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I often wonder if the glint in the eye of game developers grows dim when their publisher announces it wants the next entry of their franchise to go mobile. For many developers, far more than I have enough time to gush over, the mobile marketplace is an opportunity for experimentation and creating small games that use the platform to its fullest. For financially successful developers, those with marketing budgets large enough to snare Super Bowl ads, the mobile marketplace is an opportunity to take franchises people love, slap some skinner boxes in them, and then send them out into the App Store sea to hunt whales like digital Captain Ahabs.
Although not all mobile entries of traditional console and PC games are bad, very rarely is the news a series is getting a smartphone spinoff greeted with thunderous applause. For many titles, trading tactile controls for a touchscreen eliminates what made those games so special in the first place. There is a reason the original six Mega Man games on mobile were met with near-universal condemnation. You can’t just take what worked on an NES, a brilliant twitch platformer that arguably has the most genius set-up in all of platforming, and expect that success to be replicated on mobile with some minor adjustments.
The beauty of Mega Man lies in its elegant yet brutal difficulty that rewards quick thinking, memorization, and perfect hand-eye coordination. It’s that gameplay that has people excited about Mega Man 11 even if one of the bosses is so unimaginatively named Block Man. I may not be the best Mega Man player out there -- Mega Man Zero is more my cup of tea -- but it’s certainly the type of game I need to play every now and then because finding a player vs. developer challenge is something that keeps me on my toes. I’m happy 11 is a thing, but for a long while it looked like the only way we’d get to experience anything new from the Blue Bomber would be to download Asian exclusive mobile games.
It’s quite odd Capcom hasn’t been willing to produce a steady stream of new Mega Man titles over the past decade. Nintendo easily did it with Mario, HAL Laboratory with Kirby, and Sega kept pumping out Sonic games even when we kind of asked them to stop. But Capcom cut and run.
2010 saw the release of Mega Man 10 and the Mega Man Zero Collection. That was eight years ago. Eight years without a new Mega Man game on consoles -- and no, I’m not giving them credit for Street Fighter X Mega Man. Instead, Capcom tried to ride the mobile wave, dumping the series onto smartphones with poor translations of their most celebrated games and original titles like the no-longer-in-service Rockman Xover. It would be easy to ignore those titles if there were other Mega Man games on the horizon. But for the longest time, there wasn’t. Shit got cancelled, and while other developers picked up the reigns in its steed, Capcom produced squat. It seemed content just letting the franchise rot in the App store or keeping it barely relevant with compilations that barely compile anything.
A certain type of Mega Man game can absolutely work on mobile, but the core of this series, the platforming titles that birthed such a brilliant franchise, belongs on a platform or platforms where physical controls are a requirement.