Written : 10/12/03

Over the years, there have been many, many different video game heroes. Some have been in several games, some in only one, and some that could have an entire store dedicated exclusively to their games. Some of the most famous franchises have come from Nintendo, including Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Kirby, the Pikmin, and hundreds of others. Mario alone has reached a level of familiarity with the world that more people know him than even Mickey Mouse. He's appeared in literally hundreds of games, playing both big and small roles, even making cameo appearances in several other companies' games. While no other video game superstar has come anywhere near the record that Mario holds, there is one who is gaining ground very rapidly.

That one character is my personal favorite, MegaMan. The little robot has starred in well over 40 games by now, and even has games named after him that he only has one or two lines in. As a single character usually has trouble getting over the 10-mark, MegaMan has been reincarnated several times, each time spawning a whole new series with a brand new plot and mountains of new secondary characters. MegaMan has been around for about 15 years now, and I know because Capcom's been promoting the 15th anniversary for a while now. The little guy has been on almost every major game system conceived after the days of the Atari, and has seen the likes of every Nintendo system (except the Virtual Boy).

MegaMan has plenty of experience in different genres of games. His forte (Ha! Forte! You'll get it later...) would be the side-scrolling platform game, but he's also seen fighting games, racing games, shooting games, and has even a couple of RPGs. Not only that, but Capcom has also spliced genres and created unique games that defy any solid genre. Most notably, the infamously popular Battle Network series. But now the question is begging to be asked, "Why is MegaMan so damn popular?” That's what I'm going to explain in today's article. There are tons of reasons why MegaMan has persevered for so long, and these are the 12 most noteworthy points that I could think up. I’m going to assume that everyone reading this has a slight idea of what MegaMan is all about, since you should have read my MegaMan 4 article by now.

Known as RockMan Dash in Japan, the third MegaMan series may not have been the giant hit that Capcom wanted it to be, but for what it was, it did incredibly well. This series placed our blue hero in a new world, where nearly everything had been covered in water, and people got by by exploring ruins of ancient civilizations and finding treasure. Sounds a lot like what I imagine Waterworld was about. Since I never beat Legends 2 I’m not sure whether this MegaMan was a human in a “digging suit” or a robot, and I’ve never bothered to ask anyone who has.

The general public seemed to be rather disappointed with this series, as it totally changed the MegaMan universe. For one, it was a 3-D adventure game, which was way off from the norm. It also got rid of the standard type of boss enemies and just added in some new villain character and made most bosses run-of-the-mill robots. The one thing they did keep intact was MegaMan’s ability to equip new weapons, but they weren’t drawn from defeating bosses, but instead they were developed by Mega’s partner, Roll. She also changed (perhaps for the better) from a robot to a human. She the only character (aside from MegaMan) who survived into the Legend series, and only in name at that.

Aside from the fact that it wasn’t too well received by the public, the Legends series managed to go on for two games, and there was even a spin off featuring the main villain, Tron Bonne. She and MegaMan were also featured in at least one fighting game, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2. All the Legends games were Playstation exclusive until Capcom decided to port the first to the dying Nintendo 64 as MegaMan 64. To this day we haven’t heard of any new Legends games in development, and we probably won’t, even with Capcom’s tendency to drag on franchises forever. But in exchange for it, we got the Battle Network series, which is a more than suitable replacement.

This is where it all started. The original series bore to us the blue robot that the world would fall in love with almost immediately. Back in ’89, we got our first taste of MegaMan, and apparently it went over pretty well, because the original series managed to be carried over into over 20 games. Most of them adhere to the MegaMan rule of selecting bosses and completing the level in the standard run and gun format. Some were a little more original, such as titles like MegaMan’s Soccer and Super Adventure RockMan (RockMan is MegaMan’s Japanese name), which were totally different than what the casual Mega-fan would be used to, but still retained the charm of the more common titles.

The bulk of this series is the basis of almost every MegaMan game. The game starts with an evil mastermind, Dr. Wily, plotting world dominance, and MegaMan goes in to save the day. Before he can confront and capture the demented doctor, he has to go through eight robot masters, each with their own stage. After defeating an enemy robot, MegaMan acquires his special ability, which can be used to exploit the weakness of another robot. This formula is the most used for the MegaMan games, and only differs when the genre of the game changes. It may seem repetitive and boring, but considering the number of sequels, it obviously works.

Behind every great hero is a cast of loveable sidekicks and other secondary characters. In every series of MegaMan games, there are plenty of supporting characters. Some good, some evil, some still on the fence. There are no characters who survive the transition to every series, but Roll comes close, and appears in three of them, only absent from the X series. Roll is MegaMan’s sister robot in the original, his partner in the Legends series, and his possible romantic interest in the Battle Network series. Appearing in only the original games is Dr. Light, the good doctor who created MegaMan, Roll, and countless other robots. MegaMan’s first rival, ProtoMan, appears in both the Battle Network and original series. He acts as MegaMan’s brother in the original, and as a true rival in the Battle Network games. While his personality changes only slightly, he drops the gun arm from the original games and uses slick sword attacks in Battle Network.

Zero is one of the most loved MegaMan X characters. At first he played a small part, but as the sequels were made, he took the steps to become a star in his own rights. He’s even got two of his own games, MegaMan Zero and (obviously) MegaMan Zero 2, which could debatably fit into their own category. Like the battle Network ProtoMan, Zero uses a sword as his main attack and only uses a buster in a couple occasions. Zero’s allegiance is clearly with the good guys, but he was designed by the main villain from the original series, Dr. Wily. Wily managed to reappear as the main villain in the battle Network games as well, and leads the crime syndicate World Three. In the X series, the big bad guy is a robot named Sigma, who keeps coming back to life due to some strange virus that was passed to him by Zero. As for the Legends baddies, MegaMan encounters a family of pirates called the Bonnes, consisting of leader Teisel Bonne, tech wizard Tron Bonne, baby Bon Bonne, and a whole lot of little Lego look-alike ServBots.

As for the Battle Network co-stars, there are far too many to list, as the series is mostly an RPG. The biggest one would be Lan Hikari, who is more the main star of the game than a supporting character. He is MegaMan.EXE’s operator, and you’ll play as him almost as much as you will MegaMan. Other characters include Lan’s friends, Mayl, Dex, and Yai, his dad, who created MegaMan.EXE, and MegaMan’s Navi friends, GutsMan, Roll, and Glyde. Seeing as almost every enemy Navi in the game has an operator, that easily doubles the amount of characters in the game, and every game boasts about eight different Navis (some are independent though), meaning that there are at least 6 new characters introduced in each game. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of how many characters are in the games.

MegaMan’s robotic animal friends are almost exclusive to the original series of games, and there are plenty of them. The most popular is the cyber canine, Rush. The little red robo-pooch could transform into many things that helped MegaMan, including a spring, a spaceship, a motorbike, and a submarine. In a couple games, MegaMan could even combine with Rush to create the Super Armor, which allowed MegaMan to fly for short distances. Rush appears in almost every original MegaMan game, either as an active ally, or just a side character. Rush is technically in the Battle Network series, but only in the anime version. He was a Popup virus that could call other viruses to aid if one of the Navis needed help.

Rush’s feline counterpart, Tango, was MegaMan’s aid in a couple of the blue robot’s GameBoy adventures, providing a special attack power or something like that. I never actually played the game(s) with Tango in it/them. Beat the bird was a great help in the later games of the original series, he would help MegaMan out of bottomless pits, and he might have done other stuff too, I just can’t quite remember. In Legends, MegaMan had a small monkey-like companion named Data, who could give him tips, save the game, and restore life. Data played a much bigger part in the story than any of the other animals, and he was definitely the coolest too!

If you hadn’t realized it yet, MegaMan and most of the characters are named after elements of music. MegaMan’s original name, Rock, is linked to his sister Roll, hence Rock and Roll. The animals are musically named too, with Beat, Tango, and Rush (which is either a pretty good band or some kind of music lingo). ProtoMan’s original name was BreakMan, and I know that “break” is some sort of musical term. Mega’s rival is also named in such a fashion. In English, he’s Bass and his dog is Treble. In Japanese, he’s Forte and the dog is Gospel. With all these references to music, the actual music in the games must be good, right?

Most of the music is rather upbeat techno stuff, and really helps set the adventuring mood. As the games evolve and get deeper story lines, the music also becomes more fitting, it gets dramatic if someone dies, and energetic and/or foreboding just before the final confrontations. Best of all are the actual theme songs composed just for the games. In MegaMan X6, we’re treated to a couple of great Japanese songs by Showtaro (search ‘Moonlight’ and ‘the Answer’) and a cool credits song (search ‘I.D.E.A.’). Best of all are the original theme songs for the RockMan.EXE (Battle Network) animes. At first I thought that the first show’s theme, Kaze wo Tsukinukete, was just awesome, but then RockMan.EXE Axess came around and wowed me with another kickass song, Futatsu no Mirai. Both can be found for free at RockMan.EXE Online under “music and videos”. Another great idea would be to check out the remixes of the various tunes at OverClocked Remix.

The X series was the second to be born and links directly to the original games’ storyline. At last I checked, nobody is sure whether MegaMan X is just an upgraded MegaMan or a completely different robot altogether. What we do know is that MegaMan X is much more versatile than his previous incarnation. While he still has the ability to take the weapons of defeated bosses, he can also cling to walls, dash, and collect different armours, which enhance his powers even further. Every new X game features at least one set of armor for X to collect, and the Playstation games have at least 2 each. The X games started on the SNES, then moved to the PSX and now the PS2 and GameCube, with spinoff series MegaMan X-treme on the GameBoy Colour, and an entire spinoff series, MegaMan Zero, on the GameBoy Advance.

The story of the original games continues hundreds of years into the future, when MegaMan X is found and is then used as a mold to created many new “reploids”. Eventually, they go berserk and X is charged with stopping them. Eventually he meets Sigma and destroys him, giving the illusion that the threat has subsided. But then Sigma comes back time and time again, each time twisting the plot a little more. Probably the biggest reason that the X series is so popular is because of Zero. Most people absolutely adore the red sword toting badass. The only drawback, and stupid plot advancement device, is that Zero dies four or five times total. This is why it’s either a love or hate decision with him. If you can look past his constant dying you’ll love him, if not, you’ll hate him.

The X series started strong, and kept up the pace until MegaMan X5, when new gameplay devices started appearing, changing the winning formula around until it was very different and very complicated. Not that they really made the games worse, but by the time X6 come out, it was starting to feel somewhat stale. Strangely, this never happened with the original series, and there are no signs of it happening to Battle Network either. In the future of X, however, is a completely new game, for the PS2, MegaMan X7. Only instead of reusing the side-scrolling formula, it’ll be in 3-D. At first I was worried, but now it seems like it might have been a step in the right direction. Capcom has also announced RockMan X Command Mission, which seems to be a more traditional RPG for both the PS2 and GameCube. They certainly aren’t giving up on this one.

At about 2500 words, this is getting awfully long, so I’ll quit here, and start on a fresh new page.

Click to continue to page 2!!!

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