Below is the first part of a collaboration by FreezingInferno and myself on the fan game Mega Pony, a crossover between My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and Mega Man. Both of us wrote both parts equally.
There is a curious phenomenon whereby crossovers between My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and other works end up being essentially a pony “skin” laid over top of the other work. Perhaps it is because Friendship Is Magic is, for a work popular in the sort of geek circles that produce crossovers, unusually character-driven and light on plot twists and worldbuilding; regardless, the effect is particularly pronounced for source works that have a strong recurring structure of their own. So, for instance, Turnabout Storm is essentially a Phoenix Wright game with a bunch of pony-shaped characters, some of them from the show, and most fic and audio incarnations of Doctor Whooves rapidly become standard-issue Doctor Who plots emboited within Equestria. At first glance, Mega Pony may seem little different--a pony skin slapped on a typical Mega Man structure--but play a while, and something altogether different emerges, a curious alchemy as two mutually alien works collide and produce what can only be called Chaos.
Not to say that the Mega Man elements don’t work, of course. This piece of entertainment has its creator, and they know their way around a Mega Man game. Much analysis has been made of the brilliance of Mega Man stage design, and for the most part this here game gets it. There are cute little gimmicks in each stage that you’re introduced to in a stress-free environment before they’re later thrown at you in conjunction with platform peril and enemy assaults. Simple, basic stuff like that. Mega Pony is, as stated, a mysterious alchemical force of pure chaos… but at its heart, half of it is a love letter to Mega Man 2. You have no sliding, and no charge shot initially. Even the music has shades of classic Mega Man 2 tunes, easily recognized by any Mega Man fan worth their salt… but then there’s the yang to dear Mega’s yin, the Equestrian Essence that makes up the pony references. Of which there are several.
Those classic Mega Man 2 tunes are almost all expertly blended with songs from the show, most notably Discord Stage 1, which combines Wily Stage 1 (one of the most well-known and well-regarded tracks on the NES) with “This Day Aria,” the closest thing Friendship Is Magic has to a villain song. Similarly, the personalities of the Mane Six are readily apparent in their boss incarnations: Twilight teleports and shoots magic from her horn; Fluttershy keeps her distance and stays near the ground while relying on her animal friends for help, while Rainbow Dash flies much higher and charges straight in to attack. Even the classic Mega Man game of boss-weapon rock, paper, scissors is rooted in the characters’ personalities: mundane, down-to-earth Applejack is weak to Twilight’s magic; fussy Rarity weak to Applejack’s farming technique; tomboyish Rainbow Dash weak to the gems Rarity finds; constantly bouncy Pinkie Pie weak to Rainbow Dash, the only character that can keep up with her; and crowd-averse Fluttershy weak to Pinkie Pie’s partying.
Even more Mega Man essence abounds: six bosses to choose from! This is obviously chosen because of the six main protagonists of the source material, but it unintentionally calls back to the very roots of Mega Man; the original game had only six bad robots to beat, after all. Yes. Bad robots. This leads to the main driving force behind Mega Pony: corruption. In the Mega Man games, you are a robot fighting for everlasting peace and you do this by blasting away at bad robots themed after something built by the madman Dr. Wily. Here? A trickster god known as Discord has made things go bad. As Mega Pony you journey through the levels and blast away at the main characters of the show. There’s something terribly wrong and yet somehow fascinating about blasting Twilight Sparkle in the face with a Mega Buster. It is nothing less than an assault on the very thing the player (presumably) loves; they are forced to attack their heroines in order to proceed and rid the world of the corruption that pure Chaos has set upon it. That corruption doesn’t go away after all six have been bested. Far from it. If anything, things get worse from here.
As the game progresses, elements of that corruption spread. Most of the enemies encountered are either classic Mega Man foes such as the Metools or Sniper Joes (the latter admittedly ponified--Sniper Joenies?) or minor antagonists from the show such as Timber Wolves, Diamond Dogs, and Fruit Bats. But partway through Rarity’s stage, there is a miniboss encounter with a variation on the Guts Dozer from Mega Man 2: Sweetie Bot. Not only is this Discord’s corruption spreading from the Mane Six to their younger compatriots, but an intrusion into the established premise of the game. It is not merely a crossover between My Little Pony and Mega Man now; fanworks are fair game as well--and Sweetie Bot’s source, Friendship Is Witchcraft, is itself a corruption of My Little Pony, distorting it into much darker places for humor. Indeed, with only three exceptions, every boss in the game is a corruption of a “good” character from the show: the only villains to get boss roles are Discord himself, the dragon from “Dragonshy,” and a Windigo, the last notable as it is a creature which has only ever been depicted as existing in the ancient past.
The ancient past. Fitting, considering that for the most part the Mega Man represented here is circa 1988 and Mega Man 2. Sure, we have certain moments that are taken from the much later Mega Man 9 (the shop system between levels, for instance, or Rarity having a gem-based shield weapon not at all unlike MM9’s Jewel Satellite)... but Mega Man 9 is in itself a callback to the ancient past, a flagrant rejection of the future in favor of the alchemic past of a little grey box. Which makes the subtle intrusions of the future all the more unsettling. One might first notice it when facing off against Twilight Sparkle, if they do not have her weakness. Her attacks involve firing magic at you from several odd angles, but then one particular attack has her charge up the magic. The sound effect you hear as she does this is blatantly the Mega Buster’s charge-up noise. From Mega Man 4, a game released in 1991. Chaos has no care for linear time, and this isn’t even the most severe intrusion of Mega Man’s future in this supposed past.
To be continued later this evening at The Nintendo Project, Resumed!
ETA: Have a direct link to the continuation, if you prefer.