Today (well, in a few hours, as of this posting) another Mega Man series levels up in the anniversaries-divisible-by-five attribute. Ten years have gone by since the legendary red Reploid Zero was reawakened from his slumber in a mysterious, dilapidated laboratory and dash-sliced through an oppressive regime into our hearts.
And all the same, the fairly short lived series was pretty odd... or maybe interesting is a nicer way to put it. At the time of its release, the X series was still running along, although it was showing signs of shakiness. No one was really expecting Zero to get his own game (especially when he was already stealing the show in X's), and definitely not on the Game Boy Advance either. I may be showing my age, but even as a young Mega Man fan with my own wild ideas, I never once imagined a strange dystopian future where Reploids looked boyish and wore vests and thongs.
Mega Man Zero also marks Inti Creates' first foray into the world of Mega Man, and their penchant for dead-on-balls difficult games. You started out with only 16 HP and very weak weapons, and you were expected to move mountains if you wanted to get any progress. Zero even tried to guilt you for using Cyber Elves, the game's main power up system, by making them die when you used them (and they let you know it). Each next game did ease back a little, though, culminating with Zero 4's addition of an "Easy" option.
But I think what really attracted people to Zero, besides fans who were already invested in the series mythos, was the level of craftsmanship the games had. You could tell a lot of work and care went into the titles, and most everything had tons of background details that didn't even make it in the game. The series also featured a number of arranged music albums, even after it formally ended, and in my opinion made consumer Mega Man albums much more mainstream. In Japan anyway.
Besides the games, Zero cameos in Onimusha Blade Warriors and SNK Vs. Capcom, has a very wonky manga series by Hideto Kajima, and some freakin' sweet Japanese commercials animated by Studio 4°C.
So here's to you, Zero, and to you, ghost of X, and to you, Reploids named after words in French. Rock on. Wait, that's ZX.