Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Comics Love - Mega Man from Archie Comics!

There are few things that truly polarize video game fans like classic rivals.  Mario vs. Sonic, Nintendo vs. Sega, etc.  In the video game world, one thing that separates Mega Man fans is the divide between the classic, original games, and all the spin-off series' and over-saturation of the video game market of the Mega Man "brand".  Done right, however, a Mega Man game is a thing of beauty - a hard-as-nails, brilliant game that challenges even the best players and gives them all a run for their money, and something that gives a player their money's worth.  Not by giving them 50 hours of gameplay comprised of level grinding or cut scenes and an endless barrage of dialogue (though those aspects can be fun too), but merely by forcing the player to think on their feet, memorize certain aspects of each level, think critically about the weapons and tools they have at their disposal, and also by choosing the order in which to fight and defeat bosses to gain weapons that may give Mega Man a specific tactical advantage over another foe or level.

The Blue Bomber is all his 8-bit glory.

Most die-hard classic Mega Man fans are of the mind that the original series is best, and that while Mega Man X had merit, lost the feel of the original.  Then there are those that prefer the later Mega Man games, in part because they're balanced differently and because they offer updated graphics, sound, and gameplay mechanics.  I tend to lean toward the 1st camp, though I consider myself a big fan of the Mega Man X series, having purchased the original PC version and the Playstation X4 and X5 games, as well as owning both the Mega Man Anniversary Collection for GameCube (original Mega Man series) and the Mega Man X Collection for PlayStation 2.  I haven't yet plunked down the dough for Mega Man 9 on WiiWare, or the fairly new Mega Man 10 for same (play as Protoman!), but rest assured, I will be taking that leap at some juncture.  I have Mega Man Zero for Gameboy Advance, but other than that, I haven't taken the jump into the 3-D Mega Man games, nor have I delved into the Battle Network or other series offshoots.  Suffice to say, I just think Mega Man is best served up as a side-scrolling platformer with bosses to fight and weapons to earn.

So while this is a good time to be a classic Mega Man video game fan, what with the collections widely available (and now very inexpensive to buy used), as well as PSP ports of Mega Man X: Maverick Hunter (EXCELLENT port which I own) and Mega Man: Powered Up (snazzy remake of the original Mega Man title), Mega Man has not fared as well in other media.  Sure, there was his appearances in Captain N: The Gamemaster (still lame fun after all these years), and he has been seen in various Japanese anime OVA, but no Mega Man cartoon has graced western TV screens (for shame!).  There have been a number of manga and comics featuring Mega Man, but rarely has The Blue Bomber been seen outside of Japan in anything that resembles the classic Mega Man we know and love.  Indeed, it seemed as if lovable "Rock" (more on that later) would be forever lacking a comic book tribute stateside.

Thankfully, Capcom has answered that call and is working together with Archie Comics, of all publishing houses, to fulfill that niche.  Known simply as "Mega Man" and featuring classic characters and artwork that is both eye-catching and yet faithful to the original series' vision and look/feel, Archie Comics and Capcom have done a great fan-service to the Mega Man fan community by presenting a comic that captures the essence of what Mega Man is and translating that to the page.  Not only do you get fantastic artwork by Patrick "SPAZ" Spaziante, but the story in the comic is well-written, which both references Mega Man series canon and fleshes it out more than the gaming medium allowed for in the original NES design.

Yes, it really does look that good!

The thing I really like is how they're not rushing the story along.  They allow Rock (the name of the robot assistant who was transformed into Mega Man, for the uninitiated) to become a "person" of sorts, not just a one-dimensional character who fights for humanity's sake.  Dr. Light is portrayed well, as is Rock's sister robot "Roll".  Dr. Wily is, of course, portrayed as a major meanie, though perhaps he's not as well developed (yet) as he could be.  Though the battles with the robot masters are fairly one-sided and short-lived at this point, they still add to the story and give the comic that much more credibility.  My only quips at this point are a couple of Mega Man canon concerns: first, you can plainly see Rush the robot dog on the cover of Issue #1, though he doesn't appear (thankfully), which may be either a goof or simply an homage.  Secondly, the first issue already mentions that Mega Man can charge his Mega Buster for an extra powerful shot, though technically the Charge Shot wasn't introduced (or indeed, upgraded into Mega Man's design) until Mega Man 3 on the NES.  Aside from those minor concerns, with the 1st 2 issues thus far I am duly impressed and am looking forward to the rest of the series.  I stumbled across this the month it was released in a comic store while looking for additional character issues of The Guild (got both Tink issues!), and I'm happy to say that it was $2.99 well spent because it was an enjoyable read through.  I can see myself going back and re-reading these again once the whole series is out, merely for the enjoyment of the Mega Man story (experiencing it again for the first time, so to speak), and taking in more of the artwork and noticing the little nuances in the design.

So I say a major THANK YOU to Archie Comics for teaming up with Capcom and FINALLY giving us Westerners a taste of Mega Man in print that many of us have been longing for, outside of the expensive hard-bound artbooks.  Hopefully this will be a successful venture and encourage both Capcom and Archie to continue this trend of classic Mega Man schwag for us veteran fans.  What's the final verdict on the Mega Man comics?  They "Rock"!


narcispy said...

This awesome post needs some music... I suggest:

MetalFRO said...

Nice choice! I'm a Mega Man 3 guy, myself, but Mega Man 2 is still an excellent game with excellent music. I love guitar interpretations of Mega Man tunes anyway - awesome stuff.

narcispy said...

The only memories I have is of MM1, never owned any of the other games. MM2 just had the best music bar none.