MetalFRO's Blog

Posted on Jan 1st 2022 at 01:00:00 PM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Mega Man, Slide, opinion, retro gaming, game mechanics

It is the express purpose of this column to bring light into dark subjects, to bring hope where there is despair.  For every great game or game genre, there is a trope, game mechanic, or other characteristic that is often maligned, even hated.  I am here to defend the defenseless, to uphold justice where none has prevailed, to give meaning where once none was found.  No game is perfect, but not every flaw is glaring.  My job is to show that some of these things have redeeming value.

The Mega Man series of games is one of the most highly lauded, well-loved properties in video gaming history, particularly throughout the 8 and 16-bit eras.  With the first 6 Mega Man games appearing on the Nintendo Entertainment System, the 7th episode hitting the Super NES, and the 8th (and originally, final) iteration being available on both the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation.  The revival of the series years later with Mega Man 9 and 10 on the WiiWare service (and later PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade), the younger generation of gamers are able to experience the punishing difficulty and pixel-perfect platforming that is Mega Man.  Fans of the original games, like myself, could finally get another Mega Man game in the original style, rather than one of the many spin-off titles. And while it has now been a few years since the latest entry, cleverly titled Mega Man 11, it's safe to say the character has had a lot of staying power.

Though Capcom enjoyed much success with these titles throughout the years, the two games that fans often duel over as the 'best' in the series are Mega Man 2, and Mega Man 3, both on the NES.  One thing that often keeps Mega Man 3 from being crowned the absolute winner is a game mechanic that was added with the 3rd installment: the slide maneuver.  This divisive change caused a lot of uproar with fans who felt it was an unnecessary addition to the game, and is still hotly debated today.  I'm here to say, the slide maneuver is not a complete waste as some claim.  Let's examine the slide in greater detail, shall we?  I'm going to address some points usually noted as flaws.

An entire fan game has sprung up because of the slide maneuver.

Argument 1: The slide is an unnatural evolution of the Mega Man character.

I understand this argument, and would agree with it on the surface, but let's not forget that Mega Man (or Rock, in the original Japanese version) is a robot.  It may seem strange for a robot to slide along the ground, but unlike a normal person, a robot with the versatility of Mega Man could potentially pull off a move like that.  Isn't it equally strange that a robot can jump?  Isn't it also equally strange that Mega Man, as a robot, can take the weapons from downed foes and upgrade himself IN THE FIELD to utilize them?  So while the slide move itself may feel weird or unnatural in the context of who and what Mega Man is, look at the bigger picture, and it's not so hard to see the slide as just a part of a growing arsenal.

Argument 2: The slide is underutilized in the game, and feels arbitrary, or "tacked on".

There is some truth to this in the design of the game in that, there aren't an abundance of areas where the slide MUST be used to traverse a portion of each level.  I'd counter that with this thought: does anyone want to spend a majority of each level utilizing a brand new game mechanic in a series?  Having levels designed with the slide in mind, but not over-utilize it is a hallmark of balanced game design, and I believe Mega Man 3 (and later incarnations) strike that balance well.  In addition, the slide mechanic can be used for other things, like progressing through levels faster (in areas where there are flat spaces and no enemies), which has become a speedrunning technique, or especially during boss battles.  I've used the slide countless times to slide under a boss who is jumping toward/over me to ensure that they don't hit me on the way down, or to avoid a boss's attack as they're jumping.  Here's a good example of that usage:

Argument 3: The games should just be designed around Mega Man's existing move set, rather than around the new mechanic, such as the slide.

As far as I'm concerned, this holds no water for several reasons. First and foremost, each game has 8 new weapons to be earned after each boss fight, and they all serve individual purposes, so in every new game, there are new moves and mechanics to be learned from the weapons. Second, Rush was only introduced in the 3rd game, and prior to that, Mega Man had different non-attack powers that he could utilize for traversal, all dependent upon weapon energy for limited use. And with subsequent games, the Rush abilities changed, so they weren't stagnant. Why would adding a new, permanent move to Mega Man be a bad thing in light of that? Third, while sometimes more is just more, and not necessarily better, what's wrong with having more movement options in an action game, particularly when they're easy to use?

In summary, while everyone is entitled to their opinion about a game and its mechanics, it's easy to get caught up in the idea that one's opinion is objectively correct. It's important to take a step back and analyze these things, so as not to become caught up in our own biases. I believe I have laid out a pretty good case to show not only the validity of the slide, but also the utility of it. If you're not a fan of the slide, I can't fault you for having that opinion. But at this point, I don't believe one can objectively say that the slide is bad, poor design, or lazy. Hopefully this column has either helped you solidify your take on the Mega Man slide, or given you good reason to reconsider your position on this important matter.

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