Initially, I was planning on skipping my article this week and recovering after PAX Prime 2013. Yes, even old men like myself manage to get out to see the crowds and experience the utter garbage that is an expo built for exactly too many people and made to entertain precisely none of them, but I digress. Over the course of the weekend, Keiji Inafune created a Kickstarter for a new project called Mighty No. 9, which is essentially a remake of Mega Man. Actually, let me rephrase that. It is identical to Mega Man. And oddly, this bothers me on a very profound and unexpected level. Let me try to explain why.
At the time of this writing, Might No. 9 is fully funded and just chugging toward its ultimate stretch goals. That doesn’t surprise me in the least, nor does it disappoint me that the project has been fully funded and then some. The aspects that are raising the red flags from me are much more complicated, so I’m actually going to try and choose my words carefully for this next part.
“Who gives a crap?”
Yikes, that got away from me just a bit. Uh, let me try again. Most importantly here, I’m perfectly happy with the idea of the game. I’ve recently started to love the smaller platforming titles appearing in the Wii U’s eShop, and I’ve definitely already thrown money at a different Kickstarter for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, but when it comes to Mighty No. 9, I just feel…confused.
Perhaps a lot of this stems from actually loving the original Mega Man titles. I’ve played Mega Man 1-9, Mega Man X 1-3, and Mega Man 64 (because, duh, I was the guy with the N64), and I’ve loved each one of those for their own special reasons. I never questioned them or found any serious faults, even with something like Mega Man 7, which I’m apparently supposed to hate because it wasn’t on the NES. But coming back to Mighty No. 9, something isn’t sitting well with me, and I think I’ve figured it out: We already have Mega Man, so we don’t need another Mega Man.
To be clearer, Mega Man is one of video gaming’s most iconic characters, and it’s truly puzzling how he’s become even more mishandled by Capcom than Sonic’s been mishandled by Sega, but we don’t actually need another version of Mega Man that looks slightly different; we just need a new Mega Man game.
Where Inafune loses me is at the extremely…artsy(?) video introducing Mighty No. 9. Every bit of the video encourages the connections to Mega Man, from the sound effects to the terminology to the general aesthetic to the story and mechanics and seriously every single bit. At a quick glance, the character of Beck can be mistaken for Mega Man. Other character designs and enemy designs and concept designs can be mistaken for Mega Man characters and enemy and concept designs. So what’s the point?
Obviously this is where it gets complicated since I’d gladly welcome a new Mega Man game that looks exactly like this. That Capcom refuses to acknowledge the brand is the most baffling aspect of all, but Capcom’s failures don’t ultimately make me purely joyous at the prospect of Mighty No. 9, and I think it’s because when it comes right down to it, Inafune is loudly and proudly demonstrating that in all the years since he’s begun in video gaming, crafted a timeless character, and innovated with a unique twist on the platforming genre, he doesn’t actually have a single new idea to bring to the table.
To touch back on my earlier mention of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, the reason I don’t have a problem with that is that Shantae is WayForward’s baby and always has been. This project feels like a natural progression for them, and since they’re looking to get ambitious and fully control their “dream project,” Kickstarter money seems like a safer bet than making a huge deal with any one publisher who may or may not allow them full freedom or control over their rightful IP. I don’t see that as an issue because Shantae is an original character they’ve always owned and always wanted to do something with. Inafune just rehashing the most rehashed character ever created doesn’t feel like a grand dream project but rather an extremely naïve and entitled project, a sort of, “Well, I don’t have the rights to my character and I couldn’t handle the company who still owns those rights, but I want to make a new game of his anyway.” I’ll be shocked if Capcom doesn’t take this to court at some point.
For perspective on this, let’s look at one of video gaming’s other greatest legends. A lot of pressure it placed on someone like Shigeru Miyamoto and expectations are high to the point of impossible for him to deliver an entirely new IP as unique as Mario, Zelda, or Pikmin. So when I see Inafune coming out with a game unrestricted by any limitations or corporate hassling and he decides to just make the first game he made all those years ago, but in HD and for…PCs? What? That’s so disheartening.
The fact that the first platform listed and planned for was the PC utterly staggers me. Maybe because I’m not a PC gamer and never will be, but when I think Keiji Inafune, I think of games made for a console. The stretch goals account for Mac and Linux versions (a goal that’s already been reached), and then PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U versions after a behind-the-scenes documentary. Sh-what? You’re putting a documentary ahead of dedicated gaming platforms? I just-what? Why would you do that unless you had zero concept of who would want to play your game, namely, people who want to play your game. I couldn’t care less how you made your game if I can’t actually play your game. Showing priorities like that and even namedropping the Double Fine game (that I have separate issued with) as a reason to include a documentary only turns me away from the project.
I think my main holdup is still the insistence on this being something really cool despite it being a self-proclaimed reimagining of Mega Man. In my eyes, this is like if Miyamoto came out with a Kickstarter project for a new platformer planned for PC starring a plumber dressed in red who jumps and gains power-ups while fighting turtles and mushrooms. That’s utterly absurd and we’d all call shenanigans on something like that because it’s ludicrous. If Inafune is going to take potshots at Japanese-made video games (which I’m all for, by the way), then he damn sure better show that he’s got something better to fire back with than, “I’d really like to remake my most beloved game but I don’t own the rights to my most beloved character, so nyah-nyah, here’s Shmega Shman, a totally different character.”
Worse still, I don’t believe for a second that Inafune should have to use Kickstarter. Remember what Kickstarter was originally for? You know, that site for the little guys who couldn’t afford publicity but who had original ideas and just needed a way to get their vision out to a larger audience? That concept that Tim Schaffer totally pissed on in an instant and the Penny Arcade guys have gleefully abused relentlessly? Yeah, the guy who creates Mega Man doesn’t need any help, and if he does, then he doesn’t have any reason to still be in the industry.
How much do you want to bet that if Inafune went to either Sony or Nintendo with this idea, he would have had all the funding he needed? Make an exclusive deal with one of them and just let the resources come flooding in. This sort of thing is right up Nintendo’s alley, especially if Mega Man appearing in the new Smash Bros is any indication, and Sony has recently shown that they’re willing to be aggressive when it comes to locking down exclusives on the PS4, so why didn’t Inafune hit them up about this?
This leads me to one of three possible conclusions: 1. Inafune didn’t think to seek obvious partners and thus doesn’t know how to make partners in an industry that demands it. 2. Inafune did approach one or more larger companies and was turned away for one reason or another. 3. Inafune concluded that he would prefer to work independently so that he could retain the rights to his own character…who is identical to another character that will forever overshadow this new character. None of these conclusions breed confidence in me that this is anything more than a simple vanity project from a developer that has decided he doesn’t work well with others anymore, and that bothers me.
To emphasize, I don’t think Mighty No. 9 looks bad in any way, nor am I disappointed that it’s been funded or that it’s being made, and when it reaches the stretch goals pushing it onto the Wii U, I’ll absolutely purchase it. What I’m saying is, I’m disillusioned that a developer who’s reached such greatness is reduced to a very diminished position in my head where he can’t get funding from anyone, can’t think of any new characters, and can’t prioritize the important aspects of a project (namely, put greater platform support ahead of a documentary). Keiji Inafune should be an untouchable gaming legend…so why is he resorting to Kickstarter of all things to fund his next project that looks extremely similar to most of WayForward’s most recent titles? Simply, that upsets me.
Again, this upset feeling isn’t meant to be anything more than a discomfort and a general feeling that something about the project is “off” in some way. I don’t see this as some greater gaming controversy or a shocking revelation of dire times to come. I’m unsettled and uneasy, and this news is fairly fresh, so it felt like a good topic to dive on.
But I don’t get the last word, nor should I ever. I want to hear your opinions on the matter. Am I just looking for reasons to be unhappy (a hypothesis that isn’t too outlandish considering my usual writings), or am I uncovering some points you never considered before? Write a comment and let me know how off base I am on this one. Next time, I promise to do something far less heavy. Or maybe I’ll just rewrite one of my previous articles, because that’s a perfectly legitimate form of creating something new now, right?