Monday, July 7, 2008

Bit Watch: Mega Man 9

I thought 8-Bit gaming was dead and gone. Then came Mega Man 9. Capcom announced Mega Man 9 on Nintendo's Wii Ware service.

The kicker: it will be in 8-Bit.

Finally... FINALLY, game developers are beginning to understand. You can thank Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune for the breakthrough. Graphics don't make a game, and the less powerful systems had amazing games partly because they were given a framework in which to work.

The analogy is comparable to structure in literature. Sometimes free verse is the way to go, sometimes a sonnet. A novel, or a short story. The limitations inspire and force creativity. "Bit" graphics can offer the same structure and variety to video games. The text should dictate the form used. It's a simple question: would this game work better in 8-Bit. In the case of Mega Man, the answer is, most certainly, YES.

Form should not be picked at random (and, most often it isn't: video game form is tied directly to $$$), it should be carefully chosen. Video games have constantly moved toward "new is better" which is a result of professional reviewers having an extreme bias toward game that don't have a billion-dollar budget. Re-released games will often receive scores in the 4-6 range simply for being "outdated," and crappy shovelware titles might squeak by with a 6.9. See their review of Metroid. Now take a look at TV Show King. I'm not making this up.

It's 2008 and the developers had a wide variety of forms to choose from. They chose 8-Bit because Mega Man just works in 8-Bit. And this is a major victory for 8-Bit. 2D gaming never expired, it just migrated to the handheld market. But even there, the insistence that games be 16- or 32-bit was overwhelming. 2D gameplay was okay, but only if you had tons of bells and whistles to justify not being a 3D game.

Finally, someone had the balls to say "fuck it," and just made an 8-Bit game. Hopefully, their vision and inspiration (and profits) will inspire other companies and developers to do the same. Capcom are making an argument for 8-Bits, but the implications are further-reaching. This isn't about 8-Bit, i'ts about form and video games and art. If video games are going to progress, then they must have the option to use whatever form they feel appropriate, even if that requires technical limitations. The gaming community should embrace this mindset.

I do know a few tidbits about the mechanics of Mega Man 9. Not much is known at this point, but the robot masters will be: Magma Man, Galaxy man, Jewel Man, Concrete Man, Hornet Man, Plug Man, Tornado Man (wait a minute, didn't the already do that?), and Splash WOMAN (ZOMG)! The slide move and the charge-shot will be purchasable via Dr. Light's shop (a la Mega Man 7). Mega Man 9 launches in September, in Japan. Other releases to follow.

Also interesting: I'd bet that most gamers excited about Mega Man 9 have played a Mega Man rom hack (I've even made one myself)? Or an unrelated rom hack? After all the internet is teeming with romhacks... wait a minute. Why the fuck didn't developers catch on to this before? Because the people handing out money are idiots, obviously. However, have no fear, I am sure Mega Man 9 will be a smash hit, outselling everything else on Wii Ware. Devs will jump on that cash cow like a trampoline. Expect a slough of crappy 8-Bit games, but don't worry, we'll sort the good from the bad.

This is history in the making folks. Enjoy the gallery.


Anonymous said...

I'm now going to officially steal my brother's WII when i move to florida, so i just play this game all the time. maybe not, good post though.

Anonymous said...

nice analysis. it'll def. be interesting to see how other companies react to this.

Benjamin Fennell said...

Gamespot's written some really hilariously terrible WiiWare reviews. They obviously didn't even play Pop, considering that it's vastly better than they reviewed it as. Their review reflects a writer sitting down with it for maybe 2 minutes, playing a single game in one mood, giving up, and writing the game off for its premise. WiiWare in general has some great puzzle games. And I'm as excited for Mega Man 9 as everyone else. The Wii's finally getting some long-awaited much-deserved major exclusives, and how sweet it is.

Anonymous said...

The major problem in today's gaming world is that it is not a discipline anymore. Anyone can be a gamer, even my mother, it doesn't matter to most developers as long their titles sell a lot. Back in the late 80s, gaming was not for anyone, parents were rarely interested. Most games were short, but finishing a game was an accomplishments. Games today all have 12 buttons controllers and 100 of combos or special moves. Most levels in any new modern games are like a tutorial. They literally SHOW you how to get through stages. It ain't about challenge, it ain't about groundbreak developpement, it ain't about high scores and secret codes everybody used to know about and tell each other in the neighborhood. If a game is hard in 2008, the new generation of gamers will be pissed and say it's sucks. Let critics give bad ratings to Wiiwares and such things. Megaman 9 is hard, I'm halfway through it, and if I finish it I'll feel like I have some kind of talent cause it's so damn hard, yet so good. 8-bit in 2008 is the definition of GROUNDBREAKING. Any classic games of the last 20 years were marginal and unusual concept that turned out to become legendary influences, standards in gaming and even TRENDS. Let's hope we get a trend of good games, for once since 2002.

Anonymous said...

2 words for u fuckin nerds: mario adventure