MegaMaster Musings

Classic Gaming
April 28, 2010

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about classic 8-bit game play. Capcom has made Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 as nostalgic games. But both of these games fall slightly short of the bar of a truly enjoyable classic gaming experience. Aside from those things that are already being done in these two games, what could Capcom add to create a truly awesome “retro” game? I have a few suggestions.

    Where’s my slide, darn it!
  • Give Mega Man his slide back. Sliding not only allows for additional stage design (1-block passages to slide through) but also enables the player to dodge enemies and enemy attacks much more effectively, thus making him feel more in control of his own successes and failures. (Mega Man 10 in particular falls victim of this, where they borrowed enemies and ideas from later games that assume that Mega Man has a slide. Without the slide, these foes are hideously frustrating to dodge. This is a perfect example of why you cannot just arbitrarily rip out a game mechanic that a particular enemy was designed around and then import that enemy willy-nilly into the game without making any adjustments to it to take into account the missing slide.)

    Yes, I know Proto Man can slide, but that is not sufficient reason to force Mega Man to have to take hits when faced with enemies that were designed around the slide.

  • Give Mega Man his Mega Buster back. Being able to fire charged shots adds lots of additional aspects to the game play, opening up more options for the player—including the option of not using it in those situations where rapid-fire happens to be more effective.
  • Make the Mega Buster more useful. All of the things I mention below have been done in other 8-bit titles, so this shouldn’t be asking for too much. This would involve:
    • Make the fully-charged shots bigger. If charged shots are barely larger than Mega Man’s normal arm cannon shots, half of the point of using them is gone.
    • Don’t lose charge when hit.
    • Don’t lose shot when taking a hit while releasing charged shot.
    • Don’t lose charge when opening the subscreen/menu. This one is just basic. Seriously, why should Mega Man have to start charging up all over again just because we took a peek at our weapon energy levels?
    • Allow charging during boss demos (while the boss’s energy meter is filling). In some games the player can get around this limitation by charging up before going through the gate, but this doesn’t usually work with teleporting hatches. Let us prepare a shot while the enemy is busy showing off!
    • When charging the Mega Buster during a boss demo, some games allow the player to release the fire button after he’s fully charged, but before the battle starts. In this case Mega Man holds his shot until the moment that the player gains control, then he fires it off instantly. A nice way to get a first hit in. This one isn’t really that critical; it’s just one of those cute ways of taking advantage of the game mechanics, similar to jumping through gates.
  • Allow opening the subscreen menu during boss demos. This allows the player to see what boss he’s facing (particularly applicable with teleporting hatches) and then select and prepare an appropriate weapon before the battle actually starts.
    Look out below!
  • Weapon shots should not disappear when the subscreen/menu is opened. When a menu is opened while a shot is on the screen, if the player closes the menu with that shot’s weapon still equipped, the shot should continue on where it left off. For example, if I am using Rush Jet and I open the menu, I should be able to close the menu with Rush Jet still selected as my active weapon and Rush should remain on the screen and continue flying as if nothing happened. Another example: If I have a shield-type weapon active, the shield should not disappear just because I open my menu, unless I switch weapons while on the menu.
  • Active weapons (e.g. shields) should stay active when switching to a new screen (scrolling). It’s rather irritating that my Jewel Satellite vanishes and I have to waste weapon energy on another one every time I climb up a ladder or scroll the screen horizontally or drop down into a vertical tunnel or something.
  • Enemies should scroll off the screen as easily as they scroll on. In Mega Man 10 in particular, it really feels like it’s much easier to scroll enemies on the screen than to scroll them off. It gets so bad that in many places you scroll an enemy back onto the screen just while in the process of trying to dodge its shots. The justice scale platforms in Blade Man’s stage are a prime example of a place where this aspect rears its ugly head. Sometimes you end up fighting the exact same enemy 3-4 times because you keep scrolling it back on while just trying to jump onto the scale platforms—and if you spend too much time shooting at the ever-reappearing enemies, the platforms will wander away out from underneath you!
  • Make the buttons consistent. For the Xbox versions, for example, Start should always open the subscreen and select stages; Back should always open the system menu. (Or reverse this if you insist but be consistent!) Also, why do we have to press Start to bypass the opening to the game, but we have to press A on the title screen? It is especially important that an action game be consistent about its button presses because the player gets conditioned into quickly hitting a particular button when he wants a certain outcome and these motions end up becoming reflexive since they typically have to happen within the span of time of a split second. I haven’t yet died because I opened the system menu instead of the subscreen when I needed to use an Energy Tank...but there have been times when it’s been very, very close.
  • And finally... More weapon options! If I can fill out the Damage Data grid by entering all 1s (or even worse—zeros) and then just altering a few numbers here and there, where’s the fun in that?
Some might suggest that many of these things contribute to making the game easier. That may be the case, but that’s not my intent with suggesting them. The purpose here is to make the game fun. Never mind right now the stage design or the plot or the graphics. Simple tweaks such as these to the overall basic game play can have a big impact on how fun it is to navigate stages—which is, of course, the main point of the game to begin with.

- The MegaMaster