BY CAPCOM, 1998
25 WORDS OR LESS:
Lead the Blue Bomber through an FMV anime escapade with more choice-making than you can handle.
You remember the taglines: Over 63.48 minutes of video footage!; An exhilirating interactive experience full of interactivity!; You choose the outfit she dances in! Maybe it’s just me who remembers that one. Anyway, the arcade laserdisc craze in the 80’s and the multimedia cash-in of the early 90’s gave us a plethora of new-age games that tried to make up for a lack of realism. It was going to be another 10 years or so before something like Resident Evil or DOAX anyway, so the advent of so-called full motion video games was a little bit understandable.
As the 90’s drew to a close, so did the FMV genre. Or so we thought, because as we all know, the Japanese 4k game industry sometimes has a tough time letting things go, whether they be quiz games, love adventures or the Neo-Geo. The occasional new FMV game (although admittedly sometimes a port of an old laserdisc game) would slip through unnoticed and onto the PlayStation and Saturn, filling their libraries with the software equivalent of styrofoam peanuts.
This is basically what happened when Capcom released Super Adventure Rockman. While no doubt hyped moderately due to the weight of the franchise, it wasn’t totally recognized outside Japan, so it went under the radar of a few international Rockman fans. Before long, online auctions gained in popularity and relatively unknown import games got a new life as $60+ tragedies. Super Adventure Rockman is one of them. So despite its elevated rarity, keep in mind that SAR is, for all intents and purposes a game that even fake Megaman fans can quite easily live without.
Super Adventure Rockman begins in the Amazon. It seems that the earth has been uprooted and a massive temple has appeared out of nowhere. The UN of all people are sent to the region to investigate, but their choppers always explode whenever they get near. Dang. Meanwhile, at Dr. Light’s lab, it’s explained to Rockman that the presence of the temple has also caused electronics around the world to shut down, causing mass hysteria and all that jazz. Rockman’s dutiful sister Roll becomes one of the victims and is relegated to a sort of hyperbaric chamber for housekeeping robots.
It turns out that back in the day, Dr. Light and Dr. Wily had wished to go to the Amazon someday, and Wily actually appears on the lab monitors and says he’s there now and that he’s the culprit, so Rockman is sent south to school the old bastard the hard way, along with the help of the robot masters from Megaman 1 (remember, they were all Light’s robots?! Right). On the way there, he’s ambushed by Wily’s robot creations, including the robot masters from Megaman 2 and 3! So just what the funk is really going on here? Well, let’s insert disc 2 to find out!
During the next episode, we learn that while Wily was on his safari, he fell into the bottom of that huge temple and stumbled upon a large ebony orb named Ra Moon, which is actually an ancient supercomputer. Its origin story is told, wherein we learn Ra crashed onto Earth, and in a convoluted tale that involves possessing a caveman and initiating a bloody war among a prehistoric tribe, Ra Moon eventually withdrew itself and its honorary temple underground, out of protest. And you thought it wouldn’t be a cliché anime story. Regardless, in an attempt to analyze the supercomputer, Wily had pulled out his laptop but soon had it taken over by Ra Moon, who then re-created Wily’s old robots. Using the data gained from the laptop, Ra Moon begins creating a super-robot offspring that Wily hopes to use to destroy Rockman. Speaking of Ol’ Blue Pants, he manages to make his way closer to the temple after fighting a few more bosses.
By the time Episode 3 starts, the shit’s really about to hit the fan. The UN’s having a collective nervous breakdown as part of the technological malfunctioning, Roll’s still doing her MJ thing, and Ra Moon’s robot is getting closer and closer to completion. Rockman begins making his way through the temple, but after a lengthy battle with Spark Man, he collapses from exhaustion. He eventually wakes up and discovers he’s been tied up by Wily. The two take some time to argue until Ra Moon zaps Wily’s robots. Ra Moon says he’s been using Wily this entire time (gasp!) and finally orders the secret robot, Ra Thor, to finish him off. Rockman frees himself and saves Wily, but Ra Moon has another ace up its sleeve: the Ra Devil, a spooky black version of the Yellow Devil (Rock Monster) from MM1. After another seemingly year-long battle, Rockman miraculously wears it down. His finishing blow is the underwhelming Double Rock Buster, wherein both his arms turn into cannons and fire off a massive ball of energy, destroying the Ra Devil, Ra Moon, the temple, and half of the Amazon by the looks of things. It’s the kind of stuff that can only be done with the power of full motion video, folks!
The act of "playing" SAR is exactly how you’d expect. At various points during the game Rockman will have to choose which direction to go or which action to take. The former is done by pressing a direction on the controller when an arrow starts flashing on the screen and must be done quickly, or you risk taking damage or screwing up some other way. The latter is done with a list of adventure game-like choices below the video. All of the video is presented in a small window in the center of the screen, much like all the other FMV games of years before it. Sounds lame, sure, but they obviously needed room for the humongous life bar and choice box that border the thing. It’s even more humorous since the opening, ending and "next episode" movies that buffer the actual game are all full-screen and comparatively clearer to the point of VCD quality. The animation itself also hovers around tolerable and laughable, with understandable heaps of repetition. Okay, yes, I know I’m about to fight, we don’t really need to zoom into Rockman’s face for the 400th time. The visuals have their share of detail, though, thanks to traditional cel production as opposed to more rushed digital methods.
Lucky for us, the game’s only 99% video. There is in fact a real Megaman-y element that you can actually, y’know, play. Whenever Rockman is ambushed by drones or Wily’s robot masters, he readies his Rock Buster and everything shifts into a 2D minigame of sorts, except now you see what Rockman sees!!! In reality this is nothing but a light gun sequence without a light gun; think the blaster moments in Snatcher but not as limiting. Pixelly enemy sprites bound around like monkeys and fire their projectiles at you, and it’s up to you to move the targeting cursor around and shoot them down. Let me make it clear that you’re doing this with the D-pad, and many of the enemies move somewhat speedy, requiring eye-hand coordination that only years of gaming can bring.
You’ll eventually beat them all, though, especially if you get the Blues Shield item that reduces each hit you take to a piddly sliver. Truthfully the only challenge is lasting through the longer fights and having to rest your thumb from constant hammering of the fire button (charging up the Buster is useless as you’ll have taken eight hits anyway before you get a chance to fire it). And for some reason, SAR seems to have had a hand, or really a finger in inspiring the Megaman Battle Network series. You’ll see Rockman constantly acquire weapon chips that he inserts into a slot in his arm and get presented with an "ENEMY DELETED" message when you win a fight in the battle sequences.
Naturally, the robot masters have their classic weapon weaknesses, and there will never really be a moment when you won’t have the "anti-weapon" to deal serious damage to them. Case in point: In Episode 1 your series of choices will lead to a battle with either Heat Man or Bubble Man. If you head towards Heat Man, Guts Man will show up and hand Rockman a Bubble Lead chip so he can junk Heat Man with ease. Likewise, if you end up fighting Bubble Man, ol’ Gutsy will give you an Atomic Fire chip after the battle. Additionally, if you do manage to actually get creamed at any battle in the game, a sequence plays where you get saved by one of your robot friends and can either choose to continue or give up. Linear priorities aside, does Rockman really need all this help? Does he really need his robot brothers to do the work for him, the same ones who he had to kick the asses of all by himself 15 years ago?
When tallying Capcom’s more boneheaded moves in regards to the Megaman serires, a list without Super Adventure is not a list at all. So kindly nudge it in between the Soccer and PC games, would you? And next time you’re browsing eBay and see this game, calmly put down your Servbot mug and remember that SAR is indeed a Rockman game, but is barely a super adventure, but an excellent case study on how to really put the screws to a famous video game franchise.–Ray Barnholt
SA Rockman official page