Mega Man Legacy Collection (Xbox One)

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            Series : Mega Man
         Developer : Digital Eclipse
             Genre : Game Collection
      Release Info : Xbox Game Pass
          Emulates : Mega Man (1987 NES)

      Achievements : trueachievements.com

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Analysis

  • Aspect Ratios

    In the 1970s-1990s, the standard aspect ratio for games was 4:3. On modern TVs and many PC monitors, the aspect ratio is 16:9. When developers write emulators for old games, they have to make a choice how to handle this discrepancy. The considerations for emulated arcade games and emulated home console games are different.

    The worst solution is to stretch the 4:3 image to 16:9, ruining the proportions of the graphics. On the other hand, if we retain the 4:3 aspect ratio and scale the image, we will have a quarter of the screen area unoccupied.

    For example, on a 4K display, the native resolution is 3840 x 2160. If the emulated 4:3 display takes up the full height, its width would be 2160 / 3 * 4 = 2880. The unoccupied area would be 3840 - 2880 = 960, which is 960/3840 = 1/4 of the full display.

    If the emulated display is centered, we will have borders on both sides of the emulated display. And what is done with these borders varies among emulator developers.

    Arcade Emulation

    Often, real arcade machines have artwork around the display, which is referred to as a 'bezel'. Commercial arcade emulators such as Atari 50 will often reproduce the bezel of the original arcade cabinet on the sides of the emulated display, which ideally makes the experience of playing the emulated arcade game closer to playing on a real arcade machine.

    For many arcade games, I personally think the bezels take away from the immersion. If I'm playing a real arcade machine, I try to focus all my attention on the screen, trying to ignore everything around me, including the physical arcade cabinet. The bezel and the rest of the cabinet artwork might attract me to the game, but once I put in my quarter, I don't want to be reminded of the cabinet anymore. Perhaps an ideal emulation would show me the arcade cabinet including the bezel, and then, when the game starts, the bezel could fade away, leaving only the emulated 4:3 display visible.

    On the other hand, the artwork that is part of the display itself, such as backdrops and colored overlays, is key to the experience, especially in games from the 1970s and early 1980s, where these optical illusions were designed as part of the games themselves. I'm reminded of classic games such as:

    • Space Invaders (1978), where the colors of your base and the flying saucers is created using a colored overlay,
    • Warlords (1981), where half the background is rendered using colorful graphics, and the other half is a static background offering a downwards perspective on the towers,
    • Asteroids Deluxe (1981), where a multi-layered backdrop creates a 3D parallax effect, and
    • Video Pinball (1978), where the pinball table is exclusively represented using a semi-transparent mirror image of a real physical replica of a pinball table.

    Console Emulation

    Commercial emulators of console games such as the Mega Man Legacy Collection will oftentimes have artwork in the space next to the emulated display, similar to bezels. But this doesn't emulate anything related to the original game.

    The closest equivalent to arcade bezels for a home console game would be photographs of the borders of popular TVs from the era. Only few commercial emulators go for this option.

    Having artwork on the side of the screen for a console game doesn't make any sense to me. It is not emulating any part of playing the game on the original console. The best choice is borders in a neutral color, and ideally black. It's easy to ignore, and easier to immerse yourself in the game itself, which is what I want out of an emulator.

Log entries

    2019-02-20
  • This collection is now part of Xbox Game Pass.


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