The History of Mega Man

Everything you ever wanted to know about Mega Man and more.

by

By Christian Nutt and Justin Speer

In 1987 Capcom introduced what would prove to be one of its most popular characters worldwide - and despite what has been universally called the ugliest box art of all time, Mega Man began to catch on in the US, whose game market is decidedly different from Japan's. At the same time, Rockman was slipping onto Famicom systems in Japan - same blue underpants as Mega Man's but sporting a different name and a more attractive, or perhaps more marketable, cover. A robot built to fight for justice, Mega Man stood for intense, original action platforming on the Nintendo Entertainment System. True to form, Capcom has milked this series for all it's worth; it's a great one - and the company's most important pre-Street Fighter property.

In 1987 the NES was a hot commodity, and consumers flocked to the console in droves. Capcom, as a developer, was already prolific with the system and had a crop of excellent games (Ghosts 'n' Goblins, Trojan) under its belt by the time it released Mega Man. Victimized by arguably unattractive interpretive artwork (a fate that persisted for years to come), the game was a sort of low-key success. The true breakthrough would come with Mega Man 2.

Mega Man recently celebrated his 15th anniversary, and the Blue Bomber is showing no signs of giving up the fight for everlasting peace. Though the classic Mega Man line lies dormant, for now, the mega mythos continues to expand with a seventh game in the Mega Man X series, the now established alternate-reality Mega Man Battle Network titles on the Game Boy Advance, and the budding X-related spin-off series Mega Man Zero.

Join us as we take a look back at the myriad games of the Mega Man legacy, some of which, unfortunately, stayed in Japan and some of which, unfortunately, did not. The bulk of Mega Man's games were good, a few were great, and some we'd rather not discuss at length. There's still one thing they have in common--each is a part of Mega Man history.

Mega Man
(Rockman in Japan)
System: NES (Famicom), Reissued 1999 PlayStation
Released 1987

The Basics
In 1987, Capcom introduced a game to its lineup with an uninspired title and totally appalling box art. It wasn't a huge success. Mega Man, the tale of a boy robot forged by Dr. Thomas Light to end the plague of rebelling construction robots liberated and controlled by his renegade assistant, Dr. Wily, opened up an interesting can of worms for Capcom. The largely nonlinear gameplay and the innovative idea of stealing the weapons of defeated bosses were what earmarked this series for longevity. Later we learned that the boring title and lackluster art were workarounds to the peculiar title of the Japanese original Rockman and the then-taboo anime-style artwork that adorned its cover. And now you understand why Guts Man isn't called Rockman!

Gameplay
You dropped your google-eyed hero into any one of six stages of your choice - Bomb Man, Fire Man, Ice Man, Guts Man, Elec Man, or Cut Man. They didn't really have to come up with totally unique stage names the first time out, as the series was new in the first place, and the characters were just then being introduced. (Further down we'll examine the developer's creativity and where it eventually failed. For now, content yourself with the basic gameplay elements.) After you vanquished the six bosses (perhaps with the elecbeam pause trick, a cheat for massive damage particularly effectual on large bosses) you gained access to the Dr. Wily levels, wherein you had to kill the bosses again (get used to it), huge, nasty and slowdown-ridden blob enemies, and finally come down hard on Dr. Wily himself. Of course, he escaped the grasp of justice in time for a sequel.

The ending contained the classic paradox that sent the world of modern philosophy on its head - "Fight, Mega Man! For everlasting peace!"

The Bosses and Weapons
Welcome to the magic of Mega Man. When you killed bosses, you gained their power - although sometimes that power was shrunk and weakened to fit into Mega Man's little gun. Each boss was weak against a certain other boss's weapon - though the distribution of power was not always completely logical. Of course, that logic became meaningless in the later games in the series. After all, what would you expect Skull Man to be weak against? Let's just enjoy those early, simpler days with their simpler weapons.

This time around you went up against Bomb Man, who gave you bombs (obviously); Fire Man, who gave you a fire beam; Ice Man, who had his little ice shards; Guts Man, who had the ability to hurl large rocks (which you had to find littered about the levels); Elec Man, who had an electric beam, which, besides being powerful, also had a bug which centered around it, pausing and un-pausing the game repeatedly; and Cut Man, with his scissors-blades. In addition, you picked up the magnet step, which let you place platforms that you could jump on.

Japanese Version
In Japan, Mega Man was known as Rockman. While the Japanese game's name may not make a lot of sense note that Rockman was made out of Rock. He served as the household robot that Dr. Light had created to sweep up after the good doctor's messes.

Although it was a victim of low-key presentation, Mega Man was a winner in gameplay. The series was true innovation that slipped through the cracks, as competition was fierce, and tons and tons of NES games were coming out. As would become Capcom's policy with the series for the next couple of generations, the artwork and main character's name was changed as the long spate of cultural isolationism pioneered by the friendly folks at the US divisions of your favorite Japanese developers took hold. It would be ten years before a Mega Man title appeared in the States sporting original artwork..

Mega Man II
(Rockman 2: The Enigma of Dr. Wily in Japan)
System: NES (Famicom), Reissued 1999 PlayStation
Released 1987

The Basics
Mega Man came into his birthright in this, the second title in the series. Unlike the first title, Mega Man II was wildly popular and earned the accolades of the mass consumer. Instead of facing a mere six robot bosses, Mega Man faced eight - which became the series standard. The next important innovation was the addition of passwords, which let you re-enter the game at a later date without starting from scratch. There were also three upgrade items from Dr. Light to augment Rock's powers. Add in the excellent music and the distinctive graphical style that surrounded the game - including portraits of the bosses - and the amazingly huge dragon in Dr. Wily stage 1, and we can assume that Capcom intended to make Mega Man its star.

Gameplay
First, select between normal and difficult mode and then pick a boss - the order you play them in can be important. Make sure to start with Metal Man because he's easy and his blades are absurdly useful. In fact, you can smack down most of the bosses with these blades, especially if you've chosen normal mode. Then, make your way around trouncing bosses and collecting weapons and items. Those huge wolves in Wood Man's stage look really nice, don't they? After you defeat all eight, Dr. Wily shows up again. Play through a few more stages, revanquish the henchmen, and off you go to fight... an alien?

The Weapons and Bosses
The Metal Blade is probably the best weapon in the entire series. The rest of them aren't bad either - the Mega Man bosses aren't even lame - yet. Bubble Man is kind of sad, challengewise, but he's made up for by his stage's superlative tune. When you defeat him you'll get the Bubble Lead, which rhymes with "need," not "head."

You weren't trying to poison the evil robots this time. You tackled Metal Man and his saw blades, Bubble Man and his bubbles, Heat Man and his chargeable "atomic fire," Flash Man, who will let you stop time, Quick Man, whose boomerangs were lethal, Air Man and his baby tornadoes, Crash Man and his bombs, and Wood Man and the leaf shield - a very useful rotating circle of protection.

Japanese Version
Rockman picked up a subtitle in this version - a convention that would be maintained throughout the series and has not been carried over to the US games even to this day. The game was otherwise the same, except that Crash Man was known as Clash Man in Japan (and one can't help but wonder why they bothered - both are kind of silly and both are real words), and there was no choice of modes in the Japanese game. It turned out that normal mode was an easy mode and difficult mode was the only way to play in the original version. Things changed a lot since those days, with this situation being reversed in Metal Gear Solid.

Final Thoughts
Capcom had a huge hit on its hands with this title. Taking the ideas laid down in the first game and refining them, the company came up with an excellent and imaginative game - with some shining spots in graphics and music to help it along. It's one of the true NES classics.

Mega Man III
(Rockman 3: Dr. Wily's Time to Die!? in Japan)
System: NES (Famicom), Reissued 1999 PlayStation
Released 1990

The Basics
Capcom decided to take everything that was Mega Man and polish it until it positively shone - Mega Man III was quite possibly the pinnacle of the series. Not only did Capcom manage to come up with some great bosses and excellent music, developers managed to give you a pretty long experience in this game. This game marked the debut of the mysterious Proto Man - Mega Man's brother. With Rock's canine pal, Rush, and the new handy-dandy slide move, and you had respectable innovations. OK, maybe Top Man wasn't the best idea, but this game held serious flair. If you're going to nit-pick, there are some titles coming up that are much more deserving of your scorn. In the end, this was a top-notch game.

Gameplay
Mega Man III had the same setup as that of the last Mega Man game - although Dr. Light has whipped up a canine pal to assist you this time. This game marked the debut of Rush, Rock's dog, and in this title you used him to traverse the various obstacles in your path. It was a good idea to start with Top Man - his pattern was easy, his weapon was "effective" against Shadow Man, and it's Shadow Man's weapon you really wanted. Shadow blades were as close to metal blades as the designers could get without being totally cheap. The great thing about this game was that you got to play through four bonus stages and fight the bosses from Mega Man II over again - and this time, they weren't the wimps Capcom USA had made them last time around. Add on top of that the eight normal stages and a Wily stage or three and we had a goodly sized game here. However, some players made use of a particularly absurd glitch that would cause Mega Man to become invulnerable. If you held the second-player gamepad to the right, then jumped into a pit, Mega Man would lose all his health and become impervious to damage. Not very honorable, but if you were having trouble beating some of the bosses, you could take the easy way out with this bug.

The Weapons and Bosses
Top Man's topspin had to be the silliest thing ever. Mega Man could now whirl like a top! As you can imagine, it was totally ineffectual except against the big, bad boss (Shadow Man) and, of course, the last boss. Funny how these things work. That's right, Mega Man! Hurl yourself at that huge robot head with your nemesis inside! It'll only take one taste of your spinning prowess to knock him for a loop! Otherwise, we had a decent amount of variety. Things hadn't gotten lame - yet.

In Mega Man III, we got Snake Man, who looked cool but whose little snakes weren't that useful; Gemini Man, whose beams were powerful but hard to aim; Needle Man and his needles; Spark Man and his balls of electricity; Hard Man and the hard punch, a flying fist; Top Man and his dainty spin; Shadow Man and his shuriken; and Magnet Man's magnets, which flew at metallic opponents.

Japanese Version
Ah, yes. The naming conventions of Capcom USA continued to erode the careful themes of the original creators. Blues (to go with Rock and Roll) became Proto Man. It's not a terribly creative name, but neither is "Mega Man." Otherwise, the game was left to its own devices.

Final Thoughts
Again, Capcom brought its immense resources and talent to bear and released another NES classic. Mega Man III was the beginning of the end - various forces would drive the series downward and into the base clay. That's the future - for now, enjoy the fruit of Capcom's labor - its most popular series. The pinnacle of its NES effort - Mega Man III.

Mega Man IV
(Rockman 4: A New Evil Ambition! in Japan)
System: NES (Famicom), Reissued 1999 PlayStation
Released 1991

The Basics
Now, with this title, Capcom did something that annoyed people and would continue to annoy them for several years - the company let Mega Man stay put on the NES, where the cash lay, instead of graduating him to the SNES. The SNES was still fairly young when Mega Man IV hit the shelves - but here we saw the last, real, meaty game to wear the moniker for a good long time. While it never really got to the level of II or III, it was certainly not a complete slouch - although this was where innovation began to run sour. The innovations in this title included a chargeable Mega Buster, the requirement that you go back into levels to find random, hidden stuff (a play mechanic that would later dominate the X series), and the hollow storyline charade involving Dr. Cossack- as it unsurprisingly turned out, Dr. Wily is pulling the strings.

Gameplay
You know the drill. Pick a boss, get his weapon, kill another boss, get his weapon, rinse, repeat. Due to the mediocrity of some of the bosses (Pharaoh Man? Dust Man?) the path to glory is even less clear on this outing. Nobody's got an amazingly useful weapon, so the gameplay is simply trial and error - no other considerations. Toad Man's a wimp, so start with him and move onward.

The Weapons and Bosses
Toad Man could make it rain; Bright Man stopped time and let you shoot; Pharaoh Man duplicated the heat gun from the second game; Ring Man's rings acted as boomerangs; Dust Man threw garbage at the enemies; Skull Man's shield was a variation on Wood Man's; Dive Man's homing missiles were pretty useful; and Drill Man's bombs broke some walls.

Japanese Version
Nothing to note here. Capcom was playing it safe by messing with the US version as little as possible in those days. Do remember that Flip-Top's name was really Eddie, however. Amusingly enough, Capcom did admit during the game's opening that Mega Man's real name was Rock, but the company managed to forget it ever did that soon enough.

Final Thoughts
While it was a bit premature to say this game was the beginning of the end, the series began to show its age with this title. Developers were flocking to the SNES - a move Capcom didn't take with this series for several more years. Mega Man fans were left floundering on an old system, and Capcom's more talented staff began to work on its Super Nintendo projects. Hence, the deterioration of the series.

Mega Man V
(Rockman 5: Blues' Trap!? in Japan)
System: NES (Famicom), Reissued 1999 PlayStation
Released 1992

The Basics
While Capcom had been transitioning itself onto the SNES with great success, it left its once-key series behind and released its biggest game ever, Street Fighter II, that year on Nintendo's 16-bit machine, the SNES. Mega Man V tried really hard, sporting excellent graphics for the NES and some good tunes, but wacky bosses and the market's shift toward the SNES didn't do much to help it. Still, this game saw the introduction of Rock's friend and helper, Beat, a small mechanical bird.

Gameplay
Ho-hum. Sad to say, Mega Man was wearing thin in the area of innovation this time around. There were letters hidden in the stages that spelled out "MEGA MAN V." Once collected, they let you summon the almighty power of the bird, Beat. He was actually pretty cool, but it was a bit of a pain to get all those letters.

The Weapons and Bosses
The aforementioned Beat was a powerful addition to your arsenal but also a pain in the neck to get hold of - the standard weapons you received from Mega Man V's bosses included: Star Man's star crash, a skull shield rip-off; Gravity Man's gravity hold, which reversed gravity; Gyro Man's gyro attack, a gun with limited control; Crystal Man's crystal eye, a ball-type weapon; Napalm Man's napalm bomb; Stone Man's power stone, a Dreamcast fighting game ... wait, no, it was a gun with rotating projectiles; Charge Man's charge kick, which turned your slide deadly; and Wave Man's water wave, a ground-based projectile.

Japanese Version
Besides the fact that you were picking up ROCKMAN V tokens instead of MEGAMAN V tokens, not much to take note of.

Final Thoughts
Capcom put some work into this one, but the real problem was that the aging NES just wasn't holding consumer interest. It was a good game, but gamers were abandoning the NES in droves. Perhaps that's why Mega Man VI (the last NES title in the series) met its own weird fate. But that's for later. For now, try to savor this underappreciated and fairly rare title.

Mega Man VI
(Rockman 6: The Biggest Battle in History!! in Japan)
System: NES (Famicom), Reissued 1999 PlayStation
Released 1993

The Basics
The 16-bit wars were in full swing in 1993 - TurboGrafx had fallen (discontinued late in the year) and Sega and Nintendo were competing with titles like Sonic 3 and Star Fox. But Capcom was so committed to the SNES that after low sales of Mega Man V, it chose not to release this game in the US. Nintendo stepped in and published Mega Man VI in the States.

Gameplay
It's hard to come up with something original to say about the gameplay when Capcom wasn't really coming up with anything original to do in the Mega Man VI game - the largest (and most annoying) innovation was that the levels included both a fake boss and a real boss. Beating the fake boss would not clear the level. You had to beat the real boss to pass. Also, now, not only was Rush your canine companion, but he could also attach himself to you as a powerful suit of armor. Isn't that weird?

The Weapons and Bosses
From the second game on, Mega Man bosses had been the product of design contests offered by Capcom of Japan through Nintendo Power magazine. This time, two of the bosses, Knight Man and Wind Man, were designed by North Americans. Daniel Vallie - a Canadian - designed Knight Man, and Michael Leader - an American - designed Wind Man. The rest of the bosses were of Japanese design. Flame Man, possibly Fire Man's little brother, netted you the fire blast, which melted ice. Blizzard Man, a distant cousin of Ice Man, gave you the blizzard attack. Plant Man brought you a new version of the popular "shield"-type weapon. Tomahawk Man (yes, Tomahawk Man) gave you the silver tomahawk. Yamato Man, a fiercely patriotic Japanese robot, relinquished the Yamato spear. Knight Man gave you another more traditional weapon, the knight chain. Centaur Man (and isn't a centaur just a Horse Man?) gave you the centaur flash - another time stopper. Wind Man provided the wind storm.

Japanese Version
Again, Capcom (or Nintendo) chose to leave well enough alone, transferring the game from Japan to the States intact.

Final Thoughts
The NES was basically dead and buried at this point. Of course, Capcom was about to address this with Mega Man X, but it would be a while before the original series made it to SNES. Mega Man VI was the final NES adventure - and also the cheesiest. If you're looking for mega-laughs, you might want to try this one out.

Mega Man VII
(Rockman 7: The Destined Battle in Japan)
System: SNES (Super Famicom)
Released 1995

The Basics
Finally the Blue Bomber, as fans often call him, makes it to the SNES in Mega Man VII. His descendant, X, had been here for a while, but now he finally made it on his own. The game had at last received the new engine it had been begging for - which is nice, because if this had just been a NES rehash gamers would've been crying in the streets. In actuality, the series was met with some apathy, and this is a pretty rare cartridge to this day.

Gameplay
The magical land of 16-bit made Mega Man bigger and sexier than he had ever been. Capcom's programmers had the SNES well in hand by this time and decided to put real effort into the development of this game. In Mega Man VII, you only had access to four of the bosses from the beginning. You had to beat them to unlock the second group of four. Since Dr. Light built a new helper called Auto (a large, bumbling robot) who ran a shop, you could purchase upgrades using bolts scattered throughout the levels. Dr. Wily wasn't content to let Dr. Light come up with all of the innovations - this time you were assailed by Bass, an intelligent and powerful aggressor who was assisted by Treble, his canine sidekick, in a mirror image of the relationship between Mega Man and Rush. Basically it's what you'd expect from Mega Man, but with a whole new 16-bit polish and shine.

An interesting gameplay bonus was that a limited version of Street Fighter - featuring only Mega Man and Bass - was included in the game! If you input the code 1415 5585 7823 6251 and then held down the L and R while pressing start, you were able to access it. Pretty cool.

The Weapons and Bosses
Back to work, the Mega Man development team managed to come up with much more interesting bosses and weapons this time around. We had Burst Man, whose danger wrap encases the enemy in a bubble and releases a bomb on it; Cloud Man, whose thunder strike was pretty normal but could also be used to illuminate the darkness; Junk Man, whose junk shield actually added some innovation to this Mega Man standard because it gradually wore down and could be shot like a projectile; Freeze Man, whose freeze cracker was an ice bomb; Slash Man, whose slash claw was a basic slashing weapon; Spring Man, whose wild coil bounced around the screen; Shade Man and his crush noise, which could be powered up if you caught it on the rebound; and Turbo Man, whose burning Wheel rolled on the ground and provided illumination.

Japanese Version
The Rockman 7 game had more dialogue in Japan. In the US version, when you beat a level you'd speak with Dr. Light, but in the Japanese version you might have heard from Auto or Roll as well. They exchanged clever banter with Rockman before he continued on. The name changes continued, but at least Capcom USA decided to stick to the music theme when naming Bass and Treble. The original names in Japan were Forte and Gospel. Auto was known as Lightoto.

Final Thoughts
Finally, a real upgrade to the original series on the SNES, after so many years on the moribund NES crippled the series. Unfortunately, it was a bit late to recover the massive popularity that the series had once enjoyed, but this was definitely a solid game. If you can find it used, it's a good buy.

Mega Man VIII
(Rockman 8: Metal Heroes in Japan)
Systems: PlayStation, Sega Saturn
Released 1997

The Basics
Having released only one "real" Mega Man game on the SNES (which was dominated by Mega Man X games), Capcom moved on to the PlayStation with this excellent and invigorated attempt at bringing the series into the 32-bit era while still retaining classic gameplay. The addition of anime cutscenes, tons of animations and voices, and new characters made this an especially interesting addition to the series.

Gameplay
The game plays basically like any other Mega Man game in the past - shoot, run, slide, and charge. The levels offered some new challenges with high-speed jumping and sliding and parts that are almost like side-scrolling shooting games, but it's pretty classic. Rush has been relegated to a sort of power-up or passive-assistance role, as opposed to being a useful tool.

The Weapons and Bosses
Like the seventh game in the series, this one followed the "four and four" mentality: Beat the first four bosses to gain access to the next four. This time around we had Tengu Man, a birdlike (indeed, Tengu are mythical Japanese raven-goblins) creature from whom you got the tornado hold; Clown Man, a mean-hearted merrymaker whose thunder claw was useful for swinging from place to place; Grenade Man, whose masochistic nature caused him to giggle in glee as you shot him and who relinquished the flash bombs on defeat; Frost Man, who was slow, stupid, and who gave you ice wave; Astro Man, a nervous robot whose astro crush was amazingly powerful; Aqua Man, who was bizarrely narcissistic and whose water balloons were surprisingly useful; Sword Man, an honorable warrior with flame sword to offer; and Search Man, a two-headed military robot with homing sniper missiles. Additionally, in the Saturn version you could face off against old friends Cut Man and Wood Man to remixed versions of their original tunes - an excellent bonus. It's also probably worth mentioning that Dr. Wily will put you up against the giant blob of Mega Man I and III fame once again.

Japanese Version
This one was a real doozy. The voices in this game sounded as though Capcom USA spent about seven or eight dollars on the localization. Not only was the acting universally bad - sometimes the actors fudged their lines - they do this on the takes developers actually used. The upbeat J-Pop opening theme has been replaced by a decent instrumental, but the pop tune is sorely missed. Similarly, the sweet ending theme was removed as well. This is the first game in the series that did feature original Japanese artwork on the game's cover, although it was not the Japanese cover art but a much plainer action shot of the hero. The original cover art could be found below the disc tray in the PlayStation version, however.

Final Thoughts
Mega Man VIII was an extremely high-quality game that hearkened back to what gamers had loved about the classic series and brought it into the present (well, the recent past, at this point) with a nice bit of polish. An excellent showcase of just what 2D games could do on the PlayStation and Saturn when other developers were totally eschewing the form for polygons. You can probably find this one in bargain bins in any mall, so definitely give it a shot.

Mega Man X
(Rockman X in Japan)
Systems: SNES (Super Famicom), PCs with DOS or Windows
Released 1994

The Basics
Perhaps due to the complaints from gamers who were eager to see their favorite blue mascot on the SNES but unwilling to end the franchise's successful run on that platform, in 1994 Capcom came up with a side series to appease fans. Mega Man X added some very interesting new gameplay elements to the series -managing to seem both fresh and original and classic at the same time. X took place after Dr. Light's death - and presumably Dr. Wily's - when a new threat to peace, Sigma, arose and formed a group of "Mavericks," essentially rebel robots. Dr. Light had sealed the completed X in a capsule to be awakened at the first sign of danger, and that's just what happened in the game's intro. X would be joined by the enigmatic Zero, a red-clad, blonde ponytailed robot who was interested in furthering the cause of justice and destroying the Mavericks.

Gameplay
X was capable of more interesting moves than Mega Man, but he faced more in terms of initial setbacks as well. X could cling to walls and slide down them or jump ever upward to ascend vertical surfaces. Instead of sliding, he could dash - once you found the capsule containing the dash option. He could also break certain bricks with his head (once you found his new helmet) and absorb more damage (once you found his new armor). Last but certainly not least, intrepid adventurers would stumble on the Hadoken - that's right, Ryu's fireball - by completing Armored Armadillo's stage a whopping four extra times, in addition to the ones required to defeat the boss. Besides these specials X had to fight for his life - because he started with a short energy bar and had to find hearts to extend its length. Finally, rechargeable energy tanks were also scattered throughout the landscape.

Another cool feature of X's gameplay was that the order you beat the stages in could be important - for example, if you defeated Storm Eagle and then went on to Spark Mandrill's stage, pieces of the eagle's destroyed air carrier would smash through the glass tubing Mandrill used to construct his demesnes, causing power outages throughout the level.

The Weapons and Bosses
Sigma's obviously a fan of animals, because all of the bosses in this game were ferocious animalistic robots: Chill Penguin, with shotgun ice; Spark Mandrill, with electric spark; Armored Armadillo, with rolling shield; Launch Octopus, with homing torpedoes; Boomer Kuwanger, with boomerang cutter; Sting Chameleon, with chameleon sting; Storm Eagle, with storm tornado; and Flame Mammoth, with fire wave. An interesting side note was that you could charge any of these weapons once you procured X's gun upgrade. Also, shooting Armored Armadillo with electric spark destroyed his armor, Chill Penguin could be set aflame with fire wave, and most humiliating of all, shooting Flame Mammoth with boomerang cutter chopped off his trunk. It just made him mad.

Japanese Version
The bosses had much wackier names in the original version. They made much less sense in English. Chill Penguin, for example, was known as "Icy Penginko." We also had Burning Naumander, Armored Armage, Storm Eaglet, Sting Chameleo, Bumeral Kuwanger, Spark Mandriller, and Launcher Octopus.

Final Thoughts
Mega Man X was a great way for the franchise to come to the SNES. Without sacrificing the traits that made Mega Man so appealing, Capcom made some interesting changes to the title that livened up the series. Of course, true to the company's nature, it was about to do the thing to death. This first title made fans of the original series even hungrier for a 16-bit upgrade that wouldn't happen for a while, but it also gave something nice to console those starving fans.

Mega Man X2
(Rockman X2 in Japan)
Systems: SNES (Super Famicom)
Released 1994

The Basics
Capcom seemed determined to enhance everything that was liked about the first game in the series with Mega Man X2 - and that's what it did. While some of the bosses might have been a bit questionable, the graphics, music, levels, attacks, and special power-ups were all in abundance. The plot thickened, too, and it became apparent that this series tried to veer from its predecessor by featuring an involving story with engaging characters. This game's concerned not only with defeating the evil robots but also with restoring Zero - your comrade from the first game.

Gameplay
Mega Man X2 was not too different from the first game in the series, as it used an enhanced version of that title's engine (as we've come to expect from this franchise). The innovations were mostly in the area of power-ups. There was a gun upgrade for X that allowed boss-weapon charging and double shots. Mega Man X2's armor upgrade allowed a special attack when charged by damage. The helmet let you find hidden passages. Finally, there was a new air dash, as X came to this game equipped with the normal dash. Of course, there was also a secret in this one - the appearance of the Shoryuken, not unlike the Hadoken from the first game.

The Weapons and Bosses
Again we enjoyed the prowess of the steel menagerie. This time the choices were even more esoteric. Wheel Gator powered you up with his saw wheel; Bubble Crab bequeathed the bubble stream; Flame Stag (cool flaming antlers!) gave you the speed burner; Morph Moth left you the silk shot; Magna Centipede released the magnet mine to you; Crystal Snail, a surprisingly agile foe, had the crystal hunter; Overdrive Ostrich gave you the sonic slicer; and the extremely bizarre Wire Sponge had the strike chain. Again, you picked on the bosses with weapons - silk shot broke Magna Centipede's tail; speed burner burned Morph Moth when he was in caterpillar mode; sonic slicer cut right through Wire Sponge; and magnet mine knocked off Crystal Snail's shell. It's also worth noting that Zero won't be so happy you went to such trouble to resurrect him - and you'll end up having to smack him around. Then again, you'll probably want to.

Japanese Version
As in the first game, the names of the bosses in the Japanese version were on the wacky side. In fact, they were practically incoherent. We had Metamor Mothminos, Wire Hechimarl, Flame Stagger, Bubbly Crabroth, Wheel Aligates, Sonic Ostrig, Magne Hundred-Legger, and Crystar Mymine. So on occasion, you couldn't feel too bad about some of the cleaning up Capcom did when localizing.

Final Thoughts
Mega Man X2 was another intense adventure from the X team. While it was definitely not your classic Mega Man, the series really defined itself in terms of gameplay, story, and aesthetic. The game even employed the use of a DSP chip for graphics. Capcom seemed to have gone all out on the X series the same way it did with the original series in the heyday of the NES.

Mega Man X3
(Rockman X3 in Japan)
System: SNES (Super Famicom), PlayStation (Japan only), Saturn (Japan only), PC
Released 1995

The Basics
X was, hardly surprisingly, back. "More and more" was the theme of this game, as it was longer, more complex, and it featured more power-ups than the original. You even got a chance to take control of Zero this time out.

Gameplay
Developers used the same engine for MM X3, so you could basically expect more of the same. The neat thing about using the "right weapon" in this game was not just that it hurt the boss more - but it affected his ability to attack you. Shoot his weapon with the correct special weapon and it canceled his attack. Otherwise it was the same old hunt for power-ups we knew and loved. You even got to pick and choose from several of these weapons because there were so many.

The Weapons and Bosses
Here we go again - more metal animals. Blizzard Buffalo's frost shield, Toxic Seahorse's acid rush, Tunnel Rhino's tornado fang, Volt Catfish's triad thunder, Crush Crawfish's spinning blade, Neon Tiger's rays pulsar, Gravity Beetle's bug hole, and Blast Hornet's parasitic bomb.

Japanese Version
Per the usual patter, the bosses had different names. We had Exploze Hornet, Frozen Buffalio, Gravity Beatbood, Acid Seahorse, Elecitail Namazroth, Scissors Shrimper, Screw Massaider, and Shining Tiguard.

The PlayStation and Saturn versions of X3 offered lots of FMV sequences, but they were pretty low budget, and the loading time was out of range. The gameplay was fantastic, however. These titles were also good because they could be found reasonably easily, whereas looking for a copy of the SNES cart? Good luck.

Final Thoughts
They went a little far on this one. The number of power-ups and bonuses began to get in the way of the gameplay, and the plot just didn't work as well as the X hunters in X2. The bonus of controlling Zero was neat but it didn't really add that much - as you were forced to use X in lots of areas, and Zero couldn't be powered up. Still, it wasn't a bad game by any stretch of the imagination.

Mega Man X4
(Rockman X4 in Japan)
Systems: PlayStation, Saturn, PC
Released 1997

The Basics
This game took the same route as Mega Man VIII - that is, the graphics were revamped in a more detailed style, there were great FMV interludes, and the game was available for both the Saturn and the PlayStation - albeit with minimal differences this time out. There appeared to be yet another Maverick rebellion, and the Colonel's army of Reploids was caught up in it - a potentially dangerous situation. X had saved the day once again - or was that Zero? For in this installment you could play the game to completion using either character.

Gameplay
As VIII felt different from VII, Mega Man X4 felt different from the SNES X games - a bit like a crossbreed of Mega Man VIII and Mega Man X. The same basic ideas remained - hunting for power-ups and slaying animalistic warrior robots. When you played as Zero, instead of obtaining special weapons from the bosses, you obtained special moves, not unlike in a fighting game. The key to winning with Zero was to figure out how to attack with most skill, instead of selecting the appropriate weapon.

The Weapons and Bosses
Frost Walrus had the frost tower; Jet Stingray had the ground hunter; Slash Beast had the twin slasher; Web Spider had the lighting web; Split Mushroom had soul body; Cyber Peacock had aiming laser; Storm Owl had double cyclone; and Magma Dragoon had rising fire.

Japanese Version
By this point in the series, it became apparent that the Japanese developers liked to play with language a bit more than Capcom USA did. This time we had Magmard Dragoon, Frost Kibatodos, Jet Stingren, Slash Beastleo, Web Spidus, Cyber Kujacker, and Storm Fukuroul. Split Mushroom was actually the same in both versions. Again, Capcom put very little effort into the dubbing. Ignoring the fact that X was a more mature and tougher robot than his big brother Mega Man, Capcom used the same annoying, whiny, girlish voice they had used for him in VIII. It seemed even sillier coming from the lips of this sharp-edged Mega Man. On the other hand, the company used original art for the cover again - a continuing trend from here on out in the series.

Final Thoughts
Released after Mega Man VIII and adapting to the similar style of taking technological leaps, the game had a solid feel and a nice look. A lot of the mess that was made with X3 was forgotten this time around as this game went back to the basics for the X series while at the same time implemented an important innovation - a fully controllable Zero.

Mega Man X5
(Rockman X5 in Japan)
Systems: PlayStation, PC
System: February 2001

The Basics
Mega Man doesn't stray from the stalwart 2D style Capcom delivers him in game after game, but fans of 2D, Mega Man, and the way Capcom combines the two don't seem to mind. Mega Man X5 is another solid example. In Mega Man X5, you assume the role of both the Blue Bomber himself and an android named Zero--the X series' recurring costar. Zero absorbs the powers of his defeated enemies. Mega Man (or X, as he's called in the series), on the other hand, behaves more or less like he has for years--he jumps, he shoots, and he can even affect a Princess Toadstool-like float, thanks to his magnetic boots.

Gameplay
The stage layout was classic Mega Man--each boss had his own domain, which you had to penetrate in order to ultimately face him in a one-on-one duel. The stages themselves were fairly large and for the most part linear; while there were no true hidden paths to be found, there was usually more than one way to overcome the obstacles on each screen. Success depended on being able to blast enemies efficiently, being good at executing tricky jumps, and learning enemy patterns. Players reared in the 16-bit era will know the drill well.

The Bosses
The bosses in X5 are called the Mavericks. Their forms are basically bestial, and their powers more or less reflect this; there's a bear cyborg, a whale cyborg, and a sort of evil Pegasus-like cyborg, among others. Of course, when they're defeated, you adopt a version of their power, which use you can use in your further adventures.

Final Thoughts
Fans of the classic 2D Mega Man games will no doubt find much to love in X5, while those who can't get into the aging conventions and mechanics probably won't care a great deal for it. In any case, it's fair to warn that the game is rather short--a well-versed 2D-platformer player could conceivably blow through the game in the neighborhood of five hours. Many Mega Man fans hoped the next X series game would have found its way to the Dreamcast or PlayStation 2, but it was another round on the ol' PlayStation.

Mega Man X6
Systems: PlayStation
Released December 2001

The Basics
The X series has become much more convoluted in terms of gameplay and story. X6 focuses on a brilliant scientist named Gate who has engineered superpowerful mavericks to hunt down a ghostly version of Zero--but don't worry, the real Zero is quite playable. The game also offers four armors, customizable attributes for X and Zero via upgrade modules (as seen in X5), and the incredibly confusing Nightmare system, which governs story, rank, stage conditions, and everything else.

Gameplay

The gameplay here was, for the most part, representative of the X series with a few exceptions. There were 128 reploids to be rescued in the game's normal stages, and if you saved them, they would provide you with items and upgrade modules. Difficulty was also uneven; some stages and bosses seemed to remove skill from the equation by being brutally random or nauseatingly easy.

The Weapons and Bosses
Interestingly, X could wield Zero's saber in this game, just like in X3. Creature names were rather direct translations of the original Japanese, which led to some interesting monikers--Blizzard Wolfang (Ice Burst) and Commander Yammark (Yammar Option) being the most normal. You also ran into a mechanical dung beetle called Ground Scaravich (Ground Dash), as well as Blaze Heatnix (Magma Blade), Shield Sheldon (Guard Shell), Infinity Mijinion (Ray Arrow), and Metal Shark Player (Metal Anchor).

Final Thoughts
Some Mega Man fans accepted the inconsistencies of X6, but some were not so kind. What could be the last of the 2D X titles was experimental and arguably the least cohesive X title in existence. It definitely wasn't perfect, but it definitely was Mega Man. One final note: Don't be a Metal Shark Player hater. He's not that bad a boss.

Mega Man X7
Systems: PlayStation 2
Released October 2003

The Basics
After running for 10 years, Mega Man X finally goes 3D. Kind of. With a hybrid concept that features characters composed entirely of polygons traversing both open 3D areas and locked side-scrolling stages, X7 met with some trepidation from series fans. In the end, X7 provided some decent new ideas mixed with classic Mega Man X action.

Gameplay
Three heroes were available, though in a reversal of fortune it was X who would join up late this time. At the outset, the plasma sword-swinging Zero was paired with newcomer Axl, who had the ability to hover and transform into enemies by copying their robo DNA. Two characters could be chosen for each proper level, and like with the bonus feature in Mega Man Xtreme 2, you could switch between the two characters at will. The 3D stages used a rudimentary targeting system, while the traditional side-scrolling stages played just as you would expect them to. Unfortunately, with the switch to 3D the series had its first taste of camera problems.

The Bosses
Among a mechanical monkey, warthog, anteater, fly, crow, and hyena, the mighty Tornado Tonion made his debut. With his eclectic tornado and dashing good looks, he might have the stuff to create yet another Mega Man spin-off. Or maybe not.

Final Thoughts
Even with a dramatically slower Zero and the addition of sometimes-unwieldy 3D elements, X7 still retained the Mega Man feel. That feel seemed to be getting a bit tired, however, at least within the X series. Stages and bosses have become nearly indistinguishable from their predecessors, while weapons and powerful armor are repeatedly gained and lost. At this point, some gamers are clearly losing interest in what the series has to offer.

Mega Man Legends
(Rockman Dash in Japan)
Systems: PlayStation, PC
Released 1998

The Basics
With Mega Man Legends, the Mega Man series took the leap many had been waiting for - the leap into 3D. Advocates of the original 2D games were disappointed, but those who eschewed 2D pleasures in favor of the polygonal landscape afforded by the PlayStation were excited to see the mascot of their youth in this format. This game took a strong thematic break from the series - the main character, Rock Volnut (absurdly named Megaman Volnut in the US version) was a human boy in a power suit who spent the game with his helmet off, his unkempt hair in view. The adopted sister of Roll Casket, he's a treasure hunter. This is more of an adventure title than a shoot-'em- up. Think Mega Raider, and you've got the idea, sort of. It was a whimsical romp through the ruins.

Gameplay
RockRaider, sorry, Mega Man Legends, was a 3D adventure title. While you still had the mega buster affixed to your arm and had to shoot enemies, you ran and jumped in all eight directions as you explored the depths of ruins searching for treasure and destroying bosses. There were some puzzle-solving elements, and the game was kind of set up like an RPG. You talked to some townspeople, gathered information, and then proceeded to a dungeon to explore its crevices and crannies while searching for goodies. While Capcom could've tried to make it a standard type of Mega Man game, it didn't - it was a decent 3D adventure, but it would've been good to see the stage/boss ideals of the earlier games upheld.

The Weapons and Bosses
Since the gameplay in Mega Man Legends was different from other Mega Man games, this wasn't going to be a simple list of boss names. This time around Mega Man could shoot, kick, and run. Instead of winning upgrades, Roll would cook up weaponry enhancements in her portable lab, which would become available as you progressed through the game. The bosses were more of the huge, mechanical variety and simply had to be taken out to beat the game.

Japanese Version
Capcom USA must've realized that the large quantity of voice in the game required semiprofessional acting this time around. The dubbing was OK, but it seemed to be marketed toward small children. The intro was especially patronizing. Naming the kid Mega Manmade the dialogue seem really silly - after all, in Mega Man IV they'd established that Mega Man's name was actually Rock - a nice way to seal up the continuity mistake. A few names were fudged, and the US ended up with the hilariously mistranslated "Feldinand." Finally, an instance of dog kicking from the Japanese version was replaced with "dog talking-to" in the States.

Final Thoughts
An entertaining game but not really a Mega Man title, Mega Man Legends was more of an adventure with RPG elements. Still, to bring the series into 3D and retain the aesthetics it had been famous for was a good move. Capcom tried its best to deliver a sense of the traditional Mega Man style to this game, if not the form itself. It will be interesting to see if it can keep the series closer to the original games when Mega Man Legends 2 arrives.

The Misadventures of Tron Bonne
(Tron ni Kobun in Japan)
System: PlayStation
Released April 2000

The Basics
The Misadventures of Tron Bonne stars the villainess by the same name, Tron Bonne - the harried pirate sister whose wacky appearance livened up Mega Man Legends. Since Tron needs to get her pirate hands on some filthy lucre, you'll play a variety of different minigames to help her build the family fortune, with the help of the servbots who had assisted her the first time out.

Gameplay
You play puzzle, RPG, action, and some adventure modes in The Misadventures of Tron Bonne. While variety is good, it seems as though Capcom could've better served us this game by sticking to one mode of play, as in Mega Man Legends.

The game puts you in the shoes of Tron Bonne, the loveable 14-year-old pirate-in-training nemesis of Mega Man. The Blue Bomber and crew are nowhere to be found, though; this game's focus is squarely on the Bonne family. Tron's square-jawed older brother Tiesel and robotic baby brother Bon Bonne have been captured by the eponymous Loath. Tron gathers the 1 million zenny in ransom money through heists, treasure hunting, and other acts of piracy. She won't have to do it alone, though; her army of Servbots helps out on the many missions.

The game, which runs on a slightly modified version of the Legends engine, is a bit short and not exactly great looking. But what it lacks in visuals, it makes up for in fun.

Japanese Version
The Japanese version is titled "Tron ni Kobun" - Kobun (which means "follower") being the names of the little Lego-faced servbots from the US version. Tron is, of course, our heroine. We shouldn't be expecting to see any changes other than what happened to Mega Man Legends - budget issues and mistakes.

Final Thoughts
Not really a whole game on its own merits--it's more of a bridge between Mega Man Legends 1 and 2. Fans will most likely be entertained by it, but it is not really a title that will appeal to everyone.

Mega Man Legends 2
System: PlayStation
Released October 2000

The Basics
The Misadventures of Tron Bonne arrived after Mega Man Legends but served as a spin-off, not a sequel to the game. Mega Man Legends 2, the true sequel to Mega Man Legends, arrived in October 2000 and improved upon many of the complaints--such as the poor graphics and difficult to maneuver controls--that fans of the series had about the original Legends. And the game takes the Legends world just a bit more seriously.

Gameplay
The game involves the sealed key, which is said to unlock something known only as the Great Legacy. Like the first, Legends 2 is an action-RPG-style game; however, the Legends world has grown from being a small town to a collection of towns in a more sizable plot of land. You'll travel on a world map to different areas in your own airship, the Flutter, which is a small location in itself. Once you've landed, you can poke around town, explore the outlying areas, or descend into one of many dungeons for a dig. With emphasis on exploration and a world map comes increased longevity, making MML2 closer to the length of a standard RPG.

Control was one of the biggest problems in Legends, and the sequel offers the flexibility and Dual Shock analog support that the first title screamed for. Four basic control schemes and several adjustable control options make it easy to find something that works for you, and you can take a short quiz that will help the game suggest a scheme based on your answers.

The Characters
Almost all the major characters from the previous games return: Mega Man, Roll, the infamous Bonne family, the small army of comic relief known as the Servbots, the perpetually dancing monkey Data, and even Glyde and a few new ones tossed in for good measure.

Final Thoughts
As the Legends series is further refined, it becomes obvious that the series going 3D was not merely a gimmick. Mega Man Legends 2 fixes a lot of the flaws in the original and is a substantial improvement upon the Legends formula. Capcom has turned what began as a mere spin-off into a worthy stand-alone franchise..

Mega Man 64
System: Nintendo 64
Released January 2001

The Basics
Mega Man 64 is the Nintendo 64 port of the original 1998 Mega Man Legends for the PlayStation. And the leap to the N64 this late in the game wasn't exactly a smooth move.

Gameplay
As in the PlayStation game, after crash-landing on a remote island, the boy in blue--known as Mega Man-- soon comes face-to-face with the comically nefarious band of pirates known as the Bonnes, and he begins to unravel an ancient mystery surrounding the area.

Final Thoughts
While the environments are expanded a bit in the N64 version, the plot, characters, weapons, and most everything else remain exactly the same as they do in the PlayStation game, so this version offers little incentive to play to those who already took on the PlayStation version. If you're a sole N64 owner, the unsightly jagged edges that populated the PS version have been eliminated, but the N64 blankets the game with its trademark blurry textures. Unless you're a die-hard Mega Man fan who owns only a Nintendo 64, there's little value in this game for you..

Mega Man Battle Network
Systems: Game Boy Advance
Released October 2001

The Basics
In the future, the whole Internet thing has really taken off. Battle Network finds Mega Man as a self-aware computer program called a Net Navi, acting as a personal assistant and best friend to a boy named Lan. With Net crime running rampant, the mysterious WWW organization wreaks havoc in the network age. Mega Man "jacks in" to personal computers, televisions, and toasters and surfs the Net to combat this menace.

Gameplay
The battle system of Battle Network was quite original, especially when compared to the classic action-based Mega Man games. It was more of an RPG, but unlike in a traditional RPG, skill was a primary factor in the game. Mega Man gained levels by installing upgrade programs to increase hit points and attack power, but in true Mega Man tradition, quick reflexes and recognizing attack patterns ruled the day. Battles took place on a 3-by-8 grid, initially split in two, dividing your area from the enemy's. You and the enemy moved and attacked in real time, which resulted in fast-paced but strategic encounters.

The Weapons and Bosses
Along with the trusty mega buster, your arsenal was composed of battle chips, which were drawn from a customized folder. In this way the combat mimicked the strategy of a trading card game. Each chip had a different range, power, and effect. There were a multitude of damage-dealing chips, such as spreader and longsword, as well as chips that could steal or destroy tiles, recover life, or even call in another Navi for help.

Bosses came in the form of other Navis, which in many cases were pulled from past Mega Man games. You squared off against familiar faces like Guts Man and fought against new robots like the devious Number Man. If you defeated them, there was a good chance you could use their powers against your enemies by attacking with their special chip--an update of the stolen-powers concept conceived in classic Mega Man titles.

Final Thoughts
The game's battle system aptly captured the essence of Mega Man, and so did the colorful visual style. The boy in blue himself was smartly redesigned, as were other classic characters like Roll, Guts Man, and Proto Man. There were also plenty of visual and verbal references that fans immediately picked up on..

Mega Man Battle Network 2
Systems: Game Boy Advance
Released June 2002

The Basics
Mega Man reprises his role as a virus-busting, high-spirited Net navigation program teamed up with a boy named Lan. Three months after the events in the original Battle Network went down, a new threat by the name of the Net-Mafia Gospel rises up to plague the Net-dependent world. Lan sets out to become an official Net Battler and do his part, with the help of Mega Man of course.

Gameplay
The gameplay of Battle Network 2 very closely mirrored that of the original. Lan and Mega Man could still communicate with each other and explore their respective worlds, and Net battles played out on the same grids, combining battle chip strategy with quick reflexes and thinking. New in the sequel was the "style change," which allowed Mega Man to take on an elemental property and a special attribute, such as increased buster power or the ability to reflect attacks with an instant shield.

The Weapons and Bosses
A huge variety of chips were present in Mega Man's second venture into the battle network--260 to be exact. You used these swords, punches, needles, hammers, yoyos, bombs, and guns against more famous series robots like Air Man, Quick Man, Shadow Man, and even Bass.

Final Thoughts
Not much changed in the first sequel, but change usually comes gradually in the world of Mega Man (or the world of Capcom, for that matter). There was plenty of refinement, though, and an excellent continuation of the original game's story.

Mega Man Battle Network 3 (Blue and White)
Systems: Game Boy Advance
Released June 2003

The Basics
Another trip to the virus lab, another fiendish plot by the WWW to bring the world to its knees. Those W's are starting to look awfully familiar; could they possibly have some connection to the infamous Mega Man ubervillain Dr. Wily?

Gameplay
Once again, the battle network loaded its unique program of collect-and-battle RPG gameplay. The digital scrapping still took place on a rectangular grid divided into player and enemy areas, where you'd use your reflexes to dodge attacks and punish the enemy with Mega Man's arsenal of battle chips. Style changes were back, giving you an elemental strength, a special attribute, and the added ability to use programs for that style through a "Navi customizer." If you screwed things up, you had to deal with glitches and bugs!

The programs were like puzzle pieces that you had to rotate in relation to the command line. If you did this correctly, you would get unique powers that included the Battle Network version of WinZip, which allowed you to pass through narrow passageways on the Net. You also took odd jobs from message boards, and you were able to "breed" viruses on a very limited scale, which is more of a novelty or bonus feature than something that changes the way the game plays.

The Weapons and Bosses
The chip collection grew even larger with the third coming of the Battle Network. Two hundred regular chips, 85 mega-class chips, and 20 giga chips were included. The rarest chip of all was Mr. Famous’ Navi Punk, which was only available at official Capcom battling events.

Final Thoughts
While each game had a great deal in common with the others, the Battle Network series managed to make respectable improvements each time. Trading and battling with a friend over the link cable was also worth a try, and of course since there were two versions of the game, each with slightly different chip catalogs, trading was required if you wanted to collect each of the more than 300 chips in the game. Producing two versions was a little gimmicky, but Mega Man Battle Network 3 was undoubtedly another step up for the maturing series.

Mega Man Zero
Systems: Game Boy Advance
Released September 2002

The Basics
Zero awakens from a long sleep (see his ending in X6) to face an army bent on retiring (read: destroying) reploids. Many fans had dreamed of seeing Zero as the central character of a Mega Man title, and their hopes were finally realized in this game.

Gameplay
You still selected a stage and fought your way to the boss, taking out everything that stood in your way and taking care not to come into contact with deadly floor and ceiling spikes, but you didn't absorb the powers of that boss upon his defeat. Instead, Zero used a handful of weapons, which he mastered over time through repeated use. Cyber elves could be found to provide backup effects, such as saving you from a pit or halving a boss's life. Each level had to be cleared in one straight shot, though you were allowed to retry once you reached a boss. Like in certain games in the X series, your performance was ranked according to a strict system.

The Weapons and Bosses
Zero's weapons (the Z-saber, buster, triple rod, and shield boomerang) gained levels and new attacks as they were used, and elemental crystals supplemented them with additional effects. The ice chip froze, the thunder chip paralyzed, and the fire chip burned enemies over time.

The game had a large collection of bosses, since many bosses had lackeys under their command. Mythological names like Harupia, Fefnir, and Leviathan dominated the list.

Final Thoughts
With gameplay truly befitting the Mega Man name, a unique art style, and enough twists to the story and mechanics to set it apart, Mega Man Zero succeeded on every level that matters. The nicest touch? Variable death animations for bosses depending on how they were killed. A finishing blow with the Z-saber would fittingly cleave your foe in two.

Mega Man Zero 2
Systems: Game Boy Advance
Released October 2003

The Basics
Mega Man Zero met with enough success to warrant a sequel, and so a new Mega Man series was born. A year after the events in the first game, the reploid resistance was forced into action once again.

Gameplay
The basic gameplay of Zero 2 was almost identical to that of the first title. The game retained its brisk level of difficulty, and the cyber elves were back to help out in a pinch. Zero wielded nearly the same useful assortment of weapons too, which again were powered up through repeated use. There were, however, new techniques to be mastered by attaining an A rank or higher in certain stages.

The Weapons and Bosses
Many of the same bosses returned for Zero 2, but they were joined by an entire cadre of new ones who would have loved to take Zero apart piece by piece. The red-clad hunter once again wielded the Z-saber, buster, and shield boomerang, which could be enhanced with the same three elemental crystals.

At least a few things changed, though. The triple rod was replaced by the chain rod, which could be used as a grappling hook. Each weapon was capable of special techniques that let Zero execute moves with button combinations similar to those in later games in the X series.

Final Thoughts
As seems to be common criticism against Capcom, once a series begins, the innovation seems to slow to a trickle. The special techniques in Zero 2, while not entirely new, were very welcome and added an extra bit of luster to an already good game. With a solid track record and the support of an active Zero fan base, the series can surely be expected to continue.

Related Games

Rockboard
System: Famicom (Japanese NES)
Released 1993

During the height of the Mega Man series' popularity, Capcom of Japan released Rockboard for the Famicom - a board game based loosely on the Mega Man theme, containing lots of different minigames. The end result and overall goal of the game? To stop Dr. Wily from taking over the world with his army of robots. Since the title never came to the US, most people aren't aware it ever existed - and it's not of particular interest to anyone but Rockman fans.

Mega Man
System: Game Boy
Released 1991-1994

The Mega Man series for the Game Boy, known as the "Rockman World" series in Japan, saw Capcom taking half the bosses from one NES game, half the bosses from another, and then sticking them into a black-and-white world and calling it a new game. The first game, for example, featured Elec Man, Cut Man, Ice Man, Fire Man (from the first Mega Man) Bubble Man, Heat Man, Flash Man, and Quick Man from Mega Man 2. The gameplay did its best to faithfully mimic the NES versions. Finally, with Mega Man V for the GB, the designers got original - it featured planetary bosses: Mercury, Neptune, Mars, Venus, Terra, Pluto, Uranus, Jupiter, and Saturn. It also featured the original helper Tango the Cat, who served a similar function to Beat in providing much destruction. The third through fifth games in the series are rare finds, but the first and second have been reissued in a bargain series and are now quite common.

Mega Man
System: Game Gear
Released 1994

US Gold - the publisher that formed half of the marriage that became Eidos - wanted a slice of Mega Action on the now-discontinued Game Gear console, so it sublicensed the series from Capcom. The resulting game is a hybrid of the NES Mega Man IV and V. Developed by Freestyle, not Capcom, the game features an extremely abbreviated version of Mega Man IV's intro and levels, as well as the bosses. Bright Man, Toad Man, Stone Man, Napalm Man, Star Man, and Wave Man. It's a decent, if somewhat sluggish, translation of the Mega Man series - and the one of the few color portable versions available.

Mega Man
System: MS-DOS
Released 1990

Screenshot courtesy of mobygames.com.

Before Capcom started publishing its own PC games (about the time that Mega Man III was out for the NES), a now-defunct company known as Hi-Tech Expressions licensed the title from Capcom and developed three totally horrible, original DOS games. These games you most definitely do not want to play - the control and graphics are abysmal. Still, for the sake of completeness, they must be included in this retrospective.

Mega Man Soccer
System: SNES
Released 1994

For some reason, during the reign of the SNES, Capcom decided that a soccer simulation was the right direction in which to take the series - the result being this mediocre game that surprisingly made it out in the US. Not particularly good or particularly successful, this is a bargain bin curiosity that is an example of weird directions in which to take your mascot. Usually, developers just kludge together a kart-racing game - in fact, that's coming up in just a few moments.

Mega Man: The Wily Wars
System: Megadrive (Japanese and European Genesis)
Released 1994

Known as Rockman Megaworld in Japan, Mega Man: The Wily Wars is a compilation of the first three titles of the Mega Man series for the Genesis. Capcom tried to pull a Super Mario All Stars move with this product, but unlike Nintendo's masterpiece collection, the ports aren't gameplay-perfect. Featuring enhanced graphics and arranged music tracks, it's still a must for any serious Mega Man fan. Another nice thing about this title is that the developers have included a sort of minigame called Wily Tower, which features three new bosses with their own stages. The best part is that you get to pick eight of the weapons from Mega Man I to III and take them with you! It's a nice little addition that livens up this title. Unfortunately, it was never released in the US outside of the Sega Channel, like many other late, great Megadrive titles. The Wily Wars was available in Europe and Japan on cartridge, and you might be able to find it on eBay or at an online importer.

Rockman: Battle and Chase
System: PlayStation (Japan)
Released March 1997

While this ill-fated kart-racing game never quite made it out in the US, Rockman: Battle and Chase featured classic Mega Man characters in go-karts racing around a polygonal track. Constant dialogue from a verbose commentator added a teeth-gnashing edge to what was already an unattractive and uninspired kart game. Capcom USA went so far as to begin running advertisements for the game under the obvious name, Mega Man: Battle and Chase when the project was canned. Rumors point to approval being yanked out from under Capcom via Sony, which apparently felt that the title just wasn't up to snuff. In all honesty, Sony was probably right.

Super Adventure Rockman
System: PlayStation (Japan)
Released June 1998

When a company wants a successful game series to branch out in Japan, more often than not it devises an animated television show to go along with it. Such is Super Adventure Rockman. Then, as (predictable) irony would have it, we get the game based on the show based on the game. This is Super Adventure Rockman, the game. Starring Rock, this game was an FMV adventure for the PlayStation and the Saturn. It's no surprise that Capcom didn't even try to bring it out in the US. As is the nature of FMV games, it was an intensely boring and unplayable excursion into timed button pressing. Capcom USA treated us to the dismal live-action Fox Hunt, instead. While Rockman would've been cuter, there's probably no qualitative difference.

Mega Man and Bass
Systems: Super Famicom, GBA
Released 1998 (original Japanese release), 2003 (NA)

The Basics
Known as Rockman and Forte to the Japanese and savvy importers, this game was released for the Japanese SNES after Rockman 8 for the PS and the Saturn for some unknown reason. Mega Man and Bass runs on an original engine and features enemies and bosses that had been introduced in Mega Man 8, sporting smooth animation and large characters that looked great considering the hardware.

Gameplay
You controlled either Bass, who had a double-jump move and a rapid-fire eight-directional shot, or good old Mega Man, who slid into narrow passageways and packed a lot of power into his straightforward shots. Some levels were easier or more difficult depending on which robotic hero you'd selected, but almost all of the bosses were fiendishly difficult.

There was a shop where you purchase power-ups, such as extra health and antispike armor, and there were 100 CDs scattered about the levels for you to collect, which held a wealth of information on Mega Man series characters.

The Weapons and Bosses
The ice wall, wave burner, remote mine, spread drill, tengu blade, magic card, copy vision, and lightning bolt were wielded by Cold Man, Burner Man, Pirate Man, Ground Man, Tengu Man, Magic Man, Astro Man, and Dynamo Man, respectively. Unfortunately the special weapons were nearly identical for both Mega Man and Bass.

Final Thoughts
All in all, this title was a classical Mega Man game that adhered closely to the formula laid down by the main series. Its straightforward nature and difficulty made it a game that wasn't for everyone, but it's one that every Mega Man fan should be familiar with.

Mega Man: The Power Battle
System: Arcade (CPS1), NeoGeo Pocket Color
Released 1995

Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters
System: Arcade (CPS1), NeoGeo Pocket Color
Released 1996

The Power Battle and The Power Fighters tried to bring a faster pace to the series through arcade-style gaming. Coming to the scene just as Street Fighter was turning fighting games into the dominant genre, these games featured Mega Man, Blues, and Bass in battles against bosses from the NES games. Instead of working through a level, you were dropped directly into a fight to the death. Two players could even team up to take on a boss simultaneously. The two games serve as an interesting footnote to the Mega Man legacy. The titles are about to see a North American release for the first time with the Mega Man Anniversary Collection.

Marvel vs. Capcom
System: Arcade, Dreamcast, PlayStation
Released 1998-1999

Marvel vs. Capcom 2
System: Arcade, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Released 2000-2003

This impressive, over-the-top 2D fighter featured Mega Man as one of the many available fighters. Rush tagged along for moral support and super moves, and you could even play as Roll--she's a hidden character! Also of note is that Mega Man and Roll returned for the sequel, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, along with Tron Bonne and the incredibly weak and diminutive Servbot from the Mega Man Legends series.

Rockman Complete Works
System: PlayStation
System: 1999

The Rockman Complete Works series of reissues for the PlayStation came out throughout the course of the last quarter of 1999 in Japan. Each disc featured one Famicom (NES) Rockman game preserved in its original glory and a helpful "navi mode" for beginners. This mode offered tips to get around the tough spots. Beginning with Rockman 4, the games even featured arranged music in navi mode. Unfortunately, Capcom never saw fit to try and bring this series to the US. Each game in this series ran about 2800 yen a pop - that's around $26 a game! The title also featured encyclopedia modes and artwork, but all consisting of very small pictures in low resolution.

SNK vs. Capcom: Cardfighter's Clash
System: Neo Geo Pocket Color
Released December 1999

This Neo Geo Pocket Color game featured scads of Capcom characters represented as collectible cards, and of course Mega Man was present. Basically, this was sort of an electronic version of Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon: the Collectible Card Game. It pitted SNK vs. Capcom in the form of character cards.

Mega Man Xtreme
System: Game Boy Color
System: January 2001

Mega Man's official entry into the Game Boy Color world came with Mega Man Xtreme in early 2001. In the game, Mega Man's evil opponent, Techno (a megahacker), seizes control of the world's mother computer and breathes life into the villains of Mega Man's past. To stop Techno, you'll take on 15 unique bosses, acquire four body modifications, and experience a plethora of levels ripped straight out of the 16-bit Super Nintendo Mega Man X titles.

One of the key gameplay elements in this traditional Mega Man-style platformer is a skill that Mega Man fans have long since appreciated--that of assimilating the powers of your opponents. Once you destroy a boss, you adopt his powers for future use.

Mega Man Xtreme delivers goods that are strong enough to keep Mega Man fans happy; however, the game has received a few shots from reviewers for its xtreme level of difficulty.

Mega Man Xtreme 2
System: Game Boy Color
Released November 2001

The Basics
The plotline for Xtreme 2 reads like a robot ghost story. On a small, remote island, reploids are turning up dead, their very souls having been erased. Both X and Zero are playable, supported by the female reploid Iris. With better level design and overall superior production, the sequel is a noticeable improvement over the first Xtreme title.

Gameplay
While you could play the entire game as either X or Zero, completing both brought Capcom's famed tag technique into the mix, allowing you to switch between hunters with the push of a button. This technique would later be dubbed the "dual hero" system and implemented in Mega Man X7.

The Weapons and Bosses
The game featured rearranged versions of stages (and reused bosses) from the first three games in the Mega Man X series. Recycled enemies like Tunnel Rhino, Blast Hornet, Overdrive Ostrich, and others battled X or Zero (or both) at the end of each stage.

Final Thoughts
While not quite the same caliber as the games in the X series in regard to control, balance, and playability, Xtreme 2 had enough Mega Man magic in it to make it a worthy play.

Mega Man Anniversary Collection
System: PlayStation 2, GameCube
Release: February 2004
The Collection
To celebrate Mega Man's 15th anniversary, Capcom is putting together a collection of classic titles. Mega Man 1 through Mega Man 8 make up the meat of the package, while the previously arcade-only Mega Man: The Power Battle and Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters act as the sweet gaming gravy.

The Extras
In addition to the hallowed games of antiquity, a cache of bonus content will be available for players with the skills to unlock it. Mega Man anime, interviews with some of the producers who have worked on the series, and original television commercials are included. Arranged soundtracks will also be available for certain titles.

Mega Man Network Transmission
System: GameCube
Released June 2003

The Basics
With Network Transmission, the Battle Network series comes full circle. The action-infused collect-and-battle game inspired by a 2D side-scrolling series becomes a 2D side-scroller itself. Development of this title was actually handled by Arika, the same company that worked on the Street Fighter EX series. The story incorporates Zero into the Battle Network mythos by way of the Zero Virus, a WWW organization plot to infect Navis across the globe.

Gameplay
Here the battle-chip-reliant fighting system of Battle Network was executed within a 2D side-scroller, much like the classic Mega Man games of old. When your custom gauge filled, you could select five chips and send them to Mega Man. Like in Battle Network, the effects varied widely and included swords and guns along with defensive and restorative effects. Plus, you could still summon friendly Navis to do some hardcore busting on your behalf. Chips no longer had codes, but several chips could still be combined for powerful "program advance" attacks like Z-Canon and GigaDeth.

The Weapons and Bosses
Network Transmission sported 137 chips, all of which existed in the Battle Network series. Like the proper Battle Network titles, Network Transmission incorporated a megadose of nostalgia into its stage and boss design. Classic robots like Ice Man, Quick Man, and Bright Man were included, as was Mega Man X's mighty Zero.

Final Thoughts
While the concept seemed cool, the game had fairly serious problems. The worst offender was a brutal level of difficulty. Though Mega Man fans have come to expect an occasional stiff challenge, waiting for the custom meter to refill again and again in order to stock the proper chips to take on a boss got quite annoying, and hard-to-find power-ups were almost required to progress.

Other Appearances

Television Appearances
Before anime made its big splash in North America, our great continent was sorely deprived of quality Mega Man animation. While we had to wait for the short, blue hero to make an occasional appearance on Captain N: The Game Master, then suffer through an awful domestically produced Mega Man cartoon, the Japanese audience could tune into Super Adventure Rockman. Decidedly cuter than Captain N and aimed at a younger audience, this title followed Rock's adventures and featured bosses from the series as the antagonists--the same formula applied to the US show but with a lot more style. Currently, Mega Man NT Warrior (Rockman EXE in Japan) provides the world with multilanguage adventures that are closely tied to the Battle Network game series.

Toys and Collectibles
As is the case with television shows, North America just hasn't been as blessed as our Eastern cousins with a bounty of quality Mega Man action figures. Importing, however, has become an increasingly feasible option for fans on this side of the Pacific. The Rockman X figure series seemingly has taken on a life of its own. Along with great traditional models of X and Zero, it features many models and figures that were never represented by game counterparts. These are high-quality kits with great designs. Best of all, Bandai models are snap-together, and the instructions are usually mostly pictorial and thus friendly for non-Japanese fans.

Final Thoughts
Mega Man has seemingly been with us for ages--in fact, this year he celebrates his 15th anniversary. In terms of video games, that's actually pretty ancient. The series has been fun, and while many have complained that it eventually got stale or that it lacked innovation, Capcom has thrown enough into the mix to keep it interesting to fans as well as to bystanders - just don't expect to need every title if you're not a Rock Otaku. Still, it's been a few years since the last true Mega Man title, and it's time to get itchy. Here's hoping Capcom sees fit to grace a current or future system with a good, honest 2D--or 2.5D, at the very most--Mega Man IX.

Big special thanks go out to Tom "Spaceghidora" Gilbert and Max "Metool" Hagedorn for input and game assistance. Also, thanks to Peter Bartholow for some help on Japanese translations.

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