The mid-1990s saw the release of both the Playstation and Nintendo 64, and with them the introduction of 3D gaming to the home console market. The new hardware presented some unique challenges for publishers and developers, but it also brought some questions about transitioning popular properties that made their legacy in 2D to the new 3D world.
Mario had no issue as Nintendo put out Mario 64 and set the standard for what a 3D platformer should strive to be on the new consoles and, arguably, is still held as the standard even to this very day. Other major franchises like Metroid, Zelda, Metal Gear Solid, and Ninja Gaiden have all had successful extended runs in the 3D world and continue to carry on their legacy without much of a problem, while other 90s stalwarts such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Castlevania, and Bomberman all continuing to struggle to get their footing in the 3D world while some, like Contra, haven’t had a 3D release in years.
Some would also put Mega Man on the list of franchises that failed to successfully shed it’s 2D coat in exchange for a shiny new 3D one. And, in all fairness, that would be a fair assumption as the property is, at this point, buried in Capcom’s basement with a thick coat of dust forming on it (but that is an article for another time). Up until his appearance in Super Smash Brothers Wii U as a playable fighter, The Blue Bomber has not had a proper release since the Playstation 2’s heyday. The only releases the franchise has had is the downloadable 2D entries, Mega Man 9 and 10 and the recently released Mega Man Legacy. The character has been MIA in the 3D landscape for quite some time now.
With all that evidence presented, Mega Man would surely be sitting on the bench with all the other failed franchises that just couldn’t get it right in 3D. Each waiting for their name to be called for another opportunity, one that may be their last, at returning to relevance. Right?
What if I told you that you were dead wrong? That Mega Man not only made a successful jump from 2D to 3D, but it was one of the best games released during the Playstation-era? And, to make it even better, it was an action RPG?
Enter Mega Man Legends.
My first experience with this game was renting it at our local Video Magic. For the ones that may be too young to know what that is, Google it. If you do remember, you are old. Like me. Congratulations.
Legends took Mega Man from his 2D home and made a successful transfer into the 3D one by making a game that was a complete departure from the series. No Dr. Light or Dr. Wiley. No eight evil robot bosses to fight. I instantly fell in love with it. It wasn’t side-scrolling shooting Mega Man I was used to, but the 3D world and new story for the character hooked me almost immediately.
The game takes place on a world that is covered in water with the only land being islands spread out over the sea. You play as Mega Man Volnutt, a young archaeologist, or “digger”, that hunts for Refractors, this world’s power source, in underground ruins located on the islands. He is assisted by Professor Barrell Casket, who found MegaMan at the bottom of a closed ruin as a child and is now his adopted father, and Roll Casket, adopted sister and ruins spotter for our main character.
The main story takes place on Kattlelox Island as Mega Man’s ship is stranded on the island and in need of repair. During the stay, Mega Man goes exploring and finds that the island ruins are protected by the techno-organic Reaverbots. During his exploration, Volnutt awakens Juno which is the ruler of all the island’s many ruins and wants to initiate the island’s dormant systems that, if achieved, would kill the inhabitants of Kattlelox. He also has to combat the Bonne Family, essential a group of pirates, that want the refractors and anything else that may be in the ruins for themselves (more on them later). He also discovers a connection to his past on the island as he tries to save the people of Kattlelox.
Even Mega Man can’t escape the RPG troupe of the “mysterious past”.
The game was released in 1997 and the series has never officially been put in to the Mega Man timeline as an official piece to the overall universe of prior releases. Fan theories range from the series happening thousands of years before the X series, to it actually being a TV show based on Mega Man Volnutt and the Caskets that airs in the proper Mega Man timeline. Personally, I always reserved the games as their own separate universe due it’s drastically different story, leaving the game occupying it’s own exclusive space in the franchise.
You can tell this game was released at a time where developers were figuring out how to make a good 3D game. The graphics were blocky with flat backgrounds, much like a lot of the games at the time, and the camera still had its moments of schizophrenia, but overall the game controlled and looked good for the Playstation-era. The graphics were quite impressive for the time and did a great job with color as the top level of the island was bright and alive while the ruins were coated in dark grey and browns. It did a great job of separating the two worlds and giving each a distinctive personality. The cut scenes were also well done and were accompanied by great voice acting that added even more personality to the game.
One of my favorite parts of the game was exploring for parts to upgrade your weapon and armor. Once the parts were found, you would then take them to Roll and she would make them into an upgraded weapon for you. It was fun to just explore the island and see what parts you could find to turn into your next upgrade. You could even find Mega Man’s helmet from the original series, which got a pretty good geek out from me in the process. Each weapon upgrade felt truly different and made you feel a bit more powerful than the last one, which made you want to keep finding parts.
The bosses were huge robots and often gave you a wide-eyed reaction when they made their entrance as most of them dwarfed you. I don’t remember any of them being particularly difficult once I learned their pattern and used the strafe and dodge defense combination. The strafe mechanic also allowed you to shoot while you ran which you could use to defeat the bosses pretty easily. The final boss was a bit of a push over due to strafe/shooting mechanic, but the anti-climatic battle doesn’t tarnish the memory of the game for me in the slightest as the journey to get there was the real fun of the game.
Some of my fondest memories of the game reside with the Bonne Family: Tron Bonne, Teisel Bonne, and Bon Bonne. The family’s actions were classic over-the-top villain fare with big robots and crazy plans, mostly orchestrated by Teisel.
Tron Bonne’s crush on Mega Man is a big part of the story as she is in constant conflict with destroying him or helping him. Tron really becomes the breakout star of the game as she is the one Bonne you remember the most. Her interactions with the Bonne’s minions, the fan favorite Servbots, bring great humor to the game as she tells them, rather loudly, to do her every bidding. The character became so poplular she got her own game with the Servbots in tow, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, and even appears in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 which warmed my little Legends heart.
The final Bonne is, well, Bon. A baby that is enclosed in a mech suit he uses to fight with as he says the only word he knows, “Babu”.
Let me repeat that: He is a baby in a super mechanical fighting suit that adorably says a two syllable word as his only speech in the entire game.
Seriously, if that doesn’t sell you on this game, nothing ever will.
Mega Man Legends is my favorite game of all-time. It gave Mega Man a new adventure without taking away the endearing characteristics that made him a great hero. The game was a big risk for Capcom and warranted a sequel on the Playstation that was released in October of 2001. I own the sequel, which isn’t cheap these days, but haven’t played it yet though it was received with high praise from reviewers at the time of its release. The original Mega Man Legends was also ported over to the N64 under the name Mega Man 64 in January 2001.
There was, for a time, a Mega Man Legends 3 in the works from Capcom to be released on the Nintendo 3DS with a prologue to be released in 2011 titled Mega Man Legends 3 Prototype Version. The game was officially cancelled, along with the prologue, in 2011 after Mega Man creator, Keiji Inafune, left Capcom the previous year. Infafune has expressed interest in coming back for Legends 3 as early as June of this year stating:
“To be completely honest, if I had the chance, I would still say, “Yes, I want to still make that game.”
I don’t know if we will ever see a Mega Man Legends 3, and with Inafune working on the spiritual successor to the series, Red Ash, I have little hope we will. The series deserves another chapter, whether it be on a proper console or a handheld. Regardless, for myself and other fans of the series, we still have the original Playstation releases to look back on with fondness for a series that ended too soon.
Mega Man Legends is available on the Playstation Network as a PS1 Classic download for $9.99. This will save you from paying for a physical copy on eBay, which is runs between $30 and $50, and tracking down a Playstation to play it on. I would highly recommend you pick it up and give it a try!