When development studio Comcept USA set out to make the spiritual successor to side-scrolling platformer Mega Man, it faced a challenge: How could it make an old school-feeling game that reminded people of Mega Man without making it feel outdated and irrelevant?
The answer, according to studio lead and original creator of Mega Man, Keiji Inafune, was in the game speed.
Speaking to Polygon, Inafune said while designing Mighty No. 9, a game that was successfully funded on Kickstarter, the studio walked a fine line between maintaining classic game mechanics while ensuring there was enough modern gameplay so the game would feel like it had evolved with the times.
"If you look at some of the older games from the 1980s, the original 8-bit and 16-bit games, they moved a bit slower," Inafune said through a translator. "With modern games, everything is sped up quite a bit, whether it's frequent save points or the actual game speed itself. So we wanted to focus on making the actual core gameplay loops a lot faster."
In Mighty No. 9, players can dash using the right bumper button. Players can also dash through weakened enemies to absorb their health. According to Inafune, the dash absorption system puts players in constant risk reward scenarios, forcing them to decide whether they want to hang back and observe the enemy's behavior before attacking, or take a risk with firing and dashing.
Inafune said when we look at old school games like Mega Man, players would approach an enemy and, when it appeared on the screen, they'd watch its attack pattern, see what it was doing, and then base the next move on that, almost like a game of chess.
"That's actually a very toned-down, slow pace compared to modern games," he said. "And now, even modern games and modern society, everything has sped up to the point where a game that moves along that slowly ... is probably too slow for what modern gameplay styles are."
Now, players will have a choice. If they want to approach the game at a slower speed, they can do that. And if they want something faster, the game allows for that, too.
"So for every enemy, you're asking yourself: Do I dash? Do I shoot? That timing, that rock, paper, scissors element is always there," Inafune said. "That core system has helped us develop a game that feels classic on one hand, but also moves at a much faster pace than old school games."