Mega Man fans have had it rough these past two years. In 2010 the series’ co-creator, Keiji Inafune, resigned from Capcom. The following year Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Legends 3 got cancelled, leaving nothing in development for the iconic Blue Bomber. After selling 29 million copies from a catalogue of 129 titles, Capcom seemed at risk of showing up empty-handed for Mega Man’s 25th Anniversary (no, Xover doesn’t exist to me.). Lucky for us then that Singaporean fan, Seow Zong Hui, aka “Sonic”, showed up with his game. Street Fighter X Mega Man released for free on Capcom Unity’s site yesterday afternoon, and when the download eventually finished I promptly gave it a (charged) shot.
If there’s one thing unique about the series, it’s how Mega Man’s level selection is always a trial-and-error puzzle in itself. The level teases me along, as if saying, “C’mon you got this,” as I embarrassingly die from a mistimed jump or to an enemy lusting after my shiny robot innards. For a moment I believe it, thinking my failure’s due to my incompetence. After all I get so close – the boss only has a quarter-bar of life left!
Turns out I should have defeated someone else first because each boss has a weakness to another’s special ability. Sometimes they’re quite obvious: Ice Man defeats Fire Man. Other times not as much, like MM9’s Tornado Man beating Magma Man. It’s frustratingly cruel in a way, but also immensely satisfying when I return and crush the pesky one I’ve had trouble with. Of course it’s entirely possible to run through most titles with just his default Mega Buster but that’s not my goal here.
In that regard, SFXMM is very loyal to the rock-paper-scissors concept. Mega Man has to face off against eight Street Fighter characters: Chun-Li, Crimson Viper, Dhalsim, Blanka, Rose, Rolento, Urien and Ryu. Defeat any one and you’ll learn their ability, be it Chun-Li’s Lightning Kick or Ryu’s Hadouken.
The bosses themselves are fantastic and are easily the highlights of this regrettably short game. Each SF character gets an appropriately themed level so you’ll be running through the Brazilian jungle and fighting off electric eels to face Blanka, for example. On the other hand, Dhalsim’s stage has you navigating through a maze with Indian design-influences and teleporting genies (or what I think are genies anyway).
Seeing the World Warriors reduced into Mega Man sprites with accompanying 8-bit squeaks is adorable too. You’ll quickly identify the signature moves they pull off during battle, as well as their respective special attacks when a charge bar fills up. It’s a neat addition to give it that Street Fighter touch.
A strong aesthetic isn’t the only thing it boasts. The chiptune soundtrack is an original set, composed by San Francisco-based Luke Esquivel, known as “A_Rival”, and comprising elements from both featured franchises. The sound effects are equally impressive at setting a believable ‘90s vibe. Combined with the pseudo-8-bit graphics, it’s hard to not get swallowed in a wave of nostalgia.
It’s good to know that the controls are tight in your quest to run, jump and slide. SFXMM is clearly choosing to emulate the classic Mega Man titles so don’t expect to see fancy new moves like the Dash and Wall Kick. Even so, Zhong Hui does a great job of nailing the movement mechanics, and it feels true with what I remember playing years ago.
As this is a PC exclusive, native input will be via keyboard. The keys are rebindable by hitting F2 – this will generate a text file in the same folder as the program, so don’t go deleting it by accident.
While a keyboard is fine for the most part, it ultimately feels very strange. Thankfully the game supports controllers and my DualShock 3 (via MotionInJoy) performed admirably. There’s no vibration of course but the chance of using a more natural input method feels much better. Besides, the rumble feature didn’t exists in the original NES controller anyway.
Unfortunately, my smooth experience with SFXMM isn’t shared by all. Some players report issues with the Xbox 360 controller such as binding errors and deadzones. Others experienced performance slow-downs or had their display modes stuck at 16-bit instead of automatically reverting back to 32-bit when the program closed. A rare few even got locks or crashes.
Since we’re on the topic of problems, let me address the gameplay ones. Earlier on I mentioned some of the frustration and difficulty that Mega Man brings; compared to those titles, SFXMM is easier. I spent slightly over two hours to complete the game and that’s inclusive of a few short breaks. Also note that there isn’t any password or save feature so you’ll have to complete this in one-sitting; it’ll take you between an hour and a half to three, depending on your familiarity with the controls and mechanics.
The lack of challenge stems from the level design, which is a fairly straight-forward affair. Compared to the boss battles – my favorites being Dhalsim and Vega – the levels themselves didn’t feel as fully fleshed-out. Enemy variation could use some work too, especially those that are designed to inhibit your progress. A good example here would be the second stage of the final boss, where you have to climb up past a few screens with the risk of falling all the way back down. I hated those purple things, and that’s good.
A nitpick I have to make is the lack of narrative. Why is Mega Man even fighting the Street Fighter World Warriors? Officially, the story is that after hearing about Mega Man’s plans to kick back on his 25th Anniversary, “Ryu and his fellow Street Fighters want one last battle before they let their own anniversary finish.” However, in the game you’re specifically going after Ryu and Co., travelling to their home territories and pointing your large cannon at them. And where are the other notable Mega Man characters? At no point in the game was there a mention of them, or a dialogue exchange with any other character either. Looking at it from this angle, the stars of the show now seem to be the Street Fighter characters rather than the blue wonder. Is that why “Street Fighter” comes first in the title? (Ed’s Note: In all fairness, Capcom did mention that SFXMM is non-canon.)
At the end of the day, Street Fighter X Mega Man is a labor of love programmed by just one man. Zhong Hui’s intention to bring both franchises together to celebrate their anniversaries is a successful one, and really it should be seen as such rather than it being the next Mega Man game so many fans are craving for. I’m still highly impressed by how he’s put it all together though; had Zhong Hui been given more time and a team behind him, SFXMM could have been so much more. Perhaps we’ll see just that in 2013?
Go ahead and download the 33.8MB game via Capcom Unity. Download speeds have been slow and spiking since release but the server loads should have eased off by now. There are several mirror sites available but it would be best to grab it from the official site regardless, as Capcom has told Destructoid that they’ll be gauging interest in the series via the number of downloads the game gets.
It may be ported over to open platforms as well. Capcom’s Senior Vice President Christian Svensson told Polygon in an interview that Mac, Linux and iOS are all “potentially” on the table.
Just as a heads up: There’s a secret boss you can fight. I’ll keep it as a spoiler so you’ll have to highlight the following line of text to see it.
[Start]Akuma! Score a Perfect for every boss battle, i.e. end with full health. You can use E Tanks.[End]
The final boss? It’s Street Fighter, who else do you expect other than Bison?
|SCORESHEET (out of 10)||OVERALL
Street Fighter X Mega Man is a PC game developed by Seow “Sonic” Zhong Hui and published by Capcom, with music by Luke “A_Rival” Esquivel. It celebrates the 25th Anniversaries of both Street Fighter and Mega Man. Congratulations all!