Much like the sentence “Gunvolt is an Adept with an affinity for the Azure Striker Septima who fights against the Sumeragi Group with the help of his Muse, Lumen,” GUNVOLT RECORDS: Cychronicle will mean a lot more to you if you’re familiar with the subject matter. While primarily about score-attack platforming action, the Azure Striker Gunvolt series consistently lends an ear to the power of music. Songs save Gunvolt from certain death, signal when a truly skilled player is behind the controls, and enhance impactful story beats. Gunvolt’s music makes moments both in and out of gameplay memorable. Cychronicle jolts those memories to zap your appreciation of the series to electrifying new heights.
There’s no getting around it: this game exists primarily for established Gunvolt fans. More specifically, it exists for Gunvolt fans who love and accept its dips into musical idol culture. If you dislike the series’ many vocal songs or struggle with the fact that musical idols are an integral part of this series at all, you won’t find much to appreciate here. Cychronicle dives deep into this particular niche. For those willing to follow it into the abyss, you’ll find a spin-off that stands strong on its own merits while reinforcing the strengths of its platforming predecessors.
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy is doing fine!
In the legal world, things rarely go exactly as planned. The original Ace Attorney trilogy helped set me on the path of practicing law, and throughout the many trials and tribulations I’ve encountered since, I’ve consistently found there to be no such thing as a perfect trial. You can’t prepare for every eventuality: unexpected facts may come to light, the case may shift at the Judge’s discretion, and people may say or do the wrong things. How well you adapt to the many twists and turns humanity throws your way determines the final outcome more than anything else. The Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy collects a run of games that demonstrates this idea better than any other portion of the Ace Attorney series. These games may not be the perfectly planned continuation you’d expect, but they each build towards a grand conclusion that all works out in the end.
Whereas the original run of Ace Attorney games were penned by the same author and built out of the same parts, this sequel trilogy proves more eclectic. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (which I’ll be referring to as Ace Attorney 4) released in 2007 for the Nintendo DS. After this, the mainline entries took a break for six years until the release of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies (Ace Attorney 5) in 2013 on the Nintendo 3DS, which was then followed by Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice (Ace Attorney 6; perhaps you can see why I’m using shorthand with names like these) in 2016. Put simply, these games are separated by technology, by time, and by the teams that put them together.
They ultimately fit together fine enough, they just lack the strong cohesion that comes from crafting a trilogy in short succession. You can easily differentiate the voices behind each of these games. The realities of their production undeniably give this “Apollo Justice” trilogy a different feel from its predecessors.
The way I see it, the original Ace Attorney team told their story and it stands on its own just fine. There’s nothing wrong with new stories using these characters coming from people with different perspectives. It’s not dissimilar to how the comic book industry functions. Characters like Spider-Man endure due to the pantheon of legendary creators that built his mythology, not just one specific team. Ace Attorney itself has indulged in reinterpreting long-running characters like Sherlock Holmes to its own benefit, so complaining about the same thing happening to Ace Attorney would be hypocritical.
Still, the disparate nature of this trilogy makes for a tricky package to talk about. To keep things simple, I’ll state my case for each game and how this collection handles it individually. Once you’ve heard all the testimony, we’ll reconvene for a final judgment on the package as a whole.
Saved The Best for last
Hyperbole invades talk about games constantly. Every game seems to define genres, be a masterpiece, or ruin lives as the worst thing ever made. I admire the enthusiasm, but am physically incapable of mustering it myself. If I write something then it needs to be what I honestly think, and I think that if we’re being honest, very few games actually live up to those descriptors. I can’t give you dramatized sales-pitches or disingenuous rants. I’d rather just give you my honest assessment of whatever the topic of the day happens to be; anything less than that would be a disservice to anyone who bothers to read what I write.
Mega Man 2 is the best. I don’t consider that statement hyperbole. You are free to disagree with me, you always are, but I am hopeful that you’ll at least hear (or read) me out. Whenever I thought about what would be the most important thing to cover in a monthly Mega Man series, I inevitably kept coming back to Mega Man 2. Frankly, when it comes to why I write about games at all, it always comes back to Mega Man 2. I figured, basically from the start of this monthly endeavor, why not explore that?
For this final installment of Mega Man Monthly, we’ll discuss this landmark Mega Man: what it is, what it means to be “The Best”, and why Mega Man 2 can claim such a crown. Mega Man 2 is one of those genre-defining masterpieces you’ve heard so much about, so it’s only appropriate for an article about to be all-encompassing in scope.
Capcom released Mega Man 11 over five years ago. That sentence hurt to write, so hopefully it hurt to read as well!
Although Mega Man 11 signaled a seemingly bright future for the series, that future remains just as murky as it was half a decade ago. Fans spent most of the 2010s believing Mega Man to be “dead,” roughly from Legends 3’s cancellation in mid 2011 to late 2017 when Mega Man 11 was first announced. We’re fast approaching a similarly long dry spell now. Some revival, huh? Yeah, collections, merchandise, and phone games continue to be pumped out, but that stuff existed while Mega Man spent time in Robot Heaven, too. If there’s no discernible difference between Mega Man being “alive” or “dead,” can you really say Mega Man has much of a future at all?
Sure you can. Whether Capcom releases one hundred more Mega Man games or none at all, it makes no difference. Mega Man’s future does not lie with Capcom or even Mega Man himself. You hold Mega Man’s future in your hands. You, me, and everyone else, are Mega Man’s future.
That sounds nice if somewhat unhinged, so let’s go on a journey of understanding. I’ll walk you through the current state of Mega Man as I see it and lead you to how I reached this conclusion. You can consider it like how Mega Man journeys through a boss’s stage before taking his power. Once you have my power you can…think about Mega Man a little differently than before? And then use that to defeat people who are weak to your thoughts? This analogy didn’t carry me as far as I hoped.
This one's about hitting the right notes
Whether you’re a fan of the Yohane the Parhelion show or just 2D pixel art games in the vein of exploration-based classics like Metroid or Castlevania, you’ve probably seen something like Blaze in the Deepblue before. We want things we recognize, and Blaze in the Deepblue contains plenty of recognizable conventions. At the same time, we want something different too, because we can never just be happy, am I right? Luckily, Blaze in the Deepblue strikes just the right chords to successfully sing familiar conventions to a different tune.
I emphasize the musical slant here because Blaze in the Deepblue bases itself on anime about musically-inclined idols. More specifically, it bases itself off an alternate universe spin-off of an anime about musically-inclined idols that now takes place in a fantasy setting. If you have no idea what any of that means, I wouldn’t worry about it. It matters only to the extent that you care.
Stop me if you've heard this one before
Everyone repeats. Be it by choice or by circumstance, we all fall into some semblance of daily routine. While overfamiliarity can wear us down or make us unhappy, repetition offers some upsides as well. It helps us identify what we do like, and through repeated interactions, allows us to gain a deeper appreciation for the things that are important to us. And as we all know, nothing is more important than Mega Man. The repetitive nature of Mega Man reinforces his greatest strengths.
Mega Man is undoubtedly repetitive. His games cover a lot of the same ground and there are a lot of them to boot. When you play Mega Man, you can generally expect to fight a group of evil robots in a nonlinear order, precisely jump over any obstacles they lay in their way, take their powers, and eventually take the fight to the mastermind’s fortress at the end. Mega Man follows a formula – and while its various spin-offs may branch off into their own formulas, they adhere to them just as closely.
Repetition gets a bad reputation. Read any bad review of a video game, and the “repetitive” complaint stands an abnormally high chance of jumping out at you, like one of those enemies that hide in pits when you try to jump across them. Read virtually any review of a Mega Man game, and some snide comment about how similar the games he stars in are will fall on you, like one of those bird robots that drop the eggs. I have never liked how people held Mega Man’s formulaic nature against him.
Mega Man Monthlymix
As you may glean from the monthly articles, I think Mega Man is pretty special. If you disagree, I am unlikely to convince you on my own. The best way to understand something is to engage with it yourself. To know Mega Man, you must play Mega Man games. Time stops for no one, however. If you simply play the original Mega Man games for the first time right now, you are unlikely to walk away with the same impressions I did. It can be difficult to remove yourself from modern day context and accept older games as they are. Enjoying Mega Man requires some imagination.
Sometimes the right combinations of thoughts and feelings can convey the context others need to leap over any hurdles laid out by the passage of time. From there, newcomers can freely discover what they find special about Mega Man for themselves. Even people who already love something can stumble upon new ways to appreciate it through this process – that’s largely what I aim to do with the things I write.
Hitoshi Ariga’s artwork stands as perhaps the single best example of converting one’s view of Mega Man into an artform. Mr. Ariga gets Mega Man; his obvious love for the character shines through every time he draws something for the series. Throughout the years, he’s contributed boss designs and a treasure trove of promotional material for the series. While all of that is impressive, his manga leaves a defining mark on the way I and many others (including Mega Man’s developers) view the character.
Ode to the Wounded Edgeboy
Titles carry weight to them. If someone were to call me a Mega Man expert (as I force everyone who speaks to me to do), you’d get the impression that I must know what I’m talking about on the subject. Similarly, if someone were called Mega Man, you’d get the impression that he must be some legendary hero who fights for everlasting peace. You may generally be right, but the Mega Man Zero series calls that idea into question.
The title of “hero” plays a vital role in the Mega Man Zero games. Their overarching narrative revolves around the sense of self that titles provide. In these games, Zero isn’t just Zero. In a meta sense, he assumes the role of “Mega Man” Zero. No longer the cool side character, he now plays the role of the main hero. Zero’s journey throughout this saga examines what it means to be a Mega Man, and ultimately, what defines being a hero.
From a goal-oriented mindset
This is serious. Mega Man plays soccer and no one talks about it. When was the last time you or anyone you know brought up this important fact? No one goes to dinner parties and says “hey, did you know Mega Man plays soccer!?” or some equally graceful attempt to broach the subject. Is this simply a failure of society as a whole, or does this phenomenon speak to something deeper? We all know that there must be more to this or else I would have very little to write about. To truly understand the situation, we must delve into the origins of Mega Man’s soccer-playing habits in the aptly-titled Mega Man Soccer.
I theorize that Mega Man Soccer lacks an important ingredient. As a result of this deficiency, Mega Man Soccer fails to stick in the hearts and minds of the people. This missing element, something that all memorable Mega Man games contain at least some trace amount of, is seriousness. Seriously! If you don’t believe me, I’ll show my work. If you do, I guess you can stop reading now. Thanks for your time, as always.
Trick and Treat
Dead people turn into ghosts, or so leading ghost behaviorists tell me. The presence of ghosts in Ghost Trick may then lead you to believe that it’s a game about death. Despite the subject matter, the greatest trick that Ghost Trick plays is twisting its grim concept into one that’s actually about life. That one weird trick transforms the game from a macabre idea to an endearing adventure. Everything in the game brims with life – most notably, even the things that aren’t supposed to.
Ghost Trick fits roughly into the category of “puzzle game,” but it’s not a clean fit. Typically, puzzle games follow rules and a sense of logic that expands as you progress. Rules do exist in the Ghost Trick: you can only possess inanimate objects, and you can only move from object to object within a limited range. Every rule beyond those, however, reflects the nature of the afterlife itself by being vague and mysterious. That’s both the fun and the heart of the game.
Mega Man 64 for those who only speak Nintendo
Everybody knows that there’s something special about Mega Man Legends. You know it so well that I don’t need to give you any actual proof. If that’s what you’re looking for, just think to yourself: Why would people be so obsessed with it getting a third game for decades? Why would they cling onto anything even remotely resembling that sequel? Why would they swear a blood oath against Capcom lasting thousands upon thousands of generations until they one day receive retribution? None of that is normal, so the only explanation can be that Legends is special. That’s just how this all works, probably.
What exactly makes Mega Man Legends special can be difficult to describe. It marked Mega Man’s first step into the third dimension, so it naturally changes a lot in the transition. It changes so much that you could say that Legends represents the Anti-Mega Man. Legends subverts traditional Mega Man on a conceptual level, twisting the experience in virtually every way beyond the fact that you can still jump and shoot.
Yet while subversion often comes from a place of cynicism or disrespect, Legends contrasts with its predecessors from a place of love. The steps it takes to uncharted territory build on what came before with a sense of reverence. The journey explores concepts normally out of Mega Man’s reach. It is the natural endpoint of the franchise in ways beyond just the literal continuity of the series. For the first time, Mega Man Legends gives Mega Man’s world a glimpse of that elusive everlasting peace.
Only the finest Minecraftmanship for Mega Man
I’m back with the May edition of Mega Man Monthly, and this time I’m tackling something that was released in the past decade for once! Genuinely new Mega Man stuff releases pretty infrequently these days, so I think it’s important to highlight what little we get. With that in mind, I’m going out of my comfort zone and digging into the unknown depths of Minecraft. Last month I promised some flowers, but unfortunately I dug them all up in the process of Minecrafting. Sorry.
I know nothing about Minecraft. That may seem like a strange way to open a review, but I need to clarify my intentions here. I am not reviewing Minecraft today. I am Mega Man X reviewing Minecraft. Big difference.
Basically, Minecraft forced my hand here. It waved Mega Man in front of my face and in a fight-or-flight-esque reaction, I threw money at it. This means that I’m not approaching Minecraft’s Mega Man X DLC as a Minecraft fan or someone even remotely familiar with the game. That may not be particularly fair to Minecraft. Instead, I view this DLC primarily as a Mega Man Xperience, and will be judging it based on my Mega Man Xpectations.
Since the Mega Man X review format provides a new and innovative way to critique video games, I suppose I should lay out my criteria. It primarily boils down to “how well does this thing capture what makes Mega Man X cool”?
I like swords
Note: This review can be applied to every version of Final Fantasy, but is based primarily on the Pixel Remaster version. If you want my perspective on the Pixel Remaster specifically, you can find it in its own section further below!
Final Fantasy can be anything, yet not everything can be Final Fantasy. Series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi once advised that a game can be Final Fantasy “if it has a blue window with text in it.” Unlike many other video game franchises, there aren’t any truly unambiguous characteristics that one can point towards to define a Final Fantasy game. As far as ambiguous characteristics go, I believe a sense of urgent passion to be the key ingredient.
You can make all the jokes you want about Final Fantasy never being “final,” but the title reflects the mindset that created it rather than it being a literal statement. Mr. Sakaguchi famously began Final Fantasy with the intent that it would be his last video game project before calling it quits in the video game business. Final Fantasy originated with the kind of passion that one would put into their final project. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that after so many entries, Final Fantasy continues to endure.
The mindset behind Final Fantasy speaks to me. Not to be a downer, but no one really knows how much time they have in life. While we shouldn’t live in fear that each moment will be our last, it makes sense to put our all into the projects we currently have in front of us. The pressure of our finite existence turns the stones we cast out into the world into diamonds…ideally, anyway. That kind of pressure also explains why each Final Fantasy gets filled so thoroughly with ideas that each can stand alone in its own universe. Urgency brings out the best in Final Fantasy’s eclectic nature, with each entry having its own special charms that stand on their own and are worthy of respect.
I respect the original Final Fantasy for its adherence to harsh reality. I don’t mean that in the sense that it’s a realistic game, but rather that it contains hints of reality that color the otherwise fantastical nature of the game. Final Fantasy conveys its sense of reality through how its gameplay mechanics portray a sense of adventure.
There are Zero Viruses here!
Welcome to the April edition of Mega Man Monthly. If you’re familiar with the expression “April showers bring May flowers,” you can consider this month to be my attempt to drown you in a torrent of Battle Network. It’s a big month for the series, after all. Between my frankly way too long review of the Battle Network Legacy Collection and this article, I’m leaving little opportunity to breathe. As for what May flowers this barrage of Battle Network will bring…who knows! I don’t figure these things out that far in advance!
Battle Network marked a major departure from what Mega Man was traditionally understood to be. Prior deviations like Mega Man X or Mega Man Legends brought their own changes, yet walked paths that could still easily be traced back to the franchise’s starting point. Unlike other Mega Mans, Battle Network stands far enough apart from its predecessors that it can be considered its own distinct entity. Within that distance Battle Network created, however, lies an opportunity for a clearer connection. Mega Man Network Transmission bridges the gap, linking Battle Network to its platforming heritage. The link that Network Transmission establishes reveals that in many ways, these disparate directions for the Mega Man franchise aren’t as estranged as it seems.
A Battle Chip off the old block
As a ten year old, two things shaped me into the person I am today: Mega Man and the internet. That explains a lot, I’m sure. Admittedly, there were probably some other things that helped too. At the very least, both of these two things factor heavily into why I’m writing this review. Mega Man connected me to many of my hobbies, including video games, drawing (more on that at the end!), and even writing. The internet connected me to the wider world of people who share similar interests, providing me an outlet to bounce my ideas off of other people. That includes you, my latest victim, who happens to be reading this right now.
Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection encapsulates the importance of connections; the kinds of connections that Mega Man creates and the ones that the internet creates. Collections inherently force people to look backwards, and the Battle Network games are fascinating time capsules. This series holds a unique position in the Mega Man dynasty as its most potent push for relevance. It moved Mega Man into trendier roleplaying and card game territory while updating the premise of the series to reflect modern day reality. These games were released just as the internet began fully integrating itself into everyday life, and as a result they evolved in tandem with our own real life internet.
Battle Network holds particular significance to me because it represents and is a product of the world that I grew up in. I may favor some individual Mega Man games more than the Battle Network series, but I view Battle Network as “my” Mega Man nonetheless. Battle Network extrapolated and dramatized many aspects of how the internet would grow, of course, but it also captured the broader sense of wonder that the internet invoked within me. In a way, Mega Man and the internet truly collaborated in forming how I saw this new era of society emerge. Battle Network explored this change not only through its narrative premise, but also its gameplay ideas and multiplayer focus.
You don’t need to have grown up in the same timeframe I did to appreciate these games, but these games do lean on that context nonetheless. The burgeoning sense of discovery the internet unleashed, in addition to the unique connections it produced, form key aspects of Battle Network’s identity. If you remove that context from the equation, these games likely would have turned out very differently. When you do a collection of games like these, then, ideally it should preserve not only the games themselves, but also the context and connections they aimed to convey.
Let’s start with how this Legacy Collection treats the games.