As time goes on, the gap between home consoles and PCs becomes increasingly narrow. Yet there are still plenty of classic videogame series whose presence on PC platforms is still lacking. This would seem to be the case with Capcom's Mega Man, however the PC is home to a variety of Mega Man games some of which truly need to be seen to be believed.
Mega Man's journey through the world of PC gaming begins in the year 1990 with the US exclusive, MS-DOS version of Capcom's first Mega Man, which was originally released on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
Rather than being a straight-up port, however, Mega Man for the PC was an entirely new adventure. With all new levels, bosses and weapons, you'd be forgiven for thinking this version of Mega Man to be a treasure trove of classic, side scrolling action. But Mega Man fans beware – Mega Man for the PC is a poorly designed mess known only for its poor graphics and sound, its measly three robot masters, its pathetic enemy AI and its complete lack of music.
Further oddity lies in Mega Man's box art, which is extremely similar to the North American box art for Mega Man 3 on the NES, which also came out in 1990. If that wasn't confusing enough, Mega Man for the PC had a sequel titled Mega Man 3.
That's right, no “Mega Man 2”, just straight to Mega Man 3.
This US exclusive, MS-DOS version of Mega Man 3 was likely given that name as an attempt to cash in on the success of Mega Man 3 for the NES. But confusingly, Mega Man 3 has little to no relation to its NES counterpart, baring a much closer resemblance to its infamous MS-DOS predecessor.
The lackadaisical level design returned along with the same sub-par visuals and audio. The number of robot masters was bumped up from three to six, however each are simple recolours of bosses from NES Mega Man games. Mega Man 3 even featured the exact same, text-based ending screen that disappointed players of the poorly made version of Mega Man that came before it.
It may seem odd that two awful Mega Man games appeared on the PC during a time when Capcom were putting out high quality future classics on the NES, but there is an explanation. Neither of the PC games were developed by Capcom itself, but were instead officially licensed by Capcom to American publisher Hi-Tech Expressions and developed by Rozner Labs. But why Capcom allowed High-Tech Expressions to publish a second, shoddy Mega Man game remains a mystery.
Mega Man makes it big in Taiwan
From the USA we move over to Taiwan, where a pair of peculiar, officially licensed Mega Man titles would have even the most avid Mega Man fan scratching their heads in disbelief: Rockman Gold Empire and Rockman Strategy.
Series antagonist Dr. Wily is back, and this time he's created a device that converts gold into an indestructible metal alloy. It's up to Mega Man and friends to collect as much gold as they can through property management to spend on defensive buildings before Dr. Wily's final attack. This is the premise of 1999's Mega Man themed, Monopoly-esque PC game Rockman Gold Empire.
A fairly unremarkable title, Rockman Gold Empire is known mostly for its obscurity and rarity rather than its gameplay value. Nevertheless, the game boasts some bright and colourful visuals, an entirely new soundtrack and big, bold sprites not seen in any other Mega Man game.
Strangely enough, Rockman Gold Empire isn't Mega Man's first foray into the world of property management. The 1993 Japanese exclusive Wily & Right's RockBoard: That's Paradise for the Nintendo Famicom home console had much the same concept as Gold Empire, making this Taiwanese exclusive spiritual successor all the more weird.
Mega Man's second Taiwanese, PC adventure came in the form of tactical RPG Rockman Strategy. Released in 2001, this completely original game featured twelve new, extraterrestrial robot masters, a new protagonist named Fan and pre-rendered CGI models – none of which appeared in any subsequent Mega Man games. Additionally, Rockman Strategy's RPG elements come in the form of side quests, character levelling and the creation of new weapons, armour and even new robots from screws obtained on the battlefield.
Unlike Rockman Gold Empire before it, Rockman Strategy's combination of solid TRPG gameplay and its uniqueness within the Mega Man series has made its a highly sought after title by Mega Man fans. In fact, fan efforts have yielded an unofficial Chinese-to-English translation patch for those lucky enough to secure a copy Rockman Strategy of their own.
Bizarre Taiwanese spin-offs and rubbish MS-DOS games aside, the PC has been home to a number of faithful Mega Man ports. For example, every game in the Mega Man X series up to and including Mega Man X8 made its way to the PC with a high level of availability, apart from Mega Man X6 and Mega Man X7 which were exclusive to South Korea. Then, in 2006, online videogame service GameTap brought the niche arcade brawlers Mega Man: The Power Battle and Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters to PC.
Unfortunately, this is where Capcom's streak of official Mega Man PC titles ends, leaving the slack to be picked up by the fans.
Move over Capcom: The rise of Mega Man fan games
Before the likes of official retro throwbacks Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 in the late 2000's, Japanese indie developers had been hard at work recreating their own Mega Man videogame experiences. One such title is Rockmen R: Dr. Wily's Counterattack which puts players in control of Mega Man support character Roll as she tackles new robot masters and new female antagonist Piano.
Although the game has higher quality visuals and audio than the NES originals, Rockmen R plays exactly like the 8-bit Mega Man adventures it is based on. Other Mega Man-esque Japanese indie titles (or doujin games) include MegaMari, Dr. M and RosenkreuzStilette. But Mega Man collectors beware, doujin games are rarely sold outside of gaming conventions, making these titles hard to come by.
What started out as Capcom series crossover dream became a reality when Singaporean developer Seow Zong Hui showed off his fan game project, Street Fighter X Mega Man, directly to Capcom USA at 2012's fighting game tournament, EVO.
Not only were Capcom impressed, but they officially endorsed the game, aided in its production and distributed it freely through the Capcom Unity website. Street Fighter X Mega Man received high levels of praise from fans worldwide for its inspired level design, 8-bit Street Fighter tunes, appropriately difficult bosses and its general adherence to the level of quality and challenge present in Mega Man's NES adventures.
The Mega Man series has seen some hard times in recent years, with a large proportion of fans becoming increasingly irate over Capcom's cancellation of several new Mega Man titles. Whether or not we'll see the blue bomber rise again, and whether or not future Mega Man games make it to PC, remains unknown. But as this article has shown, fans need only turn to PC to find a treasure trove of peculiar Mega Man games, for better or for worse.