When Mega Man fought Ryu: how Capcom helped a fan create an amazing, free, official mash-up
Christian Svensson, the SVP of consumer software at Capcom USA, was enjoying the action on the main screen at EVO this year when a man named Zong Hui came up and wanted to show off a project on his laptop. To Svensson’s delight, the game turned out to be an early version of a classic-looking Mega Man game that used Street Fighter characters as the bosses. “It was so clever and well done,” Svensson remembered. “Unbeknownst to him, we had started having meetings for the plans for the Mega Man 25th Anniversary a couple of months earlier and we still lacked a really good opener” Svensson told the Penny Arcade Report. “I thought that the game would be an excellent closer to the 25th anniversary of Street Fighter and opener to the 25th anniversary of Mega Man.” This is how a fan’s game turned into an official, free Mega Man title endorsed, paid for, and helped along by Capcom itself.
When Mega Man met Ryu
The creation of Street Fighter X Mega Man was a more organic process than it may seem; the two worlds weren’t forced together arbitrarily. Zong Hui began the game as a way to teach himself how to code. “It was an experiment. It started with him building a Mega Man level, but when it came time for him to create a boss, he didn’t really have a solid idea for a traditional Mega Man boss,” Svensson said. “[Hui] is a competitive Street Fighter player and decided to try to 8-bit-ify Ryu as a boss. And it worked well! Everything else grew from there.”Svensson took the prototype to the Capcom office and Brett Elston, Capcom’s senior online and community manager played it and gave it the thumbs up. The prototype then went over to Japan with the idea that the game would be finished, polished, and released as a free game to promote both franchise's 25th anniversaries. Contracts were signed, Capcom got involved with the game’s development, and things moved forward. Well, it wasn’t quite that simple. “I won’t lie. There was a fair amount of red tape, but I was fairly sure that I could make a good case for why we should do it and how we should do it,” Svensson explained “Sure enough, the powers that be agreed. As far as reaching an agreement with Zong Hui and his guys, it’s nothing but positive for them both financially and in terms of exposure, so I never doubted it could be done.” There was also the question of what Street Fighter characters would make it into the game. The prototype included four characters: Blanka, Ryu, Dhalsim, and Rose. The team weighed the inclusion of other characters based on their popularity, their color palette and where they would fit into the game, and powers they would give to Mega Man when defeated. It was important for Hui that Street Fighter II, III, Alpha and IV were represented. The process involved some discussion with Capcom, but they allowed Hui to have the final call. It was his game, after all. What’s even more impressive is that no official assets were provided; Hui created all the sprites himself, and the designs were met with approval from Capcom. “I don't believe we provided any official art, as Zong Hui really did a great job converting Street Fighter characters into the Mega Man world and nailed the Mega Man sprite from the get go. And as far as I know, his 8-bit interpretations of the Street Fighter characters were met with approval from all who saw them,” Elston said.
Haters gonna hate
The game will be released as a free download for the PC on December 17, a fact that has caused some controversy among Capcom fans. Some people argue that it should have been released on a console, and that it will be hard to play with a keyboard. Sometimes it feels like every gift horse must be inspected thoroughly, starting with the mouth. “It's a little frustrating, yes, because it feels like some people a negative impression of 'free on PC,' as if that somehow signifies lesser quality or not a 'real' game,” Elston said. “Plug in a USB controller and I assure you, it's a full, legit title and in no way some compromised, forgettable freeware.” There were also some practical considerations that went into the decision. “It's also much easier to release a free title on PC than on other platforms,” Elston explained. “The combination of speed, ease of distribution and availability of the platform, PCs are everywhere, y'know, this was the best possible solution for the product. The goal is to get Mega Man back into the hands of players and we feel that a free PC download is a great way to do it.”