|Mega Man 8|
North American Sega Saturn cover art
|Platform(s)||PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Microsoft Windows|
Mega Man 8[a] is an action-platform video game developed and released by Capcom in 1996. It was directed by Hayato Kaji, who had previously worked on the series as an artist. Keiji Inafune, who was also an artist for the series, was given the role of producer after the departure of Tokuro Fujiwara who had been producer for the series since Mega Man 2. It is the eighth installment in the original Mega Man series, and was initially released in Japan on the PlayStation in 1996. The following year, Mega Man 8 saw a release on the Sega Saturn and was localized for both consoles in North America and the PlayStation alone in PAL regions. Upon its release, Capcom reached the franchise's tenth anniversary. Mega Man 8 is the first game in the series made available on 32-bit consoles.
The plot begins as Mega Man is called to investigate a mysterious energy reading coming from a recent meteor crash on an island. Mega Man discovers that his nemesis Dr. Wily has beaten him there and immediately retreats with the energy source. Mega Man is charged with stopping Wily's evil plans to use the energy, as well as discover the purpose of a mysterious, alien robot found at the crash site. Along with new animated full-motion videos (FMVs) and voice acting, Mega Man 8 features improved graphics and sound when compared to previous iterations in the series. Aside from a few minor conventions, the game utilizes the same 2D side-scrolling and platforming formula established by its predecessors on the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems.
Many reviewers appreciated the aesthetic and gameplay qualities of Mega Man 8 when compared to its earlier counterparts. However, several other critics were displeased by this same lack of innovation, finding that it does not utilize the full potential of the 32-bit platforms; additionally, the English-language version of the game received considerable criticism for its voice acting, which was perceived by many as being comically poor-quality. This resulted in an overall average or mixed critical reception. However, the game was a moderate commercial success and was re-released on best-seller lines in both Japan and North America. Mega Man 8 was followed by Mega Man & Bass, a 1998 spin-off game for the SNES and later Game Boy Advance. A true sequel to the game, Mega Man 9, would not be released until 2008 and would revert to the graphical and gameplay style of the early NES games.
Mega Man 8 is a continuation of the original Mega Man series storyline. Cutscenes in the game are presented both in-game and with newly introduced anime-style FMVs. Like other games in the series, it takes place in an unspecified year during the 21st century (20XX). The game opens as two alien robots engage in a climactic battle in the depths of space. Ultimately both of them plummet towards Earth, critically injured. Meanwhile, on Earth, Mega Man and his canine companion Rush are caught in a skirmish with his rival Bass, who still wants to prove himself to be stronger than Mega Man. Thanks to the timely intervention of Roll, who was bringing a message from Dr. Light, Mega Man manages to subdue Bass long enough to leave. Bass swears that he will get back at Mega Man for his "cowardice". Dr. Light asks Mega Man to investigate strange energy readings on a nearby island. On the island, Mega Man finds Dr. Wily flying away with a strange purple orb. Before chasing him, he sees a damaged robot and asks for Dr. Light to pick it up and try to repair it. Dr. Wily then releases four new Robot Masters to combat Mega Man: Frost Man, Tengu Man, Clown Man, and Grenade Man. Each time he destroys one, the robotic hero receives a purple orb like the one Dr. Wily confiscated. Each of the Robot Masters are empowered with a strange energy, and it seems that this power comes from the new energy cores that Wily has infused them with.
After Mega Man defeats the four Robot Masters, he returns to the lab and Dr. Light tells him that the robot he found should be fine if he rests for a while. Mega Man brings with him the energy cores that he retrieved from the fallen Robot Masters; when Dr. Light examines them, he realizes that they are a powerful form of energy which Dr. Wily must not have in his possession, lest it destroy the world. After Dr. Light and Mega Man leave the lab, the robot awakens, sees the energy cores, becomes enraged, and flies off into the distance. Mega Man follows suit on Rush. Mega Man finds him in a mine shaft on the other side of the globe, and after battling the robot, Proto Man shows up and tells Mega Man that Dr. Wily's new fortress, "Wily Tower," is just ahead. Mega Man goes ahead, but is captured by one of Wily's giant robotic creations. The robot saves him, introduces himself as Duo, and reveals his purpose to Mega Man. Duo explains that the purple orbs are "Evil Energy," and he has been traveling the universe tracking down this energy and trying to destroy it before it engulfs the entire world. However, Wily Tower has a barrier around it that prevents him from taking out the source. Duo tells Mega Man to destroy the four other Robot Masters that hold the key to the barrier: Astro Man, Sword Man, Search Man, and Aqua Man, while he collects and extinguishes the rest of the world's Evil Energy.
Once the other four Robot Masters have been beaten, Wily Tower's barrier is lifted and Mega Man makes his way through it, defeating the hordes of robotic henchmen inside, including Bass, who uses a piece of the Evil Energy to amplify his powers, and ultimately, the evil doctor himself. The "Evil Energy" is destroyed before it is allowed to spread throughout the world but it manages to infect Mega Man before being destroyed, and Wily's newest compound is demolished with Mega Man inside, who is dying from the Evil Energy. Duo arrives, examines Mega Man, and seeing the goodness and justice in his heart, cures him of the evil energy, eradicating the last remnants of the Evil Energy on Earth. Proto Man catches up to him; Duo then says that his mission is done, and leaves, but not before asking Proto Man for a favor. Mega Man then wakes up in Dr. Light's Lab and is reunited with Dr. Light, Roll and the others who tell him that Duo saved him. He then walks outside and finds Proto Man, who gives him a message from Duo: "Thank You." Mega Man then looks up to the sky and says "Thank You" to Duo as his reflection is seen in the sky.
The gameplay of Mega Man 8 is similar to that of its predecessors. The player, as Mega Man, must complete various stages that contain side-scrolling action and platforming elements. The player can run, jump, slide, shoot and charge the Mega Buster, and change weapons (either in-game or while paused). Enemies in each stage can be destroyed to reveal items used to refill Mega Man's health and weapon power. Like Mega Man 7, the player completes an introductory stage and is presented with four Robot Master stages (Tengu Man, Frost Man, Grenade Man, and Clown Man) to tackle in any order he or she chooses. At the end of each stage is a boss battle with a Robot Master; defeating the Robot Master earns the player its Master Weapon. Most Robot Masters are weak to either the Mega Buster or one or more Master Weapon, allowing for some strategy in the order the stages are completed. An additional four Robot Masters (Aqua Man, Sword Man, Search Man, and Astro Man) become available once the first four are defeated and an intermission stage is completed.
A noteworthy addition to gameplay in Mega Man 8 is the ability to display and use multiple weapons onscreen simultaneously. This change introduces a unique way of using weapons strategically. For example, Mega Man can place a Tornado Hold, jump into it and swing the Flame Sword while rising with the air current. The player also has the ability to use his Mega Buster at all times, even when equipped with a Master Weapon. Auto's part shop from the last game also appears in the form of Dr. Light's lab, where the player can buy new abilities from Roll in exchange for special bolts found throughout the levels. However, due to a limited number of bolts and powerup slots available, the player must carefully decide which power-ups to buy. Special power-ups involving Mega Man's dog Rush are won by fighting mid-stage minibosses. This is also the first (and only) game in the series in which Mega Man can swim.
Development and release
Tokuro Fujiwara, who had been the producer for previous Mega Man titles, left Capcom. So Keiji Inafune who had previously played the role of artist for many titles in the Mega Man series, became a producer for Mega Man 8. He handed off many of the main responsibilities to Hayato Kaji, an artist he often considered to be his student. "This allowed me to take a very different approach to creating a Mega Man game," Inafune recounted. "'Seeing Mega Man from a distance,' I guess you could say." Illustrators including Hideki Ishikawa and Shinsuke Komaki worked under the two veterans. Inafune recounted that the development team was often overwhelmed during the game's development because it involved some unfamiliar elements such as coordinating releases on two new systems and the use of anime cutscenes. The team enlisted the help of the animation studio Xebec to produce the animated cutscenes for the game. Inafune had wanted to include animated cutscenes since the very first game in the series and he stated that he was pleased with the outcome.
The character Duo was created specifically for Mega Man 8, but was first made a playable character in the 1996 arcade fighting game Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters. Kaji revealed that he initially designed Duo as a robot invented by the Mega Man 4 character Dr. Cossack. When it was decided that Duo would instead come from outer space, his appearance changed but still retained remnants of Russian traits, such as his headwear. Like past games in the series, the Robot Masters were picked from design contests in Japan. Capcom received around 110,000 idea submissions from fans for the game. Three of the Robot Masters (Sword Man, Clown Man, and Search Man) were even given base skeletons on which fans could add features. Ishikawa recounted, "The submissions we'd get for the boss characters were absolutely brimming with the youthful imagination of kids. I still remember how everyone had permanent smiles painted on their faces as we looked at each and every one of the submissions that came through." Tengu Man and Astro Man had already been designed by Capcom prior to the contest.
The musical score for Mega Man 8 was composed by Shusaku Uchiyama. It was the first project at Capcom that Uchiyama led himself. The Japanese version of the game features the J-pop vocal opening theme "Electrical Communication" and the ending theme "Brand New Way" by the group Ganasia. Mega Man 8 was released in Japan on the PlayStation on December 17, 1996 and the Sega Saturn on January 17, 1997. Sony initially rejected the North American PlayStation release due to the push for 3D graphics on the market at the time, but seeing that their then-competitor Saturn was soon getting its own version of the game, Sony decided to approve it on the condition that it have exclusive content so as not to give an advantage to Sega, resulting in the first editions being enclosed with a collector's 12-page full-color anthology booklet to commemorate the series' 10th anniversary. The two versions of the game, however, are not identical. The Saturn version has two added bosses from previous Mega Man games and a bonus mode with official and fan artwork, voice and music tests, and a secret animation test for the cutscenes. Capcom celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Mega Man franchise with the release of Mega Man 8. Numerous pieces of merchandise were made available for purchase in Japan alongside the game including action figures, gashapon toys, stationary, and furniture, vinyl record. A 43-track disc containing the instrumental music was released by Team Entertainment much later in 2007. Mega Man 8 was published in North America by Capcom on both the PlayStation and Sega Saturn in January 1997. In Europe, the game was supposed to be published by Laguna Video Games, a German game publisher who published a majority of Capcom's titles for the SNES in Europe, but in July 1997 Infogrames acquired Laguna's owner Philips Multimedia BV, and so they instead published the game in October 1997, exclusively for the PlayStation.
Reception and legacy
Mega Man 8 received moderately positive reviews from critics. One universal complaint involved the game having virtually nothing in terms of gameplay or features that hadn't already appeared in previous installments of the series, and very little change in the gameplay formula that had been used since the first Mega Man game appeared a decade ago. Jeff Gerstmann of GameSpot commented "Even the robots seem to be clones of enemies from earlier MM titles," while Matt Rubenstein summarized "...this whole premise has been done seven times before and, for those who have been paying attention, it's starting to get old." In contrast, Crispin Boyer of Electronic Gaming Monthly opined, "Fans of the Mega Man series won't find anything surprisingly new in this 10th anniversary edition - nor, I'm sure, would they want to. It packs the flawless control, huge levels, unique bosses and everything else you'd expect of a Mega Man game." Some claimed that the game's graphics did not utilize the abilities of fifth generation consoles outside of the FMV cutscenes. The English-dubbing voice acting in Mega Man 8 was considered some of the worst in video games by publications including EGM, IGN, and the Australian television show Good Game.
IGN's Lucas M. Thomas took a similar look back on the franchise, calling Mega Man 8 the worst in the core Mega Man series because it took Capcom's iconic hero off of Nintendo consoles, utilized animated cutscenes with bad voice acting, and further changed the visual style. "Now there are plenty of people who like Mega Man 8 -- that's fine, it's still a good game in its own right," Thomas proclaimed. "But when lined up alongside all the other series sequels, as we're doing here, it just falls flat." GamesRadar named Mega Man 8 the 23rd best Sega Saturn game of all time out of a list of 25.
Initial sales of Mega Man 8 were good. Major gaming retailers in North America including Electronics Boutique and Babbage's reported selling 55% of their stock within three days of the game's release. Electronics Boutique additionally noted having sold 75% of its stock within ten days and many locations of Babbage's being sold out in similar period of time. "Mega Man is one of Capcom's longest running and most popular action heroes and this marks the first time that a Mega Man game has entered the 32-bit market," stated Capcom's president Bill Gardner. "The response that we've gotten from the retailers was so overwhelming that we had to allocate product based on the fact that our orders were far greater than anticipated." In 2002, the PlayStation version of Mega Man 8 was re-released as part of Sony's Greatest Hits label of best-sellers, confirming that it had sold at least 350,000 units. In Japan, the game received budget re-releases as part of both the PlayStation the Best for Family and the Sega Saturn Collection. The PlayStation version was ported to the North American Mega Man Anniversary Collection for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube in 2004 and the Xbox in 2005. The PlayStation version was later ported again and released as part of Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, with a later digital version released on the Nintendo Switch in May 2018.
In 1998, Capcom released Mega Man & Bass on the Super Famicom with many of the same sprites, animations, and backgrounds as taken from Mega Man 8. Ten years later, Capcom announced another follow-up, Mega Man 9, which changed the graphical style of the series back to its 8-bit appearance similar to the first six installments. Capcom did not replicate any of the gameplay gimmicks included in the eighth installment for this sequel, save for the shop and bolt currency system. The Sega Saturn version of Mega Man 8 is one of the rarest Saturn games in existence, having a 91% Rarity rating on Rarity Guide.
The Mega Man Archie Comics series incorporated elements of the game, though a full adaptation was not produced before the series went on hiatus. Duo appeared in the Worlds Collide crossover, rather than in an adaptation of the game. The opening of the game was also shown during a time travel story in Issue 20. The final issue saw Dr. Light experiencing a vision of the events of the game among other yet-to-be-adapted games.
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