Canon, Continuity, and the Mega Man Franchise

1. can·on - a basis for judgment; a standard or criterion 2. con·ti·nu·i·ty - an uninterrupted connection, succession, or union

A canon, in terms of a fictional universe, is a body of material that is considered to be "genuine" or "official." The use of the word "canon" in reference to a set of texts derives from Biblical canon, the set of books which are regarded as scripture. When Reeve created The Mega Man Network, he set forth a canon analysis meant to describe how we would interpret information from Capcom in analyzing the timeline of the Mega Man franchise.

Now, almost a decade later, we have a franchise splintered apart over seven distinct sub-series, source books/publications, manga/anime, and various other mediums. Canon, therefore, is not what we need to examine. Succinctly put, if it is made by Capcom, it is canon; if it is officially licensed by Capcom, it is also canon. In this regard, everything made or licensed by Capcom - whether it be the Ruby Spears animated series, the NT Warrior anime, the Ariga mangas, the Dreamwave comic, or even the Captain N cartoon - it is all irrevocably canon.

Perhaps where we erred was our application of the definition of canon - perhaps what we needed to do instead was understand the fundamental difference "canon" and "continuity." Continuity, by the above definition, defines a set of events that occur within a timeline. To understand the continuity of the Mega Man franchise requires analysis of the timeline of events established within the games themselves, as well as the gaps that occur between the primary series (Classic, X, Zero, ZX, and Legends) and the secondary series (Battle Network and Star Force).

The primary series occurs in one timeline, and the secondary series occurs in another - an "alternate universe" if you will. The problem we run into here is that over time, even Capcom's own interpretation of events has varied considerably. Events established in new games contradict previously-established scenarios (such as Dr. Cain's apparent fate in Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X), some publications make mention of things that are completely ignored by the games themselves (the explanation of X's "suffering circuit" from Mega Man Zero Official Complete Works), and events mentioned in source books are even retracted in later publications (Capcom's original explanations for the location of the Guardians in Mega Man Zero 4 versus the Official Complete Works).

What we have now is a Mega Man franchise that has been outsourced to different companies over the years, and which has generated a timeline of events that has become nearly impossible to sort out. Continuity in the realm of Mega Man is almost a non-issue now; take the origins of the Mega Man Zero series, for example. It was designed by Keiji Inafune to follow the events of Mega Man X5. When Capcom made Mega Man X6, story events of Mega Man Zero 2 had to be altered somewhat. When all was said and done, there was a convoluted sequence of events following the untold end of the Mega Man X series that left the Mega Man Zero series that much harder to understand.

Trying to theorize how events from one series impact another is fruitless. It is not up to us as fans of the series to make such judgments. Our role is to interpret events as they happen, and make our best guess as to how they integrate into the overall timeline.

So what is it that we're trying to say here? Nothing different, really. We're modifying our definition of canon and how we've used it in the past, and separating canon from continuity. Canon is just the official elements that comprise the overall framework of the franchise.

Continuity, on the other hand, defines the storyline events that occur from game to game and from series to series. Continuity is something that is open to interpretation, and is something no one website can claim authority over. Therefore, as we cannot predict with any certainty what directions Capcom will take the storyline, the policy of The Mega Man Network is simply to present the facts of the games and merchandise, and let the best educated minds sort everything else out.

It really makes things a lot easier this way, when you look at it in perspective. Trying to piece together a definitive continuity nearly fractured the Star Wars fanbase, and there is no point in doing the same thing to the Mega Man fanbase. Just remember, Mega Man is a little robot that runs around in blue underwear. You wouldn't take that too seriously if you saw it, now would you? Neither do we. So what we're trying to say, if we're saying anything at all, is just relax and enjoy the games.

Tim is a longtime member of the Mega Man fan community and The Mega Man Network. Once site administrator, he now acts as a part-time adviser for the site, trying ever so hard to improve the legacy of analysis, guides, and other content he has contributed to The Mega Man Network over the years.