Podcast #5: More Mega Man

Continuing the new podcast series, coming back for this week for a 30m discussion on The State of Mega Man, as we have both the Worlds Unite crossover now and the news about the 2017 animated series in development from Dentsu/Man of Action.

I plan to ultimately go to a bi-weekly regular schedule from this point, because I have production and planning elements to juggle- episode commentaries need about three watches a piece if I want to start scripting out the episode to kill the dead air that happened in my pilot episodes. And I need to schedule time in the professional studio if I don’t want to sound like even more of a goober. ;D So I’m shooting for releasing #6 (Transformers G1 ep 4 episode commentary) on the 17th of June.

Hope you enjoy this week’s podcast, and let me know if you agree or disagree about comic crossovers – and what your level of anticipation for the new Mega Man cartoon is!

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Queen of Robots: The Podcast!

So I’m running a new experiment now with podcasting. Let’s face it, blogs are kinda dead. And with a blog, it’s hard to stand out in a crowd amongst a zillion other bloggers without something really new to offer. The thing that makes me unique in this is my particular voice. (It may not be the greatest voice, but it’s mine!)

Ever since I was a kid, when I watched Pump Up The Volume a few too many times, I always wanted to have my own broadcast.

Of course, since we are all about robots here at QoR, that’s what the QoR podcast is about too! It’s starting simple – I’m just picking some of my favorite robot-related TV shows, movies and series, and am creating running fan commentaries for them. These work just like the RiffTrax or other fan commentary podcasts you might have used or purchased. I have cheap equipment right now as I’m just getting started out, but if it turns out that people like my test podcasts, then I’ll continue and try and get better equipment, and so on.

I’m floating four episodes right now as a trial to see if people like it/find it interesting, and can stand my scratchy old lady voice. I’ve commentated the first three episodes of Transformers G1 and the Mega Man X Day of Sigma OAV. Right now the QoR podcast can be found in two places:

Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/queenofrobots
and Shoutengine: shoutengine.com/QueenOfRobots

I’m still really open to ideas and suggestions at this point as I am just getting started. I would love to continue on with this if people are enjoying the samples. If there’s enough interest, I’d like to establish a modest GoFundMe or Patreon to fund the purchase of better equipment, more storage space for the podcast, and more materials for commenting.

The Mega Man Series – Is It Still Worth Chewing These Bones?

MM25

Is It Still Worth Being a Fan of Mega Man?

Today is the 21st anniversary of the Japanese release of Mega Man X1, and the 27th anniversary of the release of Mega Man 1.

What does it mean to be a fan of a moribund franchise? We have this conversation inside our ever-shrinking community every so often, especially around anniversaries that end in a 0 or a 5. Usually the conclusion we come to is that what matters is that fans still create – and make no mistake, we are still creating. With nothing to work from, we chew old bones and pick apart the scraps to dig out fanfics, fan art, and crazy theories. We’ve sucked the marrow out of every last cutscene, commercial, 5 second dialogue tree, postcard, Nintendo Power article and napkin scribble we can get our hands on. We’re at the point where we’ve pretty much seen it all, thought it all, said it all. Most of what I say in this article is probably just going to get a resigned sigh from fan vets.

I can tell you that it often feels really lonely. Fans are fans because they want to share what they love, but when there’s almost nobody to talk to, it’s hard to keep up any kind of enthusiasm.

Barriers to Access

Part of the problem is just that the material is just plain old. Part of the problem is that the Mega Man series is incompletely available on modern systems due to its age. Capcom has been very complacent in bringing out the games as the console wars broil on. The anniversary collections are both incomplete as releases and expensive on the second-hand market, expensive to find in their original SNES forms without paying a lot of money to second-hand dealers (hm, the drugs analogy for fandom is hard to put out of mind in this context); it’s become a monstrous collector scam.

Having to pay craploads of money to get into a fandom sight unseen is a barrier to access.

Right now, the games simply aren’t moving between platforms with any speed, and as the console wars continue, key entries are often getting left behind for technical reasons. We only got Mega Man X4 and X5 onto modern systems this year, and the games have been sitting around for almost 15 years.

Part of the problem is straight up that the Mega Man series are videogames and not something more easily accessible like a movie or a book. And part of the problem is that in general, the series is actually kind of hard to play except for the dedicated twitch gamer who likes punishing challenges.

Of course, there are plenty of Let’s Plays, walkthroughs, game guides, transcribed scripts and resources like that for those who care, but who’s going to bother looking at them if they don’t already know where to look, or haven’t been intrigued into trying? Who’s going to get into a story when they can’t get past that Ride Chaser level where you slam into a wall four seconds into the level if you don’t hit the button at just the right nanosecond? Who’s going to play the 5th, 7th, or 10th game in a series that doesn’t change at all except to toss a few new character beats into a cutscene?

These are huge barriers to access for this particular fandom that we don’t talk about enough.

So what’s the point in going on? Isn’t it about time we just admitted defeat (Capcom clearly has) and moved on to the next big Corporate Entertainment Product? It’s not as if nerds have a scarcity of choices available to amuse themselves these days, right? We can always go read the Mega Man Archie Comics? In fact the Archie comics are probably the easiest way for new people to access the material so why aren’t we talking about it more than we are?

Maybe the most important problem is that, because the fandom is so old, we’ve stopped talking about it to “outsiders”. Because everything’s been seen, said and thought already. We’re our own worst barrier.

We Don’t Want to Move On

Here’s the thing. For all its flaws, lumps and plot holes, the Mega Man series and the Mega Man X series scratch a very specialized itch that isn’t being well-served by anything else on the market. In general, although it’s getting better and 2015 looks incredibly promising with Age of Ultron and Chappie coming soon, it’s a hard time being a fan of robots – robots just aren’t big cultural business (yet). Stories about robots that aren’t dominated by tokenized talking-head humans AND aren’t also about robot apocalypses are also very niche – you basically have Mega Man, Transformers, Astro Boy, recently Futurama and … ? Not much else. But these franchises are all particularly storied.

So if you like robots with their own culture, politics, and internal development, you have a shocking scarcity of stories out there to scratch the itch. That’s why we stick to these franchises.

Right now, Mighty no. 9 is vaporware until it’s actually out of eternal-Kickstarter-fundraising-hell, it’s already tainted with a lot of offputting and divisive controversy, and for all the talk about it being the next iteration of Mega Man – well, sure, if you want to play the exact same game you’ve already played 25 other times before. It’s hard to get excited about a photocopy of a photocopy. Mega Man began as a nod to Astro Boy and 70’s Tatsunoko Productions shows; by the time you get to Mn9, we’re talking about a copy twice removed from its core origins- three times removed if you count Mega Man Zero as part of its DNA. That’s some extremely watery blood.

So for some of us, Mighty no. 9 isn’t an option. For X fans particularly, it doesn’t appear to be offering anything substantial or exciting. We want our damn cliffhangers resolved instead! It’s been ten years! While I genuinely hope that everyone who backed Mighty no. 9 gets a fun and enjoyable game in the end, it doesn’t answer what the hell happened to Axl and it doesn’t get Volnutt down from the moon, you know?

Capcom isn’t interested in answering those questions, which is why Mighty no. 9 exists in the first place – but they’re the only ones who can. So the only choice we have is to sit here and chew on these same old bones, or have nothing left to eat at all. Sure, we could walk away; we can and should also be starting our own franchises (with blackjack! and hookers!). But nothing we create will have the exact same characters we fell in love with except the original game lines.

Mostly, it’s just really sad that things have come to this point. The good will and love that’s been squandered on the Mega Man series for no reward is kind of shocking, and it’s both inspiring and tragic. So while we faithfully celebrate the anniversaries it starts to feel a little bit more and more like going to visit a grave each year. Sooner or later it becomes a token gesture; sooner or later, we’ll stop feeling guilty if we don’t come to visit.

And that seems like a damn shame.

Mega Man X2: Into the Underworld

Mega Man December continues: Mega Man X2 was released in Japan on this date, December 16, 1994. Today is the 20th Anniversary of X2!

X2

Mega Man X2: Into The Underworld

Coming off the heels of the very well received Mega Man X, X2 deepens the franchise story by creating an urgent quest for players and making it personal for X, the series main character. The game is significantly darker than its predecessor, with X struggling through an array of gritty factories, caves and dangerous facilities littered with hanging Reploid bodies to reach his goal. Mega Man X6 has the most depressing plot elements and dialogues, but Mega Man X2 looks and feels low, airless, grimy and gloomy, like a hard slog through Hades, in every way matching its morbid theme of gathering body parts from scavengers.

What Happens?

Zero, X’s partner and best friend, died near the end of Mega Man X1, killed during the uprising by blowing himself up to defeat a greater enemy. In Mega Man X2, Mavericks have stolen his body and you, as X, have to get it back. X faces off against a new set of vicious Mavericks to rescue his best friend from death and keep Zero’s power from falling into Maverick lord Sigma’s clutches.

What Was New Or Different About This Game?

The X-Hunters – a group of three powerful Mavericks who each take a piece of Zero’s body and run off with it. This isn’t the first time in the Mega Man series that sub bosses and boss characters appear, but this is the first time that they’re elevated to positions of plot significance. Each of the X-Hunters has a separate stage to fight X in, and they move around the map each time the player enters a stage. Each stage has a special hidden area that only is accessible when the X-Hunter in question is present. Because of this, and to properly collect the many available Ride Armors and upgrades, players often have to enter levels several times.

Wireframe graphicsMega Man X2 and its sequel Mega Man X3 are programmed to take advantage of a rarely chip in the Super Nintendo called a Cx4 or C4. This allows low-res vector graphics to be created, and in X2 and X3 the chip is used to create mini bosses and sub characters, as well as occasional graphical effects. It wasn’t really used to its full capacity, so this is more of an advertising gimmick, but it still marks out X2 as an interesting oddity in the SNES world.

Green Biker Dude – In the opening scrawl X leads a small group of Hunters toward a Reploid factory taken over by Mavericks. One of the nameless background characters pops a wheelie on his bike and is promptly blown to bits. The fandom adopted this nameless character as “Green Biker Dude” and he’s been an Internet meme ever since.

Where Can I Find It?

The original game was released for the SNES and can be found occasionally on eBay or in other resellers. Mega Man X2 can also be found included on the Mega Man X Collection for PS2 or Gamecube and, for modern systems, can be purchased through the Virtual Console for Wii.

Mega Man December is an ongoing celebration all month of the Mega Man series. You can contribute too! Join the Queen of Robots Facebook Page or post to QoR on Twitter and let us know your favorite game, series or memory of Mega Man!

Mega Man 5

Mega Man December continues!

Mega Man 5 was originally released in Japan on this date, December 4, 1992.

Mega Man 5: Proto Man Goes Bad? (Quelle Surprise!)

An underappreciated game in the tail end of the Classic Mega Man era – there would be only one more game before the series jumped to the SNES – Mega Man 5 features an interesting character development, focusing on Mega’s estranged and unpredictable brother Proto Man (Blues). Convinced by some planted evidence that his prototype has gone over to the dark side and started attacking humans, Mega heads out to do battle and rescue his creator, Doctor Light!

MM5 has some pretty interesting stuff for a late series entry, including a brain-twisting level where gravity works backward and upside down – a pretty fun if challenging level – and also introduces a support character, the robotic bird Beat, who can rescue Mega if he accidentally tumbles into a pit.

The game has some of the best level music in the whole of the Classic series, beginning with Mari Yamaguchi’s vividly poignant and regretful theme and carrying on strong throughout. It feels a lot smoother than Capcom’s usual tunes, pleasant and balanced. It’s more of a Sunsoft than a Capcom soundtrack. Check it out in the video below!

Why this game’s music isn’t as celebrated and widely appreciated as that of MM2 is kind of a mystery to me – I think it’s actually a lot stronger, and a lot less worn out from endless copies and covers.

Happy 22nd anniversary, Mega Man 5!

Stick around for more of Mega Man December, and drop by the Queen of Robots Facebook page or Twitter to share your memories of the series!

Mega Man X3: Zero’s First Time

Mega Man December continues! Mega Man X3 was released in Japan on this day- December 1, 1995.

Rockman X3 Carddass cover, via Reploid Research Lavatory

Rockman X3 Carddass cover, via Reploid Research Lavatory

Mega Man X3 – Zero’s First Time

In Mega Man X3, Zero and X go after Dr. Doppler, a Reploid scientist who claims to have “cured” the Maverick Virus. That cure, however, is quickly proven a false hope. X and Zero engage the enemy in his territory, “Dopplertown”, and fight their way through 8 Mavericks to a final confrontation with series uberboss Sigma.

This third installment added a number of significant firsts to the series that would become staple elements. The most important of these firsts was that dark-horse favorite Zero graduated from NPC and plot device to playable character. With the game’s introduction of the Character Change functionality players were able to switch between X and Zero. Unfortunately Zero was also established in this game as a Glass Cannon (Warning: TV Tropes), with awful defense stats, and he could not be used to enter any boss rooms. In addition, he only had one life, couldn’t use any healing items, and if he died during that life, he was unavailable to use for the rest of the game. In reality, this wasn’t so bad, as X’s many upgrades and life extensions allowed him to vastly out-power Zero by the game’s midpoint anyway, but it ended up making Zero’s playability feel underwhelming.

X3 also further expanded the use of Ride Armors – special external suits of heavy military armor that could be used by X during a level – from one to three, each suit having a particular special ability. Additionally, this game introduces the concept of a desperation mode for the Mavericks – their attack patterns change once they drop below half health. X3 was also the first time the Mega Man X series went to Playstation.

X3 also has some significant lasts. It’s the last 16-bit entry of the series. It’s also the last time X is able to engage in battle with a Maverick without getting a long guilt trip dialogue sequence pre-fight. The following release, Mega Man X4, would amp up the tension between the Maverick Hunters and Mavericks by having the Mavericks question the morality of X and Zero’s actions before they battled (or worse) – which became a series staple from that point on.

Personally, I have a tough time with this game. I’ve beaten X1, MHX, X8, and MM 2, 3, and 5 any number of times, but most of the X-series is hard for me. I’m a stinky casual, and just terrible at working out Maverick attack patterns, so that has something to do with it too. Zero’s my favorite character, so I tend to pick him and then promptly get him killed off by playing like a fool! But at least the early SNES games don’t have Ride Chaser levels – on these, it’s embarrassing how quickly and how often I hurtle facefirst into a cliff in X4.


All through December, we’re holding a Mega Man celebration here and at the Queen of Robots Facebook page! Join in and let us know what your favorite Mega Man game is, or share your favorite memory of X3!