Capcom’s sudden announcement yesterday that Mega Man Legends, the PlayStation 1 cult classic, was coming to PlayStation Network came off as a pleasant yet unexpected surprise. Why? Because, while the Japanese PSP ports have been on the Japanese PSN for years, voice acting licensing shenanigans, Japanese-exclusive product placement, and Sony’s lack of flexibility regarding their PS One classic game library made the possibility of the English version of the game ever seeing a re-release very low at best, and pretty much impossible at worst.
Yet, here we are. The unthinkable has happened, and Mega Man Legends will come to the North American PlayStation Store next Tuesday. And the internet rejoiced.
But why is this such a big deal? Why do unopened copies of the game go for over $100 on Ebay? Why, and how did Legends become a cult classic?
Mega Man Legends for PlayStation, US cover
The concept of making a 3D Mega Man game actually came from Sony, who at the time were heavily pushing 3D graphics with the PlayStation, so they requested Capcom to do one as a condition to publish (2D) Mega Man X4. The original Mega Man Legends released in Japan on December 1997, where it was titled Rockman DASH (with “DASH” being an acronym for Digouter’s Adventure Stories in the Halcyon Days,) with the North American and European versions following on early 1998. And it was wildly different than any other game in the series up to that point: The series’ traditional 2D platforming gameplay was gone, replaced by a fully realized 3D world, RPG elements, and a charming cast of characters with great voice acting that still holds up to this day. While on release critical reception to the game was nothing special, the game quickly got a small but ardent following.
Rockman DASH for PSP, Japan only, 2005
A sequel, Mega Man Legends 2, was released in 2000, and it was vastly considered to have improved on pretty much every aspect of the original game. Legends 2 also ended on a cliffhanger, which with the passing of the years only cemented the series’ status as a cult classic even further.
As far as Legends 3 goes… Well, the less we can say about Legends 3, the better. We all know what happened there. Next Tuesday, the same day of Legends’ PSN release, will mark the fifth anniversary of Legends 3’s original announcement.
But let’s say you’ve never played Mega Man Legends and you’re still on the fence as whether or not to check it out. Well, let me help you with that. Here are my (totally not biased) reasons why you should play Mega Man Legends:
It’s a beautiful game. Seriously.
While many PS1 games at the time were going for blocky ‘realism,’ Legends embraced the limitations of the platform and instead chose a vibrant, cartoony look that took advantage of the console’s graphical capabilities and gave the game its own visual identity. While characters in other games didn’t emote (or even opened their mouths, for that matter,) the cast of Mega Man Legends displayed a vast array of emotions and faces, both during gameplay or its beautiful real-time cutscenes. Not bad for 1997.
The voice acting is top notch
A big part of Mega Man Legends’ charm is due to its voice acting, which was great for its time. And this was especially weird, considering voice acting in Mega Man games had been infamously bad up to that point. Full of memorable characters with memorable and funny performances, Legends not only looked like a cartoon, it sounded like one too.
Oh Teisel, how I missed thee.
It flawlessly mixed different genres back when no one else did
Mega Man Legends mixed the classic series’ gameplay of jumpin’ and shootin’ with an explorable open world, and RPG elements like quests, towns, shops, or weapon and armor upgrades. While some elements of the game have aged worse than others (thank god for lock strafing in 2,) few games had succeeded at adding RPG elements to their core formula in 1997. Today, it’s a common practice in AAA game development. Back in ’97, though? Not so much.
Did I mention the game did 3D target lock-on before Ocarina of Time made it popular? Because yeah.
I don’t know. Just play the game, please
Just in case it wasn’t made clear enough by reading this, or by the bit of flavor text that appears at the bottom of every single one of my posts on this website, I’m a big fan of Mega Man Legends. It absolutely blew me away as a kid, to the point where I was totally obsessed with it. It’s one of the games that actually made me want to learn English so that I could understand everything that was going on. It was one of those strange games that left a big mark on a small group of people. Who knows? Maybe it will sell like crap since it’s releasing for PS3 and Vita only, and Capcom will mistakenly take that as a sign that we don’t actually want Legends 3. Again.
But if, out of all this, we can get someone to play the game for the first time and like it, having waited for all these years would have been worth it.
Mega Man Legends will release in the North American PlayStation Store as a PS1 Classic on September 29th.