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Most gamers who grew up with a Nintendo have a soft spot for Capcom’s sidescrolling “Mega Man” shooters, a seemingly endless series of games featuring a blue robot-boy and his attempts to fight the evil Dr. Wiley and his countless robotic minions.

As with any series from the 1980s and 1990s, even as its more recent iterations have become increasingly technologically advanced, something has been lost from the originals. Luckily, one incredibly dedicated fan recently released “Mega Man: Revenge of the Fallen,” a six-year labor of love that recaptures and remixes the series in all its 8-bit glory.

The game doesn’t even have its own website — you download it from www.rpg
maker.com
. More than 25,000 people have done so since it was released around Thanksgiving. Its creator, a 32-year-old woman who is active-duty Air Force and goes by the name Darkflamewolf, had originally set out to make an all-new “Mega Man” game borrowing from the originals. Instead, she ended up taking the previous game’s art, textures, and enemies and remixed them into something new.

The result is impressive, given the size of the “team” (just Darkflamewolf and a programmer who goes by Jman). “Revenge of the Fallen” feels like an entirely new “Mega Man” game — albeit one released in 1990 or so. And, staying true to the series, it’s very, very hard. Dying is easy and checkpoints are few and far between, so losing a life is a major pain, just like in the old days. The game is also big, with tons of secrets for intrepid gamers to discover.

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“I am a hardcore Mega Man gamer and I built it to please myself first,” Darkflamewolf explained in an e-mail. Her decision to make it so challenging has gotten a mixed reaction. “A lot of people are praising it for its brutal difficulty while still others are disparaging it for the same reason,” she wrote. An earlier version of the game had been even tougher, she explained, until “three different waves of testers . . . railed on me to fix unfair or broken [in terms of difficulty] areas.” So now “the levels are far more lenient than they were.”

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Still, she expects to release an even more demanding version next month, “and we are planning on adding a Kaizo difficulty mode where it really will be unfair,” she said. “Believe it or not, there is an audience out there for this type of stuff and people love to feel challenged, even if it is frustrating.”

Almost as interesting as her creative process are the legal ramifications. I asked her about the potential risk of creating a game using a large company’s intellectual property. I figured that she’d be at least a little bit worried about having Capcom lawyers sicced on her.

Not so. This isn’t the first fan-made “Mega Man” game, she pointed out, and as far as she knows Capcom has never taken action against others. “I believe because no money was made off of the final product, Capcom doesn’t really care since they aren’t losing out on monetary gain,” she said. “Besides, it’s good business for them by fans continuing to promote their Mega Man franchise for free; so that when a real sequel comes along, it’ll get . . . more in sales.” (It also goes without saying that Capcom would quickly find itself in the midst of a social-media uproar if it took action against a small fish like Darkflamewolf.)

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It’s not just good business for the big publishers when the gates to older franchises are thrown open, allowing fan-made tributes to blossom, it’s good news for gamers, whose hunger for new challenges is matched only by their appetite for nostalgia.


Jesse Singal can be reached at jesse.r.singal@gmail.com.