Mega Man is dead, and why that’s a good thing

The following is a guest editorial from frequent GamesRadar contributor Jim Sterling. For our response, and our thoughts on the fate of Mega Man, listen to TalkRadar podcast episode 168 this Friday.

To say that Capcom has found itself on the receiving end of some ill will lately would be an insultingly mild understatement. Since the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3 last week, the publisher has suffered a swift and thorough backlash from fans, with the exclusion of Mega Man from Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 only embittering their brewing malice.

It seems that, for all intents and purposes, Mega Man is dead. With Keiji Inafune no longer at the company, the character's last big supporter has fallen away and Capcom is free to bury the beloved blue hero for good. As I see it, however, this is not the moment to grieve a fallen warrior so much as to celebrate his timely demise – Mega Man's downfall is not a tragedy.

For proof, take that other blue mascot. Many have complained that Sonic the Hedgehog games keep getting made while Mega Man games keep getting cancelled, but look at how Sonic exists today – considered a joke by most, with three games released per year that invariably disappoint his increasingly bitter fans. Would you rather have your hero die with dignity now, or live in a state of permanent undeath, trotted out like a whore in embarrassing spin-offs by a studio that's thoroughly burned out? That's Sonic’s fate, and I find it laughable that some wish the same for Mega Man.

Of course, there's one big difference between Mega Man and Sonic – Sonic is actually popular, a mainstream icon as opposed to a cult figure. Mega Man's fans need to realize and acknowledge that this "flagship" series has never been a flagship series. The character’s starred in a few gems, of course, but he hasn’t had a consistently brilliant run. Nowadays, the games are most successful when tugging at retro heartstrings, but although Mega Man 9 was a hit, Mega Man 10 already saw sales drop significantly enough for the publisher to worry. So when fans say Capcom made a terrible business decision to cancel Mega Man's last two games, I say they're full of shit.

The cancellation of both Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Legends 3 was, in fact, a GOOD idea. Capcom Europe implied, but didn't have the nerve to outright say, that fan interest wasn't high enough for Mega Man Legends 3. I'm going to say it myself, in no uncertain terms -- fan interest wasn't high enough for Mega Man Legends 3. This was an experiment, a plan to get the community involved and contribute to the designof the title. The response was poor, however, and experiments that don't work get scrapped. Only an idiot should be surprised by this.

Gamers are acting like children who don’t play with a toy but start crying as soon as it’s confiscated. While there was a slight modicum of excitement for Mega Man Legends 3 while it was in development, people only really started caring once the game got the axe… once they had a reason to be angry at the terrible betrayal of trust that had been committed. Maybe Capcom was naïve to think this situation would play any other way, and it was silly to expect gamers to actively and consistently contribute, but the publisher never hid the fact that this was a fan-led project. That the fans didn't contribute enough, in the face of reinforcement of the importance of their involvement, is a sure sign that they didn't give a stuff.

And if they don’t, why should Capcom? And if Capcom can’t commit to making good games – with or without community support – why keep Mega Man alive? To the fans who truly still care, I suggest you be happy with what you’ve had and celebrate the series as it was rather than wish for it to continue past its prime. At least this way, the memories are preserved instead of trodden on through weird spin-off titles from a company that no longer knows what to do with him.

I do not blame you for feeling sad, and I support your efforts to get Mega Man Legends 3 back into production, If only for closure, if nothing else. We all need to accept, however, that Mega Man is never going to be "back" in any lasting sense of the word. If Legends 3 is ever finished, it'll be under duress. If the franchise ever returns, it’ll be for the occasional nostalgic cash-grab. But that's better than the alternative – a series of soulless, pointless games churned out by a company that doesn't want to make them. At least with Mega Man dead and buried in the ground, gamers can get the hell over him and move on.

Agree? Vehemently disagree? Don’t care about Mega Man either way? Share your comments below, then listen to TalkRadar episode 168 for our thoughts and response.

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