TGS 2010: Mega Man Universe hands-on impressions

Mega Man Universe is supposed to be a celebration of one of the most enduring icons in gaming history. Until now we had only heard rumors or seen brief teaser trailers of the game, but at TGS 2010 it was finally unveiled to the world. At this admittedly very early stage, it seems very much like a traditional Mega Man game but with a new graphical twist. Famitsu has just released footage demonstrating the level editor and character customization content, but from the demo available at the show it seems that the game at least will play and control very much as it has done for over twenty years.

After a much welcome return to the classic NES style of the previous downloadable titles, Mega Man Universe opts for a distinctly different look. The level design is still two-dimensional, but Mega Man, his foes, and parts of the environment are three-dimensional models. It is a style with which the series has experimented in the past, but this time around the juxtaposition of 3D and 2D, and of the characters and the backgrounds, is slightly more jarring. It certainly stands out as a different look for the game, but the aesthetic will definitely be divisive amongst the fans of the franchise. Those who appreciated the 8 bit purity of 9 and 10 might not take to the new style so readily.

As a celebration of the series the demo already shows that the game will provide plenty of fan service. It is clear that Capcom wanted to make a game that those invested in the Mega Man franchise would really appreciate. The character based on the infamous American box art version of Mega Man is a testament to that, and if the game continues to provide such wonderful tongue-in-cheek insider references and the hinted at Capcom character cameos, then it will appeal strongly to its niche audience. There were six playable characters available, including various iterations of Mega Man, and though each controlled in the same way they had different load-outs and attributes. With the potential for plenty more characters as well as the aforementioned character customization feature, there will be plenty of extras for the player to tinker with.

Whilst the game is still at an early stage, the three playable levels were built specifically for TGS and were distinguished by their difficulty; there is definitely something off about the way the game controls. The response time between a button press and the character’s response is noticeably delayed making the movement slightly sticky. The jumping in particular feels sluggish. Considering that this was the first time the game has been made playable to the general public, it is most likely that this criticism will no longer be relevant once the game launches.

Mega Man Universe is definitely an intriguing prospect so far. Its altered appearance and feel are at odds with what we expect of a Mega Man game, but it seems that the game itself retains the same necessity for split-second timing and some punishing level designs that have been a hallmark of the series. If they manage to nail down the tight controls that define Mega Man games and combine that with an extensive and comprehensive way for players to create and share their own content, then Mega Man Universe could prove to be a landmark moment in the franchise’s history. Once we are able to explore the user generated content we will be able to better understand just how significant a departure this game is from the usual Mega Man experience. For now, much of the true potential of the game remains to be seen.

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Written by Stevie L.

Stevie Lim is a man in Japan.

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