Mega Man is one of the most iconic videogame characters of all time. Since his debut in 1987, the heroic robot has starred in dozens of games over a wide variety of genres, across nearly every platform. Mega Man has kind of fallen out of the spotlight in recent years, but legends never die, and with nearly 30 years of history behind him, we just know the Blue Bomber is poised for a major comeback any day now. In fact, with both a rumored film and cartoon adaptation on the way, we could be seeing a lot more him in the very near future.
While we patiently await news of his future on screens both big and small, let’s take a moment to reflect on some key facts about the boy in blue. Here’s 12 Things You Need To Know About Mega Man.
12. Mega Man was Based on Astro Boy
Astro Boy is one of the oldest and most beloved characters in Japanese manga, and was first published in 1952. He’s is a robot built in the image of a young boy who fights villainous robots and saves the day from evildoers while discovering his own humanity. The original version of Mega Man looks like a young boy who fights evil robots and the rogue scientist, Dr. Wily, while discovering his own humanity.
Mega Man and the mythology of the classic series borrows some elements from Astro Boy’s universe and design, including Mega Man’s helmet, which replicates Astro’s iconic widow’s peak, as well as his heroically ingrained sense of justice. Keiji Inafune, Mega Man’s creator, has gone on record stating that his greatest work was partially based on Astro Boy. Interestingly, fans of both properties are uncharacteristically kind-hearted to one another, with a mutual respect towards each other. Marvel and DC fanboys and fangirls, take note.
11. Keiji Inafune
In-universe, Mega Man’s “father” is the noble Dr. Light. In real life, Keiji Inafune is revered as Mega Man’s one and true creator. Although the character had been mostly designed by the time Inafune started working on the original title, his love and dedication towards making the best possible version of Mega Man made the game a hit among critics of the time. Although Mega Man sold relatively poorly, Capcom saw potential in the series and allowed Inafune and his team to develop a sequel, which would become Mega Man 2, a title which is often acclaimed as one of the greatest side-scrollers of all time.
Inafune went on to work on many other Capcom series, such as Onimusha and Dead Rising. He would lead development on the Mega Man series until his departure from Capcom in 2010. The legend goes that his untimely abandonment led to a scorned Capcom cancelling their two highly-anticipated Mega Man projects, Legends 3 and Universe (but more on them later). Inafune would form a new company, Comcept, and develop titles like Mighty No. 9 and Red Ash (but more on that later, too!).
10. Mega Man, or Rock Man?
Most hardcore Mega Man fans surely know this already, but Mega Man’s name is actually a result of a Capcom executive who thought his name wouldn’t work in English-speaking countries. His original Japanese moniker is actually Rock Man, as in rock music. This explains why his partner is named Roll. Get it? Rock n Roll! Other characters in the series also feature this music-themed naming convention, such as Tango the cat, Beat, and Bass… No, not like the fish.
Due to changes in translation, some inside jokes and characterization were lost. For example, Mega Man’s predecessor, another robot created by Dr. Light, is known to Western audiences as Proto Man. In the original Japanese, however, Rock Man’s forerunner is called Blues, reflecting his melancholy nature and status as a precursor to Rock. It makes sense from a thematic standpoint, but with Rock Man changed to Mega Man, and the fact that the prototype fighting robot wears yellow and red, perhaps changing his name was ultimately for the best.
9. The Doctors: Light, Wily, Einstein, and…Santa Claus.
The classic Mega Man series has two main scientists. The wise Dr. Light, and the evil Dr. Wily. The benevolent Dr. Light, with his bushy white beard and chubby cheeks, is immediately evocative of a science-chic Santa Claus, with his “helper robots,” of which Mega Man is one, being his gift to the world. Meanwhile, the villainous Dr. Wily shares a first name and a distinct hairstyle with Albert Einstein.
While Albert Einstein didn’t directly participate in the Manhattan Project, he did encourage its development; he reasoned that man was going to split the atom eventually, and it should be the Allies, rather than the Axis, who possessed such an unimaginably destructive power. President Franklin Roosevelt took note of Einstein’s letter, and the race to develop the atom bomb began, and the outcome was the swiftest loss of life in the history of warfare, with just two bombs killing as many as 246,000 Japanese people, most of them civilians…
8. The Mega Man Timeline
There are no less than four distinct Mega Man series, and fans love to piece together references and Easter Eggs to try and map out a comprehensive timeline for the disparate stories. The Classic series encompasses Mega Mans 1-10, as well as Mega Man and Bass, which didn’t see an American release until it was re-released for Game Boy Advance, five years after its debut on SNES.
The first sequel series was Mega Man X, which leveraged the power of the Super Nintendo to tell a more dramatic, involved story with (relatively) more mature themes and imagery. Mega Man X was followed by numerous sequels, through X8, though most fans find X5 to be the true grand finale of the series, as evidenced by the fact that the subsequent series, Mega Man Zero, follows up on the ending of X5… And then there’s Mega Man ZX, which is set two hundred years after the final Mega Man Zero title.
All the way at the end of the timeline is the Mega Man Legends series, a Zelda-styled action RPG saga with a strong focus on storytelling and compelling characters. The ZX series could, theoretically, have tied into the Legends titles, had Capcom not abruptly pulled the plug on the ZX series after only two games.
Then there’s the Battle Network series, which doesn’t fit into the main storyline, but is actually a reboot of the original series, set in a world where, instead of robotics, technological advancements were made in the field of computer networking. Think of it as Mega Man meets Tron. Battle Network was followed up by Mega Man: Star Force, but we don’t really talk about that one too much.
7. Mega Man Soccer
There are a ton of great Mega Man games, and the various series feature a wide variety of gameplay types. While a majority of the titles are old-school side-scrolling shooters with intense platforming sections, the Battle Network and Legends series show that there’s plenty of room for the series to expand into other genres and playstyles. Of the many possibilities for compelling Mega Man games, soccer is decidedly not one of them.
There were a handful of weird “mascot-spinoff” titles starring Mega Man and company, but the only one which made it to western shores was the ill-advised Mega Man Soccer. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a dull soccer simulator with a Mega Man theme. Despite the game’s efforts to incorporate elements from the main games into this second-rate sports sim, Mega Man Soccer fails to justify its ridiculous premise.
While experiments like Mega Man Soccer crashed and burned, the series is famous for having its characters pop up in other games. Mega Man’s classic incarnation appeared as a playable character in Marvel vs Capcom; the classic version of Roll joined him in the sequel. Additionally, Tron Bonne from Mega Man Legends was playable in Marvel vs Capcom 2 and 3. Her adorable Servbot minions have become something of an unofficial mascot, making appearances in numerous Capcom properties, such as Dead Rising, even making it into the straight-to-video movie, Dead Rising: Watchtower, as a design on Jesse Metcalfe’s character’s tee shirt.
As the fans know, Mega Man has been more-or-less on the outs as of late, so many passionate followers didn’t take too kindly to his joke appearance in Street Fighter X Tekken, which was based on the legendarily terrible box art for the classic NES games. Though Keiji Inafune gave his blessing to the inclusion of “Bad Box Art Mega Man,” fans were still burned after the Great Cancellations of 2011 (more on those in a bit), and didn’t appreciate the gesture.
However, Mega Man made a gloriously triumphant return, in his original costume, in Super Smash Brothers for WiiU and Nintendo 3DS, as a playable character. As an extra bonus, his critically damaging “Final Smash” attack enlists the aid of his counterparts X, Mega Man Volnutt, Mega Man.EXE, and…The guy from Mega Man Star Force, who all team up to deliver massive damage to opponents. Seeing that move for the first time brought tears to the eyes of many long-time Mega Man fans.
After leaving Capcom in 2010, Keiji Inafune’s company, Comcept, made several well-received games, including their cult hit on the Playstation Vita, Soul Sacrifice. In 2013, they went to Kickstarter looking for help funding a spiritual successor to the original Mega Man, entitled Mighty No. 9. Comcept asked for $900,000, and their goal was met after only two days, ultimately closing with nearly $4,000,000 in development funds. Inafune and company got some flack for numerous delays, and the game is currently scheduled for release sometime in Q2 of 2016.
Then, Comcept earned some serious ire when they announced a second Kickstarter campaign, for a new game entitled Red Ash, which would be to Mega Man Legends what Mighty No. 9 is to Mega Man Classic: a spiritual successor, combining familiar gameplay with a new story. Unfortunately, this Kickstarter campaign failed to reach its goal. It was criticized for its sloppy and misleading nature; after the campaign’s failure, a Chinese company, Fuze, stepped in and agreed to finance the title, questioning why crowd-funding was ever attempted in the first place.
Perhaps another reason for the failure of the Red Ash Kickstarter was due to the narrative focus of the Mega Man Legends series. Mega Man Classic is all about fast and furious side-scrolling action, but fans of Legends are still clinging to the hope that Mega Man Legends 2’s cliffhanger ending might one day be resolved in a true sequel. Embracing a spiritual successor, a replacement, would be giving up hope that the admittedly unlikely prospect of Mega Man Legends 3 might ever see release.
4. Fan-Made Robot Masters
From Mega Man 2 onwards, Capcom held official contests, asking fans to submit their ideas and drawings for Robot Masters, the boss characters of the Mega Man series. Nearly all of the boss characters in the classic Mega Man series are based, at least in part, on fan-submitted ideas. Even if an entry didn’t make it into the game, Keiji Inafune would draw up art based on certain submissions and publish them in Nintendo Power.
All told, over 700,000 Robot Masters have been proposed by fans over the years, but there could never be more than eight per title. Mega Man Legends 3 also aimed to interact with the fan community during its development, and was even going to be initially released as a “prototype” version which would be changed based on fan feedback, but… Alas, ’twas not to be…
After Keiji Inafune left Capcom in 2010, things got weird. They say it’s always the children who suffer in a divorce, and in this case, it was Mega Man, who went from Capcom’s de facto mascot to a forgotten relic in a matter of months.
Essentially, all Mega Man projects were unceremoniously cancelled. First, there was Maverick Hunter, a re-imagining of Mega Man X as a first-person shooter, made by a team led by veterans of Retro Studios, the team behind the legendary Metroid Prime. X himself was re-designed by none other than Adi Granov, who had re-designed Iron Man for his 2008 film debut. It was a pretty wild departure for the series, and wound up as the unfortunate first casualty of the Inafune/Capcom divorce.
Next, there was Mega Man Universe, which would have combined the gameplay of classic Mega Man (Mega Man 2, specifically) with user-generated content in the vein of Little Big Planet. The game was first unveiled in July 2010, and then promptly cancelled in March 2011.
The third cancellation, and the most painful in the hearts of many fans, was that of Mega Man Legends 3. First announced in September 2010, Capcom had promised that, despite Inafune leaving the company, he would still get to work on the game and it would not be cancelled. After all, Legends 3’s announcement came a full ten years after the release of Legends 2! Why wait that long to announce a game and then promptly cancel it with no given reason?
Despite Capcom’s promises, Legends 3 was cancelled. In July 2011, just ten months after its initial reveal, the dream was over. Legends 3 was dead…However, the recent re-release of the first two Legends games (plus spinoff The Misadventures of Tron Bonne) on Playstation Network have renewed hope among dedicated fans that we may not have seen the last of Mega Man Volnutt. Time will tell, but we can’t afford to be hurt like that again.
2. Mega Man: TV Star?
Back in the 80s and early 90s, every Nintendo character under the sun had their own animated show. Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, among others, were all the stars of Saturday morning cartoons. While nostalgia for these programs runs deep, the truth is that they were mostly terrible. Mega Man first appeared regularly on Captain N: The Game Master, as one of the Captain’s allies. He was inexplicably green instead of blue, and kept on referring to everything as “mega.” Still, he was endearingly cute, if hilariously inaccurate to the character as we now know him. At least he wasn’t based on “Bad Box Art Mega Man!”
In 1994, Mega Man got his own show. Fortunately, he was drawn much more closely to his original design, and the show was fairly beloved, though it was cancelled after only two 13-episode seasons. That catchy (albeit lyrically-limited) theme song has been stuck in our head for years, although we imagine that was the goal.
In 2010, writer/director Eddie Lebron created Megaman, a fan film which told the story of the original game in live action. It’s a weird little experiment which fares better than one might expect, remaining true to its source material while also being fairly entertaining for a zero-budget fan project.
1. The Protomen
The classic Mega Man games aren’t particularly renowned for their storytelling, but there was more than enough for fans to explore and theorize. The aforementioned Megaman film was one way of interpreting the story, but another version comes from the Tennessee rock and roll band, The Protomen. With Mega Man using music terms to name many of its characters, it’s only fair that a rock band come along and use the mythology of the Mega Man series to tell a rock opera about a dystopian future and the downfall of humanity at the hands of their robot creations…or something.
“Light Up the Night,” from their second album, Act II: The Father of Death, appears on the soundtrack to Rock Band 4. Here’s hoping that more of their catalog turns up in the game as Downloadable Content, and that we we might get the grand finale, Act III, sometime soon. Maybe alongside Mega Man Legends 3?
There you have it, some cool Mega Man trivia to bring out at parties and other social gatherings. Are you as bummed out about Mega Man Universe, Maverick Hunter, and Legends 3 as we are? Share your feelings in the comments below. This is a safe space. As safe as an anonymous internet comments section can be, at least.