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Street Fighter X Megaman Review

You don't have to search too hard to find a message board fanboy still lamenting the death of classic 8-bit Megaman 19 years after the fact.  Blaming anyone in particular for that tragedy would be folly.  Megaman was so simple yet ahead of it's time that it created and defined a genre of game.  Just as the "Predator" belongs in the jungle (No, not in the city), 8-bit is where Megaman belongs. Tuesday, December 17, 2012 was the 25th anniversary for not only Megaman, but this also marks an anniversary Street Fighter was released as well.  These two franchises at first glance don't seem to be in a gamer's "awesome crossover" category, but they clash better than one might think, perhaps too well.

Megaman has never been remembered for it's narrative and yet the characters in the games, even including the Robot Masters, have become so endearing.  Megaman is able to tell it's own story through it's gameplay, a concept games back in the day had to grasp, for tight gameplay alone propelled the narrative. This is why there is a sense of diconnect I feel when playing through Street Fighter X Megaman. It definetly looks and plays like old-school Megaman which I admire and take joy in, but it doesn't quite nail the finesse and feel of classic Megaman and perhaps that is because the game tries too hard to satisfy two fanbases as oppose to a central, focused one.

Megaman in it's purest form is a 8-bit Action-Platformer that revolves around playing through eight boss-themed levels exploiting their weaknesses using each other's weapons "rock-paper-scissors" style and overcoming four separate final levels featuring their own bosses.  In this incarnation, however, instead of Dr. Wily's Robot Masters portraying the eight bosses, Street Fighter characters take the spotlight. This is where the first issue comes up: an ignorance to well established and successful Megaman game design. Now I'm not talking about the inclusion of Street Fighter characters as the bosses, because seeing Megaman's shots deflected by Chun Li's Lighting Kick rocksThe problem lies with the encounters themselves. The bosses do not carry patterns of attack of any kind. Having one or maybe even two bosses with no set pattern, like Quick Man, is perfectly fine, but designing all eight bosses around this philosophy unfortunately leaves the reward of Megaman games out in the dust. Bosses in the classic Megaman games featured set patterns that required repetition and skill (And sometimes luck, *cough* Airman) to defeat them which ensured a sense of accomplishment once you figured out a winning strategy. In his iteration you'd, of course, want all the Street Fighter characters to retain their specials and signature moves but it's important that this doesn't destroy the core mechanics that make Street Fighter X Megaman chiefly a Megaman game.

Megaman is also renown worldwide by gamers for its level design.  This is another area where Street Fighter X Megaman falls a little flat.  The levels themselves are well designed and adhere to the classic and revolutionary "Teaching a player through its level design" philosophy, but they are far too easy.  Too easy, in fact, that when you do make it to the boss room you almost hit a brick wall your first time through each of these levels because the bosses are so unbalanced from everything else in the package.  As it stands, however, the levels are varied and arguably sterile in their design much like the original Megaman. Some welcome and returning faces like the gun turrets, mets, and sniper joes are present, but also some new enemies that fit well into the Megaman universe are featured too.  I just wish Protoman and an actual Rush mechanic were featured as well.  

The weapons in Street Fighter X Megaman are positive additions to Megaman's ever growing arsenal.  The satellite weapon is back in "Soul" fashion and the rest of the weapons make useful additions as well.  Some introduce new mechanics to the 8-bit Megaman series like the "Tropical Hazzard" weapon that fires out a watermelon on the ground that you may run into (or slide) into your opponent, but it's a mechanic that really isn't necessary except for humorous appeal.  

The Megaman games defined 8-bit sountracks leading to many remixes than even gaming fanatics would have difficulty in trying to count them entirely. Street Fighter X Megaman didn't wow me with any of it's tracks, except maybe Dhalsim's, but even then it only made me hum the song as I played. Tracks are subtly reused on occasion like on Dhalsim's stage when a snippet from Snake Man's theme kicks in which is cool fan service, but a little disconcerting. All the MIDI bleeps and bloops are familiar and sound as they should. From a graphical standpoint Street Fighter X Megaman looks great.  It looks like it's 8-bit brethren and some of the animations for the Street Fighter bosses are very impressive, especially Dhalsim's. All of Megaman's animations are intact and the new animations they've crafted for the Blue Bomber's new opposition are really well done. Some of the background art is a little stale and doesn't quite fit with the foreground and some of the more vibrant levels, i.e. Balrog's stage, don't last long enough. Actually now that I think about it, none of the stages lasted long enough.

Sometimes nostalgia has a way of clouding one's judgement of quality. Some of the classics we remember shouldn't be referred to as such for it's the games that actually stand the test of time that reserve the right to be called classics, true legends.  Megaman is a perfect example of a classic franchise that's worthy of it's title. It's objective is simple, it's gameplay is tight and polished, it's soundtrack is still some of the best 8-bit tracks you will ever hear, and it's still been able to stand the test of time 19 years after his 8-bit demise. I love the tributes in Street Fighter X Megaman like Megaman's eyes following your joystick in the boss select menu from Megaman 3, or the (brief) inclusion of Rush, the snippet of Snake Man's theme, and I loved the last boss fight.  The small stage sets the tone fantastically and the "mano e mano" vibe that's nonexistent when fighting Wily is here and in full swing, it's an absolute blast.  It's really a shame that it's let down by somewhat baffling design decisions that hamper the experience because everything else in the package seems to pay welcoming homage to the classic series.  In other words,  if it's supposed to be a Megaman game it needs to act like one.  But as I stated before the game has some outstanding moments and seeing Megaman in 8-bit no matter how awful it may be, is a priceless experience. Ultimately this game is for the fan that just can't let go of the Blue Bomber.



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