MEGA LEGEND A HISTORY OF MEGA MAN BY HAYDEN SCOTT
The year is 1987. With the release of Super Mario Bros. by rival company Nintendo two years prior, and with The Legend of Zelda having came out earlier that year, interest and demand in the gaming industry was booming. Capcom, originally a Japanese computer and technology company in the 70's and 80's, sensed this change and put together a team of six designers to make a new game that could compete with the other big brands of the era on the games market. Led by a designer by the name of Akira Kitamura, the six-man team set out to bring their own experience to home consoles of the time.
The team had originally envisioned their game to be based on the popular anime and manga character, Astro Boy. However, after their licensing deal fell out, Kitamura and his team were forced to design their own characters. This setback would ultimately be the beginning of the birth of a gaming legend. Tasking a young up-and-coming artist called Keiji Inafune, a new hire to the company, to work his designs into the game, Kitamura set about creating his own characters and story, planting the seed that would eventually sprout into a gaming giant.
Initially, Kitamura and his team experimented with a number of different ways for how their new game would play, such as a sidescroller and a run-and-gun shooter. After a series of trial and error, they ultimately decided on a platformer-type game, and set about working on the aspects and elements of their game. But this wasn't to be some typical platformer; the team wanted to make their game unique, something that hadn't been done before. So the team came up with an at the time revolutionary mechanic where you would acquire and use the weapons from the game's bosses and use them against other enemies and bosses that were weak against a certain weapon, and you could choose which order you fought the game's bosses in. These unique mechanics would eventually go on to become two of the series' trademark staples.
Now that all other aspects of the game had been accounted for, all that was left that was needed was a name for the game. Having been deliberating on a name for a long time, Capcom eventually decided on the name Rockman, which released in Japan on the Famicom in December of that year, in which you played as the titular robot Rockman as you jumped and shot your way through six levels to thwart the evil schemes of the mad scientist Dr. Wily. However, when the game was localized almost two years later, it was rebranded as Mega Man. There are a number of different reasons for this, ranging from "rock" being slang for crack cocaine, of which there was a large epidemic of in the USA at the time, to the senior vice president of Capcom's American officers deeming the title Rockman "nonsensical". Whatever the reason, the new name stuck nonetheless, and although the series is still known today as Rockman in Japan, the series has seen very little changes and differences across both localizations.
Unfortunately for Capcom, the original Mega Man didn't sell very well across the globe, in part due to the horrendously (and notoriously) bad box art for the American version of the game. Fortunately, come next year in 1988 they were willing to give it another shot, and in just under three months put together a sequel, Mega Man 2 (which increased the number of bosses from the six of the original game to the series' usual eight), that sold over the coveted million-copy mark, and thus, a rising star was born. Seeing the success of their new game, Capcom immediately got to work on another sequel; however, shortly after Mega Man 2's release Akira Kitamura had left Capcom, and they were forced to hire a new director who also left halfway through the project for undisclosed reasons. Needing a new director, Keiji Inafune was taken on as the new director, who would go on to direct the franchise for the next 20 years. Under Inafune's leadership, Mega Man 3 was released on the NES in 1990, and the franchise had officially become a trilogy.
The next year in 1991 saw the release of the SNES; however, Capcom decided to remain on the NES for a little while longer. They released Mega Man 4 that same year, and Mega Man 5 later next year in 1992. However, come 1993 and Capcom decided to shift to the SNES with a new spin-off title, Mega Man X, which explored a darker and more violent setting than the original series and boasted and entirely new cast of characters, such as the badass sword-wielding Zero, the humanoid robots known as Reploids, the series titular rogue robots the Mavericks (Irregulars in Japan), and a new main antagonist: the villainous Reploid Sigma. Capcom also released Mega Man 6 the same year, this time on the NES curiously enough, despite having been released after Mega Man X had already come out. The next year was 1994 and while Capcom's classic series received no new entries, their spin-off title Mega Man X received a follow-up sequel, Mega Man X2, and Mega Man X had officially laid the groundwork to become a series of its own.
The next year, 1995, saw two new releases on the SNES; Mega Man 7 for the classic series, and another sequel for the X series, Mega Man X3, which also later saw a release on the PS1 and Sega Saturn. Two years later in 1997 and Mega Man shifted towards the PlayStation, releasing Mega Man X4 on the PS1 that same year, as well as Mega Man 8 on the PS1 and Sega Saturn and Mega Man & Bass as one final entry on the SNES. Three more years later in 2000 and Mega Man X5 was released on the PS1 as well as an experimental 3D title, Mega Man Legends (Rockman Dash in Japan), which received a sequel, Mega Man Legends 2, in 2001, and a prequel title to the first game, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne (which included a playable demo of Legends 2).
Although the X series was supposed to have ended after X5, Capcom released Mega Man X6 on the PS1 almost exactly a year later in 2001, without the consent of series director Keiji Inafune. Due to X6's release, Inafune was forced to completely rewrite the script for the then upcoming Mega Man Zero series, his sequel to the X series that cast Zero from the X series as the main character in a post-apocalyptic setting. In Inafune's original vision of the Zero series, it would have cast Mega Man X, the protagonist of the X series, as the main antagonist, who would have gone Maverick after many years of war and fighting and become bent on destroying all Reploids. However, the aforementioned release of X6 ruined Inafune's original vision of the Zero series, and was forced to do a total rewrite and include an entirely new character in place of X's original role called Copy X (Who originally wasn't even meant to exist), and X's role was changed to a supporting character. One may wonder though, if X6 hadn't been released and Inafune had been allowed to go through with his original vision, how much darker the Zero series might have been and how differently the final game may have played out. Whatever the case, Mega Man Zero was released on the Game Boy Advance in 2002, sharing a platform alongside the Battle Network RPG series of games.
The next year was 2003, and the Zero series received a sequel, again on the Game Boy Advance, in the form of Mega Man Zero 2, as well as a new spin-off entry to the Battle Network series, Mega Man Network Transmission, on the Nintendo GameCube. The following year in 2004, Mega Man X7 (which is widely debated to be the worst game in the X series) was released on the PlayStation 2, which introduced a new third protagonist, Axl. The same year, Mega Man Zero 3 was released, once again on the Game Boy Advance, which personally introduced the series' true antagonist, the mad bionic human scientist Dr. Weil (who appeared at the end of the previous game, but in voice only), and a new RPG title set in the X series universe called Mega Man X: Command Mission, on the PS2 and GameCube. A further year later in 2005 saw another X series entry, Mega Man X8, on the PS2, and the last entry of the Zero series, Mega Man Zero 4, on the Game Boy Advance.
Then in 2006, a sequel to the Zero series, Mega Man ZX, was released on the Nintendo DS. In it, players had the option of choosing between a male or female character, each with their own unique stats, and introduced the sentient Biometals, fragments of living metal containing the robot souls of past major characters, including X and Zero, and the series' recurring antagonist Biometal, Model W (which is stated to have been formed from the vengeful soul of Dr. Weil merging with the fragments of his space station after he was destroyed at the end of Mega Man Zero 4). The following year it received a sequel, again on the Nintendo DS, in the form of Mega Man ZX Advent, and then in 2008 the Battle Network series also received a sequel, Mega Man Star Force, which in turn received two more sequels, Mega Man Star Force 2 and Mega Man Star Force 3. In 2009 and 2010, Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 were released as downloadable titles from PlayStation Network, Xbox Live and Wii Shop Channel, whose graphics were reminiscent of that of the old 8-bit Mega Man games of the NES era, and the Zero series was compiled into a collection for the Nintendo DS.
However, the success that Mega Man had enjoyed for so long seemed to suddenly come to an abrupt end. In 2010, Keiji Inafune posted on Twitter that he was upset with his job at Capcom (it was speculated that this was due to the release of X6 interfering with his original vision of the Zero series and a number of other issues within the company) and was leaving to start his own game company. Because of this, all new Mega Man games that were in development at the time were eventually cancelled, which included Mega Man Legends 3 and another title called Mega Man Universe. News of the cancellations reverberated throughout the fan community, especially with the former (especially due to how the previous game in the series, Mega Man Legends 2, ended on a cliffhanger), and a few even started a petition for Capcom to resume work on Mega Man Legends 3 that received in excess of over 10,000 signatures. To date, there has still been no official release of Legends 3 or any further information regarding an official release of the game.
After Mega Man Legends 3's cancellation, times were tough for both Mega Man and Capcom. The departure of their longtime director Keiji Inafune severely affected morale at Capcom, and created a difficult atmosphere within the company that's influence stretched even to the fans. A number of titles suffered during this time, and people began taking notice that Capcom wasn't making games anymore like they used to, all while the seemingly brain-dead corpse of Mega Man was being kept barely alive through various spin-off appearances in titles by other companies, such as Namco's Project X Zone and, more recently, Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. Meanwhile, Inafune formed his own company, Comcept; with a number of other former Capcom employees, and began developing their own game, Mighty No. 9, which was planned to be the spiritual successor to the Mega Man franchise. The game was released on PS4 and Xbox One (a Wii U version was also planned, but was ultimately cancelled) in 2015, but emerged to fairly poor reviews and did very little to alleviate the heartache of fans still grieving for their beloved franchise. With Mighty No. 9 having failed to fill the Mega Man void, fans began to fear that Mega Man was dead.
However, thankfully this seems to no longer be the case. After nearly a decade of absence, Capcom took on Koji Oda, an employee in the company since 1991; as new director of the Mega Man franchise and have announced that there is now a Mega Man 11 in the works for PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, as well as two new Mega Man X collections featuring all 8 X games scheduled for release sometime in Winter 2018. With this, there is hope that Mega Man can once again return to his former glory and to the shelves of game stores across the world.