It's been a long time since the Mega Man series graced the cover of a mainstream video game magazine. We have to go all the way back to 2018 when Mega Man 11 took the spotlight in Game Informer issue 297. However, now, with the release of Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection release, the series has captured the attention of Weekly Famitsu.
The magazine's latest issue features a spectacular cover story that includes a new piece of artwork, a 20-page feature and a special new interview with Battle Network Legacy Collection lead Masakazu Eguchi. In it, he looks back upon the series and the collection's development. He also briefly touches on the potential future.
You can check out the cover and read an English translation of the interview below! Many thanks to our friend Windii for the translation!
―Please introduce yourself first.
Hi, I'm Masakazu Eguchi. I am the director of Rockman EXE Advanced Collection. In the past, I was involved in various "Rockman" series, including the "Rockman EXE" series. In "Rockman EXE," I appeared as a character named "Meijin" in the games, and I also participated in real-life events wearing a special costume.
*Mejin is known as Mr. Famous in the Western version of Mega Man Battle Network and can be translated as Master or Expert.
When he first appeared, the character's trait was that knew many things, and his name was Dr. Eguchi. However, I thought that he should be strong enough to win the hearts of boys. So, after "Rockman EXE 2," he became Meijin Eguchi , a master of net battles.
―By the way, is the name "Meijin" a reference to the 'Master' boom of the 1980s?
...I can't deny that (laughs). There is an impression that a strong player in a game is a master. When I was a child, Master Takahashi and others were popular, and I was a member of the Master generation, and personally, I was thrilled to have been given this name.
―What are your feelings now that the release date is finally here?
I am still very happy because I am very attached to this series. I am very grateful that we have received so many positive responses over the past 20 years. I have received a variety of comments on this announcement, and I realized once again that this is a series that is still truly loved today. I am also grateful for the support we received from the public, which made it possible for us to bring this title to the world.
―When did you start this project?
About two years ago. The timing coincided with various anniversaries, such as the 20th anniversary of the "Rockma EXE" series and the 35th anniversary of the Rockman series, but we did not start the project with these events in mind. One of the first reasons was that Capcom had received many requests for a port or remake of Rockman EXE. The second reason was that we received a lot of support from non-development departments within the company. This was the reason why the project was put into motion.
―Makes sense. We got the impression that there was quite a bit of buzz on social media when the announcement was made.
As I expected, the response was quite strong. Basically, many people said thank you, but there were also many who wondered what would happen to the linked battles. At the time of the announcement, we had not released any information about the linked battles, so I was surprised to see how many people wanted to have a linked battle. We also received calls from staff members who were involved in the production of the games at the time, and the vibe was like a class reunion.
―This year marks 22 years since the first game came out in 2001. Could you tell us again about the concept and appeal of "Rockman EXE"?
The games are set in a near future world where network technology is very advanced. Every electronic device is connected to the network, and the world is controlled by it. People have a mobile terminal called a PET (PersonaI TerminaI), which is equivalent to a smartphone today, and a pseudo-personality program called NetNavi in the PET makes their lives convenient as a partner of humans. The story is about the main character, Netto Hikari (Lan Hikari) , who lives in such a world, and his NetNavi, Rockman, who get involved in various incidents that eventually develop into saving the world from crises.
―So the network is the core of the lore. Could you tell us about the gameplay system?
We call it a "data action RPG" genre. It is characterized by a battle system that is a fusion of an action game and a card game.
―The production environment has changed dramatically since then, including the performance of current hardware. Did you encounter any difficulties in reissuing the games?
The biggest challenge was the online function. Basically, it is a port, but the online functionality was newly developed. In the old days, you had to plug a link cable into the console, so you had a linked partner within arm's reach, and if any problems occurred, they could solve them themselves. However, when we go online, the distance between us and the other party is much greater, and we have to take measures to deal with various problems that we did not have to think about in the past. Today, it is natural to take measures to deal with online issues, but when I think back to the days of "Rockman EXE," I felt that the times have changed.
―How do you want users to enjoy the online feature?
At that time, there were close-knit communities of friends and acquaintances in the neighborhood, but now that it is online, the community itself is much larger than that. We have communities of friends all over the country and the world, and I hope that people will take advantage of this to expand their battle network. You can enjoy private communication by issuing room codes, and it will be more exciting if you can gather many people and hold some kind of competition.
―The resolution and other graphics are very different from the original games compared to the current hardware. Have you made any efforts in this area?
Screen ratios and resolutions are completely different, so we are very careful to accommodate these differences, and we are also able to make detailed settings. Also, since the games were originally created using pixels, we have introduced a filter function to reproduce the quality of those days and at the same time make the games look smooth even when displayed on a large screen. I think you will be able to see a soft representation of the graphics without any sense of discomfort.
―That is the most important part of porting classic games, isn't it?
That's right. There are still users who want to see the original pixel artwork, so we have taken care to make sure that the filter has an on/off function.
―We would also like to ask you about the sound aspect of the games. Do you have a favorite song from the Rockman EXE series?
That's a very difficult question (laughs). I think that all the songs in Rockman.EXE have very catchy melodies and show various moods. So it's hard to choose one, but if I had to pick one, I would say the title BGM of the first game.
―You mean the BGM played on the title screen. Why is that?
It's very "Rockman" like, I guess. It's cool and melancholy at the same time. There's a sense of wabi-sabi to it, which is very nice. Many of the staff members who worked on "Rockman DASH" participated in the development of "Rockman EXE", and in that sense, I felt that the blood of "Rockman" was firmly inherited. I also like the music of Akihara Town, the main character's hometown, across the entire series. During the games, the main character goes to other towns and the cyber world, but when I hear this song, I feel at ease knowing that he has returned home.
―That's understandable! It's a comforting feeling to come home after a hard-fought battle.
It is a great relief, isn't it? By the way, the title BGM (the BGM that plays in the overall title, not in each respective title) is an arranged version of the title BGM of Vol. 1 and VoI.2 of the first and fourth titles, respectively. The song is so cool, I hope everyone who purchases it will take the time to listen to it. The music that plays during the credits was also created by incorporating various elements from the series, so please pay attention to it as well.
―The sound will also be a very enjoyable element. On a different note, the "Buster MAX Mode" has been announced as an additional element of this release. How did you come up with the idea?
Compared to 20 years ago, I think that today's gamers are busier in many ways, and it is harder for them to make a lot of time. So, I thought it would be good if this title could be played quickly and easily. There are people who want to finish the story in one go and enjoy playing the games quickly, but there are also people who want to spend more time playing the games. Since there are 10 games in the release, we don't want to force you to thoroughly play the whole game from beginning to end. The Buster MAX mode, as well as the modification cards newly introduced in this title, are fully open from the beginning, with no restrictions on the level of play progression. Whether you use them or not, we would be happy if you could play at your own pace and as you like.
―That makes sense. However, the Buster MAX Mode giving you 100 times the power is a drastic specification.
I don't think it's an extreme number. I set it to 100 times for the simple reason that I wanted to be able to defeat most enemies with a single shot. Another reason for introducing this element is that I did not want to include an easy mode. I think there are various preferences and non-negotiables among users, such as wanting to do this part on your own, or wanting to fight this boss with your true ability. Therefore, rather than simply lowering the difficulty level, we made the element function only when you want to use it.
―That's true. If you set the game to easy mode, it would change the overall feel of the game, not to mention the normal battles.
My pride as a NetBattler would not allow me to use easy mode (laughs).
―There are a total of 10 titles in the series, including 6 titles that have carved out a varied history. What does the Rockman EXE series mean to you, Eguchi Meijin?
It has been more than 20 years since I started being Meijin. I was 21 years old when I first started working on the series, so half of my life has been as Meijin (laughs). So it is no exaggeration to say that I have grown up together with "Rockman EXE". It is a title that has become the foundation for me as a creator, and as Meijin, I have been able to have a close relationship with the users. I feel like I am a part of the Rockman family. I talk with users at events, and it's as if we are all relatives. As soon as I meet them, I feel like it's been a long time. Some of them hold their babies in their arms and tell me that they have just had a baby. The catchphrase of this title is "Even now, we are connected". I feel that this title really has a strong sense "connection".
―How do you plan to develop the "Rockman" series in the future?
Personally, I would like to take on various challenges. I can't talk about it right now. I would be very grateful if you could play the Advanced Collection and give us your feedback.
―Thank you very much for your valuable comments. Finally, could you give a message to the fans who are looking forward to this game?
It has been a long time coming, but we are finally able to deliver this to you. It has been 22 years since the release of the first game, and we hope that you will be able to create a new battle network online with the memories of those days. The release is filled to the brim with content, so we hope that even newcomers to the series will take advantage of this opportunity to pick it up.