Robotics seem to be the way of the future. Currently, they build cars, can perform complicated surgery and even do our taxes. Heck, there are even robots that look like real people and display some form of sentience. While some scientists praise the idea, others fear the possibility of a robot revolution. And if sci-fi movies have taught us anything, this is a likely scenario. In the movies, it’s usually the mortal man that stands against the automated oppressors. For games, a robot stands to fight for humans against his own kind. And only one such robot stands out in this aspect. Here in Time Warp Review, we celebrate that very robot who kept up the fight for humanity against robot tyranny for many years. Join me, Devildriver1313, in the 30th Anniversary celebration of Mega Man!
Before Mega Man, Capcom primarily made arcade games that were then ported to home consoles. When the company decided to develop Mega Man for the Japanese market, they brought in young talent including Keiji Inafune, a recent college grad who started on the Street Fighter team. The development team consisted of six, Inafune among them. He designed and illustrated nearly all of the game’s characters and enemies, as well as the Japanese “Rockman” logo, box art and instruction manual, and was responsible for rendering those designs into sprite form. However, most of the characters were either completed or in development before Inafune’s arrival. He ended up finalizing the characters simply because of the limited manpower. Inafune was influenced by Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy in his Mega Man designs. Aside from normal enemies, Inafune’s first character was Elec Man, who was likely inspired by the Spiderman villain Electro. Dr. Light and Dr. Wily were based on Santa Claus and Albert Einstein respectively, with Wily be the atypical mad scientist. In fact, Dr. Wily’s first name is “Albert.” Due to the worldwide recognition of music, the production team went with a music motif when naming characters and thus, Mega Man’s name is “Rock” and his sister is “Roll”. Before settling on a name, Capcom went through as few ideas including “Mighty Kid”, “Knuckle Kid”, and “Rainbow Man”. They went with Rockman, however, the name was changed to “Mega Man” when the game was released in the States because Capcom’s then-Senior Vice President Joseph Marici didn’t like the title. He came up with the title Mega Man and the rest is video gaming history.
Mega Man is set in the undisclosed year of 200X, or 20XX in later titles. Renowned robot designer Dr. Thomas Light (or Bright as he is referred to in Mega Man 2) has made modern life easy for mankind with his robots assisting in daily activities. One day, these suddenly go out of control and begin attacking the populace, among six humanoid robots made by Light: Gutsman, Cutman, Elec Man, Fire Man, Ice Man and Bomb Man. Wanting to combat the threat, Rock, Dr. Light’s assistant, offers to be converted into a fighting robot, thus becoming Mega Man (Rock Man in Japan). That is the plot of the first game, at least in Japan. When the game was released to the West, changes to this plot were changed. For one, Dr. Wily is actually Dr. Light’s rival in the Japan storyline, not his assistant turned disloyal, nor did he help Light make the robots. But hey, that’s crazy America for ya.
The gameplay of Mega Man is your basic run and gun platformer. Unlike other games at the time, you were free to choose where you wanted to begin rather have the course predetermined. Once a stage has been chosen, Mega Man fights through various enemies and over comes obstacles before facing the “Robot Master” boss. Each stage is designed to that Robot Master’s specifications. Example, Bomb Man’s stage literally has walking time bomb enemies and flying enemies that resemble Bullet Bill from “Super Mario Bros. 3” (though Mega Man does predate that game) and the stages for Fire Man and Ice Man are geared to their respective elements. Mega Man can defeat the Robot Masters with his Mega Buster or with a specific weapon that the Robot Master is vulnerable to. Once the Robot Masters are beaten, Mega Man will head to the final stage to confront Dr. Wily. Mega Man was known for its difficulty. There are some parts of the game that can be downright frustrating and others required intense skill and patience to navigate. Case in point, the second part of the Wily Stage. Mega Man encounter a large chasm lined with spikes that stretch for three screen lengths. Mega Man must use the “Magnet Beam” to cross. What makes this a pain is drawing the beam out long enough to not only make across but do this several times in a way so as not to miss the ladder at the end. Making this even more challenging is that the Magnet Beam lasts for about five seconds once its set and is difficult to see the further it is stretched out. This is part of the game has been dubbed “one of the most difficult stages”.
Despite poor sales, Mega Man was well received, praised for its graphics, music and gameplay. Mega Man has gone on the be called “one of the hardest NES of all time” due to its difficulty, which has hurt the game’s replayability. “Total!” retrospectively characterized the game as “an overhard and unenjoyably frustrating platform nightmare.” On the flipside, Mega Man has received various honors from video game magazines and websites. IGN listed it number 30 on their list of “Top 100 NES Game of All Time”. Mega Man has also made in the top rankings of several other lists as well. Now, let’s talk about that American release box art. God, was that awful. Yeah, a lot of other people thought so too, including Inafune who blamed the game’s poor sales in North American on its region-specific box art. What made it so bad? For one, not one element for the game can be found on the cover art and Mega Man himself looked like a middle-age man rather than a boy, his costume is colored yellow and blue instead of being entirely blue and he is holding a hand gun instead of having his familiar arm cannon. Oh, it retained the “high resolution graphics” promo on the box itself although this clearly was not used for the box. It has been considered one of the worst box covers of all time. The “Bad Box Art”, or “Cosplay” Mega Man as he has become known to gamers, is featured as a gimmick character in the crossover title “Street Fighter X Tekken”. Despite all of this, Mega Man became a sleeper hit as word spread to overseas markets, prompting Capcom to develop Mega Man 2 which featured elements that were omitted from the first game.
Thanks to the success of Mega Man 2, Mega Man was solidified as one of Capcom’s longest-running franchises. It spawned eight more sequels in the main series and was spun off into subsequent titles: including Mega Man X, Mega Man Legends, Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX. Mega Man himself become a gaming icon. He has appeared in both an American cartoon series and Japanese anime, comic books, Japanese manga and other Capcom related titles, most notably the “Marvel vs Capcom” game series which featured other Mega Man related characters. A new animated series featuring the Blue Bomber is currently in development and slated for a 2018 premiere on Cartoon Network. Man of Action Studios, the company behind Ben 10 and Generator Rex, are behind the project with Dentsu Entertainment serving as producer.
Mega Man Gameplay!