The Mega Man Network's Interview with Keiji Inafune

Signing Mega Man 2!

Signing Mega Man 2!

As we mentioned a few days back, The Mega Man Network was able to schedule an interview with "the Father of Mega Man," Keiji Inafune, following his hugely popular panel at PAX Prime. We picked a number of questions that readers submitted, along with several questions about his new project,Mighty No. 9.   We alternated questions with Ryan King of 100,000 Strong For Bringing Back Mega Man Legends 3 as best we could, and sometimes we wound up combining our questions and posing various questions as follow-ups to each other's inquiries. The transcript below has some questions that were asked out of order, but we grouped them together in a more logical manner for the site.

Another huge thank you to Mark MacDonald of 8-4 Ltd. for helping to facilitate this exclusive interview, Ben Judd for being an amazing translator and all around cool guy, and of course, a huge thank you to the one and only Inafune for deliberately reaching out to the fans a whole day earlier than the interview sessions he will be holding with the larger gaming websites.

Read on to find out a juicy (non-)tidbit of Mega Man 9, how Mighty No. 9 will change the Japanese gaming industry, and his thoughts on bridging the gap between the Classic and series!

The Mega Man Network: My first question is kind of strange, we know a lot of Mega Man characters were named after musical terms. Was the character "Rush" named after the Canadian progressive rock band, Rush?

Keiji Inafune:  Actually, for Rush, there was a game Rush 'n' Crash that Capcom had made earlier that I liked a lot. For the name "Rush," there was not necessarily a musical reference.

TMMN: We know you are sort of limited in what you can talk about in terms of your work with Capcom, but do you know what the last secret of Mega Man 9 is, and if you do, could you tell us?

KI: Unfortunately, I don't know exactly what what that is. Even if I did, I wouldn't be able to talk about it because it was during my time at Capcom, but honestly I do not know what you are talking about.

TMMN: What was a concept you wish you had pursued in a Mega Man game but never had a chance? Were such concepts going to be included in the PSP remake series and/or will they find a place in Mighty No. 9?

KI: For Mighty No. 9, we are still in the conceptual phases. There are still a lot of questions that are still out there, and we are right now searching for the answers. Obviously, if it gets funded, then we'll get the chance to find those answers and delve and make something great. It can be said, without going into any specific game feature, that there's lots of things that I wanted to do in the Mega Man titles and did not necessarily get the chance, that now, with Mighty No. 9 and with fan support, I would love to put in as much as I can.

TMMN: Do you think production of Mega Man Legends 3 could be revived once there is some change at Capcom?

KI: *laughs* Unfortunately, you'll have to ask that of Capcom that question because it is their intellectual property. So whether they choose to use it or not use it, that is completely up to them. But so long as they have the rights to the IP, the potential for them to turn back and use the IP will always be there. I certainly would not say it is zero.

TMMN: Did you know or were you part of a long-ago decision for Mega Man to be included in Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS?

KI: No, I had nothing to do with that at all, I learned about it at E3 with everyone else. When I saw it I thought "Oh, well that's great!" I'm a big fan of Smash Bros., and I'm happy that I saw that.

TMMN: What would you say was the greatest triumph and the greatest disappointment of your career?

KI: The thing that I am most proud of, my biggest triumph, would be when I first became head of R&D at Capcom. Capcom was not in a good place, and I was able to come up with some good ideas and some good games, basically make some key changes in the company to turn it around. Turning around a company, a publisher of that size, making it go from down to up is a major deal, so I'm very proud I was able to do that.

As far as areas in which I have failed, I've got tons of failures under my belt, no doubt about it. The one that is probably the biggest would have to be when I left Capcom. That last day, leaving the company-- there were a lot of memories, feelings that came with it. It wasn't of course, 100% according to plan, but having it end was probably something that did not happen the way I wanted it to, and that will be something that stays with me.

Comcept logo

Comcept logo

TMMN: It has been several years since you've left Capcom to form Comcept, partially due to what you called the "salaryman problem." How do you combat such complacency at Comcept?

KI: So, there is no 100% perfect solution to the "salaryman problem." What I have adopted as a method is to, on a weekly basis, have a team meeting and basically I share what my thoughts are. I share what I feel ought to be how they should feel about game design, how much they should love the projects they are working on and hopefully through my teachings it will lessen that issue. Of course, there will be some people that are too busy to attend these meetings and naturally may follow in that same problem. I would like to think that the time and energy I spend will help reduce that problem from happening.

TMMN: While Capcom may have issues with the "salaryman problem", would you be opposed to Capcom giving the Mega Man intellectual property to an outside team with a good track record, like WayForward?

KI: Whether you choose to take your IP and give it to an outsourced developer or not, it really comes down to the company, the publisher's, the IP owner's strategy. Now there are lots of different ways to think about production and development, but I would hope that if they were considering outsourcing Mega Man to another developer, like WayForward, I hope that they would pursue proper due diligence, and find out during the due diligence first and foremost if the love is there or not, because you'll know if the team is just doing it for money, or if they are doing it if they love it and you will be able to tell in the final product.

TMMN: In many games, there are hints of how the various Mega Man series link together. Was there a plan to link the various series more explicitly and/or permanently end a series for storyline purposes? [Note: GMOTM had a very similar question about the nature of Classic and X, and the answer to that is included as well. --Ed.]

KI: The Classic and X series are in the same world, just a few hundred years apart. There are many small tie-ups, such as we know that Zero was built by Dr. Wily, so you already know that the two series are tied together. Those are two series that stand on their own, and when you see a lot of cross-ups, something that people often say is "Oh, I'd really like to see Superman and Batman, or I'd like to see Aliens vs. Predator," and it is something in its very simplest form is a tie-up that people come up with.

But I think, as a creator, that if you feel the need to crossover your series that are not particularly related with the backstory and put them together in the same game, then you are kind of mixing things in a blender and that is pretty much the writing on the wall that you are jumping the shark [Warning: TV Tropes link. --Ed.]. Even if I stayed at Capcom, I would not have pursued such a crossover where you would play as X characters in a Classic series or vice versa. That would mean the brand would be dead to me.

TMMN: Was it frustrating to have to compromise on your visions for characters and games in the Mega Man series? Such as what you were discussing today about Zero not being the main character of the X series, how was it having some other design decisions made and influenced by higher-ups at Capcom? And how did you deal with such frustration?

KI: At the time... a truly mature creator is someone who realizes that you cannot always get what you want. You really have to pick your battles, but that you have to have your heart in the right place. Back then, my heart was in the right place; I wanted to do what was right for Capcom. So that would mean sometimes I would fight against upper management when they were doing something bad for Capcom, whether they knew it or not, and sometimes that would mean I would listen to them, even if it was not how I personally felt, if I thought that was going to be good for Capcom. So again, when you are a mature creator you sometimes push for things that are important and sometimes you are open to doing something that you would not have otherwise thought because it is better for the whole.

TMMN: Were some concepts that you originally intended to include in Mega Man 3, such as the Rush Drill and other concepts, going to find themselves in a PSP remake? Will such concepts find themselves in Mighty No. 9, or were they more centric to just MM3 or Mega Man as a whole?

KI: Yeah, back then, I was a different creator. I have gained a lot of experience and wisdom from the past several years and that sort of concept would fit games back then and would have made sense. But for something nowadays, it would not necessarily fit, so what I want to do with Mighty No. 9 is do something new and innovative that fits that sort of style of game.

TMMN: Across the various series, a huge number of characters were created. Which was your favorite character? [Note: GMOTM asked first about a Robot Master, we followed up with any character. --Ed.]

KI: That would have to be the first character I designed from the ground up, and that would be Elec Man. It's sort of the first person you fall in love with, and when it comes to the first boss you design you know it's something you'll never forget, and it becomes a part of you.

I guess if I had to open it up, if you would say any character in any of the series, it would have to be Zero, as I said today at the event. Actually, before I let Inti Creates create a game with Zero in it, I never let anyone at Capcom touch Zero's design at all. I was always the only person that could redesign or adjust or work with that character, so that's how much, how protective I was with this character I created.

TMMN: The Classic Mega Man series (and to some extent, the X series) is essentially run, jump, and shoot. Over time, you and your teams added new concepts incrementally, such as the slide, Rush, the shop, versatile weapons, etc. Eventually, you reduced the number of these concepts. How did you decide on which concepts to still include in the more recent installments?

KI: These are really two different kinds of questions. In terms of the charged shot and slide, we felt that Mega Man 1 and 2 were very pure in terms of the movement and controlling the character, the spacing and where you would be. Because you did not have these other tools at your command, you really had to control the character very well. You could not rely on the additional damage that the charged shot would do, you could not rely on being able to slide out of a situation. So it really made you rely on your base instincts like Mega Man 1 and 2 did, and that's what they wanted to focus on with Mega Man 9, to go back to the basics. In terms of the shop, if you consider what current gaming trends are, this would fit certainly with a retro-style game like Mega Man 9, which is why they made that choice.

TMMN: And the reduction in items in favor of weapons with dual uses?

KI: Yes, pretty much again we wanted to go back to the purest roots of what Mega Man was. And it wasn't about bells and whistles, even though the Rush stuff was not too much, the idea was to go back to what Mega Man 1 was, back to the roots and there wasn't anything like that. You just had the basic Master Weapons and a normal buster and there was no sliding or anything like that.

TMMN: During the development of Mega Man 9 and 10, were there any discussions about restarting the X series? And speaking of series development, some that think that Mega Man & Bass has some signs of being its own sub-series, was that ever an idea?

KI: We're getting into an area where I cannot answer. That does not mean there's some big conspiracy behind it, it just means that this was my previous job and I'll able to speak much more about my current work than things in the past.

We can do it!

We can do it!

TMMN: Switching gears, what do you believe will be the greatest difference between the Mega Man series and Mighty No. 9? If you had to pick one concept or a few concepts, should we be expecting to be wildly different between the two?

KI: This will probably not be the answer you were thinking, but for me, what makes Mighty No. 9 so different from Mega Man is while we did elicit boss designs and contests like that with fans for Mega Man, we have never really, ground-up made the game with fans. So what makes Mighty No. 9 unique is that he is your Mighty No. 9, he is the fans' Mighty No. 9. The fans are making it together, and that is not something that Mega Man has.

TMMN: What is it like to work with a lot of experienced team members who were there for some of the original games, such as Manami Matsumae (the music composer of Mega Man 1) and members of the IntiCreates team in making Mighty No. 9

KI: Honestly, being able to work with these classic members that I have worked with twenty years ago, being able to do that again is like putting on a comfortable old pair of shoes. It is really nice, they are able to bring the kind of nostalgic feeling of working together when we were younger, when everything was new and fresh and there is this sort of support that goes on between the older members of the team, so it is good to have that.

TMMN: And what do you hope to achieve with this game and with Comcept in general, especially in relation to the gaming industry in Japan?

KI: In terms of what this means and what I want people to take away from this, certainly the game industry, for me and for Japanese developers, they don't really know about Kickstarter. It is not something that is super-popular in Japan, but it is something they should know and take notice of, because it allows creators a lot more opportunities to make content that they know their fans will love. In an ideal situation, Kickstarter will get more and more popular in Japan, independent creators will take more and more chances, they will be able to get the money they need to create the experiences that their fans and gamers really want to play. That will create more game content, more game content that gamers want and more than what is available right now. There is a lot that can be created if this becomes more popular in Japan.

Mighty No. 9 fan art from rnn.

Once again, The Mega Man Network would like to thank Mark MacDonald of 8-4 Ltd. for setting up this interview, Ben Judd for translating, and Keiji Inafune, and his entire crew from Comcept for being gracious hosts. And thanks to all the readers for submitting so many great questions! And yes, maybe next time we'll ask if "Beck" is a reference to the musician. Stay tuned to TMMN to find out how you could get equipped with a copy of Mega Man 2 signed by Keiji Inafune.

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James is a features contributor for The Mega Man Network. He is now back in the United States. Sometimes he updates his Tumblr.

The views expressed here reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mega Man Network.