Classic Games Would Be More Fun If They Copied Mega Man's "Rewind" Feature


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There was a period when I would play the Mega Man games every few years, a way to spend time with my all-time favorites series, but that was another era. My fingers are still nimble enough to pull off the moves, but time and patience have worn thin.

So when I loaded up the Mega Man Legacy Collection on my Switch on a flight last week, during a brief moment where my wife and daughter were asleep, I figured it’d be a few minutes of poking at Air Man and Guts Man before moving on. Instead, I blazed through several games over the course of two hours, thanks to an ingenious feature:

Rewind is simple and effective. At any time, for any reason, with zero cooldown, you can tap a button and rewind the last few minutes. Missed a jump during a nasty sequence, like the disappearing platforms on Heat Man’s stage? Rewind. Managed to get the Yellow Devil down to its last hit, only to die after stumbling through a set of cheap attacks? Rewind. There’s no punishment for indulging, and it

It’s less of a difficulty slider and more of an extremely fast “do over” button. You still have to jump, shoot, and dodge with the same brutal finesse required during a regular playthrough of a Mega Man game, but instead of having to sweat over lives and other junk, you can stay focused on the task at hand. It removes a lot of the bullshit associated with retro games, and it’s the kind of quality-of-life feature that’d get me to spend more time with a lot more of them. (I stopped rebuying games a while ago.)

The problem? Capcom didn’t implement this feature into the whole collection—it’s only through Mega Man 6. Starting with Mega Man 7, where the series jumped to the SNES, your only option is to pause and set a checkpoint or buff Mega Man’s armor. The checkpoints are fine, but it’s more clunky to pause the game and manually reload, and the armor is a copout that removes too much skill from the game.

I'm not looking for an easy mode, you know? Rewind is a nice middle ground.

I’m sure there were legitimate technical reasons for not extending the feature beyond Mega Man 6, but it also means I’m less likely to sit down and spend time with them, too.

This is all to say I hope more companies follow Capcom’s lead. It's one thing to re-release an old game, to squeeze more money from the nostalgia stone. It's another to re-think how people want to play, making you more likely to enjoy them again.

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I mean, rewind is one of the most significant "easy mode"s there is. You can do frame perfect moves simply by iterating (with a user-defined tight loop of attempt-rewind-repeat) until you happen to land on the perfect timing as long as you’ve got the patience.

Really, stop painting with these broad strokes that denigrate difficulty modification or tweaking of a singular “right way” to play a game. What if you are looking for an EZ mode? Is that a bad thing? Surely not, so don’t frame a piece around it being something negative that you shouldn’t expect. It’s a basic affordance, it’s an unquestionable good.

Ask for it loudly and clearly; not trying to pretend you’re not one of “those people” (carving out some “middle ground” to show you’re still part of the group who hate the “cheating” accessibility features). This whole “hardcore” culture is just the worst.


I’ve been thinking a lot about customizable difficulty in video games lately, and I was thrilled to hear Patrick mention this Rewind feature on Waypoint Radio yesterday. The whole concept of Compulsory Difficulty - that idea that a game is somehow better or more authentic if the only way to play it is to spend a long time getting good at a brutal level of challenge - is so wild to me, especially since adding optional easier modes to the game doesn’t remove Hardcore players’ ability to tackle the game at its most unforgiving if that’s what they want. Heck Patrick talks here about wanting a nice middle ground and not an “easy mode”, and that’s where I often find myself when it comes to satisfying game difficulty, but I’d argue that the more customizable and granular your difficulty options are, the better. It would be amazing if all the games in the Mega Man collection offered rewind and armor and a quicksave feature. Why not have that super-toned-down Easy Mode, have that brutal and unfiltered Hard Mode, and have a whole bunch of tools that players can use to find their own favorite middle ground between the two? More people having more fun with a game is a good thing!

Celeste is the most commonly trotted-out example of this, for good reason. I had a ton of fun playing without any of the assists since I found the game’s frequent checkpoints and great level design forgiving enough to make the difficulty rewarding, but I have friends who used the double jump or 90% speed assists and that made their time with the game so much better and more enjoyable for them. I’d love to see more games offer a suite of helpful tools like that.

I’ve been trying to tackle the Final Trials in the Trial of the Sword in Breath of the Wild lately, and while I had a ton of fun with the first two trials and I adore the loop of starting with nothing, gathering resources as you go, and carefully working your way through each level to find the best strategy for each group of baddies, I’m close to giving up on the last one for one simple reason: the permadeath. I love the challenge of facing each set of rooms for the first few times, learning how to deal with them and mastering their rhythms, but once you’ve done that it becomes a slog to push through them again and again every single time you fail at a later level, just so you can get back and try that one again. Getting to the 23rd(!!) and final floor only to die and lose the last hour of now-tedious work was just exhausting and crushing, and I thought a lot about what it would take for me to feel good about trying again instead of weary and frustrated. I realized all I really want from the Trials to make them one of my favorite elements of the whole game is the tiniest bit of forgiveness: the ability to save in the rest chambers after each boss encounter. I’d still have to fight my way through each set of 5 rooms in one go, keeping that risk and reward mechanic intact, but once I had mastered tackling each section with most of my health and resources intact, I could save that good run and turn my focus forward to the next challenge instead of worrying that one small mistake in a late-game room would send me all the way back to square one.

When I vented my frustrations with the trial on Twitter, a friend chimed in that that room full of bokoblins on horses and a spear-wielding lynel and a guardian turret all at once sounded like a ton of fun to him, that he felt most of the game had run out of challenge and he was itching for something brutal to test himself against. And that’s totally valid! He should be able to enjoy that long, unforgiving cycle of victory and defeat if that’s where he finds his fun. But I’d really love to be able to tone it down a notch or two, and it would be pretty simple to make that option available to me without taking away my friend’s ability to Get Good Or Die Trying. It makes me happy to see more and more game devs realizing that truth and working to incorporate it into their games, and I hope we see the trend continue.


When Duke Nukem 3D came out on XBox Live several years ago (I think every console port since has it too) it had a rewind feature also. It was awesome because that’s a game with lots of things that can be destroyed in the scenery, tricky secrets, and a great variety of weapons. So even if the game’s main action wasn’t very difficult for someone (and there’s a good chane it wouldn’t be - like a lot of FPS from that time it has a very nice range of difficulty levels) you would still find yourself using the rewind feature because it made it much easier to experiment and try weird stuff out while exploring or testing out different ways to deal with enemies and stuff. And being to rewind in real time by just holding down a single button at any time owns.


Obviously very useful features for those looking to use them, but for me they only produce more anxiety. See, I’m just never going to willingly use any kind of added feature in one of these classic rereleases. I have this purist streak that runs deep in me and permeates every artistic medium I engage in. I watch movies in their original language, always in one sitting. I always listen to an album front to back at least once before I allow myself to switch between my favorite songs. I don’t read flipped manga. etc. And when it comes to games, particularly classic games, I want to experience as close to the originally intended experience as possible. Warts and all, I want to play it the way everyone played it when it came out.

So whenever I boot up the Mega Man collection, I always have to remember to avoid both rewinding and pressing the triangle button which fires Mega Man’s blaster at the fastest possible rate allowed by the game in 3 round bursts. And it just feels like I’m playing the game with this looming temptation hanging over me at all times, taunting me, suggesting that there’s an easier way I could do this, which is not a helpful or encouraging thought when I’m trying to push through whatever hard wall I find myself up against. There’s something fundamentally different about a game that allows you to set your own difficulty vs. a game that has one set difficulty that you must push yourself to overcome. When you have the ability to modulate the difficulty, there is less incentive to keep pushing yourself to overcome that barrier.

At the same time, the difficulty isn’t even the core gripe. My complaint against the Mega Man collection can also be levied against recent releases of older Final Fantasy games which allow you to speed up the game 3x faster or turn off random encounters whenever you wanted. These options do little to affect the game’s difficulty, but they still tarnish that original experience by dangling temptation in front of me at all times, even if I never use it.

To be clear, my complaint is not that these these kinds of options are being included. My complaint is that there is no way for me to disable them. These options are readily available at all times at the press of a button, and it’s solely up to me to have the self-control not to use them. And that is anxiety-inducing.


Agree with Patrick 100% here - the thing with a rewind is you still have to do the action, making it the closest equivalent possible to quick save/load scumming in an emulator - and it doesn’t disrupt your flow. Plus, if you’ve screwed yourself by burning through your special weapons, that doesn’t help you.

Other than that, I think the other big quality of life improvement most older games could use is unlimited lives or continues. Far too many games - especially arcade ports - put a cap on your lives and continues, when if you’re going for a port of an arcade game, if you had the original cabinet, you could put the machine on free play if you felt like it.