Two massively important reveals happened this past weekend. One, Blizzard announced Diablo III, one of the most obvious and expected sequels of all time. The other was a bit more surprising, but still known due to weeks of random information leaks. That would be Mega Man 9, finally confirmed via scans from Nintendo Power and now today, re-confirmed by our exclusive hands-on and interview with Mega Man's biggest contributor, Keiji Inafune.
Inafune-san took a few moments away from creating future cherished memories to answer our questions about Mega Man 9, the state of the series and where it's going to go from here.
GamesRadar: For those who may not know your level of involvement in the Mega Man series, could you give us a quick breakdown of your contributions to the franchise (other than inventing it, of course)?
Keiji Inafune: I designed pretty much every thing for Mega Man 1, such as the characters, pixel graphics, box art, and promotional illustration. From the second installment, I began getting involved in game production. My involvement in the franchise production has become deeper with each subsequent installment, and eventually, I started to manage development as well as promotions and marketing. For Mega Man X, I designed the characters, environments, and storyline, and from the latter half of the series, my main responsibilities have shifted over to producer duties. I was involved as mainly a producer in Mega Man Dash, Mega Man EXE, Mega Man Star Force, Mega Man Zero, and Mega Man ZX. This time in Mega Man 9 too, I am mainly acting as the producer.
For the first time in many years, we are developing an 8-bit game. This opportunity has awoken my sprit as a game designer. I’ve stepped closer to the designing team to get more hands-on with the graphics and game design. I’ve been more involved in the actual creation process this time, and even designed the bosses!
GamesRadar: This makes perfect sense as a WiiWare title, but did you ever consider creating Mega Man 9 with HD graphical output?
Inafune: This project was born out of a desire to create a new Mega Man series in an 8-bit style. A decade has passed since the last Mega Man, and on this occasion, we specifically chose to go back to our roots. The idea behind it is that we wanted to reintroduce “simple and fun” characteristics of Mega Man to the users.
XBLA and PSN enable HD output, but that alone does not make all the HD games interesting. HD technology does not make a game interesting. The quality of gameplay makes games interesting. Users don’t pick up a game to evaluate graphics. They pick up games to enjoy gameplay. If a game can offer fun, the users can enjoy the gameplay without any reference to the graphics. Meanwhile, I’m hoping that the 8-bit system will provide a different type of fun by bringing fresh air with retro graphics.
GamesRadar: If there is a XBLA or PSN version in the making, will there be any differences from Wii to 360 to PS3, like online capabilities or galleries?
Inafune: We haven’t announced a XBLA or PSN title yet. Do the fans want them? As a rule, I try not to create differences between platforms. Differences based on platform capabilities may optimize possibilities and gameplay specific to a particular platform, yet that is not necessarily welcomed by the users. Everyone desires what s/he has to be better than the others’ and it will be unfair to create differences in my opinion. To avoid such a situation, I always try to create equality across the platforms and make sure everyone will be happy with our creations.
GamesRadar: By the sixth installment, Mega Man had gained several moves (sliding, charge shots, Rush help). Will any of these make it into part 9 or are you aiming for a more Mega Man 2-style game?
Inafune: Mega Man 9 will be much closer to Mega Man 2. As mentioned earlier, in the process of going back to our roots, we came to conclude that those fancy moves were unnecessary. There are many gamers who claim that Mega Man 2 is their absolute favorite. I took it as an indication that Mega Man is not all about the moves. The beauty of Mega Man actually lies in its simplicity and a fine mixture of simple gameplay, puzzle-like thrill of maneuvering tricks at the last minute, and battles. Instead of new moves, we’ve tried to find an excellent balance in the game design and to achieve “simplicity and fun” in the very detailed-oriented age.
GamesRadar: We'd assume development of an 8-bit game in 2008 would be fairly cheap and quick - is that the case, or are there new challenges that make it a more intense project than people might suspect?
Inafune: I particularly required meticulous and refined work skills from pixel graphic designers. The limited capabilities of the hardware of the time required pixel graphics to be simplest but refined at its maximum, and without this restriction, the design would not carry the same air. Yet, when we tried to realize this, the designs that came out of the artists were comprised of complicated shapes and colors. I had to ask them numerous times to redo the work to make the characters simpler and shed all the fancy elements as much as possible to make it resemble to the 8-bit games. The obsolete technique – to reproduce it was the most difficult, but there was no compromise allowed.