Street Fighter X Mega Man ReviewChristopher Erb
Twenty-five years ago, in 1987, Capcom brought forth two beautiful, new franchises into the world. The first, Street Fighter, would go on to dominate the arcade fighter scene from its second iteration onward, somehow spawning nearly a score of titles while only being on the fourth game in the core series. The other, Mega Man, took consoles by storm, its stalwart following spreading across multiple spin-offs and reimaginings, and clamoring for more even after the franchise's apparent passing. Over the course of two and a half decades, these sibling properties would encounter and touch upon one another on occasion, yet almost always on Street Fighter terms in the fighting arena. That is, until now.
Originally created as a fan project by Seow Zong Hui, Street Fighter X Mega Man made the rounds at the EVO 2012 fighting game tournament, catching the eye of Capcom exec Christian Svensson. After this early build crossed the desk of several other Capcom staffers, it was decided the company would back the project in capacities such as quality assurance and marketing, while leaving Zong Hui in charge of the game's development. Released for free on December 17, 2012, Street Fighter X Mega Man was a much needed gift for both Street Fighter afficionados let down by the debacle Street Fighter X Tekken became, and Mega Man fans who'd seen the last two known projects in the franchise, Mega Man Legends 3 and Mega Man Universe, abruptly cancelled following Keiji Inafune's departure from the company.
Done up in a classic, eight-bit style, Street Fighter X Mega Man replaces the usual Robot Masters found in Mega Man titles with characters from across Street Fighter's history. Series staples such as Ryu, Chun-Li, Dhalsim, and Blanka all make obligatory appearances, while Street Fighter Alpha's Rose and Rolento, Street Fighter III's Urien, and Crimson Viper from Street Fighter IV round out the roster. In true Mega Man style, each fighter waits at the end of a multi-screen stage filled with robot enemies and hazards, offering a new attack power to Mega Man should he manage to defeat them.
The Mega Man side of things is a bit less cameo-based, but given that the Blue Bomber is the main character, and the game's build is directly derived from time-honored Mega Man tropes, this is easily forgivable. Sporting the slide technique he learned in Mega Man 3 and the chargable New Mega Buster from Mega Man 4, Mega Man is back to the ol' run-and-gun once again. Relatively sparse enemy placement can make the game feel rather easy compared to veterans of the original Mega Man series, but the variety of attack patterns and general endurance of many of the bosses, even when faced with the special weapon to which they're weak, evens the difficulty level back out in the long run. Some of the World Warriors can prove quite the challenge, enforcing the tradition of pattern recognition and repeated level playthroughs to polish one's skills.
Despite the relative ease of progress, each area is a loving homage to its resident fighter's original, in-game stage. Backgrounds are modeled after Blanka's jungle hideaway, Dhalsim's tapestry-laden temple, and even Ryu's classic rooftop battle by moonlight is recreated, albeit in down-rezzed forms. Other stages are a bit less derivative and more interpretive, such as C. Viper's S.I.N. headquarters and Rose's seemingly airborne cityscape, half of which you get to fly through on your trusty Rush Jet, but all reflect their end bosses rather well. The somewhat limited selection of robot foes go through cosmetic and capability adjustments in instances where they're featured in multiple levels; for instance, the streets leading to Chun Li are crowded with bicycle-riding Metools, and turban-wearing heads that shoot fireballs in a ring around them on your way to Dhalsim moonlight as jester heads launching swirls of magic when you're chasing Rose. Even Street Fighter X Mega Man's soundtrack gets in on the split-homage theme, as nearly every track is a mash-up of a Mega Man favorite and a Street Fighter tunes, compiled and remixed by Luke Esquivel, better known to some as A_Rival.
Street Fighter X Mega Man handles fairly well despite being a PC release, though use of a gamepad is highly recommended over trying to wrangle with the keyboard as an input device. While the game itself lacks direct controller support, free programs such as JoyToKey are available to let you map the game's keys to your controller buttons. Regardless of how you choose to control things, Mega Man maintains the same levels of sensitivity and inertia familiar to series veterans, and will make sense to retro game fans in general, regardless of whether they've blown through a Mega Man title before. Fire rates seem appropriate to their respective weapons, and no lag or sluggishness is apparent during play.
On top of everything else, Street Fighter X Mega Man has its fair share of Easter Eggs to discover, furthering the grand tribute to its lineages the game shapes up to be. While the codes are simple enough and available from a multitude of sources already, let's just say one can do everything from removing Mega Man's helmet during gameplay, to unlocking a couple of secret maneuvers, and even override the game's soundtrack with a tune that the internet at large would have you believe "goes with everything." Also added in a recent update is a dot-and-grid password system reminiscent of the original Mega Man games, allowing players to take a break without having to leave the game running, as was necessary with Street Fighter X Mega Man's initial release.
Clearly made with a lot of love, and proving that Capcom still has love for its fans despite recent snafus, Street Fighter X Mega Man is the holiday gift the Capcom fanbase needed in 2012. The incredibly low cost of entry that is "nothing at all," doesn't hurt, either. Fans of either franchise can find a lot to love in this crossover, though the action-platformer impaired may want to stick to having Ryu and Mega Man face off in their myraid Versus series appearances.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.