The lights are on
Still confused about what Mega Man Universe is, exactly? We were too, until given the chance to talk to project producer Akiko Ito about how the project came to be, why Street Fighter characters are making cameos, and how content creation and customization are part of the plan to make Mega Man Universe the ultimate fan experience.
Game Informer: So we know the basics of the game – exploring the Mega Man universe with a heavy emphasis on creation tools – but would love for you to explain the general scope and idea behind the project.
Akiko Ito: As you may or may not know, Mega Man isn’t selling as well as we would like overseas. It is selling very well in Japan, though. We’re not focused on one territory anymore with Mega Man Universe. Our core objective and main purpose in creating this is to link fans and players around the world. By allowing players to create their own stages and to customize their own Mega Man they can communicate with each other through the game and also through the internet because we will be developing and facilitating internet communities of players and fans.
GI: The core Mega Man mechanics have been left unchanged, but the customization aspect is very new and a departure for the series. Are there any games that were influential in the decision to push the customization and community content angle of Mega Man Universe?
Ito: You mentioned the thing about customization. And one reason we wanted to do that is because Mr. Inafune wanted to appeal to people who are in their thirties. People who grew up with Mega Man games. So he went back and thought about it and asked “what do people of this generation like?” And going back to our childhood dreams and inspirations, when we were young we liked to play with action figures and dolls and we liked to swap out hands and weapons to make them more powerful. And so it goes back to that root of what we did as children and being able to realize that in this game. Being able to have fun and relive those old memories.
GI: What do you feel, then, makes this game the ultimate Mega Man game for fans?
Ito: One of the reasons that we feel this game will be a great game for true Mega Man fans is that unlike in Mega Man 9 and 10 – we created those games, but there is still a limitation on them – with this game fans can enjoy being able to build their own worlds and tricking each other and making the levels very difficult. Being able to allow people to have their own influence in the Mega Man universe gives them the chance to explore new avenues and paths that they couldn’t do before.
GI: In the teaser a certain Street Fighter character made an appearance, too. Is the intent to appeal to not only Mega Man fans, but Capcom fans in general?
Ito: As you mentioned, we had Ryu in the trailer, but we aren’t limiting it to just Ryu. The reason we wanted to start with a character like Ryu is because a lot of people have fun with their imagination and ask, “What if we had Ryu in the game and he did a shoryuken instead of using the Buster?” We want the players to have this avenue to explore within the relatively simplistic rules of the Mega Man universe, which is jump and shoot. But we’re not limiting ourselves to just Capcom characters. Who knows, we may have characters from a TV show or we may surprise you with some very old and classic Capcom characters. We’re really hoping to continue to surprise people with the characters that we include and the choices that we make.GI: The choice in aesthetics is very different. How was the decision made to explore this cel-shaded style?
Ito: We were thinking about what ways we could bring new life to this game. Obviously we’ve done the old style in nine and ten. But this time we went back to what people of our generation wanted. And we were thinking that we could make it a little bit old style. For example, if you notice with this Mega Man, we have a style very similar to Atom Boy. The legs and the arms and structure are very similar. But we wanted to bring a bit of modern influence so we looked at Western cartoons, too. Cartoons like the Power Puff Girls. And that is how we came to this new aesthetic. We hope that it will bring back a feeling of nostalgia, and at the same time feel fresh and new to people.
GI: Aside from the customization, there will be some preloaded levels for the characters to play. Will there be some sort of narrative to tie together this experience and explain why all the different Mega Man and Capcom characters are making an appearance? Something that unites it from a narrative perspective? Or is the justification simply fun?
Ito: So, we will have some preloaded stages, and what they are going to be are all the levels from Mega Man 2. So the original classic Mega Man 2 will be faithfully replicated in the Mega Man Universe style. Users will be able to play through all of them and defeat the bosses there. As for the story, right now we haven’t worked out all the details, but some of the characters may get some sort of background to explain why they are there or what their purpose is. Some of them may not, and they will just be there for fun. We can’t reveal too much, but eventually we may have downloadable content that explains why Ryu is in the world. We hope that people will look forward to new content that will tie together the world.
GI: What do you feel the future is for the Mega Man franchise? There are many classic franchises out there that have reinvented themselves and tried different avenues in terms of aesthetics and gameplay. Mega Man 9 and 10 stayed true to the franchise roots, and this is an obvious departure. What do you expect is next, then?
Ito: Well, I can’t really say that there is a general direction, because the general direction is to keep it fresh and exciting. Mr. Inafune is the father of Mega Man and his concept with Mega Man is always to explore new avenues. So he always wants to bring a fresh new approach for the fans and wants to surprise them. He will plop something down in front of us and say “this is the new Mega Man!” And we will be surprised because we never would have thought to take it that direction. With Mega Man Universe, none of us expected it. So the best answer is that Mega Man will go in the most surprising direction possible. That is Mr. Inafune’s goal. We want the fans to be just as excited as we are.