A hero is born
When the original Mega Man game arrived on the scene on December 17, 1987, few players likely imagined that the titular little blue robot would become a video game icon. Yet here we are, 25 years and dozens upon dozens of video games later, and Mega Man is still one of the most recognizable gaming heroes on the planet.
Hes had his ups and downs as hes tackled 2D and 3D, ventured into numerous genres, appeared in multiple forms of media, and crossed paths with other gaming superstars, but no matter the circumstance, the Blue Bomber has always held a special place in gamers hearts. Without further ado, here are the top 25 reasons why we still love Mega Man.
Here comes a new challenger!
As youve probably heard, Mega Man, in all his 8-bit glory, has returned in a brand-new retro-style 2D game to help commemorate his 25th anniversary. And its not just any action game--its Street Fighter X Mega Man, a Capcom crossover that few gamers probably dared imagine would become a reality.
As the two iconic franchises collide, Mega Man puts his Mega Buster to the test against the martial-arts prowess of legends like Ryu, Chun-Li, Blanka, Dhalsim, Rose, Rolento, Urien, and Crimson Viper, and the game is packed with referential nods to both series. Sure, a console version would have been nice, but its hard to complain when Capcoms put the game out on PC for free, so why arent you downloading it right now?
The Mega Man Legends games have been the source of plenty of controversy (most notably the cancellation of the long-awaited, partially fan-created Mega Man Legends 3), but pretty much everybody can agree that the adorable LEGO-like Servbots are one of the highlights of the series.
These hapless helpers of the antagonistic Bonne family are ready to aid their master, Tron Bonne, in any way they can, but they can easily get in over their heads--likely leading to humorous abuse from Mega Man, Tron, or both. The Servbots have an especially prominent role in The Misadventures of Tron Bonne for PS1, and they prove to have some extremely useful attacks in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and 3.
Any series thats been around for 25 years is bound to generate its share of collectible merchandise, and Mega Man is no exception. There have been plenty of impressive Mega Man goods released over the years, including classic Mega Man figures from Jazwares, Japanese Mega Man X action figures from Bandai featuring interchangeable armor, and toys based on the North American Mega Man cartoon and the Mega Man NT Warrior anime.
But our favorite Mega Man collectibles might be the recent D-Arts figures from Bandai and Bluefin Distribution; though pricy, these representations of Mega Man X characters such as X, Zero, and Vile are top-notch, and were looking forward to the release of classic Mega Man characters in the near future.
Something went horribly awry during the localization process of Mega Man X5. Up until then, all of the X series Maverick bosses had relatively cool names, such as Flame Stag and Storm Eagle. But the X5 bosses were inexplicably renamed after Guns n Roses band members, resulting in the likes of Grizzly Slash, Squid Adler, Izzy Glow, Axle the Red, Dark Dizzy, Mattrex, The Skiver, and, last but not least, Duff McWhalen.
Duff--who was chief of an oceanic museum before he went rogue--is our personal favorite due to the fact that his name is so bad its good (or at least jaw-droppingly hilarious). Renaming a robotic whale after bassist Duff McKagen was a weird choice, to be sure, but theres no denying that its memorable.
For years the developers at Capcom pushed Mega Man to his limits with deviously difficult level designs, but Mega Man Powered Up for PSP finally allowed players to sit in the designers chair and get to create levels themselves. The rest of MMPU--basically an enhanced version of the original Mega Man with a double-dose of cute--was fun stuff, but the games custom level editor really put the title over the top and allowed for nearly infinite replayablitity.
From enemy robots, deadly spikes, and lethal pits to health pickups and extra lives, the levels could be packed with whatever you saw fit. You can still find plenty of custom MMPU stages if you look around online.
Read all about it
Licensed Mega Man products certainly arent limited to toys. The Blue Bomber has spawned several comic book and manga publications over the years--heck, there was even a Mega Man 2 novelization way back in the day! A number of the Mega Man publications were relegated to Japan for years, but Udon Entertainment has brought several of them to North America in recent years, including the lauded, thought-provoking Mega Man Megamix and Mega Man Gigamix series by Hitoshi Ariga.
Udon has also localized several sweet Mega Man art books that no fan should be without. But dont ignore the domestic Mega Man periodicals; the ongoing Mega Man series by Archie Comics is pretty darn excellent and goes a long way in fleshing out the Mega Man universe.
Hilariously bad box art
Its become clich to make fun of the original NES Mega Mans box art, but theres just no way around the fact that the awkwardly positioned geriatric Mega Man wearing blue-and-yellow armor is plain awful. Even former Mega Man producer Keiji Inafune once commented, Lets just say I started to think Americans would accept just about anything if they liked this kind of art!
No less hideous is the European Mega Man 2, in which Mega Man looks like a human merged with The Wizard of Ozs tin woodsman. (The European Mega Man 1 art and the North American Mega Man 2 art are rather questionable, too.) Over the years, however, the vintage art has somehow evolved from terrible into nostalgic, and has given rise to intentionally bad Americanized artwork for Mega Man 9 and 10 thats actually kind of cool.
There are more than half a dozen distinct Mega Man series out there, but thats not enough for the Blue Bomber. Oh, no--Mega Man and his cohorts have made their way into numerous other titles, including the Marvel vs. Capcom series, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom, and Onimusha: Blade Warriors. Mega Man was even a playable character in the Dreamcast action game Cannon Spike, and Mega Man.EXE appeared in Konamis Boktai 2 for Game Boy Advance!
Of course, we cant forget the recent controversial appearance of bad box art Mega Man as a playable character in the PS3 version of Street Fighter X Tekken, or the upcoming comic-book crossover with Sonic the Hedgehog (mustachioed scientists unite!). If only fans can convince Nintendo to put Mega Man in the next Smash Bros. game....
If youre playing the classic Mega Man series and you hear a lonely whistle, it can mean only one thing--an appearance by Proto Man. Sporting sweet shades and a stylish scarf, Mega Mans cooler older brother has been a fan-favorite character since he made his debut in Mega Man 3.
Although initially an antagonist dubbed Break Man, Proto Man quickly joined the side of good, regularly popping up to help save the day when the situation seemed most dire. Eventually, Proto Man even became a playable character (first in the Mega Man arcade games, then in Mega Man Powered Up, MM9 and MM10). Weve also got to give Proto Man a nod for lending his name to our favorite Mega Man-inspired rock band, The Protomen.
A story for the ages
At first glance, the Mega Man games seem to have pretty simple (albeit oft elegantly told) stories, but if you look a bit closer, youll discover a complex tale that connects the seemingly disparate series and spans several centuries (if not longer).
Although the classic Mega Man series focuses on a straightforward conflict between good and evil, later titles cover topics such as the rise of independently functioning artificial intelligence, the near-destruction of all humanity on Earth, and the eventual revival of the human race. Pretty intense stuff!
Igniting the retro revolution
Mega Man 9 might not have been the first game to feature a retro-inspired 8-bit visual style, but it certainly helped popularize it. Though the original Mega Man games on the NES looked the way they did due to the technical limitations at the time they were released, the graphics of Mega Man 9 were a stylistic choice--and the game was all the better for it.
Capcom proved that everything old could be new again, and the pixelated visuals and low-fi sounds added an extra layer of authentic, classic appeal that spoke to the hearts of old-school gamers everywhere. (And if that wasnt enough, Capcom went the extra mile by creating fake NES-style boxes as promotional materials.) The formula proved popular enough that Capcom revisited it a year and a half later with the release of Mega Man 10.
The doctor is in
A hero is only as good as the villains he fights, so its a good thing Dr. Wily is around to keep Mega Man on his toes! Obviously a mechanical genius, Dr. Wily just keeps on cranking out one maniacal Robot Master after another, as well as designing massive trap-laden fortresses and screen-filling machines of destruction.
Sure, he has a weird penchant for making his creations weak to each others weapons, and, yeah, some of his robots definitely prove that hes not entirely sane (Clown Man? Cmon!), but every genius has his quirks, right? And Wily clearly has charisma: how else can you explain the fact that he periodically convinces his foes that hes joined the side of good? Besides, you got to love a guy who will go to any lengths--including pretending hes an alien--to overcome his enemies.
Mega Man wouldnt have nearly generated the acclaim that it has if not for its excellent controls. Sure, fantastic graphics and amazing sound are great, but without precision controls, the rest hardly matters--especially when youre talking about a series as demanding as Mega Man.
Luckily, MM has had that aspect nailed since day one; if you miss a jump, fail to leap from a disappearing platform in time, or are unable to properly avoid a projectile, theres no one to blame but yourself. This attention to detail has carried over into nearly every side-scrolling Mega Man game, especially in the super-challenging Mega Man Zero series.
There have been some pretty weird Robot Masters over the years, but the strangest of all just might be Sheep Man from Mega Man 10. Sure, there have been other classic Mega Man bosses inspired by animals, but at least snakes and toads are kind of creepy--Sheep Man is, in a word, adorable.
As if being modeled after a sheep wasn't odd enough, Sheep Man is able to transform his body into clouds of wool that fly overhead and send down bolts of electricity. And why is Sheep Man the boss of some weird cyberspace stage, anyway? Shouldnt he be hanging out in the barnyard or something? Whatever--it doesnt change the fact that Sheep Man is one of the most unforgettable Robot Masters.
An amazing arsenal
Undeniably, one of the coolest aspects of the Mega Man series is the impressive array of weapons that Mega Man can acquire. From fireballs, water blasts, and electrical charges to napalm, bombs, and homing missiles to slide kicks, spinning assaults, and reflective barriers, Mega Man becomes a one-robot arsenal throughout the course of each adventure. In one game he even learns to reverse gravity on his enemies!
And this isnt just true for classic Mega Man; later games get even more explosive thanks to the ability to power-up your special weapons in the X series or the nearly countless number of Battle Chips you can acquire in the Mega Man Battle Network titles. For the record, the coolest weapon of all is probably Mega Man 2s Metal Blade.
A robots best friend
As great as Mega Mans weapons are, hed be in a tight spot without helpful tools to get past tricky obstacles. It started with the Magnet Beam in the original Mega Man and a trio of items in Mega Man 2, but things really got interesting in Mega Man 3 with the introduction of MMs canine companion, Rush.
In addition to being a playful companion for Mega Man, Rush can turn into various useful forms, initially including the Rush Coil (for high jumps), the Rush Marine (a submarine), and the Rush Jet (a maneuverable hoverboard). Over the years Rushs abilities changed and evolved to include the Rush Search, Rush Bike, and Rush Drill, and in some games he can even merge with Mega Man in the form of a powered suit (which is probably awkward and uncomfortable when you think about it).
The wall jump
Mega Man X introduced a lot of cool stuff--more-detailed visuals, new animal-inspired Maverick enemies, a dash maneuver, upgradeable armor, and a slightly aged-up tone to name a few. One of our favorite elements, though, is the main characters ability to jump up walls.
Other games had similar mechanics before, but, true to form, in Mega Man X the action is intuitive, natural, and quite simply a lot of fun; it added just enough complexity to the gameplay to prove that this wasnt just the same old Mega Man, while still looking effortlessly cool. Furthermore, it was an essential technique to master if you wanted to find all of the games secrets and avoid many of the bosses attacks.
The Mega Man franchise refuses to sit still. Sure, each individual series tends to stick to a template (Mega Man 1 looks an awful lot like Mega Man 10, after all), but as a whole, the property has ventured into all kinds of territory, from the 2D action of Mega Man and Mega Man X to the 3D adventuring of Mega Man Legends to the isometric RPG gameplay of Mega Man Battle Network and Mega Man Star Force.
On top of that are Mega Mans forays into sports with Mega Mans Soccer and racing with Mega Man Battle & Chase! Though similar themes appear in each Mega Man series, characters and settings are constantly changing, proving that Capcom isnt afraid to try new things with the Blue Bomber.
Testing your skills
Ask anyone whos played them, and theyll tell you that the Mega Man games arent easy. Between disappearing platforms, instant-death spikes, and tricky boss patterns, chances are good that youll have to replay a given level several times before youre able to beat it. And some parts--such as the notoriously tough end boss of Mega Man 7 or just about anything from Mega Man Zero--require you to spend hours practicing before you can emerge victorious.
The good news is that its all worth it; beating each unforgiving boss and overcoming each treacherous obstacle comes complete with a huge dose of satisfaction. With a few exceptions (cough, Mega Man 9, cough) the games practice-makes-perfect mentality helps make them even more replayable.
Rockin out with Rock Man
All it takes is a look at the characters names--Rock, Roll, Blues, Rush, Bass, Treble, Beat, Tango--to realize that music is at the heart of Mega Man. Music is something everybody knows, Keiji Inafune once stated. There are very few people out there in the world that dont listen to music in some way, shape or form. We all feel it; it has power. So to base characters on that--thats something that we all can understand, and we can all... buy that concept.
In addition, the games have fantastically catchy soundtracks that were especially noteworthy during the NES era due to their surprisingly deep, multilayered sound. Its no surprise that fans have created hundreds of Mega Man remixes (Mega Man 2 is an especially popular subject), or that Capcom has sanctioned numerous music CDs in Japan that feature awesome arranged versions of the Mega Man tunes.
Freedom to choose
Back when Mega Man came out, most games required you to play them in linear fashion, progressing from one stage to the next. Mega Man bucked that trend big time, enabling players to pick whatever level they wanted from a set of six stages (which expanded to eight in most of the sequels). Cant get through one stage? Then try a different one.
Of course, this concept was integral to Mega Mans rock-paper-scissors philosophy, which allowed players to steal defeated bosses weapons in order to exploit other bosses weaknesses; finding the best order to tackle the stages gave the games important elements of freedom and strategy that Mega Mans contemporaries lacked. Sure, some paths through the game might be easier than others, but ultimately the choice was up to the players.
In the Mega Man universe, Zero is the epitome of cool. With his bright-red color scheme, flowing ponytail, badass sword skills, and never-give-up attitude, Zero certainly knows how to make an impression, and in many ways hes a more notable character in the Mega Man X series than X himself! (Considering that Keiji Inafune created Zero as, essentially, a radical redesign of Mega Man, its not surprising he has so much personality.)
Unquestionably, Zeros mysterious past adds to his appeal. Is he indeed Dr. Wilys ultimate creation, as so many Mega Man games have hinted at? Whatever the case, were glad that Zero survived his emotional sacrifice in Mega Man X (and his other subsequent deaths) to go on to star in his own series on Game Boy Advance.
We are the robots
Mega Man just wouldnt be Mega Man without its rogues gallery of Robot Masters and Mavericks. Ever since the beginning, the variety of bots gone bad has been a big part of the franchise, whether were talking about mighty Guts Man, speedy Quick Man, stealthy Shadow Man, creepy Skull Man, massive Stone Man, or destructive Commando Man.
Somehow the folks at Capcom (as well as the fans that helped come up with many of the ideas) managed to make every boss interesting and unique, with each title delivering something fun, new, and crazy. Not every boss is a winner, of course (we still cant believe there was a Mega Man X7 boss thats apparently a robotic onion), but overall its an impressive lineup of villains.
The power of two
Mega Man 2 was the game that turned Mega Man from something good into something great. The title was clearly seen as a labor of love by its developers, and boy did that passion come through in the final product; it surpassed its predecessor in every way, with better graphics, more stages, cooler weapons, improved music, and new modes of transportation for Mega Man. From little touches like Mega Mans bullets bouncing off of armored foes to major moments like the battle against the monstrous robotic dragon, Mega Man 2 was polished to perfection.
Former Mega Man producer Keiji Inafune has even called Mega Man 2 his favorite Mega Man game, noting, Probably in all of my years of actually being in a video game company, that was the best time of my working at Capcom, because we were actually working toward a goal. We were laying it all on the line; we were doing what we wanted to do.
Mega Mans mega fans
While Mega Man wouldnt exist without the fine folks at Capcom, the Blue Bomber wouldnt be where he is now without the enthusiasm of arguably millions of fans around the globe. Even when Mega Man seemed to get pushed to the back burner, the fans have been there, writing Mega Man petitions, coming up with ideas for potential Mega Man games, remixing Mega Man songs, drawing Mega Man art, creating Mega Man crafts, and more.
Fans have been responsible for creating numerous Mega Man bosses, and its a sure bet that games like Mega Man 9, Mega Man 10, and Street Fighter X Mega Man wouldnt have come to fruition without the fans fervent clamor. Mega Man fans, we salute you!
Fight, Mega Man! For Everlasting Awesomeness!
Mega Man has had a very eventful quarter century, but if his legions of fans have anything to say about it, the Blue Bomber is only getting started. (Let us check the calendar... say, isnt next year 20XX?) So where does the diminutive hero go from here? Will the existing Mega Man series return? Will all-new Mega Man series be born? Let us know in the comments how you want to see Mega Man spend the next 25 years.