It is in transferring the style of these properties from game systems to more passive media like television or video that developers run the highest risk of losing this feeling of unity. Games are unique in their ability to leverage various stimuli (visual, audio, gameplay and control) to affect our experiences. Often, television shows featuring these characters (of which, both Mario and Mega Man have had several) attempt to compensate for this lack of interaction with improved or re-imagined visuals, an effect that often pulls gamers further from the source material and therefore further from their initial reason for engaging the other media in the first place.

It is not uncommon to hear gamers or game critics bemoan the glut of franchise games or tie-ins, but in fact it is often these very franchises that drive innovation. Strong game properties, while they may be accused of a lack of depth in terms of design (think: Mega Mans 1 through 6), actually allow developers greater freedom to explore aspects of game design they may otherwise shy away from. The ideal example of this is The Legend of Zelda, which continues to be a source of creative design. It was only through pushing at the boundaries of what the franchise had to offer that developers came up with Z-targeting or showed the full capabilities of cell-shading. Similarly, Super Mario 64 and Mega Man Battle Networks were able to take leaps only by drawing on established characters and game scenarios, all the while utilizing a style that was distinctly their own.

With Mega Man, Keiji Infune created not only a cash cow, but also a corporate logo. While companies like Capcom benefit from the recognition and marketability of franchise characters, these same franchises allow for greater exploration between both media and the games themselves. The outcomes of these experimentations might not always be successes, but it is through both the successes and failure that developers and gamers alike learn about where they've been and where they might be headed.

Jon Schnaars is a freelance writer with interests in genre and representation in gaming. He blogs full-time about issues in psychology and mental health for Treatment Online.

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