Writing a thesis in two days takes a Mega effort, Man

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Mega Man 7 (1995)

You don’t get deadlines in the world of school. There might be some form of project that has a due date, but that’s hardly set in stone – even if you don’t get it done, you can always get mammy in to explain things away for you. Mammy trumps all. And there are no deadlines in the working world either – you might have Go Live dates for projects, but they never get met anyway.

If things are looking bad and the client is trying to bust your balls, you can always invent some unforeseen technical issue and buy yourself a couple of weeks. This can’t be done in all industries of course, I hardly think you could do it in a newsroom. I suppose paramedics have to meet strict SLAs as well. But otherwise, nobody in the working world cares enough about so-called “hard deadlines” to go after you, unless their goose is about to be cooked as a result of your indolence.

That leaves college, which is far too impersonal to cater for your slacking ways. If you don’t get that nonsense essay in by 10AM Friday, then you’re toast and God help you if you’ve plagiarised anybody, even yourself. There are a few tricks you can pull here, such as the sick or dead relative. A heartfelt email explaining that you couldn’t do your 5,000 word assignment because your dear old mother had the old Farmer Giles and you needed to look after her, that one ought to work a treat. But beware – this routine is all too easily thwarted by the evil Out of Office message, or the fiendish lecturer who never checks their mails.

Another one that even the most doddery, “eccentric” college professors have probably cottoned on to by now is the corrupt file. Take a Microsoft Word document, fill it with a million garbage characters, but then save it as a different filetype, something like ‘My Super Duper Assignment FINAL v2 USETHIS.bat’. With any luck, it’ll outfox everyone on the other end.

You’ll soon get the fateful email, or perhaps even a quick word face-to-face, asking you to Explain the Situation, and this is where you need to be a good actor. You just have to give them that well-rehearsed look of surprise, and the classic, “Really?! That’s so weird!” There’s a tip for you: if you ever hear someone exclaim “That’s so weird!” when they’re being asked questions, then you know something’s well up.

When I read that Mega Man 7 for the Super Nintendo took a mere 3 months to develop, it gave me a horrible jolt and reminded me immediately of those bad old college days, where that dreaded word ‘deadline’ was thrown around more than free condoms. College is full of slackers, isn’t that what they say? Perhaps you could call it working smartly – how else do you put together a 3,000 word essay in four or five horrendous hours, the morning the blasted thing is due?

You could have started sooner, of course, but it was getting towards winter, the days were getting shorter and that meant less scope for that favourite student pastime of outdoor day-drinking. That’s some classic slacking, alongside the lengthy lie-on (mornings are too much effort), the staple diet of chicken rolls (cooking is too much effort) and, for the scruffs among you, not bothering to shower (hygiene is too much effort).

That’s some pretty fine slacking, for sure. In the case of Mega Man 7, and that awful three month development time, I cringe to think of the sleepless nights that the team were having to pull to try and get an entirely new development project out the door. Remember that this is the professional world we’re talking about, and in Japan to boot – get it wrong and not only will you get canned from your job, but you’ve shamed everyone in a twenty-mile radius.

It’s not like in college where you can fail all your exams and essays and just try again later that summer. Although I suppose there are chilling similarities between the professional world and the college world, in how frequently you’ll be eating meals if you keep taking liberties.

The MM7 team weren’t slacking too hard on the graphics, I’d definitely say that. But everything else in the game is about as appealing as… well, it’s not very articulate, but I’m a big believer in the idea that there’s no such thing as bad language, only language used badly, or goodly. And the best way to describe the Mega Man 7 package is bleugh.

I’m already pretty well blue in the face talking about the prices associated with buying older Mega Man games, and 7 is another one of those near mythical games here in PAL-land. I think it landed in Germany, but if you’ll forgive the national stereotyping, I can’t see Germans having much time for slack work like this.

In a strange move, you only get access to the first four Robot Masters in Mega Man 7, and after you’ve defeated these then the second quartet come out to play. But I think I know what’s going on here – it’s a bit like when you’re in school without your homework done, and you’re mashing it down onto the paper, there-and-then and as fast as you can, when suddenly the teacher calls on you for the answer.

Again, this is where you’ll want to be a good actor: Firstly, you need to make sure you have at least the first few sentences in front of you to read off, so that it all sounds natural, and hopefully you’re then a good enough blagger to top and tail your half-done work with something that sounds good, and passes without scrutiny.

Unfortunately, scrutinise we must because the whole appeal of Mega Man, if there even is any appeal left after seven games of this nonsense, is to have all of the levels open to you right from the start. That way, you can try and chip your way in, beat one or two bosses, grab a new weapon and go on from there.

Cutting the game up like this is just shoddy, although not nearly as shoddy as the music and sound design which doesn’t even threaten a single Mega Man X-style electric guitar. Instead it shall introduce your ears to Grater Man, and shred the pair of them into fine cheese before you can say “Dr. Willy”.

Much of the quaint charm of the NES Mega Man games came from those cute little 8-bit sprites, which is obviously lost this time around – Mega Man takes up half the screen in 7. Well, maybe he’s not that big, but he ain’t cute either. It says something when Mega Man 9 and 10 elected to use the classic NES sprites again, and there even exists ‘demake’ versions of 7 and 8 that use those primitive old sprites, backgrounds and colours. You might find those a lot more appealing

Finally, this game is pretty difficult as well. That’s nothing uncommon for Mega Man games, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing, but bloody hell – the final boss in particular is torturous. You shouldn’t feel too bad about giving up before getting to the end, because we now know that the development team did the same. Throw together any old dump, put it in a box and throw it out in limited quantities – the usual Mega Man guff.

Hey, it worked, and the slacker’s way always works, otherwise we wouldn’t have millions of students procrastinating like crazy every single academic year. The difference here, I suppose, is that while Mega Man 7 can merely be dismissed as a slightly above average game, today’s heavy-drinking, perma-dozing student wasters are tomorrow’s surgeons and engineers. Suddenly, three months of game development doesn’t seem so frightful, does it?

2 October 2020

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