Mega Man Anniversary Collection hands-onJeremy Parish
Even though Capcom's Mega Man Anniversary Collection has already missed its original release date by several months, it's still a game shrouded in a haze of mystery. Of course, the contents of the collection are well known -- eight Mega Man titles taken from NES, SNES and PlayStation, along with a pair of arcade games -- but the actual mechanics of the set have been a matter of speculation. At least, for the sort of people who are likely to devote a great deal of thought to a collection of really old Mega Man games, anyway.
The single playable kiosk of MMAC available at E3 (hidden in an uninteresting corner of Nintendo's booth) finally answered some of the questions that have been hovering over the game. And more importantly, it served to resolve the mystery of why the game has been unseen and unreleased for so long: it has a long way to go before it's ready for prime time.
That comes as a bit of a surprise considering MMAC is nothing but a compilation of older games, most of which were already ported to PlayStation five years ago (via the Japan-only Mega Man Complete Works series). In fact, most of the game tweaks seem to have been swiped from MMCW, including the Navi mode, the modified life bars and status screens, and even the unlockable remixed music. One would therefore think it would be an easy project to complete. But the current build of the collection is just close enough to being playable to tantalize, and just flawed enough to frustrate.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the game's control configuration, and the lack of customization thereof. As frequently happens with classic games ported to GameCube, the developers have decided to imitate contemporary games by making the big green A button serve as the fire button and have relegated jumping to the undersized B button. There is of yet no way to modify this layout. As is frequently the case with such ports, this arrangement runs completely counter to the original button layout; the fire button was located to the left of the jump button for every title on this collection, not to the right. The result is a control scheme that (based on both hands-on and observational evidence) will absolutely confound people who have played these games in their original format. And let's face it; they're really the only people who are going to want this collection.
To further compound the control issue, the response time seems a little mushy. Control in the later Mega Man titles adopted a naturally soft feel to complement the games' rounded, pastel graphics, but the NES titles featured razor-sharp input response -- a crispness which is missing here. Between the mental lag required by the swapped buttons and the real lag generated by the poor response time, MMAC is actually a less enjoyable way to play Mega Man than with an emulator and keyboard. Which is surely not what Capcom is shooting for.
Fortunately, there's still time for the company to tighten things up; the game was recently delayed until September, and in any case it's clear that this is still a work in progress. Of the two arcade games slated for the collection, one is completely missing and the other doesn't accept controller input yet (forcing anyone who wanted to try it to reset the demo kiosk to get back to the functional sections of the game). Hopefully, they'll tidy up the rest of the game as they're getting these elements working.
Still, even if they never straighten up the GameCube version, it's always possible the PS2 edition of MMAC will be a tighter package. We'll hope for the best and weigh in once the game is complete.
Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in 1UP.