13-years ago tomorrow, one of (if not the) strangest Rockman titles in existence released throughout Japan. On June 24, 1998, Super Adventure Rockman made its debut on the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, and to this day, it remains an oddity both in the eyes of fans and Keiji Inafune. A game so odd that it warranted an apology from Inafune himself.
Super Adventure is unlike any Rockman title before it. It's a strange blend of the interactive FMV genre with elements of first-person/arcade shooter segments dispersed throughout. The core elements that made the franchise unique -- the rock-paper-scissors weakness system and non-linear progression, remained. Despite the familiarity these elements brought to the table, the game just has this aura that screams "out-of-place." I don't know how else to say it: Super Adventure Rockman, while not a bad game, is downright weird. You can feel it the minute you give it a spin. This aura of utter strangeness isn't just limited to gameplay or presentation -- the story itself is bustling with moments and scenes that betray the light-hearted image of the classic series.
The number-one rule behind the development of a game targeted at youngsters is to not depict death. Alas, the game was riddled with death; there was no subtlety to it.
"The ultimate unspoken role about making a game that is geared towards children is that you simply cannot kill anyone, but here you have military helicopters falling out of the sky and people dying in droves," writes Inafune in Mega Man: Official Complete Works. "If it had been up to me, I would have at least made it so they all 'got away safely' via parachutes or something. Then, as if that wasn't bad enough, Roll dies... and to top if all off, the whole world is destroyed! I was like, 'Did they really need to go that far!?' I will never let them do something like this ever again. If we, as developers, start getting confused about what 'safe for children' means, we'd not only be betraying our players, but I'd feel like I was betraying every single creator that ever put time into this series."
The franchise's violence factor has certainly turned up quite a bit in the last ten years or so, but before Super Adventure Rockman, death wasn't so prominent. It was always subtle, comedic even. The fates of those who did die (such as Robot Masters at the hands of the player) where entirely dependent upon the player's desecration. Super Adventure Rockman, however, didn't give player's this privilege to use their imagination. Sure, things turn out well in the end, but to get to the rainbows and sunny skies, players had to get Rockman through quite a few hardships with death hot on his heels.
Classic Rockman has always been targeted at a young and impressionable audience: children. There's no denying it. That is why fanon stuff like the Cataclysm Theory (supposed event in which Zero mercilessly kills off the classic series cast) make no sense. Seriously, look at Inafune's comment -- read it closely. There is absolutely no chance something as extreme as the "cataclysm" could happen. Ever.
There's more to be said about the game, but you're better off checking it out for yourself. On the positive side, SA sports top-notch FMV animation, voice acting and the plot is actually surprisingly thick in Rockman-terms. To experience the Super Adventure for yourself, you've a few of options. The most inexpensive being watch the game unfold on YouTube (available with optional subtitles). Collector's, however, may want to invest in purchasing the game physically. Ebay is home to frequent Super Adventure auctions, with the PlayStation version being the more common of the two. There's no discriminable difference between the PSX and Saturn versions, so it's entirely up to preference.
We've no definitive reason why the game didn't journey to our side of the pond. It could be a number of things from Sony's bizarre no-Mega Man policy to the lack of interest in the FMV genre in the West. One theory that wouldn't be all too surprising is Capcom withheld the game purposely for the very reasons Inafune despised it. Regardless the reason, it was probably for the best. Super Adventure is pretty niche, and the risk of finding an audience would have been far too great.