Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mystery Solved: Proto Man Ruined Everything

So we've got this poll, which indicates that 49% of 85 voters prefer the later NES Mega Man games over MM2 and 3, which are too frequently and almost exclusively hailed as the best games in the series. There are plenty of factors that might have influenced the results of this poll, including:

- Most voters probably haven't played all ten games on the list
- Interpretations of "favorite era" may have been quite varied
- Not enough people voted to be reliably representative of the greater fanbase

...Et cetera. These are valid points, which is why I'm not about to base my entire post around these results. However, I will say this: If Mega Man 2 and 3 are so venerated by the reviewing community, then why did almost 70% of a group this large prefer the games that followed?

Especially when the most popular adjectives to describe the series after 3 seem to be some variation of "disappointing," "repetitive," "uncreative" and "suck," the last of which isn't technically an adjective.

The first three games have it made: MM1 is generally accepted to be a good start to the series, albeit a flawed one. MM2 does everything MM1 did, but better--so much so that nothing could ever top it. MM3 does everything MM2 did, but there's more of it, which might somehow be better still. The "original trilogy" starts off with some good ideas and keeps building on itself, and everyone loves it for that.

To summarize what a distressing number of critics have to say about the rest of the series: MM4 is a total rehash of 1-3, introduces a charge shot that makes obnoxious noises and ruins the fun of button-mashing the controller to destroy the enemies, and features horrible music, overly cheerful graphics, uninspired level design, and the dopiest bosses ever. MM5 is exactly the same, but good. MM6 is exactly the same, but bad.

What??

Continuing on: MM7 has stupidly huge graphics, decidedly less-elegant controls, and is inherently disappointing because it's not Mega Man X. MM8 has atrocious voice acting, useless bosses, and an overall feel that is either described as "weird" or "kiddy." MM9 is way too hard, offers nothing new to the series, and retro is dumb. Actually, not too many reviewers will tell you that; MM9 is where the criticism starts thinning out and people start saying nice things about the series again.

There are certainly people who think more highly of the larger series (myself included, though the critics are right about MM8), but opinions are all over the place until MM9, which folks generally enjoy it because it because it reminds them of how Mega Man used to be great (when it looked like Mega Man 2). Granted, there aren't currently as many reviews out there to compare, but the consensus is that MM9 is good, and...get this...MM10 is almost exactly the same but even better.

Side note: Apparently, the appeal of any Mega Man game released since Proto Man's debut is directly proportional to how prominent a role Proto Man plays. Proto Man is a playable character or plays a significant role in MM3, 5, 7, 9, and 10, and these games are consistently ranked higher than 4, 6, and 8, which only have pathetic cameos by Proto Man. Perhaps for this reason, Mega Man 10 is well-loved by the relatively few reviewers who have weighed in (myself notwithstanding), and I haven't seen this much unanimously positive feedback since Mega Man 2.

That makes my skin crawl.

But let's back up and summarize the summaries: MM3 is like MM2 is like MM1, which is good. MM6 is like MM5 is like MM4 is like MM3, 2, and 1, which is bad. MM8 and MM7 are different from MM6, 5, and 4 (which is like 3, 2, and 1), which is bad. MM9 is different from MM8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and 3 (which is like 2, which is like 1), which is good, or possibly bad. MM10 is like MM9, which is better.

What??

Forget the poll--I think we need to analyze the fans instead.

8 comments:

Matt Link said...

Yeah that's an excellent observation, and I definitely agree that going off of the average of most of the Mega Man series' fans' "logic" behind what decides which games are best can drive one absolutely insane.

I have to laugh, because as cool as Proto Man is to the series, he's a total knock-off (or tribute, your call) of the Racer X character from the old Speed Racer cartoon. Funny thing is, I first realized this waaay back when I first played and beat Mega Man 3, and seeing his appearances and the way his role is approached throughout the rest of the series futher cemented the comparison in my mind. I may be diving into too many details here, but the resemblance between the two characters is uncanny. Namely:

1). He's the rogue, mysterious older brother of the main character.
2). He wears a mask covering his eyes.
3). He shows up from time to time to challenge the main character.
4). He shows up from time to time to give the main character a helping hand in times of trouble.
5). He disappears without a trace before a) the main character has a chance to thank him, and b) the main character has a chance to ask him any questions.
6). ...and if I'm not mistaken, both character's faces appear in the sky while the main character gazes up or off to the distance.

And while I'm sure this is something that has been used in numerous series in the time period, it's still very noticeable. So knowing all this, it's hard for me to look at Proto Man and not see him take off down the race track in his yellow "Mach Go" car (Wait... yellow like Proto Man's scarf? Mwhaaa?) And yet, I still find Proto Man to be an awesome addition to the series, albeit definitely NOT the reason why specific games are great.

Btw, not sure if you were joking about this, but I'd love to see you write up an analysis of the fans! :) That'd be a tough one to cover, how do you think you'd go about it?

Flashman85 said...

I think I've just figured out how I'm going to write the next part. I was going to write more about the series, but now maybe I will write about the fans, thank you! Mwahaha and all that.

I'd never thought about the (very obvious now that you've mentioned it) Speed Racer connection, but Mega Man has always been blatantly influenced by outside sources without actually feeling like a knockoff. There's clearly a touch of Astro Boy and Casshern in the earlier games, and MMX1 took a page from Star Wars with the helmeted bounty hunter and the lightsaber-toting boss. Still, all somehow original and cool.

zuschzero said...

Fair points, Nathaniel, you're a real man. I also don't like much calling "early" and "later" games.
There's no early and later games, there's a series. I honestly think MM5 was the lowest point in the series, but for completely different reasons what the reviewers says.

Joseph said...

If I may talk about Proto Man for a minute:

I really like Proto Man, but I feel he has a lot of unused potential. Granted, Mega Man games aren't made for thier story, but life of Proto Man has always interested me. We know what happens up to the begining of MM3, Light built Proto Man, Proto man malfunctioned and gained the ability to think for himself, but his Solar Core was leathaly damaged. When Dr. Light tried to fix it, Proto Man ran off and was rescued by Dr. Wily who replaced his defective core with an unstable one. (Thank you MM wiki)

While this is all good for backstory, after this in the plot we know next to nothing about what Protman does, including his motives to do whatever he does in the games. Heck, even in MM5 where he was supposed to be a main villian he himself is barely in it. It can be seen in later games that Proto Man thinks for himself and doesn't take orders, so I have some questions.

Why did he help Wily? What stopped him from helping Wily? What did he do so that Wily figured he was on evil's side until he rescued Karlinka? Where was he when he was being framed? Where did he get the energy balencer? Though I don't expect to get the answers to all these questions, I feel Capom is saying "Proto Man is supposed to be mysterious, so we don't have to tell you why he does things."

Sorry for the rant, I've just been thinking about it recently and your post brought it to mind.

zharth said...

Well, I'm one of those people who think MM1-3 are better than MM4-6, although I do like MM4 a lot. If you ask me, 1-3 have more substance. By the time 4 rolls around, and increasingly after that, the Megaman formula is no longer fresh, and it becomes more 'flashy'. There are some great innovations in those later games that the earlier games didn't have, but then, that's what Megaman X is good for, and MMX is a fantastic game. As well as its first few sequels. :p

What can I say, it's hard to keep something fresh for an extended period of time. If George Lucas had started at the beginning of the series all those years ago, the Star Wars 'prequels' probably would have been better movies than episodes 4-6. ;-)

Flashman85 said...

zuschzero: Why, thank'ee. And I agree that the series is just that--a whole series--but I say it's fair to distinguish between earlier and later games, because they're chronologically separated and because there are are gradual changes as time goes on, at least on the NES. What's your beef with MM5?

Joseph: You may. ;) And I completely agree--I've always wanted a game called "The Proto Man Chronicles" that lets you play as Proto Man through everything he was doing during MM1 through...whenever. I'd love to play the level where he busts Kalinka out in a daring rescue.

zharth: That's totally fair. I may touch on this more in my follow-up post, but Mega Man is really a series that is innovative at first, and then gives you more of the same. Compare this with, say, Mario, which reinvents itself in virtually every sequel. It's a matter of how much you love the basic elements, and what'll keep the game more interesting for you--new levels and weapons and bosses, or new gameplay mechanics.

zuschzero said...

@Flashman85

Well, most of the robot masters in MM5 follow a repetitive attack pattern with no randomness at all. I have to say the overall worst boss AI is found in MM5.
The weapons are extremely weak, 90% of the weapons are as weak as one uncharged shot in 80% of the time.
You can't charge the mega buster while Mega Man is sliding. In other words: the game stop counting how much you charged the mega buster during the slide movement. This is really bother me.
The enemies have unnecessary long invincibility frames. As far as I know MM5 is the only game in the entire franchise where the regular enemies have so long invincibility.

Flashman85 said...

zuschzero: You're right about the boss patterns--the fortress bosses especially are way too predictable for their own good.

I hadn't noticed the invincibility frames, but because MM5 was one of the very first Mega Man games I played, I might've grown accustomed to it without realizing it. Having recently finished Mega Man ZX, I can appreciate invincibility frames that feel interminable.

I noticed that the buster doesn't charge while sliding, but it's exceedingly rare for me not to be charging or discharging while using the buster; maybe it's just my playing style, but that never bothered me.

As for the weapons, I agree that the damage output is generally not as high as the Mega Buster, but as you may have seen from my MM5 videos on YouTube, they can be extremely effective against the right enemies and in the right situations.