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TGS '07: Mega Man celebrates 20th anniversary

Series producer Keiji Inafune takes a look back at the series and talks about his favorite characters and games in the franchise.


TOKYO--With Mega Man's 20th anniversary coming up on December 17, series producer Keiji Inafune appeared at Capcom's stage at the Tokyo Game Show. While there wasn't anything extravagant, the blue bomber's father took a look back at the beloved series' history and talked about his favorites--and his failures.

Inafune and Mega Man.
Inafune and Mega Man.

"Normally, it's really hard to work on the same franchise for 20 years. You usually get taken out [of the series] somewhere along the line," said Inafune, whose works include a number of other titles including the original Street Fighter (designer), Onimusha (producer), and Dead Rising (producer).

Looking back at the series, Inafune was asked by the stage show host to pick a favorite title in the whole series. He didn't have to think too long before answering it wasn't Mega Man 1.

"I really have a lot of memories with all the Mega Man titles and it's difficult to just pick one of them as my favorite," said Inafune. "But if I were to do so, it would be the game that I'd consider to be like a clumsy son. It's Mega Man Legends, a title that really didn't sell well in the Mega Man franchise." (The action-role-playing game was released in the 1998 for the original PlayStation, followed by a PC port and Mega Man Legends 2 for the PS and PC in 2000. A PlayStation Portable version was released in Japan in 2005, but no US version is planned.)

"It didn't sell anywhere as well as I had anticipated," Inafune said. "I was really confident about the game during its development, considering how fun the game was. It was really something new, something that we thought would be unfortunate if gamers didn't play. And we released it, and oops!" The designer then let loose a hearty laugh.

"It was a bit too early for its days. Ever since then, people started saying that 'Inafune's ideas are seven or eight years too early.' It was a sandbox style of game, kind of like Grand Theft Auto. One has Yakuzas and the other has robots, but it's kind of like the same. If we made it at the present time in modern quality, I believe that it would have sold a lot better."

When asked by the stage show host if he has any plans to do a remake, Inafune said that it's something he'd want to do, although the reality isn't likely.

"I'd love to make a revival," he mused, sporting a mischievous expression. "But it's really difficult to have your company give you a budget for a game that flopped. I'm saving up so that I can make it on my own."

Inafune also revealed that he wasn't responsible for the creation of Mega Man himself. "I'm often called the father of Mega Man, but actually, his design was already created when I joined Capcom," he explained. "My mentor [at Capcom], who was the designer of the original Mega Man, had a basic concept of what Mega Man was supposed to look like. So I only did half of the job in creating him. I didn't get to completely design a Mega Man [protagonist] from scratch until Zero (Mega Man X, SNES). Back when the SNES was coming out, I was asked to give Mega Man a redesign, so I created this character. But I realized that this design wouldn't be accepted as Mega Man, so I had another designer create the new Mega Man, and I worked on Zero to release him as the 'other main character' that would steal all the good scenes!"

As expected for a developer who joined Capcom as an art designer, Inafune has a lot of favorite characters he's created aside from the protagonists. "When I joined Capcom, the first character I designed from scratch, aside from the normal enemies, was Elecman," he said. "When I created this character, I tried to make a character that looked [like] it was from an American comic. You'd see characters like him in Spider-Man or X-Men. It was pretty hard to design him, and I had to make sure that he didn't end up looking like an S&M queen."

"From Mega Man 2, we started accepting new boss ideas from the public. Kids would send in their boss designs, and it was my job to arrange them. I kind of got bottled up for not being able to create new designs from scratch, then I finally had the chance to do so on the Game Boy when we started to develop Mega Man in Dr. Wily's Revenge. It was a while since I could create a completely new character, and I created one called Punk."

"I also did his redesign in Mega Man Battle Network, though it took a couple of threats to have the designers hand over the job to me," Inafune said. "They still didn't seem to like what I came up with and they redesigned a bit over my redesign, but the results turned out great."

The Mega Man series may be Inafune's longest-running project series, but it also has some personal importance to him. "It may be the 20th anniversary for the Mega Man series, but it's also the 20th anniversary for myself as a game developer. It was the first title that I was involved in when I joined Capcom, and I've really been in the industry together with the series. It was the Mega Man series that taught me how to make video games, like what kind of points had to be detailed, and what kind of points had to be watched out for. I'm often called the creator of Mega Man or the father of Mega Man, but it's really the Mega Man series that created me."

"It's easy to forget the basics when you start getting into a higher position in the company and you're given more responsibility, but Mega Man reminds me of the fundamentals in game development, and its existence is really big to me."

While most of the media covering the stage presentation were Japanese press, Inafune pointed that the Mega Man series is also well known in other countries. "I get asked by the overseas press and fans as to when Mega Man Legends 3 will get released," he mused. "I've been trying to create Mega Man Legends 3 for a long time now, but I haven't been able to make it a reality yet. I'm making it my dream to create Mega Man Legends 3 before either I die or leave my company. ... With the continued support of fans, I hope that the Mega Man series continues to live on, and that we'll get to see its 30th and 40th anniversaries."

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