Capcom’s newly-released Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection, which contains upscaled versions of ten classic Mega Man Battle Network games from the early 2000s, has launched with a major warning about insensitive cultural depictions of certain characters in the game.
As first spotted by The Gamer, the collection opens with a message noting these games have been presented as is, in an effort to preserve their authenticity – despite the outdated nature of their writing.
‘Capcom values diversity and inclusivity within its games and its community,’ the warning reads. ‘Please be aware the games in this collection may contain some cases of insensitive cultural depictions that are presented as originally created to preserve their authenticity.’
This type of warning has become commonplace in remasters and re-releases of popular media, as a means to highlight how cultural values have changed over time, and to ensure that historical racism and cultural insensitivities are not ignored in future generations. Disney and Warner Bros. have both led the charge in that regard, placing warnings ahead of many of their historic cartoons.
Older episodes of Tom and Jerry, for example, including the following warning: ‘These animated shorts are products of their time. Some of them may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society.’
Read: Representation in video games starts offscreen
‘These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of today’s society, these animated shorts are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed.’
Likewise, many Disney films including Dumbo, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, Peter Pan, and The Lady and the Tramp include similar warnings on modern platforms, to highlight prejudices and ensure viewers understand these depictions are not acceptable by today’s standards.
While video games are a relatively new medium compared to classic cartoons, there are still many that feature overt or inadvertent racism which may present an ethical challenge when porting or remastering them. The original Crash Bandicoot trilogy, for example, features multiple racial stereotypes that would be unacceptable in modern games. When the remastered N. Sane Trilogy launched, many of these characters were redesigned.
As a port, the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection does not have that luxury. Rather, the games are presented in their original form, with the included warning for all players.
While this pre-game message does not specify the offensive content in the game, a ResetEra thread has detailed some of the more notable examples of racism in the collection, which would have felt outdated even in the early 2000s. According to those familiar with the game, many of the Black characters you meet in your adventure are extremely stereotypical, to the point of being offensive.
One character reportedly ‘prays to god’ for the ‘chicken he provides’, while another – named Whiskey – takes part in a rap battle that similarly includes culturally insensitive language. In another instance, Mega Man himself displays sexist attitudes, saying: ‘Women, can’t live with ’em and can’t live without ’em.’
Capcom’s insensitivity warning is well-earned, in that regard. But its inclusion is very welcome, and a clear sign that video games – however incrementally – are changing for the better. We should not forget the racism of the past, but putting it on blast is essential for moving forward.