Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Michael Bay's Mega Man X

I am troubled by the trend in video games of simply "rebooting" classic franchises, in ways that are fundamentally wrong. The badly-designed, ugly re-imaginings that confuse missing the point of the source material with "going in bold, new directions"(or what Winston Rowntree called "Franchise-destroying change for the sake of change").

And they usually title these abortions in ways that just make it annoying to talk about them years later. Sonic the Hedgehog. Bionic Commando. Devil May Cry. Tomb Raider. The upcoming Thief installment isn't numbered or otherwise categorized from the original moniker, which looks like it might as well be an entirely different game. Now we have to clarify if we're talking about the original good game, or the stinking pustule that borrowed its' legacy.

At least Bomberman's terrible reboot had the decency to add the subtitle "Act Zero", which could be synonymous with "Bad Version".

They're usually overly serious, gritty, pandering only to cheap gimmicks of the time. Often they lack not only whatever creative spark made the originals so enduring, or any of the original people who worked on it, but also any polish or even a sign of remedial QA testing. If they are useful in any way, they are barometers for everything wrong with video games at the time of their creation. A historical record of how clueless the people in charge of making video games can be.

If there is one small silver lining to Capcom's total abandonment of the Mega Man franchise(and Keiji Inafune's ragequit from their offices), it's that we were spared the horrible reboot of Mega Man X.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: A slow-moving, gritty military/sci-fi slant, with an over-detailed, lifeless art-style, First-Person Shooter gameplay where you gun down mooks with a total of two guns... What else? OH! And an emphasis on cutscenes that take control out of the player's hands for the sake of cinematic flair, and over-the-top set pieces. 

Why hello, Halo 4!

Apologists have made the point that it was only six months into the prototype stages, and it was at least partly handled by some of the Metroid Prime alumni, who helped bring the Metroid series into the third dimension. But there is no fair comparison to be made between the Prime series and this travesty. Metroid Prime actually resembled the previous games, simply updated through the lens of (then) modern technology and game design philosophies. The FPS angle wasn't quite the worn-out tramp of game genres it is today. Metroid Prime, despite borrowing a lot of the iconic enemies and design of the series took risks. 

"Maverick Hunter" took no risks. In fact, what footage and apparent design philosophy exists does just the opposite: It appears to be playing it safe, sticking to a very generic set of FPS standards we've seen a million times over the last decade. Nothing remotely new or interesting about how it handles combat, level design or storytelling. A safe, homogeneous experience dragging a proud franchise's name down with it to (I assume) score a few more sales.

This is the bizarre situation we find ourselves in, where it would have been more interesting and daring to revert back to 2D gameplay, which has been shunned in all but the indie scene and the limp-wristed Nintendo effort. A return to form even. There is an appetite for new Mega Man games, but not for another bland corridor shooter with a polygon fetish.

The videos in that Polygon article feel like a bad joke. A parody of the way franchises are mishandled. I know that, because it's a joke I made several years ago in a defunct webcomic. "Michael Bay's Mega Man X", I called it. The only surviving relic of that page are avatars of my "interpretations" of series mainstays X, Zero and Vile.

"Or am I Alia? Please tell me I'm not fucking Alia."

At least in my version, the audience was in on the joke, instead of the being the butt of it. A revamp of Mega Man X done faithfully, done right, even in a first-person perspective is not totally without potential. But even this early on, it was not shaping up to be this franchise's "Batman Begins"(and now the same people are in charge of the Batman games. Son of a bitch.)

I love the Mega Man X series, even when it would take a wrong turn. But some things deserve to die, even if it's too late to die with dignity.



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