[[image:mm9shirt2.jpg:I forgive Capcom for the press kit debacle – for now.:center:0]]
Over the weekend I got equipped with my newly-acquired Mega Man 9 shirt and whilst prowling around in suburbia I was absolutely stunned by the reactions it received. Sure, its intentionally gaudy style got plenty of abhorrent looks from moms and grandmothers but amongst twenty-something males it elicited an almost humble respect of sorts, like you’d get at a Catholic mass.
If they weren’t awed speechless by the shirt itself, many of the dudes were eager to converse — after the prerequisite “Awesome shirt!” and “Where’d you get it?,” of course. One guy, an employee at a small electronics store I was walking through, was keen to share how much he dug MM9 but that his favorite was still Mega Man 3. As I told him mine was Mega Man 2, I drew an imaginary line in the air and joked that our picks were more polarized than those for the upcoming presidential election. The poor guy seemed legitimately sad as I shuffled away and told him to take care.
Another instance happened with a supermarket cashier. Standing in line, I clearly saw his eyes shifting from his duty to my shirt. When it was my turn to pay, he couldn’t wait to tell me that, while he loved the Mega Man games as a kid, he never owned them and recently bought the collection that had “1 through 10 on it.” I’m sure he mistook the ten games advertised on Mega Man Anniversary Collection a little more to heart than was needed, but that’s hardly the point here.
I have plenty of video game shirts, and even other Mega Man ones, but none of them got the reaction of Mega Man 9’s. The experience of wearing it made me realize that the Blue Bomber really is a unifying and defining facet of the late-’80s/early-’90s male childhood, as much as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or G.I. Joe. But those kids are now fathers, doctors, brokers, and blowhards –- genuine adults, wouldn’t you know.
Mega Man hasn’t exactly been in hibernation since Mega Man 8 was released eleven years ago, but Mega Man 9’s entire look –- both in-game and promotional –- is something that hasn’t been seen since these new adults were beating each other in the head with plastic TMNT weapons and shooting out eyes with spring-loaded G.I. Joe missiles. The NES fad of a few years back, which was popular with the hipster crowd and spawned an infinite number of video game music cover bands, showed that old games were a legitimate cultural phenomenon — but Mega Man 9 represents something different.
Electronics store guy and supermarket guy weren’t hipsters. They were tied down to retail jobs and responsibilities they probably didn’t want but were mandated to have out of necessity. They were out of college and in the cold, featureless real world devoid of selective fraternity, where “self” is the privilege of weekends. Electronics store guy wasn’t defined by HDTVs and DVD-Rs nor was supermarket guy made of Italian bread and those green organic drinks that taste like grass and make me want to vomit.
And that’s what Mega Man is still able to offer them: a mirror. Mega Man 9 in particular shows that the things that once defined us children of the ’80s but were considered old or outdated can have new relevance. That affects us; it legitimizes our past and the cultural zeitgeist of our era. Why pine for the past when it’s pertinent to the present…and available to wear for $24.99 plus shipping?