Welcome to our weekly feature, Virtually Overlooked, wherein we talk about games that aren't on the Virtual Console yet, but should be. Call it a retro-speculative.
We were driven into a melancholy by the news that Australia (and probably Europe) was getting a Virtual Console version of Mega Man 2 while we have yet to see a download of the first game. Many of you correctly noted that it was stupid to wait for a VC version with the Mega Man Anniversary Collection disc available so cheaply and plentifully. But we actually have the disc and the cartridge. It's a simple matter of wanting every game we like to be available through as many conduits as possible, to get into the most hands as possible. A Virtual Console release, as well, allows a game to come back to the attention of the gaming community, sparking discussion once again. We want that for Mega Man 2 forever. Our memories of Mega Man 2 are 110 million, after all.
The existence of the Mega Man Anniversary Collection still makes any included game too easy to play on the Wii to be Virtually Overlooked material, even if, by doing so, it limits discussion. There's no real reason to wish for a game that you can just go buy for less money. That renders Mega Man 1-8 off limits (good luck playing 8 on a Nintendo system any other way!) as well as The Power Battleand The Power Fighters. But we still want to talk Mega Man, so we went scrambling for an appropriate game. Mega Man X? No, it is also available on a compilation. Rockman Battle & Chase? No, it's on the same compilation!Rockboard will have to do, then. It's got the benefit of being the weirdest Mega Man game yet, and we can keep Mega Man Soccer saved up for a bit.
Wily & Right no Rockboard: That's Paradise was a Mega Man (we'll use the American name of the character for simplicity's sake, though Rockman is significantly more rockin') spinoff for the Famicom that came out in Japan in 1993, the same year both Mega Man X and Mega Man 6 were released.
Someone at Capcom took a look at Mega Man -- at this series of straightforward action games with selectable levels -- and saw Monopoly. That's right, Rockboard is a board game in which you buy parts of the board and charge other players who land on those spaces rent. But with a Mega Man theme!
The playable characters do not include Mega Man or any Robot Masters, but are part of the cast: Doctors Light ("Right" in Japan), Wily, and Cossack, Roll, and Kalinka, Dr. Cossack's daughter. You know, all the people in the game who don't have guns for arms. The boards are all based on Mega Man stages, and the music consists of mellowed-out arrangements of classic tunes. The Robot Masters and all the other cool characters show up as randomly-drawn cards, which give money or change some variable in the game (property prices, development level of a square), even affecting the other players. You know, basic party game stuff.
When you land on an opposing player's space, not only must you pay rent on it, you are asked if you want to develop on that space as well. If you put a building (or improve your building) on someone else's square, the two of you split the rent. Rents are higher on single-owner properties than for multiple-owner properties, but it's still a quick way to earn Zenny in the game. As you do circuits around the board (controlled by a random number from 1 to 10), the spaces start to fill up, and money is changing hands constantly.
It's easy to make fun of this game (very) for being a turn-based Mega Man game, though that was a lot funnier before all those Mega Man Battle Network games came out. And Mega Man X Command Mission. At least those were fighting-based, and not about ... property development. However, Rockboard is actually nowhere near as terrible as a Mega Man board game should be. It's much more fast-paced than most Monopoly games, and the Mega Man series window dressing actually adds to the enjoyment. The random effects are a lot more interesting than "Business situation! You gain or lose money!" The winstates actually vary as well -- wins can be achieved by owning more property, or having more money, or owning more developments, based on the rules of the board. This gives the game, again, a faster pace than Monopoly's winning condition of failure by every other player. It turns out that Rockboard would actually be a pretty good party game for the Virtual Console. One that -- most importantly -- contains music and characters from Mega Man 2.