Rock-Paper-Scissor: Shoot!

6 Jul

In anticipation of the WiiWare exclusive Mega Man 9 (a new yet retro installment in the classic Mega Man series complete with 8-bit graphics, sound, and music) I’ve been playing through the Mega Man Anniversary Collection for the GCN.

I can recall blazing through the entire series (well, except for the end of PSX’s 8) a few years back and having a blast. I didn’t use a guide to get through the games depsite their infamous difficulty. The most fun I had came in the form of creating my own plot to go along with the otherwise weak storylines that accompanied each game. Maybe I’ll jot down the overall story-arch some day soon, but for now, I wanna’ discuss something more relevant to the gameplay of the entire Mega Man series.

Mega Man creator, Keiji Infaune, claims that the series’ formula was inspired by the game of Rock-Paper-Scissor. Just as each choice in R-P-S beats has a strength over one choice and a weakness to another, each of the main bosses (or robot masters) have a power that Mega Man can acquire and use against other bosses. They also each have a weakness to another boss’ power.

The fun in the original Mega Man came from being able to figure out which master’s power beat which master so you could get through the game with the most efficiency. This worked in the original game because the weaknesses were intuitive enough for the player to figure out without screwing up the order with a failed experiment.

The original had the most balance.

Guts Man’s rock throwing ability beats Cut Man, a robot with a large pair of scissors on his head. This relationship pays the most respect to Inafune’s original inspiration. The elemental weaknesses (electricity beats ice beats fire) make a lot of sense as does fire beating bomb and bomb beating rock. Cut Man’s Rolling Cutter beating Elec Man is probably the least obvious advantage. I suppose the metal could have some kind of magnetic effect on the electricity or something. Whatever it is, it’s definitely not the least obvious.

Mega Man 2 throws the balance of the game’s original inspiration (every master having one strength and weakness) for a loop by making one of the master’s power dominate several masters.

Metal Man pwns

As you can see, Metal Man’s blade beats Bubble Man, Wood Man, Flash Man, and…Metal Man? Yeah, Metal Man is weak to his own attack. Thankfully, every Mega Man game has you fight each master again towards the end. Unfortunately, this throws off the balance of Inafune’s original inspiration. It also brings up some conflicts when it comes to figuring out weaknesses ahead of time.

As you can see, Heat Man, Crash Man, and Quick Man have no strength over other masters, but you would at least think that Heat Man could take out Wood Man (fire burns plant.) Instead, Heat Man’s Atomic Fire only has one real use in the entire game against a later boss. Perhaps they should have given Quick Man an electric quality so that his boomerang power could have an advantage over Bubble Man (lightning shocks water.)

Another problem introduced in MM2 is that a few master weaknesses don’t make much sense even after knowing what their powers are. Why exactly does Air Man beat Crash Man? And why does Metal Man beat Flash Man?

Mega Man 3 returns to a cyclical formula, but splits it in two.

Back to basics with a twist.

Gemini Man, Needle Man, and Snake Man form one small cycle while the other five masters form their own. This is an improvement over MM2‘s branched off order of weaknesses, but those weaknesses are much more ambiguous.

A few of the weaknesses make sense, like Magnet Man beating Hard Man (the magnet’s seek out Hard Man’s metallic armor) and Spark Man beating Magnet Man (the electricty messes with his magnetism.) Shadow Man’s blade beating Spark Man might be a reference to Cut Man’s blade beating Elec Man in the original game. Snake Man’s Search Snakes beating Gemini Man make sense in that they can search out Gemini’s clone.

The other weaknesses don’t really make any sense, especially to the player staring at the masters’ protraits, wondering who beats who.

Mega Man 4 returns to a single cycle but hits a new height of ambiguity.

Cool bosses, weird weaknesses

Only after finding out each weakness through experiementation did I see a bit of logic behind some of them. Toad Man’s rain attack beats Bright Man possibly because rain is associated with clouds with block out the light. Bright Man beating Pharoh Man may have something to do with light reaching an old mummy for the first time in centuries. Ring Man’s attack may beat Dust Man because it makes a sweeping motion (sweeping up dust? :P) My favorite, and most creative, assumption is Skull Man’s advantage over Dive Man. I’m thinking it has something to do with Dive Man being a submarine and Skull Man’s skulls representing pirate skull-n-crossbones.

Personally, I think Dust Man should beat Pharoh Man (vacuum sucks up dust) and Bright Man should beat Skull Man (light beats darkness?) Also, Dive Man should beat Toad Man (torpedo seeks swimming frog.) I’m just not sure how players are supposed to figure out these weaknesses ahead of time.

Now, I’m preparing to start Mega Man 5, a game I’ve only played once (the last time I played the Anniversary Collection) and can’t for the life of me remember the weaknesses. I looked at the sprites for each master and tried to figure out ahead of time who beats who. Assuming the game works on a single cycle, here’s my prediction:

Let\'s see if I predict the future!

Here’s my logic:

  • Wave douses Napalm
  • Napalm ignites Crash
  • Crash shatter Stone
  • Stone cracks Crystal
  • Crystal weighs down Gyro
  • Gyro defies Gravity
  • Gravity controls Star
  • Star manipulates Wave

I’m sure there are a few mistakes in there. I’m not even sure if Wave Man beats Napalm Man, really. 😦

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