior says:

    Great article. I have been harping about this forever. I always like a challenge. Hence why I do so many crazy things with this generation’s games (don’t buy new guns for RE4, super limited in FF XII, etc). Because theya re too freaking easy. I’ve been playing the Mega Man AC for the GCN here and there and it’s so hard – and I love it.

    Props to Capcom for going back to their roots – where they were at their best.

  22. gojiguy says:

    I want some quality Street Fighters on the Wii VC/ WiiWare.

    Until then, its KOF ’94 for meee.

  23. Recoil says:

    While this is all GREAT news for us Megaman fans, I wish they would’ve gone with graphics similar to New Super Mario Bros instead. It just doesn’t seem logical to go back to 8-bit graphics when Megaman 8 was 32-bit graphics.

  24. Johnny Lee says:

    Megaman 8 was for geeks and otakus and megaman sounded like a five yearold girl.

  25. gametaku says:

    I’ve played them all, I want a true sequel to the orignal. Mario & Luigi does a much better job at being a part of the series than paper mario, but neither of them really stay in the originals style.

  26. tylor says:

    it wasn’t made in NES assembly and it’s too large to fit on an NES (famicom) cart. i don’t have a source right now but that’s from an interview about the decision to leave bugs and slowdown in as an option.

    so it’s going to be awesome and the idea is awesome and i’m going to buy it the instant it’s possible to, but that said – you could never actually play it on an NES.

  27. tylor says:

    and i’m sorry for the double post, but Johnny Lee: you win, sir. you win.

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