We’ve retired the Mutos Reploids and toppled the highest ranking Guardians of Neo Arcadia. Now it’s time to take on the leader of Neo Arcadia’s iron-fisted regime, Copy X himself—and to study those who fight against him, including one shiny red warrior.
The brutal, merciless leader of Neo Arcadia, a self-proclaimed “perfect copy” of the original X. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of mythology for his primary form— at least, until one considers that “doppelganger” is actually a German word translating literally to “double goer.” In German folklore, doppelgangers are wraith-like doubles of living people.
As far as his abilities go, Copy X is truly a double of the original X. He can dash, fire three shots on the screen at once, charge his buster, and his color palette even swaps when he’s using his special weapons. When he dons his armor, he flings his arms up above his face and the armor flashes on, just as the original X’s does. Copy X even pulls off a very sub-tank like ability mid-battle! His abilities are those of X, but his heart is far from that of the original— much like other doppelgangers throughout mythology and fiction.
Copy X’s first armored form is not without its own design influences. The primary color scheme is white and gold; standard enough for Mega Man X armor but a little odd for a villain’s attire (barring Wily’s white lab coat, and Sigma’s Mega Man X5 look).
That’s what’s so interesting about the villains of the Mega Man Zero series: They don’t see themselves as villains; they believe they’re shining bright heroes. This is why Copy X wears colors of purity and light; the design itself echoes his beliefs, with a pair of angelic wings on the back and wing-like designs on the boots making him appear all the more wonderful, while the terrifying spikes speak of the true nature of his character (not to mention the red eyes).
The ultimate, halo-wearing form of Copy X is based on a six-winged seraph from Christianity and Judaism. The animalistic hands are likely related to angelic beings with animalistic body parts described in the Book of Revelation (though these beings are not necessarily seraphim).
Some Christians consider seraphim the highest-ranking angels due to their proximity to God; seraphim are positioned flying around His throne. Copy X, who considers himself the most important Reploid in all the world, is likened to the highest ranking angelic beings. This is further supported by the fact that the location of the final battle is at the peak of a great tower (later retconned into an orbital elevator). Copy X could literally not be at a higher location.
Unlike many giant bosses from the Mega Man series, all of Copy X’s attacks come from above. I think this was intentional, falling in line with his belief in his own perfection. Mega Man Zero Official Complete Works cites his mid-battle quotes as translating to: “Repent!” “Light!” and “I am judgment!” The attacks are based on purity: He uses halo-like rings which can trap Zero, beams of light, and fire from above (similar to the fire used against Sodom and Gomorrah).
If the spiked pillars that fly around Copy X have a Biblical influence, I can’t find it. However, I do believe the way they destroy the ground around Zero and create a pit had its influences: Namely, THE Pit. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I find it fascinating that the villain who essentially believes himself to be God is capable of hurling his victims into a deadly pit.
Interesting tidbit: Despite the seraph image I provided, the seraphim in the Bible always cover their eyes with their wings to avoid looking directly at the glory of the Lord. They are beings very much humbled by God. When Copy X first takes on his seraph form, he too is covering his eyes— but this quickly changes. He reveals his face and his bright red, evil eyes. Copy X may believe himself to be equal to the seraphim, but he is clearly missing the humility component. Ultimately, Copy X’s pride is his downfall; he cannot accept that he is not perfect.
Born as Mega Man X and called both Original X and Cyber-Elf X in the Zero series while known simply as X to most, this is the true founder of Neo Arcadia and the hero which Copy X believes himself to be superior to.
As I understand it, the glittery sprites of cyber-elves seen in-game are representative of the actual elf-like bodies which the characters in-game can see. For example, Passy is shown in the introduction cut scene with an actual body, though Passy is represented in sprites as only a shimmering light. If this is the case with all cyber-elves, it too must be the case with X. I’m fairly certain X’s primary elf form isn’t just a pulsing light, but a faded blue copy of his physical body. This is the image of him we get in the background of the image above and is also shown in the Mega Man Zero 3 Enhancement Card of the Z-Saber, as well as in the non-canon (but awesome) image of X and the Big 4 watching Ragnarok that was included in one of the soundtracks.
I mention all this just to say that, as far as mythology goes, X is a ghost. Sure, his body is still alive at this point (not that Zero knows that), but his spirit is not inhabiting it anymore. X’s appearance aligns with ghostly images reported all throughout history, being a faded copy of his original self. And, like many ghosts, he appears in order to set right some injustice, in this case the wrongs committed by his doppelganger causing so much havoc. A similar case happens with the ghost of Hamlet’s father, who first appears in his battle armor and later demands Hamlet to avenge him (“Now go. Terminate that copy of me…Terminate with extreme prejudice….” —X).
Sadly, the blue ghost-mode version of X never shows up in the sprites. Instead, we get treated to his projected form: that of an angel.
Players can only see the angelic form of X once Copy X has been defeated, and it is my belief that this is the first time Zero sees this form as well. X plainly states that he is able to seek rest, now that the very personal injustice has been taken out of the picture. Some people believe we become angels in Heaven, so the motif would make sense. Ghost no more, X has ascended to an angelic status.
From a design standpoint, X’s angel form is very simple. His head is adorned by a digitized halo. He wears a simple cloth robe, a rarity in any Mega Man game. On that robe is the image of a cross, no doubt a reference to Jesus Christ. X did, after all, sacrifice his body in order to save the world (or, at least, he delayed the Dark Elf’s release for a while). Cyber Elf X’s angel form doesn’t have wings, but technically the Bible never describes a standard, humanoid angel as winged; this is actually reserved for seraphim and cherubim. Granted, halos never made it into the Bible either, but it’s neat that both X’s had one.
I’d like to add that I am glad Inti Creates opted to base X’s design on religious influences. Without it, every mythical/religious reference in the game would belong to the villains, giving people the ability to interpret the game as having anti-religious themes. With the inclusion of X in the mix, however, I believe the game has a much stronger theme: Humility.
The Mutos Reploids, the Four Guardians, and Copy X are based on gods, goddesses, and larger-than-life beings. They all believe themselves to be in the right, and they all have the goal of ruling what they believe to be beneath them. X, however, is in the right. Despite being the leader of Neo Arcadia for nearly a century, he has no desire to “rule.” He wants a world of harmony. He too is represented as a heavenly being, but his form is humble— despite the fact that, when he had his body, he was easily more powerful than each of the villains. He had limitless potential, yet chose a simple robe.
This silly little game about slicing robots in half with a laser sword is about humility. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a closer look at the game’s hero.
Zero doesn’t second guess the moral ramifications of killing, like certain Blue Bombers. He will draw his blade and strike down opponents who stand in his way— but he will occasionally spare their lives.
It’s never really addressed, but Zero has the capability of killing each of the Four Guardians after defeating them. This is shown in Leviathan’s dialogue, when she asks Zero why he didn’t terminate her after their first battle, despite the fact that the player sure as heck was trying to kill her. It could be argued that he only spared her, while the others barely escaped with their lives, but I don’t think this is the case.
Way back in Mega Man X1, we witnessed Zero blasting shots at a retreating Vile. No such effort was made against the Guardians. But why not? Especially given their status as military commanders in Neo Arcadia, their deaths would have been far more beneficial than those of the Mutos Reploids that Zero did kill.
Something must have tugged at Zero’s robo-heart to keep him from killing the highest-ranking targets in Neo Arcadia. I think it’s because somewhere deep down Zero recognized them— or at least he recognized Mega Man X in them. He did, after all, remember the true X’s strength in comparison with Copy X.
It is Zero’s loyalty to X, Ciel, and his friends that shows his humility. He never claims to be a hero, and in fact in Mega Man Zero 4 he even explains to a crazed Dr. Weil that he is only fighting for the people he believes in. Unlike his foes, Zero recognizes his faults, and he knows he’s not the greatest being to walk the earth. He is a machine built for war, but he will direct that war against those who would threaten his friends. But why does he behave this way?
Whether intentional or not, I believe Zero’s personality for this series was inspired by the samurai. These stoic warriors, who were highly influential in Japan for hundreds of years, lived by the unwritten code of Bushido, which translates to “the way of the warrior.” The most important aspect of Bushido was loyalty to one’s master and community.
Zero shows this loyalty to Original X, Ciel, and the Resistance. Samurai had a duty of vengeance to their master, and Zero is sent by X to terminate his copy. He is even willing to die for the cause, which we do see in Mega Man Zero 4.
As for weaponry, samurai typically are associated with katana, which were curved swords. Some samurai used pole arm weapons such as the naginata, and for long range they typically used bows. Other samurai— as strange as history can be— used guns, once the 16th century came along. Some samurai even adopted bullet-resistant armor. Zero, of course, uses a sword, a pole-arm weapon in the form of the Triple Rod, and a buster gun. And while samurai didn’t use shields like Zero’s boomerang, some ancient Japanese gunners did use shields for cover.
Granted, it wouldn’t be an honest analysis if I didn’t shoot a few holes in my own theory. Zero retreats on occasion throughout the series, and even has the option of aborting missions in the first game. This completely goes against Bushido, as a samurai would likely have committed a ritual suicide after failing the mission. Additionally, samurai placed great value on justice, while Zero claimed in Zero 4 not to care about it (though I don’t believe him). Samurai were also very polite— a trait Zero refuses to display when meeting Elpizo the first time by refusing to shake his hand.
“But where are the myths?!” you ask. “Samurai aren’t myths!”
To be honest, there’s not a whole lot to work with here. I don’t think Zero is based on any particular mythical figure. But since you asked nicely, I’ll take a stab at it: King Arthur.
King Arthur was the king of Britain who may or may not have actually existed. The stories vary wildly, with some claiming he’s a fearsome warrior and others indicating he was rather passive and fairly dumb. We’ll go with the warrior angle for Zero.
Arthur’s most famous sword is Excalibur, a weapon which once shined bright enough to blind his enemies (kind of like the Z-Saber?). Some stories say Arthur got Excalibur from the magical Lady in the Lake. Likewise, Zero received the Z-Saber from his magic-inspired, glowing friend X. While we’re on the subject of weapons, Arthur also used a spear named Rhongomyniad (like the Triple Rod?) and a shield named Prydwen (like the Shield Boomerang?).
The real reason I suggest King Arthur is that, after his final battle, he was taken to the legendary island Avalon. Some legends say he died there, but others indicate he will one day return from Avalon to once again heroically lead Britain.
Ciel’s devotion to uncover a missing hero long forgotten reminds me of someone seeking the missing King Arthur to right the world’s wrongs. Zero was no longer a historical figure, but a legend inspiring hope. In a world ruled by machines taking on mythic forms, the elite of Neo Arcadia were remarkably insistent on destroying Zero, the only truly mythic figure among them. Zero showed them that a legend isn’t made by self-promotion and pride, but on humility and courage.
…and skill. Pretty important for the whole myth thing, as he wouldn’t have gotten very far if he couldn’t smack people around with his laser sword.
aRobinsonWriter is a member of The Mega Man Network's User Content Submission System, and the views expressed here reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mega Man Network.