Mega Man Legacy Collection's Rey Jimenezby Todd Ciolek,
Mega Man is in the midst of a comeback. Well, a minor comeback. After spending a few years on Capcom's disabled list, the plucky robot hero returns with Mega Man Legacy Collection. True, it's an anthology of his six major NES games in lieu of anything new, but this is no conventional collection. It's a detailed, pixel-perfect recreation of the titles that made Mega Man a video-game icon.
For a look inside Mega Man's polished revival, Anime News Network's Todd Ciolek spoke with producer Rey Jimenez about Mega Man history, music, and the new challenges ahead.
Ciolek: What led Capcom to make a collection for Mega Man now?
Jimenez: There was actually no serendipitous thing going on. The big thing that happened is that the company we're working with, Digital Eclipse, had come to us and said “Hey, we have this tech we worked on that can quickly and accurately take original NES code and bring it to current systems.” Doing that kind of work accurately isn't very economical. Doing a true port of that type of game…I won't say it's more work than it's worth, but it takes a lot of work. They were able to do it quickly and accurately.
These guys are really into the concept of game preservation. They work with the Smithsonian to submit stuff. We're the first company to work with them on this kind of initiative, this kind of Digital Eclipse game preservation. And that's why we're working with Mega Man one through six specifically, because they were all from the same console. That's going to be our focus for the time being.
A lot of people ask “Why not all of the Mega Man games?”
Yeah, like Mega Man Anniversary Collection had…
Yeah, the point of Anniversary Collection…which was a great collection, I actually worked on that years ago…but the point of that wasn't to archive our Mega Man past. This is. So that's why we're concentrating on one system.
The only 8-bit Mega Man game that's not in Legacy Collection is Wily and Light's Rockboard, a board game. Was there any chance of including that?
There actually was! There were some prohibitive things, though. We did think about it, but there are a bunch of reasons. It's not super-canon to the games.
And it was never translated…
Yeah, it was never translated, and to be honest, the way we're doing it…what allows us to be so accurate in our recreation of it also restricts us from doing crazy things like putting it new text or taking the Japanese text and making it English. It would change the work that we're doing here.
You may have heard that we did do a Challenge Mode, which is mixing up the Mega Man games in these pre-designed run-throughs that are also part of leaderboards and replays. But that's taking the existing framework and re-arranging it, so that doesn't go outside of our guidelines. But doing something like changing the text in the game would be against our philosophy.
We're keeping everything in the game that might even be a bug or an exploit, like the little cheats…
Like how in Mega Man 3 you can super-jump by holding right on the second controller's directional pad?
Funny you should bring that up. That one's going to be difficult because the rules about profiles and controllers are totally foreign in this system. But the other ones are still there. Elec Man's pause button trick that does more damage, or the part in the Cut Man stage where you can jump up and hang at the bottom. Even the bugs and flicker are still in there.
So you won't be adding anything into the stages for the Challenge Mode?
No, no. What we're doing is taking the existing stages and bits and pieces…basically, our favorite pieces…and putting them in an order that gives a new challenge. Speed-runners will really like it because it's taking something that they know and making them learn it in a new order.
So nothing that was cut will be restored? For example, Mega Man IV had robot seals that were removed from Dive Man's stage. They're still in the code but never appear in the game. No, but if it's in the code, it's probably in the game. It's not emulation or a port. It's kinda in between. And the guys that work on it, they do a lot of emulation, so they're saying it's not emulation. It's not a knock on emulation, but this is different.
Did Digital Eclipse also work on Capcom Arcade Classics?
They did. Well, there's Capcom Arcade Classics Collection on the PlayStation 2, which I worked on with Backbone, and Backbone was Digital Eclipse. So it's kind of a full circle.
Is it true that Mega Man's never been a huge seller for Capcom?
I honestly don't know. He's definitely one of our favorite guys, though!
Is Legacy Collection's release coinciding with more Mega Man reissues, like The Misadventures of Tron Bonne appearing on the PlayStation Network?
Nope, that was through other department endeavors. Without going too much into it, that's a different business model. That's technically not a product development. It's more a licensing thing. The way those games work, it's all emulated on the system. We just work with Sony on them.
But Mega Man Legacy Collection is developed outside of all that. It's weird to talk about new technology and old NES code, but this is really a new thing. It's a bit different than some of the products that are releasing soon. The main focus is to make it as authentic as we can to the original game. So there was a lot of research into how the sound is played, how the palettes are displayed. The only thing we change is to see how the technology takes it and compiles it. The graphics are still 8-bit, but now they're being rendered natively in 1080, and theoretically we could upscale them to 4K with no loss. So they'll look as crisp as they ever have. The Anniversary Collection was all in 480, and this is all in 1080. It's not a filter.
The idea is that we port it once now, and then when the PS5 comes along, we'll just bring the engine over and the games will play on that new system. So theoretically we never have to port the games again. We'll just port the engine.
And this can be done with any NES game?
Yeah, the technology is game-agnostic. It's just console-specific. So theoretically we could do our whole library. I would love to do the whole library.
So what games would you like to do most? The unreleased NES version of Black Tiger?
You know, what I would love to do would be a version of Sweet Home, finally released in the U.S.
Will Legacy Collection have any interviews among the bonus features?
We kept it all to art, so there are no interviews. There's a lot of production art, some cool ads from back in the day, some sketches…also, there's this cool database. We've taken that from the PlayStation One Rockman Complete Works. There was a Japanese database that was never translated to English, at least not by Capcom. It tells you the hit points and weaknesses of the enemies. And what's really cool is that if you select a robot master [in the database] you can push a button and jump into a fight with him and learn their pattern.
So you won't be adjusting boss weaknesses? For example, Mega Man 3 is unlike any other game in the series because Snake Man, Needle Man, and Gemini Man form a loop where none of them is vulnerable to the other five robot masters' weapons.
No, I mean that we'll remix the stages for the challenges.
What was the hardest thing about bring over these old games?
The early stuff was just getting all the assets together. The more information we have, the better. But during development, it's not making sure that everything is accurate, because the technology pretty much, but it's taking time to verify it. We had to make sure that the QA department are also super knowledgeable about the game. We have some guys that do speedruns as a hobby, so they know a lot of the esoteric bits of the game. And our checking has been pretty solid, even for things like “This is the rhythm I normally use when I jump.”
So are you digging through old files for this stuff?
For me, it's mostly an email I send to someone in Japan. From my understanding, there's a mountain where these things are buried. Literally, it's a warehouse in the side of a mountain.
Digital Eclipse's Mike Mika is known for hacking Donkey Kong to make Pauline playable, so did he hack Mega Man to make Roll playable?
No, no. I heard that exists, though!
How many challenges are there?
We have over fifty. They go through all of the different games. They're themed. Some will be like all of the disappearing block sections, and some will have items and some will have no items or weapons. Working with the authentic version of the game, you can never be without the Mega Buster. But there'll be things like getting through the lasers in Mega Man 2 without the Flash Stopper. So I'd say that in ninety to ninety-five percent of the challenges, we set you up with every weapon you need to get through it.
And you can't use weapons from one game in another? No Metal Blade in, say, Mega Man 6?
And you can't switch weapons with the shoulder buttons either?
We considered that, and that was something I had requested. There were two ways to consider it. There was the authenticity part, and there was the convenience part. We decided against it for the same reasons we talked about before. The authenticity and also for the technology that we're using.
You also have a bunch of filters for the game, even one that makes it look like you're playing on an old TV screen…
There are two filters. There's a CRT look, and there's one like a monitor, as though you're playing on a PlayChoice arcade machine. And there's an original mode that's closer to the true pixel, and a full version that'll stretch to fill your TV screen vertically. Then we have the widescreen. Some people like it. I personally don't, but if you want to fill your TV screen all around, you can.
What do you think of Mighty No. 9?
I haven't played it, but it looks fun. I have nothing against it. I love games, and the more games, the better.
Any other NES titles you'd really like to preserve?
Mighty Final Fight. I like that one.
How did you get into Mega Man? What was the first game you played?
The first one I probably went through and finished was Mega Man 8. That's why it's one of my favorite games in the series. And it has an art style that I really like.
And which of the original six do you like best?
I've been playing a lot of two but I'm really leaning towards Three. It's got that cool pseudo-version of the guitar. That, and Charge Man's stage from Five. I like Three and Five.
Yeah, in Five the Gravity Man stage is really cool.
What do you think of the reaction to the collection so far?
It's been great! Fans seem to understand that this isn't just tossing something out there. There's a lot of care being put into this. They understand the need for game preservation, and there hasn't been a whole lot of snark about this. They're just glad to see Mega Man stuff.
Do you have a favorite Mega Man music track?
The Mega Man 3 title. I really like that one. Air Man's stage is really good and has a very contemporary music structure, but I think that Mega Man 3's intro is my top pick.
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