Nintendo took an unusual approach to E3 this year, foregoing its traditional big press conference in favor of a video livestream. Fans can give you a laundry list of reasons the event should come back to future E3s in a big, but here's a biggie: It's sad to think that the Nokia theater remained empty and silent when it should have been reverberating with roars of approval upon Mega Man's Super Smash Bros. reveal.
But even though the event was confined to our living rooms, Mega Man's debut trailer still served two purposes. First, it arguably offered the single biggest surprise in an otherwise lukewarm Nintendo Direct E3 presentation notable mainly for its lack of mind-blowing new announcements (and it also gets bonus points for salving our irritation at Nintendo's janky video feed). And secondly, Mega Man's appearance indicates that maybe, just maybe, everything's going to be okay for Dr. Light's little blue robot son.
It's a view that might be waved away as silly optimism. After all, Capcom has treated its (supposedly) cherished mascot with anything but the respect that an 8-bit veteran deserves. It's as if the studio hit a switch the second series designer Keiji Inafune walked out the door in 2010. The action-platforming game Mega Man Universe was cancelled, and Mega Man Legends 3 for the Nintendo 3DS was euthanized shortly thereafter. Though Mega Man survived, it was through flaccid iOS games like Rockman Xover (pronounced "Rockman Cross Over"—or, if you want to be morbid, "Rockman's Over"). The release of the original games on the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS Virtual Consoles has also helped keep the property alive, as has Archie's Mega Man comic. Still, nothing keeps a series relevant as much as a new adventure.
Mega Man's appearance in 2012's Street Fighter X Tekken didn't inspire many good feelings either, since he appeared as a potbellied joke based around the gross box art for the original North American release of Mega Man on the NES. It's unlikely Capcom meant to antagonize Mega Man fans with Bad Box Art Mega Man's appearance, but it their decision could have been timed better.
Capcom has reassured fans repeatedly that the Mega Man franchise is not dead, but until E3 2013, there was little reason to believe otherwise. Even so, while Mega Man's reveal trailer for the Wii U and 3DS iterations of Super Smash Bros. offers an awesome treat for fans (particularly the fear in Link's eyes when he blocks a Metal Blade with his shield—"C'mon guys, someone could get hurt for real here!"), it leaves us wanting something more traditional for the Blue Bomber, too. Should we dare hope? Is it worth risking the heartbreak to speculate that Mega Man's Super Smash Bros. appearance marks the start of something better for video games' favorite robot?
Absolutely... though fans continue to tread cautiously for obvious reasons. Still, much of the fan hostility being projected towards Capcom regarding Mega Man's inclusion in the game seems unwarranted. Within moments of the new Super Smash Bros. trailer fading to black, Mega Man fans hit message boards and comment threads to speculate about how the property transaction between Capcom and Nintendo probably went down. The popular theory is that Capcom shoved a rusty, beat-up robot at Nintendo and then ran away with a big bag emblazoned with a dollar sign.
That never happened, Capcom Unity community Manager Brett Elston noted with some irritation via Twitter. "Nintendo doesn't ‘care' about Mega Man more than Capcom," he wrote. "Those are logos. PEOPLE on both sides made SSB happen. That design is collaboration."
A New Coat of Blue Paint
Indeed, Mega Man's new design in Super Smash Bros. carries the markings of a collaborative effort. 2008's Mega Man 9 and 2010's Mega Man 10 demonstrated that Capcom retains a lot of love for Mega Man's classic roots, as do fans, which may be why Mega Man in Super Smash Bros. moves exactly like his 8-bit sprite come to life in 3D. Mega Man has existed in many iterations, some popular, some less so, but it's hard to argue that any form is as beloved or familiar as his original five-color sprite. If Capcom is trying to drum up enthusiasm for Mega Man again, flaunting his origins is definitely the way to go.
In fact, in a recent Nintendo Direct video, Super Smash Bros. series director Masahiro Sakurai outlined the work that went into making Mega Man move and fight authentically. Sakurai also remarked in an interview with Polygon that it had been "easy" to include Mega Man on the Smash roster. That's not to say that Capcom mumbled "Yeah, yeah," and waved its hand when Nintendo approached it. Rather, "[Capcom was] very favorable and open to it. The approval process, in terms of how we're representing Mega Man, was actually really smooth and went really quickly."
According to Sakurai, selecting third party characters for Super Smash Bros. is an extremely stressful business. The request list is miles long. Sakurai is understandably proud and protective of the Super Smash Bros. series; would he have wanted to include Mega Man if Capcom had been apathetic about the future of its property?
Sakurai also mentioned that Mega Man was Smash Bros.' most requested third-party character. Capcom undoubtedly realizes this. Coupled with the surge in popularity that Mega Man's inclusion should bring to the franchise, it's hard to imagine that Capcom will sit and stare at the ceiling while their mascot's potential goes to waste.
Hope Rides with Friends
Some fans might scoff that Capcom Japan hasn't been making good decisions based around Mega Man for years now, and we're not likely to see a new core game as a result. Skepticism is understandable, but here's one more thing to consider.
A promotional piece of artwork featuring Mega Man front and center amongst the rest of the Smash Bros. crew appears on the warrior's official Super Smash Bros. profile. The artwork is penned by Ryuji Higurashi, a veteran Capcom artist whose works include many games across the Mega Man series. Konami didn't offer special artwork for Snake's induction into Super Smash Bros., nor did Sega draw promotional art for Sonic when the hedgehog entered the fight. Is this special gesture from Capcom and Higurashi a sign that Mega Man is in the process of being reborn?
We don't know what 21XX holds for any of us, least of all blue robots in desperate need of recognition. Nevertheless, as the hype for the new Super Smash Bros. builds, we're going to look hard at the horizon and hope to finally catch a glimpse of productive smoke rising from the House of Light.
[Image credits: The Mega Man Network]
Nadia Oxford spends her nights rocking back and forth in a corner while clutching a Mega Man doll and mumbling, "Mega Man is coming back. Mega Man is coming back." You can try and talk some sense into her on Twitter at nadiaoxford.