Even if you're not a fan of his games, you at least have to appreciate how brazen Mega Man co-creator Keiji Inafune has been since leaving Capcom in 2010.
In his time with his new company, Comcept, he's spoken at length about problems within the Japanese game industry that inspired his choice to go independent. And with this newest venture, he's essentially picking up exactly where he left off. Nearly two years after its Kickstarter ended, Mighty No. 9—the spiritual successor to classic Mega Man—will release this fall, bringing a fitting end to one of the biggest crowdfunding success stories. But 2D Mega Man isn't the only past project Inafune plans on revisiting with Comcept.
Enter Red Ash: The Indelible Legend. In case you couldn't tell at first glance, it's a spiritual reboot of Rockman Dash—also known as Mega Man Legends to us Western folks. (Yes, yes, it's all very clever.) Of course, it's not like Inafune has Capcom's blessing or anything—as if he needed it—and Mega Man's former ambassador definitely continues his outspoken ways with a choice quote from Red Ash's Kickstarter video: "Unfortunately [Mega Man Legends] did not receive the success or conclusion it deserved." That's the brand of injustice successful Kickstarters are built on!
At this point, the only way for Inafune to thumb his nose more at Capcom would involve going the adult movie parody route and naming Red Ash "This Ain't Mega Man Legends!!!" but thankfully, he's keeping it classy. In fact, the whole project seems to have an air of prestige about it, at least in terms of how it's being sold to potential backers. So says the Kickstarter: "The RED ASH team is spearheaded by Art Director Kazushi Ito and Director Masahiro Yasuma, key members of the original team that pioneered open world game design with Mega Man Legends. With the RED ASH project, they aim to build an action adventure experience with a new level of freedom, complete with the polish expected from such veteran creators."
If you've never played the Mega Man Legends games, it's safe to say they were pretty ahead of their time—and mostly misunderstood. Heck, when the first game dropped players into an action/RPG set in a contiguous world months before Ocarina of Time would do the same, most reviewers could only grumble about how different the Legends experience was from the Mega Man they knew and loved. In the series' 15-year absence, it's definitely developed a healthy cult following, and fans of Legends certainly have the right to be very excited about the prospect of a spiritual successor that isn't hampered by the limitations of the original PlayStation. Still, one important question remains: Is there really enough of a demand to make Red Ash a reality?
Based on the project's Kickstarter earnings as of this writing, the best response would probably be the Magic 8-Ball standby, "Ask again later." Compared to other Japanese video game Kickstarters, though, Red Dash could be doing a lot better. Sure, $300,000 in three days is nothing to sneeze at, but compared to other crowdfunding projects like Bloodstained and Comcept's own Mighty No. 9, the amount of money raised so far definitely points to an absence of momentum.
But you can't entirely blame a lack of Mega Man Legends enthusiasm on Red Ash's slow start; it could be chalked up to Comcept's less-than-ideal handling of the project's Kickstarter. Bloodstained gave us a teaser website to whet our appetites, and sent creator Koji Igarashi on a round of interviews weeks before for the sake of a full-scale press assault. In comparison, Red Ash's Kickstarter just sort of... happened. Granted, a worthwhile project should speak for itself, but there's something to be said about the benefits of successfully managing hype. (Plus, you have to wonder if Inafune was kicking himself as every possible long-awaited Japanese game saw an announcement in the weeks leading up to his Kickstarter's launch.)
There's also a sense of putting the cart before the horse with the whole Red Ash universe. And I say "universe" because Red Ash isn't just a video game; it wants to be an anime as well. This anime project has its own Kickstarter, too, which may be too much, too soon, even considering the pedigree of Studio 4C. Keiji Inafune has definitely succeeded by following some Western trends, but the extreme emphasis on world-building stands as one of the more annoying trends of non-Japanese games. Really, the in medias res snippet of the world presented in the Kickstarter's animatic should be enough to get people on board with the Red Dash universe, yet the page goes on and on about details that really don't have that much significance outside the context of the actual game. True, Comcept didn't go as far as announcing a planned trilogy, but it's easy to get the sense that they should probably wait for an audience to weigh in before deciding how much this story is worth telling.
So far, the strangest thing about the Red Ash Kickstarter is that it should feel like a much bigger deal; I'm barely seeing a peep about it on Twitter, and it doesn't seem to be garnering the same fan freakout as other crowdfunded revivals. In all fairness to Comcept, though, our senses could just be dulled. This summer has seen a slew of never-gonna-happen things actually happen, so it's possible we could just be spoiled to the point of apathy. Still, even though Red Ash isn't exactly Mega Man Legends, it's definitely a project I want to see come into being: Developers don't really make Zelda-likes anymore, and few games carry that lighthearted, freewheeling Miyazaki-inspired atmosphere that makes Legends so special. With any luck, Red Ash will quickly get over these opening night jitters, and we'll soon have the Mega Man Legends successor we've been craving for the past 15 years.
And by "soon," I mean "probably in 2018."