Today we are going to talk about version erasure.
In a way, today’s game is simply Mega Man 1-3. If you’ve been paying attention to Mega Man releases, you may be aware that Mega Man 1 is available on the following systems: Nintendo Entertainment System, Playstation, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Vita, Nintendo Gamecube, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo WiiU, Nintendo Switch, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Android, iPhone, Windows, and, depending on the software installed, some thermostats. Suffice to say, Mega Man has made his way around the gaming world, and, unlike the other games of this theme “week”, you should have absolutely no trouble playing Mega Man 1-3 in any way, shape, or form.
Except… Well, the devil is in those details.
Yes, you can play Mega Man on many systems and platforms. But the problem lies in the fact that you can only play Mega Man. Did you know that there was an entire version of Mega Man created entirely to accommodate a different screen size/resolution? It’s true! It was Mega Man Powered Up, and it was a reimagining of Mega Man 1, but with new cartoon-y characters and stage layouts designed to properly fit the widescreen future of gaming (that was, apparently, the PSP? No, that doesn’t check out…). It was fun and different and a whole new look at a game that, let’s face it, maybe hasn’t aged all that well. And, while the directors may have made some ill-advised choices (no one wants to hear Fire Man talk. Ever.), the whole experience (complete with Mega Man stage builder) still wound up becoming one of the best titles for the PSP.
But Mega Man Powered Up never made the jump to the Vita, or any other later system. It’s not completely lost, though, you can still dig out a PSP Universal Media Disc and play the title in America. Today’s game, Mega Man: The Wily Wars, didn’t receive the same courtesy.
Long before the Switch, Vita, PSP, or even the Playstation 1 rerelease of Mega Man 1, Mega Man: The Wily Wars was released for the Sega Genesis in Japan as Rockman World. Much like Powered Up, the goal of Mega Man: The Wily Wars was to release Mega Man, Mega Man 2, and Mega Man 3 with a more modern update. Mind you, “update” for the time was simply revolutionizing the franchise to fit in 16-bits and maybe include an extra background layer or two… but it was still an upgrade to contemporary sensibilities. Nobody was going to sit down with their swank, fresh 4-button Sega Genesis controller and play something that looked like it belonged on the Nintendon’t. The very thought of such a thing! Mega Man: The Wily Wars is a Mega Man for the new, “Sega!” shouting generation of gamers that are not content with the 8-bits of pure garbage that is OG Quick Man.
And Mega Man: The Wily Wars is… pretty okay. On one hand, you’ve got a 16-bit reimagining of Mega Man 1-3, and that is indisputably great. I love me some classic pixels, but it feels like a lot of the original graphics miss the mark when compared to the raw expressiveness of the hand-drawn art of the series. On the Sega Genesis, Robot Masters like Hard Man actually look large and imposing, and the stages actually look like places, and not just random themed-levels. And Top Man’s domain has some tops in the background! That level is starting to make sense!
On the other hand, from the all-important gameplay perspective, Mega Man: The Wily Wars feels like a photocopy of the original. In fact, it feels like a true “fan game”: a situation where the creators did not have access to the original code, and had to wing it according to fuzzy memories of the original. On a surface level, this is Mega Man 1-3, the end. But for someone that has played through those three titles approximately three billion times (for various reasons), the seams show almost immediately. Some Robot Master Weapons do not work like their previous incarnations (you will whiff on throwing a Guts Block at Cut Man), and some are completely useless (Magnet Missile now clumsily chases enemy bullets). And some of the more cunning platforming sections are significantly less refined: the moving platforms of both Guts Man and Top Man stages are timed just wrong enough to cause a lot of unnecessary death (or sitting around waiting for platform timing spawning to be actually surmountable). Overall, despite the advanced graphics, there is enough perceptible “looseness” to this collection that it feels downright inferior to its 8-bit origins.
Except… someone added a few more levels to this collection. And that change managed to accidentally innovate on the Mega Man formula.
The new stages in Mega Man: The Wily Wars are not that exciting. They are pretty much exactly what you would expect in a game that already features Mega Man 1-3: a collection of stages that seem to randomly join bots, traps, and gizmos from the original trilogy. Needle Man’s needle pointers appear under Bubble Man-esque seas. Snake Man’s cloud platforms appear along Bomb Man’s arcing bullet monsters. Air Man’s cloud riders appear indoors for some reason. It’s all very predictable, and the level design doesn’t offer a single stage that seems to justify the endeavor, either from an “innovative” or “difficulty” perspective. Additionally, the bosses are visually interesting, but… kind of terrible. There’s a bit of the Mega Man spark in there, but you’re a lot more likely to see a Ninja Gaiden-esque situation where the boss gets stuck in some easily avoided pattern while you lay on the mega buster. These additional stages and bosses aren’t terrible, they’re just a stark contrast against the platforming excellence you must complete just to see these stages.
But the unique Wily Wars stages of the title offer one major innovation: Mega Man gets straight up inventory management.
Mega Man has completed Mega Man 1-3, so the Blue Bomber has every early Robot Master weapon from Guts Arm to Gemini Laser. But ol’ Rocky can only equip eight weapons and three support items at a time! So you, player, have to choose Mega Man’s loadout. Do you take the Ice Slasher to freeze enemies, or the Air Shooter to damage enemies with an aerial advantage? Are you going to stick with the rapid fire abilities of Metal Blade, Quick Boomerang, and Shadow Blade, and figure that having all three is ideal for energy consumption? And what of the utility items? Crash Bomb isn’t very useful, but it will demolish certain walls, so does that earn a slot for helpfulness alone? Want to stop time with a flash, or block some bullets with a leaf? With 22 different weapons available, that apparently allows for *DO MATH LATER, PUT NUMBER HERE* different combinations! That’s more than *PREVIOUS NUMBER ROUNDED DOWN*, and certainly enough to allow for multiple, interesting playthroughs. Mega Man is actually an adaptable robot! Fight for everlasting peace, Mega Man, and find new and fascinating combinations of doing it, too!
But, likely because of its lackluster “emulation” of the original titles, Mega Man: The Wily Wars has been lost to history. It’s not even available in the United States in any physical form! MM:TWW only appeared on The Sega Channel on this side of the pond, and when Sega turned off the lights on that early attempt at a gaming streaming service, it took Mega Man with it. So this title only saw a physical release in Japan and PAL regions, and then… never again. Mega Man 1-3 has been rereleased on practically every system since its conception, but only the NES versions. The Sega Genesis version, complete with its revamped graphics and new stages, hasn’t been seen in any way, shape, or form since 1995. It’s just… gone. Potential innovation in a franchise practically as old as gaming itself, and it doesn’t even warrant so much as an easter egg appearance in a single Capcom collection.
Mega Man: The Wily Wars is a fun reimagining of a trilogy of games that have seen rerelease after rerelease. So could we please see this rerelease one more time? Please?
FGC #429 Mega Man: The Wily Wars
- System: Sega Genesis… kinda. Mega Drive? Did it have a special name in Japan? I should really try researching these things before I start typing…
- Number of players: Never going to see that 4-Player Mega Man platformer. Just one.
- Just play the gig, man: Oh yeah! The music sucks! It’s not just Mega Man songs being run through the Genesis sound chip ringer, it’s also the fact that some of the songs are just… wrong? It’s as if the whole thing was composed by someone trying to remember the “lyrics”, but they might repeat a chorus too many times. It’s Mega Man Karaoke. …. Actually, that sounds pretty cool.
- Favorite (New) Robot Master: Hyper Storm H is a giant blue monster that feels like a refugee from the Mega Man X series. I like him. And he’s technically based on that big pig from Journey to the West, which tangentially means he’s related to Oolong from Dragon Ball Z. That’s another point in his favor.
- Version Differences: The Japanese version seems to run much smoother (and faster!) than the PAL/English version. Is this an emulation issue? Some part of the core game? Who knows! Sure would be nice to have a definitive version, though!
- Doing what Nintendon’t: The Sega Channel was an online service that was essentially gaming Netflix. Or it would have been, if it wasn’t usually just really short demos and some kind of variation on Nintendo Power’s Classified Information section (but for Sega games, naturally). Okay, maybe I’m being a Nintendo Kid again; yes, there were apparently as many as 70 playable games on the service at a time… but all anyone ever played was Sonic 3, right? Maybe some Eternal Champions? What’s important is that the service lasted for four years, which is about four years longer than the Dreamcast ever had.
- Other Forgotten Versions: While we’re at it, how about we see the Saturn version of Mega Man 8 resurface. That version has two extra bosses over the Playstation 1 version, but guess which edition winds up in every collection? We have the technology to bring Wood Man back again!
- Did you know? Keiji Inafune apparently claims that this was the most difficult game to debug in his career. Maybe it was because he came in late? Maybe it was because the production team had no idea what they were doing? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because Guts Tank still haunts Inafuking’s dreams, and its reappearance is always a reason to fret.
- Would I play again: If it were easier to play, I’d likely give it another go. It’s a nice change from the usual, 100% memorized Mega Man experience. It’s not the best version, but it’s certainly a version that deserves to still exist.
What’s next? Hey, at least Mega Man: The Wily Wars got a physical release in some regions before its online service was shut down. How about we take a look at when a game exists only on an online service, and then winds fighting the world of “delisted”? Please look forward to it!
That’s just mean