Entering E3's Capcomland meant walking into a tiny room with four curtained walls. It would've been dark as night if it weren't for the shining monitors of five Street Fighter IV machines; their light attracted journalists like flies. There was a sixth cabinet, but Mr. Scantleberry commandeered it to obsess over Chun Li's thunder thighs. Paired up with Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, it was a presentation of SF and nothing more, I thought, until a man pushed through one of those curtained walls and revealed that something lay beyond. With Travis in the lead, we ventured into this hidden territory and discovered that Capcomland was not as tiny as it once seemed.
Numerous screens were showcasing various titles, but Mega Man 9 drew our attention, singing to us with its theme music. After a brief 8-bit jaunt, I pulled aside Capcom's associate PR manager, Tim Ng, for some questions. The first was about its artistic direction, which I've felt is too simple, even for a game of its kind.
More effort went into it than I assumed. When asked if the level design was completed, Mr. Ng answered, "I can't say that they're final," yet virtually assured me they were. "Development has been a lot harder than people think. Because we didn't have any of the resources we used back then, they had to reverse engineer the old games," he noted. With a smile, Mr. Ng asked, "How much do you think this cost? When I saw the development budget, I thought, 'Wow... really?'" Lots of dollars were funneled into this unexpectedly complex endeavor, and Mr. Ng emphasized that they're marrying archaic and modern methods to create an authentically classic Mega Man experience. Judging by the demo I had my hands on, I felt his statement held truth.
I was playing a stage with an unnamed Robot Master, who was the obvious lovechild of Dust Man and an extension cord -- must have been Plug Man. Outside of tight, pixel-perfect controls, it had everything: menacing floating enemies, disappearing blocks, and a stubby collectible bolt that rekindled memories of Mega Man 7. Since it was in a narrow niche and there's no slide maneuver, I couldn't nab it. Mr. Ng wouldn't reveal the solution, but if it's not a Rush adaptor, Mega Man may get a weapon specializing in push-'n'-pull double-duty.
While trotting Mega Man along, I brought up the Keiji Inafune connection, and Mr. Ng took our discussion beyond Mega Man 9. "[Inafune's] working on a lot of projects, but Mega Man always has a special place in his heart. .... We're trying to get Mega Man back in the spotlight. Mega Man 9 is a side-project for [Inafune]. We want it to be popular enough so a new Mega Man can be his main project."
Additionally, Mr. Ng confirmed that Capcom plans to continue the Mega Man X franchise, since Inafune wants it to go on. Remembering the whole fiasco over X6 and how it ruined the ties to the Zero storyline, I questioned Mr. Ng accordingly and he assured me that Inafune would have more involvement. Capcom wants Mega Man to be on top again, and considering that the “Father of Mega Man” does too, Mega Man 9 shouldn't be the last of its kind.
"We'll finally have Mega Man 1 and Mega Man 2 here, since they've been in Europe for a while," Mr. Ng explained, "and if those and Mega Man 9 do well, we want to do more." Once I brought up the tragedy behind Mega Man Powered Up's poor sales, he solemnly sympathized, "There are a lot of tragedies in Mega Man's history."
Here's to hoping that Mega Man 9 won't repeat Powered Up's undeserved failure, and that its own NES-styled experience delivers the level design, gameplay, and music that its fans expect. You'll have to wait till it's released later on this year, so kick back and enjoy several pages of MM-themed puns in the meantime.