As most Mega Man fans know, Mega Man 8 on the Sega Saturn is somewhat of a rarity. Originally intended as a Saturn exclusive along with the excellent Mega Man X4, this plan was quickly changed when Sony made it known they were interested in bringing the games to the PlayStation as well. To the enlightened, such a story is riddled with irony considering it's widely believed that Sony was more interested in showing off the 3D capabilities of their system than allowing 2D sidescrollers live on to the next generation. Tongue-in-cheek as it ended up being, in what was more of a trade-off for the lost of the exclusive, Capcom gave the Saturn version the edge in bonus material. So what's so different about Mega Man 8 on the Saturn compared to the PlayStation? Not much, but enough to make the value of these releases as different as night and day.
As silly as it may seem, I remember being extremely upset that I couldn't fight Cut Man and Wood Man when I played through the PlayStation version all those years ago just because of what console I was playing on. These battles (and the remixed tunes that play during them) are nice touches, as are the sound, music and hidden animation test that appear in the additional bonus mode, but when you get down to it, these things mean ultimately mean little when the whole picture is considered. What am I talking about? Well, before one can really say how much these extras add one must ask how good the core game is. So, for a Mega Man game, how good is Mega Man 8? Does it sail towards the heavens or does it dwell in the darkest depths?
Shallow as it may seem, the deciding factor in Mega Man 8 failure and success ends up being graphics and art direction. Why? Well, when one considers that nothing of significant note has really changed in the gameplay department in eight games you can't really call that a defining element. For better or worse this is true, blue Mega Man. So, given that there is nothing truly new, it's easy to see why a rather superficial element such a graphics becomes important yet this is where the game ends up divided upon itself. From a graphical standpoint the game is beautiful; I have no qualms about the quality of its 2D prowess. So what's the problem? The art direction. As if Mega Man 7 on the SNES wasn't bad enough, Mega Man 8 takes the characters and world we grew up with on the (blissfully limited) NES and shoves them through the cuteness grinder once again.
Now, I expect some to fire back with the argument that Mega Man has always been "cutesy," not necessarily in the games themselves (where the NES thankfully prohibited it) but in official artwork Capcom has produced throughout the years. Point taken, but that doesn't mean we have to indulge this and splash it all over the freaking screen. Okay, I'll admit if I want a dose of stone cold seriousness I could always pop in a Mega Man X game but I find it hysterical how Mega Man 8 is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this. Quite honestly I thought this game would go down as the cuddliest Mega Man game in existence but Capcom proved me wrong with Powered Up on the PSP. What's even more surprising (i.e. downright wrong) is how Mega Man 8 outsold Mega Man X4. Let me repeat that: Mega Man 8 sold more copies than Mega Man X4. How is that even possible? Here we have a game that literally adds nothing to its continuity while Mega Man X4 is a series highlight that gives the original Mega Man X a serious run for its money.
As a product I have to say I somewhat loathe Mega Man 8. I know you can't teach an old dog new tricks but that doesn't stop pet owners from dressing up their dogs in ridiculous outfits. The truth is dogs aren't meant to wear clothes and there's no reason Mega Man needs to look uber cute. What's cute about robots fighting robots? Anyway, as hopelessly off track as I've become, I can't say this bone Capcom threw Saturn owners (it's more like a treat than a bone) is worth the extra green. Stick with the PlayStation version if you're a casual fan and only indulge in this take if you have the obsessive compulsive desire to own everything that is Mega Man.