TGS ’10: Mega Man Universe Hands-On

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Mega Man’s latest outing promises character customization and level design.

Since that bizzaro reveal trailer back in June, a clearer picture has emerged of what Mega Man Universe is all about. Sure, it looks like yet another nostalgic retro platformer, but the big promise of Universe is creative control over the Mega Man world.

First up you can make your own custom characters. The demo we played featured three standard characters: Rockman, Mega Man, and the hilarious US box art Mega Man with his wrinkly old face. In addition, there were three custom characters to show us what’s in store. In the final version, players will be able to mix and match body parts and choose their favorite special powers to create their very own crazy robot.

The other part is designing your own level. We couldn’t do this at the show, but the designers had prepared three levels especially for the event. They were so good as to label them Easy, Medium and Hard. Haunted by memories of the nightmarish difficulty of recent games, we jumped for Easy.

As we’ve come to expect, the Easy level wasn’t exactly a cake-walk. Instant death at the hands of gaps and spikes was a constant threat, and those accursed disappearing platform sequences were back. Platforms and backgrounds seemed right out of ‘sky’ levels of Mega Man past. Some things never change.

Then there’s the graphics. Mega Man and his enemies are now three dimensional. While jarring at first, you cease to notice the difference after a few minutes of play. Curiously, the power-ups remain 2D despite the changes to the rest of the environment.

The most intriguing tease came at the end of the demo where the game thanked us for playing and invited us to make our own levels next time. Whatever levels they pre-package with the title, they won’t be light-years removed from previous installments; it’s the level-design options that will make or break Mega Man Universe.

The key will be to grant us enough control to make us feel that the creations are fully our own, while at the same time making it accessible enough that anyone can use it. A tricky balancing act to be sure…

TGS 2010 reporting is done jointly by Fintan Monaghan and Lisa Gay.

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