Street Fighter X Mega Man is available for free from Capcom’s site.
Until only a week or two ago Capcom’s plans for Mega Man‘s 25th anniversary were underwhelming at best. Given the history I have with that little blue robot, I was pretty mad about it. When you have as much history as this franchise does, an IOS game isn’t much of a celebration. I was hoping for disks with all of the games on them or a new game, but Capcom didn’t seem interested in either of them. I’d given up on the whole thing when I heard about Street Fighter X Mega Man. It was weird that Capcom was backing a fan project rather than making its own game, but considering how often Capcom cancels Mega Man games lately I wasn’t questioning it. I was getting a new 8-bit Mega Man game on the 25th anniversary for free, and I didn’t care about anything else.
It is a solid game, one that had me grinning and cursing just like in the older games. Just the same, it had me cursing a lot less than I would expect for a Mega Man game. Street Fighter X Mega Man doesn’t have much of that same difficulty as the old ones. I found that I could basically stumble my way through almost all of the levels and make it to the bosses. It was weird, as the enemies seemed to deal decent damage and had been placed intelligently. There’s just not a lot of bad guys or dangers in some areas of the game, and it can feel like it just isn’t that hard.
If I was playing any other game in the series as clumsily as I was playing this one (and I know this from my embarrassing replay of Mega Man 4 that I did to jog my memory for my last editorial), then I would never have made it to any of the bosses. It just felt like the enemies were kind of lazy and predictable when they appeared, and that they weren’t put together in sets that made them more challenging. Many of the previous Mega Man games were filled with weak enemies, but they were placed together in ways that made them challenging. They may have been positioned over a cliff or set up so one would knock you into another bad guy, but this game has a lot of one-on-one fights with the enemies. These creatures are no harder by themselves than any other ones in the series, so it makes for a lot of easy rooms to get through.
It doesn’t help that a lot of the levels lean towards being pretty boring. It’s strange to say that since there are some times in the game when I was in love with the backgrounds. The moon over the pagoda in Ryu’s level is just stunning, but the level itself is very gray and bland most of the rest of the time. Viper’s stage wasn’t much better, and if it hadn’t been for some surprising enemies than I might have dozed my way through the whole level. There are moments in the game when the graphics really impressed me, but there are so many large areas that are filled with almost nothing, or are covered in walls with sparse or no detail that it’s just not particularly exciting to look at.
The enemies are well-designed, but there really aren’t that many of them. The ones that were put in were a little larger than standard Mega Man enemies, so that allowed for a bit more detail on many of them. The fire swordsman in Ryu’s stage and the magicians in Dhalsim’s level were pretty cool and captured the spirit of the series. I liked seeing enemies like that, but they were either used repeatedly throughout the level so that they were pretty much the only enemy I saw (Viper’s level was bad for that), or there just weren’t many of them around. It was nice that there was some detail put into the creatures, but there were just so few different enemies that I still wasn’t all that impressed with the enemy design. The ones that were made were cool, but showed up so repetitively that I didn’t care.
One place I didn’t see repetition, ease, or lame design was in the boss fights. You can really see that this was where almost of the development work went into, as these fights are some of the coolest in the series. The handful of Street Fighter characters all have their signature moves done up with Mega Man style, so you get to see a wide variety of attacks from each of the bosses. It’s a lot more to remember than most bosses from the previous games, so you have to pay attention to their various cues. There’s no learning one or two patterns here, as each boss has many different attacks to memorize. Another fun addition was in the super meter that each boss has, one that fills up over the course of the fight and lets the boss perform a more powerful attack. Many of these are the special moves from the more recent Street Fighter games, so you might already have a pretty good idea on how to avoid them if you’ve already played those games. They hit hard, though, and add a huge element of danger to fights you might feel you’ve just about won.
Their design is just adorable, too. Watching little Blanka roll out onto the title screen gets me every time I load the game. Miniature versions of Street Fighter characters are just really hard to take seriously, something that actually had me relaxing more than I should have. What harm can that mini Chun Li do? I got wrecked a couple of times for underestimating the bosses based on how cute they looked, so please don’t be as dumb as I am. As tiny and funny as they are, all of their movements, details, and attacks have been crafted with a lot of detail. They look great in motion, and it’s in these moments that I can really see what the developer, Seow Zong Hui, was trying to create. You can clearly see that this is where his passion was.
You’ll probably get to see it a lot since there’s no password or save system in the game. Capcom has said that’s because the game is short and that there wasn’t one in the original Mega Man, but I’m still not impressed with its exclusion. Before you cry foul since I thought it was actually good that Maldita Castilla didn’t have those features, remember that the Ghosts N’ Goblins games never had save or password features either. Mega Man games have consistently had a password system since Mega Man 2, so it feels like the game is lacking something by not having them. The various grids and password systems have been a small but important part of the series for a long time, so the game feels a little bit lacking for not having any password system. It’s a small gripe given that the game can easily be played in one session, but it is an annoyance to not be able to shut it off and walk away when I wanted to. I got used to it like in Maldita Castilla, but it never sat quite right.
Fortunately, the music sits just fine. It’s a neat combination of Mega Man and Street Fighter, with tunes from both franchises getting blended together into neat NES-era songs. They’re all mash ups of classics from both franchises, and it makes for some nice stage music in each area. Even the boss selection jingle has been played with so that it mingles the two together, and it sounds really cool. I liked all of this music, and was impressed at how the music designer, A_Rival, managed to take specific sounds and bits of songs and turn them into Street Fighter music. It’s hard to describe how much fun it is to recognize bits from two completely different songs in one chiptune arrangement, but listen to any of the tracks and you’ll know what I mean. Once you choose a boss, you’ll understand.
For all of its weak level design and dull bits, the gameplay is dead-on for Mega Man. Really, this is the part I’m most impressed with. It’s not often that a series can maintain its vibe as years pass and its development changes hands. You only have to look so far as Capcom’s own Resident Evil franchise to see how the series has lost its way and become something completely different. The people at the helm of Resident Evil just aren’t capable of capturing the spirit of those early games any more. Despite having millions of dollars and thousands of people working on it, it just isn’t happening. Street Fight X Mega Man, despite being made by a single man (other than the music) really feels like it captures that spirit.
It’s more complicated than tight controls or good mechanics. It’s the sense that the series is in good hands, that this game was created with the same care that was put into the original ones. Despite its flaws, Street Fight X Mega Man feels like a solid addition to the series from the people who first created it. Twenty five years worth of nostalgia and good memories put a lot of pressure on this project to be a worthy successor to the franchise, and while it’s not perfect, I think it’s captured the most important part. It’s a hard thing to quantify, but there’s just a feeling in the game of coming back home again.
It really could have been better, though, as the whole game does feel like it was built by someone who was mainly concentrating on the boss fights. Everything else feels a little bit rushed and dull, lacking that quality that ran throughout the Mega Man games. It may capture the feel of playing the older games, but Street Fighter X Mega Man has a long way to go before it will ever reach the amount of polish the franchise is known for. When you factor in that it was made by a single person as a fan project, though, you really can’t get too upset about it. It’s far better than anything Capcom has done with the character, and it is on the right track. Maybe if the next one isn’t rushed out for another Mega Man anniversary it’ll be much better. In the meantime you’ve still got a good, fun game to play for free.
Until another Mega Man 25th Anniversary game comes out, that is.