I remember 1997 for many reasons. That was the year my hormones began to explode within my body like ruptured sunspots, leading to a variety of humiliating incidents too graphic to recount here. That was the year I regrettably hurled a racial slur at the school bully, the first of many politically-incorrect incidents which would eventually lead my hometown’s sizeable community of progressive liberals to effectively banish me to Los Angeles. And that was the year that I somehow came into the possession of a single copy of Tips & Tricks magazine, poring over the glossy color pages with excited glee, trying to decide which of the spotlighted titles I’d be purchasing when my birthday came in a few months.
“You’ve gotta get Pokemon,” my neighborhood pal John Carey informed me, obviously excited for the upcoming monster-catching simulator. “I’ll get the Blue version and you’ll get the Red version, and then we can trade and battle and stuff.” Being a lowly 5th grader, the sagely advice of a 6th grader like John was akin to the word of god itself. And so on the release date of Pokemon, just two days shy of my actual birthday, I found myself rifling through a display case crammed thick with video games in search of these so-called Pocket Monsters.
The store was Media Play, an entertainment Mecca so rich that it still features prominently within my dreams despite the chain having been defunct for many years now. The video game department was a large plastic alcove inset with multiple crowded demo stations, a bank of televisions proudly showcasing the latest titles available for purchase. And within this abyss I found a copy of Pokémon Red, looking it over with a smile on my face. But for some reason, I was seized by a moment of doubt. I began to wonder if this was really the game I had come here for, if this was a wise purchase to be making. After all, the Tamagotchi fad had finally died just a few months earlier, who could say this Pokémon thing wouldn’t burn out just as quickly? I soon found myself holding the other game which had been spotlighted within that now-forgotten magazine, one which despite lacking the endorsement of a 6th grader, looked strangely awesome.
“I could get both…” I murmured aloud to my mom.
“That would be all your birthday money” she informed me with a shrug.
She was right of course. Even despite having no more self-restraint than any other ten-year-old, knowing that money was my reward for having survived the first ten awful years of this lonely thing called life, I couldn’t bring myself to part with it so easily. I looked the two games over, and I made my decision.
I bought Mega Man Legends. And to this day, I know I made the right choice (Though after a week of John’s nagging I went back and bought Pokémon anyway…)
Obviously nostalgia smoothes the rough edges of reality, and I’ll be the first to admit that Mega Man Legends was a far from perfect game. The title suffers most obviously from having being released a few months in advance of the Dual Shock controller, Mega Man often forced to stand in one spot and awkwardly stomp around in a circle in order to orient the camera and continue onward. Meanwhile the game’s outdoor areas all featured the same stock audio clip of birds chirping, an eight second loop so annoying that to this day I practically scream when I hear it used in other titles (Nexon! I cannot commit to playing your colorful and awesome MMORPG Dragon Nest until you remove that GODDAMN BIRD CHIRPING NOISE).
And yet what Mega Man Legends lacked in the ‘not making my ears bleed’ department, it more than compensated for with its infectious level of charm and ridiculously fun action RPG gameplay. Once I figured out how to make do with the wonky controls, I soon found myself stomping about Kattelox Island like a boss, lighting up Reaverbots with a hot burst of buster fire, trading in the Zenny crystals I collected within the dungeons for exciting new weapons and ability upgrades. Looking back now, I find it honestly admirable that Capcom dedicated such care into a title rated ‘E for Everyone.’ Most developers of the Playstation-era were busy working to capture the hearts of the same sweaty-palmed teenage boys who had bought 7 million copies of Tomb Raider so as to gaze at Lara Croft’s jaggy polygon ass, building games meant to thrill consumers with a combination of action violence and sexual titillation. And Mega Man Legends stood almost as a counterpoint to this, offering a bright colorful world which appeared drawn with a set of thick Crayola crayons. An action-packed all-ages romp, something slightly more mature than Mario, though never approaching the absurd levels of 90s style “mature themes” offered by games like Twisted Metal. Not to mention the game’s unforgettable cast of characters, especially the hilarious antics of teenage villainess Tron Bonne and her moronic army of lovable Servbots.
A few Christmases later I received the sequel as a present, an event I greeted with un-recordable levels of enthusiasm. I will admit the opening cutscene of Mega Man Legends 2 was a bit offensive to my instincts as a red-blooded young male (Mega Man, wearing a yellow apron, cooks breakfast like a bitch for his almost-girlfriend Roll. If this was not emasculating enough, he also has the voice of Sailor Jupiter) though I still played the game to completion, especially enjoying the fixed control scheme. Years beyond that I even ended up playing through the obscure side-story title ‘The Misadventures of Tron Bonne,’ a game which would’ve still featured prominently in my Playstation collection if the eBay kids hadn’t offered me a hundred goddamn dollars for it.
Heck, there’s probably five guys total within the domestic United States who imported boxes of obscure ‘Namco X Capcom’ trading figures specifically in the hopes of opening a Tron Bonne for their shelf. I’m one of them.
This one is mine. I lost her little screwdriver when I moved and it makes me want to kill myself.
And as the years went on, Capcom developing a slew of Mega Man spinoffs and sequels, I always wondered “When are they going to make another Mega Man Legends already?” When Servbot heads showed up as a wearable item in Dead Rising I thought “Aha! It’s not too far off now!” When Tron Bonne was announced as appearing in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 I thought “Oh snap! It’s going to happen!” I held my breath and I crossed my fingers, hoping that nobody in the room would notice the absurd levels of fanboyish anticipating welling within me. After all, it just wouldn’t be professional.
See, as a semi-respected video game journalist, it is my sworn duty to maintain a level of professional disinterest on the subject of upcoming video game titles. Regular gamers get excited for what’s around the corner, eagerly scour the web for the latest Mass Effect trailer, reading previews of Call of Duty, frantically decoding cryptic messages as part of whatever viral nonsense is being used to promote the new Halo. I’m not allowed to care about those sort of things. I get excited for a game, it clouds my judgment, interferes with the journalistic tenet of objectivity (one most other game journalists have seemingly forgotten about). Hell, I get too excited for a game, and my dumb quote might end up adorning the otherwise beautiful box art, forever earning the scorn of the gaming community at large.
It’s called rabies IGN. Get yourselves checked out.
And yet there was one game I allowed myself to be excited for. A game I had a very personal connection to, one for which I had waited eleven goddamn years for a sequel. That game, obviously, was Mega Man Legends 3.
And now, as quickly as it entered my life, it’s gone.
“On behalf of the entire Legends team, please accept our sincere apology for failing to meet the expectations of the fans. We thank you all so much for your extended support of this title and this community, and we hope that you will continue to support the Mega Man franchise as well as other Capcom games.”
If you haven’t been following along, Mega Man Legends 3 for the Nintendo 3DS has just been cancelled. The development blog always hinted at something like this being possible, though I’d dismissed it as a cheeky marketing trick, as if they were simply trying to scare us into building up fan-hype for a title by threatening to take it away. But I guess it wasn’t a trick after all, Capcom so enthusiastic about cancelling the game that they couldn’t even bother to try releasing the “Prototype” demo which was already announced for the 3DS eStore. When I found out the news I sighed deeply, wondering why I’d let myself pour so much emotional stock into what was surely a pipe-dream.
I feel like the child of divorce, wondering how this seemingly perfect thing could’ve fallen apart. Wondering if its somehow my fault, our fault? Me and the rest of the children of Megaman Legends. But what were we expected to do, really? Could we have saved the game if we’d all found time to contribute to the Megaman Legends 3 community project, by building a thriving fanbase? Would it have helped for us to have run out and purchased otherwise useless Nintendo 3DS units, giving Capcom a reason to build a real game for the fledgling console? Or maybe I could’ve bought a plane ticket to Japan, put the barrel of a gun in Keiji Inafune’s mouth and told him to sit the hell back down and finish what he started. But the time for these things is passed now. The game is cancelled, there’s nothing we can do.
People are upset, obviously, running to their message board of choice and posting long rants about how much CAPCOM SUX LOL. But they don’t realize that the video game industry has given up on our kind long ago. The game industry most of us grew up on was a Japanese industry at heart. But this has shifted. North America is now the largest video game market in the world, and games are built not to appeal to those of us who still cling to the Japanese-styled games we grew up on, but to the new Western market segments, the first-person-shooter crowd, the hyper-masculine thrill seekers, the dreaded casual gamer. And the Japanese developers who once brought us our favorite games, have been forced to abandon those titles we once loved in hopes of appealing to the new dynamic. The results have sometimes been laughable, for instance Squaresoft replacing their traditional pretty-boy with a gruff Kratos wannabe in Nier. And though Dead Rising remains a big seller, even Capcom has had trouble adjusting to the West’s way of doing things, with Lost Planet 2 being a notable flop.
It’s true that Japanese game design has grown somewhat stagnant, with many Japanese developers envious of the West’s ability to innovate. There’s certainly nothing wrong with FPS games like Halo or Call of Duty. There’s definitely little value in complaining about the casual gamers. What troubles me though is knowing how this new paradigm has shoved gamers like myself into a little niche, one supplanted by a few meager titles a year. I don’t even know what you’d call our niche, some call it hardcore, though such a term makes me think I should be wrapping my firsts in barbed wire before powering on Gradius V. Though whatever you might call us filthy Japanophiles, it seems obvious our time has come and gone, and the death of Mega Man Legends 3 seems like the final nail in the coffin.
So that’s it then, the industry soldiers on. The gritty action games will continue to receive their endless stream of sequels. The niche titles I grew up loving will eventually all disappear, likely buried beneath a pile of casual time-wasters controlled with awkward motion-sensitive peripherals. Hell, even Nintendo doesn’t want me to have a decent RPG these days (see: Operation Rainfall), figuring they already tricked me into buying their stupid plastic brick with that piece of crap Capcom tried to pass off as a Monster Hunter game.
So to hell with it. Capcom, there’s nothing I need from you anymore. Have fun announcing your new Marvel vs. Capcom 3 characters at Comic-Con. In a perfect world you’d have the decency to bury Tron Bonne while you’re at it.
I committed the ultimate sin. I got excited for a video game.
I won’t make that mistake again.