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In the Mood to DASH, Reloaded! (Updated 2015/08/04)

I'd already talked here on the blog about my interest in the Rockman DASH series (known as Mega Man Legends in the West), which unfortunately had its third game canceled and left its fans craving for more. Capcom hasn't shown any interest in continuing the series, but a few days ago, a light at the end of the tunnel came from somewhere else. Comcept, the company founded by Keiji Inafune (Rockman / Mega Man series' creator, who had left Capcom) launched a project to create a series that will become the spiritual successor to DASH/Legends. The project is called "RED ASH."

On July 2nd, 2015, Comcept published a short trailer with a small taste of what was to come. The video is below:

Those who are familiar with DASH/Legends will notice the character similarities right away. Since Capcom owns the rights to the DASH/Legends series, Comcept can't use the same names and characters, so we get something similar yet different at the same time. Even so, the project makes several references both visually as well as by playing puns on names and terms from the original series, starting with the title, "RED ASH". If we remove the space between the two words, we get "REDASH," as in "REdoing DASH".

Two days after posting the video (on July 4th), during the Anime Expo event in Los Angeles, they announced the project officially.

Here follows a short summary of RED ASH's setting:

RED ASH is set in a world devastated after a war between humans and robots which led humanity to the brink of extinction. Humanity was able to recover thanks to the discovery and use of Lost Technology, but their lives depend on the work of "Delvers," brave adventurers who risk their lives in search of valuable objects in ruins filled with feral robots. And of course, the protagonists are part of this category of adventurers.

One of the things that made me like the DASH series was its "anime-esque" feel. And RED ASH aims to double this experience by having both a game with an "anime-esque" feel, as well as an actual anime! The game and the anime will be developed by separate teams. They plan to fund the first part of the project via crowdfunding (where fans and idea supporters contribute by making donations) through the site Kickstarter. The Kickstarter campaigns for each part of the project are also separate: one for the game and another one for the anime. Aside from the separation of the teams and the costs, Comcept says that the idea is that having two separate worlds gives freedom for both teams to let their creativity loose and develop two independent stories.

The Game

The game's title is "RED ASH - The Indelible Legend," and seems to be a direct reference to Legends 3's cancellation and how the legend was "deleted" (it's also worth to mention that, coincidentally or no, aside from being the month the project was launched, July also marks the anniversary of Legends 3's cancellation).

Like the DASH/Legends games, it will be a third person shooter with RPG elements (or is it a RPG with third person shooter elements? :P To those that don't know DASH/Legends, think Zelda with anime style characters and guns instead of swords). Several people who were previously from the development team for DASH/Legends (and Rockman/Mega Man in general) are also working on this project. This includes director Masahiro Yasuma (Rockman DASH/Mega Man Legends, Tron ni Kobun/The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, Rockman.EXE/Mega Man Battle Network series, Ryusei no Rockman/Mega Man Star force series), art director Kazushi Ito (Rockman/Mega Man 5-7, Rockman DASH/Mega Man Legends, Parasite Eve 2, Ape Escape 3), and music composer Manami Matsumae (Rockman/Mega Man, Shovel Knight, Rockman/Mega Man 10, Mighty No. 9).

Comcept needs $ 800,000 dollars in order to create a basic version of the PC game, but they also announced that if they reach 1 million (200 thousand more than the minimum), they will make a port to a current generation gaming console, but at the moment they are only able to port to one console at a time (console to be chosen via a survey among the fans who have donated).

Update (2015/07/23): PS4 confirmed as the first console to get a port. Comcept says that they'll keep the poll open to determine which console to prioritize next.

According to the page on Kickstarter, this game funded by fans is the first episode titled "The KalKanon Incident", and doesn't cover the entire plot (it's actually the prologue). Comcept plans to release a sequel, another episode (actually the main story) called "The New Order Conspiracy". The first episode ("The KalKanon Incident") will be a shorter game (estimated around 8 hours of gameplay) and is meant as an initial product to draw the attention of larger companies that may be interested in funding and publishing "The New Order Conspiracy" episode, which aims to be a longer game (estimated around 12 hours of gameplay) and, according to an interview with Keiji Inafune, will require millions of dollars.

There are several rewards to those who contribute to the project. Whoever contributes at least $ 5 gets a wallpaper and his/her name listed in the credits for having helped fund the game. A contribution of at least $ 25 gets a digital copy of the game when it's ready, plus the person's name listed in the credits and the wallpaper. There are several other rewards for higher value contributions, such as digital and physical versions of the soundtrack album, physical version of the game, character artbooks, among other things. The complete list is in the rewards section of the game page on Kickstarter. In addition to the rewards, contributors will be able to suggest new ideas and vote to choose designs for game elements.

Update (2015/07/20): as of July 17th, aside from the previous rewards, contributions of at least $79 also get a digital copy of the "New Order Conspiracy" (the second game) when released.

And speaking of suggesting ideas and voting to choose designs, they've opened a poll to choose the mayor of a village in "The KalKanon Incident" game, and it's open to everyone, too (not just the contributors). The "elections" run until July 28th.

Here is the video from the game's kickstarter campaign:

Update (2015/07/24): they released a video showing the first 3D tests. The character's 3D model is just a placeholder and will be replaced in the future (the actual RED ASH character's 3D model is shown at the end). DASH/Legends fans will probably enjoy watching the can-kicking action. :P

Update (2015/07/28): more progress for two of the main characters' 3D models. But more importantly, now there's also an improved (and playable!) version of the prototype from the previous video! It's a Windows program, but there's also an online version (which uses Unity Web Player) that can be played from the browser. The playable prototype is available here.

Update (2015/07/31): a bad news and a great news. The bad news is that time is running short and the game's Kickstarter campaign only managed to get $490,000, still very far from reaching the minimum $800,000 goal. But the great news is that, even so, the fans efforts were enough to catch the attention of a Chinese gaming company called FUZE Entertainment, who decided to become an investor (NOT a publisher) of the project! The company consists of game enthusiasts and was co-founded with a partnership with Huawei, NVIDIA and Microsoft Xbox, and [intends to enter the Chinese gaming market now that the gaming ban has ended in China. FUZE will fund the development costs of the KalKanon Incident (the 8 hour first game), plus the costs for a PS4 and Xbox ports (makes sense, since the company has a partnership with Microsoft), plus the costs for Japanese voiceovers (yes! :D ). Comcept retains full rights to the intellectual property and total creative freedom to create the game, and will be able to create it the way they want without external companies interfering in the content and ruining the project's vision. The money contributed by fans (either via Kickstarter or via additional funding afterwards) will be redirected to the creation of extra content to make a more complete game. Specifically, the addition of another playable character with abilities that provide a different perspective during exploration of the game environment, an extra hard dungeon for hardcore players, and a mission to reconstruct the village after all the action stuff happens.

The Anime

The anime will be called "Red Ash the Animation - Magicicada," and will feature the same characters but in a parallel world. It will be developed in collaboration with STUDIO4°C (their works include Batman Gotham Knight and Animatrix), and will mix traditional Japanese animation techniques with 3D. They need $ 150,000 to produce a five-minute episode :D (this shows how expensive it is to produce an anime!) with one more minute added to each achieved stretch goal until they reach $2,480,000, which would allow them to produce a feature film.

Update (2015/07/22): after too many people complaining that five minutes is too short, STUDIO4°C decided to make a commitment and extend the animation to 18 minutes (including the credits), and bear the extra costs out of their own pockets.

Among the rewards for those who contribute to the anime is the right to vote for the protagonists' voice actors, digital downloads of the anime and its soundtrack, artbooks, as well as copies of the storyboard and the documentation for the anime's production process (items not usually available to us mere mortals :D). Other rewards include going to Japan to visit the studio, and attending seminars about the anime market (though these are really expensive). Many of these rewards might be interesting for those who wish to know how the anime production process works, and even more interesting to those who want to be part of the anime business. The complete list is in the rewards section of the anime page on Kickstarter.

Below is the video for the anime's Kickstarter campaign:

Both the game and anime Kickstarter campaigns will be running until August 3rd, 2015. However, even after the campaigns finish, if the projects at least reach the minimum goals (800,000 for the game and 150,000 for the anime), Comcept will continue accepting contributions via Paypal, and STUDIO4°C will accept contributions through their own crowdfunding platform, Studio4Fun&. This will allow them to add more content so the game and the anime don't get limited to only the bare bones. In other words, even after the campaigns finish, it'll still be possible to add more content like the game's console ports and more minutes to the anime.

Update (2015/08/04): The campaigns are over. The anime was successfully funded, with a total of $162,882, slightly more than the initial $150,000 goal. In order to create a longer animation, Studio4°C will begin to accept additional donations via their STUDIO4Fun & site on August 4th for Japan, and August 14th for the rest of the world.

On the other hand, the game's campaign unfortunately failed to reach the $800,000 goal (the money that would go towards extra content). Since Kickstarter is "all or nothing," none of the fans will pay anything and no one will receive any rewards. Regardless, the game will still be produced thanks to FUZE's investment, but for now, it won't have the additional content mentioned above. There's still no news whether Comcept will accept additional funding at a later date (Paypal donations had been confirmed, but only if the Kickstarter campaign had reached the goal, which didn't happen). Even so, it's nice to know that both the game and the anime will be seeing the light of day.

Closing Thoughts

However... (as always, there's a "however" :P ) Not all is roses in this project. Many people are complaining that the trailer wasn't impacting enough, and that RED ASH's Kickstarter campaigns came at a bad time, just when other big games' campaigns were also ongoing, and makes the fans unable to contribute to them all. Other complaints are about the separation of the game and anime into two campaigns. Particularly, I think the separation might make sense from a project management standpoint, since they're two totally different things, with totally different teams, resources/requirements and costs. But in practice, this creates a problem: it splits the fanbase between supporting the game or the anime, and complicates the situation for those who want to donate to both of them. I think it would have been better if Comcept had waited for one of the campaigns to end before starting the other one, instead of running them simultaneously.

These problems aside, I think this project has a lot of potential and I'm hoping it succeeds. Fans have been waiting for a DASH/Legends continuation for fifteen years now. While RED ASH is a fresh take on the concept and might not be the continuation many had wanted, now seems to be the time for something to happen, and this project has the potential to provide us with memorable moments, just like DASH/Legends had provided in the old times.