Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune’s Kickstarter campaign for Red Ash – a “spiritual successor” to the Mega Man Legends sub-series – isn’t doing so well. It’s likely that it will reach its funding by the end of the campaign, but only just. However, people are now beginning to question whether it will end up getting funded at all.
This is in a stark contrast to Inafune’s last Kickstarter attempt, Might No. 9 (the spiritual successor to the original Mega Man series). Mighty No. 9 was an immediate, roaring success, being funded within two days of its campaign’s launch, and is often credited with popularizing the recent trend of crowd-funded games.
One would think Red Ash would have had at least a little bit of the same impact. After all, Mega Man Legends has a pretty strong cult following, and countless people were disappointed with the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3. With Inafune’s previous success with Mighty No. 9, along with fans’ demands for a follow-up to Mega Man Legends, you’d think that Red Ash shouldn’t have had any problem reaching its goals. But it has. Red Ash struggled to get even halfway to its initial goal, and it’s safe to say that the stretch goals are a bit of a pipe dream at this point.
This is a shame, since I think, overall, Red Ash looks like a promising concept. In fact, it’s only the second Kickstarter game I have personally backed, the first being Yooka-Laylee (I do fiercely regret not backing Mighty No. 9, Bloodstained and the new Toejam and Earl though). At the same time, there were some hugely questionable decisions with this campaign that have obviously played a part in Red Ash’s troubles. Here are my top five reasons why I think Red Ash has had so much trouble getting off the ground.
5: It’s maybe not quite Mega Man Legends enough?
Okay, so this first reason is actually about the game itself, not the project. This reason is also more speculation based on my personal impressions, so I can’t speak for everyone here.
Honestly, I love the look of Red Ash’s characters and the idea of its world, but it also doesn’t really feel like Mega Man Legends. It looks like a fun, anime-inspired concept, like Mega Man Legends was, but it itself doesn’t feel like Mega Man Legends itself. Since its position as a spiritual sequel to Mega Man Legends was Red Ash’s major selling point, the different vibe from the game might have been off-putting for many.
I know it’s a spiritual sequel, so it can’t be exactly the same. Nor would I want to see Keiji Inafune just recycle the same exact ideas for a supposed new IP. But with Mighty No. 9, the connection to Mega Man was obvious. It simply said that if you love Mega Man, you’ll love Mighty No. 9. But I don’t see that here. Perhaps Red Ash would be more reminiscent of Mega Man Legends if we had more complete information on it. But with what’s been shown so far, it’s hard to make the kind of connection I think Keiji Inafune was aiming for.
4: Two Kickstarter campaigns at the same time
Here’s where things boil down to the Kickstarter campaign itself. Or should I have been typing campaigns throughout this whole thing? Because Red Ash has two of them. The main Kickstarter is for the game itself, the second is to help develop an animated mini-series based on the game.
Keiji Inafune is one of my favorite people in the video game industry. I love his creations and I love his passion for his creations. I understand why he wants to turn his creations into big franchises that encompasses different media. I get that, and I respect that.
The sad fact though, is that this wasn’t a good opportunity to jump headfirst into franchising his creation. Mega Man Legends was never Inafune’s best-selling property, and it had the Mega Man name attached to it! So when making a spiritual successor that has no direct connection to a previous work (other than some reused character names from Mighty No. 9), and with crowd-funding playing a big role in its production, it may have been better to hold off on the animated series until after Red Ash proved itself worthy to branch out into the world of animation.
If you’re at a place where you need crowd-funding to help a project, I think that should be enough of a sign to not get ahead of yourself. It’s true that Mighty No. 9 has now been announced to have a feature film and an animated series in the works, but those were announced after Mighty No. 9 proved to be a success. The Red Ash campaign thought it would be in the same boat as Mighty No. 9 from the get-go, but that was always a gamble.
I know if I want to see an animated series based on a game, I kind of want to love the game first.
3: Too soon
There’s also the factor of Kickstarter-fatigue to consider. In the last two months alone, Kickstarter has seen three record-breaking video games: Yooka-Laylee, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and Shenmue 3. All three games fill different gaming demographics, and most gamers who are willing to give their money to back these projects probably already gave a good amount of cash to at least one of them, if not all of them. Frankly, this just seems like poor timing.
Not only are a lot of gamers’ wallets probably running on empty, but after three big success like the aforementioned titles, people may have just been burned out on the whole “Kickstarter games” thing. Red Ash could have used more time to reignite people’s interest with the platform. Which brings me to my next point…
2: Mighty No. 9 isn’t out yet!
This seems to be the primary source for most of the finger-waging aimed at Red Ash. Mighty No. 9, the last Kickstarter game by Keiji Inafune and his Comcept studio, won’t be released until this September. Although Mighty No. 9 looks promising, people kind of want to actually play and love the game before they dish out more money to the same studio. You have to deliver on one promise before making another.
This further displays the poor timing of the Red Ash Kickstarter. Way too soon after a series of record-breaking Kickstarter campaigns, and too soon before Mighty No. 9’s release.
After all, Mega Man Legends was what it was because of Mega Man’s legacy. Red Ash hopes to have a similar essence with the legacy of Mighty No. 9, but it isn’t even out yet. You can’t hope to build on one game’s legacy when that game hasn’t made its full impact yet.
1: No gameplay!
Here is the big one, as far as I’m concerned. If you’ve watched the Kickstarter video, you’ll see some rough ideas for cinematics presented in black and white concept art, some nice character sketches, and a bunch of people talking about ideas for the story and world of the game, with a few not-so-subtle hints about Mega Man Legends.
But no gameplay.
So they have a Kickstarter campaign for a video game, but the only hint of gameplay we have is a vague promise that it’ll probably be similar to Mega Man Legends. But how similar? What’s the same and what’s different? Will it be fun?
You can’t just ask people to send money for a video game without giving them any information on the actual game and expect it to be very successful. Let’s compare this to Yooka-Laylee which, from the get-go, showed some pretty detailed gameplay. Sure, Yooka-Laylee will see more polish and touching up in the year+ until its release (this wait will kill me), but with Playtonic’s Kickstarter, they showcased a basic idea of what Yooka-Laylee will be, how it will look, how it will sound, and how it will play. They mentioned some elements of the world of Yooka-Laylee, but their campaign was ultimately all about the game itself.
There’s just so much that’s still so vague and mysterious about Red Ash, and people don’t want to give their money to a rough idea. They want to invest in a video game.
There are some other problems with the Red Ash Kickstarter that I haven’t mentioned, but plenty of others already have. The sad thing is Red Ash should have been the next Mighty No. 9, Yooka-Laylee, Bloodstained or Shenmue 3. But it isn’t even close to being comparable to any of them.
This is a crying shame. Mega Man Legends is a cult classic that holds a special place for many, and it’s a series that deserves to be continued, whether through a direct sequel (I’m a dreamer) or a spiritual one. There’s so much that should be right about Red Ash, and I really, really hope it gets funded. But if it doesn’t, it won’t be all too surprising at this point. The campaign has just been too sloppy.
One has to wonder how this all ended up so rushed. Keiji Inafune and Comcept worked wonders with Mighty No. 9. They had it all planned out, and it paid off big time. But with Red Ash, it seems they just jumped head first into Kickstarter before they had anything worthy to show (other than some cool art).
Red Ash should have been something special, and I would love to see it become a franchise. But it should have happened over time, after it had a great game to build on. Now we might not even get the game we want.