Mega Man Legends’ charge shot (or the absence of it) is one of the most talked about gameplay nuances in the series. In this piece, I’d like to dig deeper and discuss implications of this oft-requested feature.
The Mega Man franchise has had many spinoffs, but one thing has remained a constant between all of them: the Mega Buster. This weapon is the tried and true sidearm of the titular hero. The buster can be used in almost every situation the game throws at you, and it’ll get the job done with the right effort. It’s also complimentary to a wide variety of special weapons (and/or battle chips, card, transformations, etc.).
The Legends series is no different. Volnutt’s standby arm cannon can be upgraded in various capacities. The buster parts system ensures that the player always has an effective weapon on hand that can get the job done, no matter how strong of a foe they find themselves up against. Mega Man Legends has a powerful selection of weapons, but the buster is always there as an effective method of dealing damage.
So what does all of this have to do with charge shots?
The Relationship Between Buster and Weapons
A game with a really strong buster runs the risk of overshadowing the accompanying weapons. Let’s use the Classic NES MM games as an example. The first three entries featured a very basic plasma cannon as the main weapon, with some very clever and powerful weapons dropped by the Robot Masters. The fourth game introduced the charge shot, giving the buster a damage boost in exchange for charge time. This gave your main weapon a little more “oomph” in exchange for having to hold the button down. It also added an element of risk/reward. Missing a charge shot requires you to charge all over again, while you can be less discerning in aiming the “pew pew pew”. In spite of this change, Mega Man 4 had a solid arsenal that complimented the Mega Buster.
MM5 made a few key changes that skewed this balance. The weapons were far less useful than in the previous games. The charge shot also gained a larger hitbox, along with shorter charge time. These changes helped to discourage the player from trying special weapons. If the buster is so good, why the heck am I gonna go with Water Wave or Star Shield? Mega Man 6 exacerbates this even more. The power and utility of the Rush Armors end up heavily overshadowing the lackluster set of weapons.
The golden rule of special weapon balancing is this: a strong buster needs to be complimented by even stronger options. Mega Man X on the SNES is a perfect example of how to pull this off. X’s charge shot is strong, but not so strong that he doesn’t appreciate the sheer power of powerhouses like Storm Tornado and Fire Wave. When X’s buster gets upgraded, his weapons do as well, allowing him to charge them. This gives X even more new toys to play with. These aren’t simply offensive either, as weapons like Rolling Shield and Chameleon Sting provide defensive uses. The upgrades don’t make the weapons obsolete, they enhance them.
Back to Halcyon Days
Juggling the effectiveness of the buster and weapons is something that the Legends games have done quite well. While the buster remains useful throughout the game, the special weapons are creative and powerful enough to hold the spotlight. Who can forget taking out Tron’s machines on Kattelox with the Splash Mine, the sheer utility of the Machine Buster, or discovering how hilariously broken the Shining Laser was for the first time? Every special weapon, good or bad, has its own identity. Players are paired with only one at a time, encouraging you to learn the nuances of each one.
Adding a charge shot would effectively throw a wrench in this balance. You’d have to make the special weapons even stronger to compensate for the better buster. If not, the draw of the special weapons goes down considerably, as there’s less of a motive to use them. This would also give the player less incentive to spend money on upgrades, as a super strong main weapon covers more bases.
Conclusively, a charge shot is something that I really don’t think the Legends series needs. The balance of the games’ combat system is solid as-is, and there’s no need to add something just because other spin-offs in the franchise use it. Let Legends be Legends.