For two and a half decades, the Blue Bomber has revolutionized the platform game genre, spanned different titles, including spin offs, as well as becoming a guest character in some games, featured in different media platforms and became one of the most popular gaming character in history. We take a look at back from the early days of the franchise and see how it changed that way we play video games up to the last games that still kept us in our couches.
For Everlasting Peace
The very first Mega Man game (in Japan, it was called Rock Man) was released in 1987 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (in Japan, it’s the Family Computer). Originally planned to become an Astro Boy game, but the plan went sour and Capcom reinvent the project, the character design of Mega Man was created by Keiji Inafune and the rest was history. The story highlighted on Mega Man that was originally a young android named Rock, who was created by Dr. Light to defend the world from the robot threat by Dr. Wily.
At a first look, Mega Man has some simple mechanics; you run, jump and shoot your way until the end of the level where you will face with the end level boss. Now this is where the good part starts to kick in; the game introduced a rock-paper-scissor mechanic; every time you defeated a Robot Master, you will be rewarded with a weapon where it can be a weakness to a specific Robot Master, this adds strategy on your game play which was very new at its time. After wiping out the Robot Masters, you will be prompted to fight Dr. Wily in consecutive levels.
Although the first game didn’t managed to garner high sales, it didn’t stop Capcom to release a sequel, and the result was a hit, with improved level designs and a kickass soundtrack, Mega Man 2 was considered as one of the best from the series. This spawned more sequels during the 8-bit era, it even added new features to the Blue Bomber, from the sliding ability to the robot canine sidekick up to the charged up shots.
Capcom also ported the franchise to other platforms, from the portable console Game Boy to Nintendo’s rival Sega on their Mega Drive console in Europe and Japan . At the dawn of the 16-bit era, they’ve released Mega Man 7 and then Mega Man & Bass for the Super NES and then they released Mega Man 8 for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn during the 32-bit era. They even went back to the classic 8-bit design with the release of Mega Man 9 and 10 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii.
X was the Beginning
At the start of the 16-bit age, Capcom wanted to redesign the franchise for his transition from 8-bit to 16-bit, this is when Mega Man X was created and released in 1993 for the Super Nintendo. The game takes place 100 years after the events from the original Mega Man. It features a dark storyline compared to the original, a new successor for the first was created by Dr. Light, named Mega Man X or simply referred as X where he has complete free will on his actions, then Dr. Light sent X into suspended animation and then was uncovered 100 years later by Dr. Cain.
Core gameplay is still the same from the original but with some new additions; you now can dash to move quicker and able to wall jump which makes reaching higher grounds easier. You’ll also be able to gather different armor parts to complete the ultimate armor that grants new abilities. The levels are much larger now and harder compared to the original.
But X wasn’t the only main character, the sword wielding Zero was introduced in the first game then became fully playable in the fourth game along with an all new close ranged play style for players to try, originally designed by Keiji Inafune to become the main character in the Mega Man X series, but he felt that removing Mega Man as the main character who confuse the fans. Then on Mega Man X7 another character was introduced, Axl uses dual pistols as his main arsenal and has the ability to replicate other Mavericks.
The Mega Man X series also joined the bandwagon in transitioning to the next gen consoles, they’ve released X3 (in Japan only) to X6 on the PlayStation (X4 was also released on the Sega Saturn), although Inafune intended to end the series at X5, X6 was given a go signal from Capcom without his approval. Then they released X7 and X8 for the PlayStation 2 which now featured 3D graphics and 2.5D/3D platform gameplay. The last two games received poor receptions and sales due to the transition from its original sidescroll gameplay.
Another series was created which now features Zero as the main character, Mega Man Zero was released for the Game Boy Advance on 2002 and took place 200 years after Mega Man X, now having a much darker and edgier story. Zero awakens from a long slumber and discovered that the world is still at war and he must protect the last remaining Reploids from the oppression of the human supremacy force. Still similar with the X series, Zero will be able to acquire new abilities and weapons through the ranking system, unlike from the X series where his main weapon is his Z saber, he can now use a buster gun and other arsenals such as a blade rod and chain whip.
Despite the new setting on the game, Megaman Zero still remains faithful to the original series and finally gave Zero more spotlight as Inafune’s original intention since the X series.
The Zero series spanned three more sequels in each consecutive year for the Game Boy Advance. Megaman Zero’s story has concluded which now brought a whole new story in the distant future.
Z to the X
With the release of the Nintendo DS, Capcom released another entry to their flagship series, Megaman ZX focused on two characters; Vent and Aile where they collect Biometals which contain the data of legendary heroes, in which includes X and Zero. With the Biometals, they have the ability to ‘Mega-merge’ with it to use the abilities of the fallen heroes.
The gameplay is similar with Megaman Zero, but one of the interesting part of ZX is that you will be choosing a different character to play (Vent and Aile), both have similar back-stories but the two characters will not encounter with each other in the whole playthrough. This leaves the possibility that there are two parallel timelines in the game.
This is also the same with its sequel; Megaman ZX Advent, which was released the following year. Set four years after Megaman ZX and featured new protagonists Grey and Ashe. The second installment left an opening for a potential sequel, but the series was left on a hiatus.
Capcom did tried to experiment on the franchise to see if it fit well, some worked well and some did not, and one of this was reinventing the whole franchise. Be sure to check on our second half of our special feature for more on the evolution of the Mega Man franchise