In the wake of the sale of the NES Classic in North America, another beloved game item from the 1980s, Mega Man, offered a great nostalgic journey this week. The first six NES games in the series came out on Wednesday for both iOS and Android, with each classic game costing just $1.99.
Unfortunately the gates are so bad that even $2 a pop is asking a lot.
Capcom Mobile itself published a series of trailers for the games after they hit mobile storefronts, and those trailers looked iffy, mainly thanks to choppy framerates. Unfortunately they weren’t due to a bad catch; that’s how the games actually run. All six games currently seem to be running at inconsistent frame rates, typically 30fps or less, which is brutal for a classic series that relies so heavily on precise jumps and tricky enemies.
Worse, on iOS, the games’ iconic tracks have been butchered by seemingly broken sound emulation, with many tones sounding completely out of tune and running at the wrong tempo. I spent $2 to confirm the poor performance in Mega Man 2, the most iconic of the games. The visual refresh was just as bad for me as it seems in this direct feed clip by the Dutch game writer Daan Koopman. However, I was also able to confirm that the Android version has better sound reproduction, at least on an HTC 10.
None of these issues have anything to do with the touchscreen controls of the ports, which most retro gaming fans will never compare to the feel of tactile buttons. However, the port even manages to screw this up, as the “auto” fire option of the new mobile games doesn’t seem to work (you’d assume Mega Man would automatically fire his standard blaster as he bounces around, but it doesn’t’ t). I would have appreciated the developers got this right, as it would make the emulated touchscreen buttons a bit more bearable, especially in enemy-filled levels like MM2‘s Air Man stage. Between that and the unreliable frame rates, the current Mega Man mobile ports are almost unplayable.
Each Mega Man port requires more than 45MB of data to emulate games that originally ran at 256K, even though the graphics are running at their native resolution.
A straight line to performance issues?
The most puzzling thing is that Capcom actually has a Mega Man game earlier to mobile platforms, especially Mega Man 2, in 2009. That version had such control, but ran much better than this week’s releases. The seven-year-old port is, of course, designed for the iPhone 3G and 3GS, which have a fraction of the processing power of today’s phones.
So, what gives? The problem may stem from Capcom handing over its “mobile” operation to a company formerly known as Beeline Games. The homepage of that Japanese developer, which makes no mention of working on the Mega Man series, includes a few crapware games, including a licensed one Ghostbusters puzzle game, and nothing in the way of gates of classic systems.
In addition, Beeline’s site was clearly not built for the company’s rebranding under the new Capcom Mobile name, as evidenced by a zombie “contact” page that reads via Google Translate: “This website has been closed due to a move of the website. We will automatically go to the new site below.” In that case, the URL listed is capcommobile.com.
Capcom Mobile’s Twitter account and Capcom’s primary blog have yet to respond to user complaints. Since multiple trailers have been uploaded with choppy frame rates, it’s hard to believe that the developer isn’t aware of the issues. We have reached out to Capcom for comment and will update this report with any response.