Saturday, October 4, 2008
Mega Man 9 (Xbox360 - XBLA)
2006; Inti. Creates Co., Ltd.
Mega Man 9 might make your blood boil more than any other game in 2008, but at least you know its all your fault when you keep failing. Unlike Ninja Gaiden, there are no series of button combinations spread over 6 possible inputs--its back to basics with just a jump and fire button. You won't find yourself falling into the spikes below you because of a slipshod camera, but because your timing is off. You can blame the game for being too damn difficult, but you should blame yourself for not getting better at it. This is the appeal of Mega Man 9: it takes you back to an era when impossible difficulty was something you could inch at making possible with each successive try, rather then be lost in the midst of bad camera, bad controls, and bad design.
Since the Playstation/N64 era the industry has been plagued with half-assed retro game revivals, from Frogger to Pac-Man (both transformed platformers that make a Walmart employee simulator sound more exciting). With the new era of consoles offering online arcades, where many people have bought their old 8-bit favorites, Capcom saw a golden opportunity to give the fans what they've wanted: a trip down memory lane without the damnation of modernizing it. It's hard to get excited about a new Mega Man game since 3 of them come out every year, but Mega Man 9 will not be easily confused for any of the recent Battle Network games or the ill-fated Mega Man X series (which was basically Mega Man + more shit + less fun).
Mega Man 9 is a simple game with a simple promise, to be unrecognizable is quality and style from Mega Man 2. For those that have less of a nostalgic view of the series, it's pretty easy to consider it the best Mega Man. It strips down the visuals and controls of the games that came after 2, while adding some of the better gameplay elements of the later games (a shop where you can purchase items, using power-ups to access items or pass obstacles). There is little to complain about Mega Man 9 which isn't a part of the package. You can curse at it for being so cruel or complain about its minimalism, but it would be a fraud if it weren't so masochistic and modest.
It might seem silly but Mega Man 9 is a revolution! It's not something we have never seen before, but something we never thought we would see again. Depending on how well the game sells, it seems fair to declare games have reached the age where we can appreciate video games of an era for what they were. Maybe you aren't crazy for playing 8-bit tunes on your iPod and maybe I'm not crazy for preferring Dreamcast's rendering to Xbox's. It's more than nostalgia, its an art form defined by its limitations--would artists in the 15th century have only of used Photoshop if it were available. How sad would that be? Mega Man 9 shows a brave future that even film and music haven't found yet. A future where a Mega Man fan can go to sleep one day, dream about the classic sequel that was never made in 89', and wake up the next day to find it on his Xbox360.