You can't keep a good Mega Man down. In the recently released Mega Man 9, the titular hero battles eight new robot masters, providing more than enough challenge for even seasoned Mega Man series fans. Earlier this month, the first downloadable content pack--Proto Man--was made available, and the second set of DLC is due to arrive next week. To learn all about the so-called Fake Man, and to learn more about the creation of the new characters in MM9, we chatted with the game's producer, Hironobu Takeshita.
GameSpot: Considering that this is the ninth Mega Man game and that there have been dozens of other Mega Man titles, how difficult was it to come up with eight new robot masters?
Hironobu Takeshita: Each title's development involves unique challenges and dilemmas. The biggest challenge with Mega Man 9 was the challenge of bringing the franchise back to its roots to create a true NES-style game, keeping boss designs to its simplest form while bringing out distinct personalities of each character. [Keiji] Inafune-san designed two bosses and directed the design process for the other six bosses. There were many instances when we all thought we nailed it. Inafune-san didn't agree with what we came up with and further refined the designs. Voila--simpler, very NES characters were born. It was quite an inspirational experience for all of us to refine a design by simplifying it to its limits.
GS: Can you run us through the main robot bosses in the game and tell us what inspired them?
HT: Plug Man and Splash Woman were designed by Inafune-san. Inti Creates' designers designed the other six bosses.
He was designed by Inafune-san. His intention was to guide young designers in the design team toward a certain direction by Inafune-san's leading example. He showed them how to create a Mega Man boss with simple but characteristic features. Plug Man literally embodies a plug and is very simple in his appearances with controlled color variation. He also taught us not to put too much emphasis on the head.
The planning team asked Inafune-san to design a woman boss. "Are you going to have me fail?" That was Inafune-san's initial reaction. But he quickly turned around and said he would make it happen. He immediately started to brainstorm character designs. Originally, Hornet Man was to be a woman, but he came up with an idea of bringing in a woman on the ocean stage as a mermaid. That's how Splash Woman came into being. Head designing is always difficult, but for Splash Woman, her helmet looks like a bobbed-cut hair. It's one of the parts we all love most about her. We had a lot of fun designing the series' first woman character.
We started off with the color of magma: red. The color and the Air Man-like design for its firepower were combined together to get the end result. The designing process for this character went fairly smoothly from there. Though a volcano was the design motif, we later realized he looked just like Needle Man. (We didn't tell anyone and pretended like there was no problem!)
This is one of the characters we had a hard time designing. He uses concrete as his weapon. His arms and legs are big and bulky, which associate with a tank of a cement mixer truck.
We tried to make him look as sleazy and gaudy as possible with a lot of gems. Originally, he was much more eccentric, so we made him move and behave in a very strange way. But now he acts "normally" in the actual game.
Most of the bosses associated with wind had propellers in the past. We tried to think of a unique design, such as propellers on its head. We finally came up with the design that had arms that would open up and turn into propellers.
He is just a Honey Bee Robot. Isn't that way too simple? He was originally to be Honey Woman--a woman robot--but through many redesigning stages, the Honey Bee Robot became a man, and Splash Woman became the first and only woman in the series so far.
How are we going to visualize a concept of galaxy? It was such an abstract idea that we all struggled with. Yet, once we came up with [a UFO enthusiast and photographer George] Adamski-type UFO as a motif, everything followed. He is our designer's favorite of all.
GS: Are there any robot masters that didn't make the cut that you can share with us?
HT: I don't mean to evade your question, but there is one boss we'd love to introduce to the fans in this occasion. His name is Fake Man. He appears on the special stage available in downloadable content. He also makes a small appearance in the main content. This is a big hint! Some of you might have already gotten it by just telling you this. The special stage will be very challenging for most of you, and you may not be able to see him often. Don't be discouraged. He is waiting for you, to battle you!
GS: Did you feel like you had to stick with the old elemental-style template (Water Man, Fire Man, Electric Man, and so on)?
HT: Well, since this was going to be the latest version of the franchise, the design had to inherit some elements from the past bosses. This installment was themed to return to its roots. We tried to make the design resemble that of Mega Man 1 and 2 by making it as simple as we can.
GS: Why do you think the boss formula still works after all these years?
HT: I hate to think you might get bored by me telling you this, but I have to repeat myself because this is what we believe. The formula works because the game design is made extremely simple: visual design, gameplay, attacks, and other movements. All of the elements are simple and fit well together. Simplicity never fades away.
GS: Do you think the series is ready for the kind of reinvention we've seen for the other big Capcom franchises (Resident Evil, Street Fighter), or do you think Mega Man works best as an old-school game?
HT: Old school or reinvention, either one will work. Our decision of going with the old school was right for the ninth installment of Mega Man. We've been hearing that the approach and style has been received well, and that proves our challenge was worthwhile and it was correct. Until now, video development was on the path to make more high-end titles. MM9 was the game NES fans long waited for. We would love to see this particular style of games to be ultimately established as a distinct genre and to see more games of this style.
GS: How long until we get a Mega Man 10?
HT: This can be answered only by fans' passion. We have come this far with the fans' support. If they continue to support Mega Man, we will answer their request by any means. We'd love to hear from you.
GS: Thanks for your time.