They Grow Up Fast: Mega Man Zero Turns 10

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.

[audio:|titles=1-06 - Zero 1 - Theme of ZERO (from Rockman X)]

Mega Man Star Force Turns 5 Today, Let's Look Back

Not unlike a comet that flares up in the sky as it makes its approach towards the sun along its orbit, today marks the fifth anniversary of the Mega Man Star Force series, which first released in Japan on December 14th, 2006.

Truth be told, I don't expect too many to pay homage to this series. It was definitely an "out there" kind of production. Its theme and formula was very similar to the successful Battle Network series. But whereas Battle Network was set in a world recognizable to our own, and rife with characters and elements borrowed from classic Mega Man, Star Force was set in a future where people wore puffy space pants and made whatever they wanted out of radio waves. Furthermore, aside from the titular hero, the game felt like it had virtually no relation to previous Mega Man series, including the very Battle Network it piggybacked off of. Ultimately, I believe it was a series that many people had a hard time connecting with, besides devoted Battle Network fans and total newcomers.

That all being said, Mega Man Star Force did get off to a good start. Releasing in three varieties right off the bat, it seemed a little like overkill. But the game's sales would approach a million worldwide, nearly matching sales of Battle Network 4. It also had a very charming story about a boy coming out of his shell, both socially and as a hero. I also really liked the interactions between Geo and Omega-Xis. Whereas Lan and Hub of Battle Network were brothers and typically very chummy, the timid Geo and gruff Mega had more of a personality disparity, with Mega often pushing Geo into awkward situations. I would have liked to see more of this.

Star Force 2, however, was where things took a slip. The game did a little more than half as well as the first. I attribute this to how much the game seemed to toss away elements from the first. After having made new friends and strengthened relationships, Geo seldom interacts with those people this time. Sonia, who wanted to get away from the stress and burden of her musical career, became a commercial sell out. And what few Battle Network elements the first game had, such as Navis and going in machines, were stripped away too.

The last formal game in the series, Star Force 3, would go on to fix a lot of these issues, but it was too little too late. Rather unfortunate, because this was the game where the series finally pulled up its pants and got to work. A very fun and engaging story, interesting characters and villains, and lots of new features expanded the battle system. But with the amount of disinterest that would be allowed to settle, this title sold the weakest of the three entries.

Geo and Mega would make their last stand in the Japan exclusive Rockman EXE Operate Shooting Star. Advertised as an exciting crossover between Battle Network and Star Force, it was ultimately just a port of the original Battle Network with an additional Star Force themed scenario shoved near the end of the game.

Despite the efforts put into, Star Force fell away rather quietly. Nevertheless, there are still those who appreciate it. To this day I occasionally see banter on 2channel with people hoping for a Star Force 4. For myself, while I can see the demerits in Star Force, and the things that didn't allow the series to catch on, I still appreciate the fun I had with it.

[audio:|titles=1-01 - RnR1 - Shooting Star]
Play us out, Shooting Star.

Mega Man ZX Reaches 5 Years

Earlier this year, Mega Man Battle Network turned ten, but that doesn't mean there's no room for another anniversary (and they tend to group up like this). On July 6th, 2006, in the country of Japan, Inti Creates' followup to the Zero series came into the world on the Nintendo DS. Five years later, however, its only real lasting quality has become replacing Mega Man Legends as the most unsung series in Mega Man. Straight off the bat, Mega Man ZX is very unique. It retains essentially the same gameplay mechanics and style from the Mega Man Zero series. It even tried to revive the open world aspect the original Zero kind of had. But it put these elements into a world that feels very... un-Mega Man. You have kids doing henshin cosplay with mythical heroes and villains obsessed with evolution and godhood. It just seems so strange that the story of a little blue robot fighting a mad scientist could develop into this, and I do believe that's the largest reason ZX never caught on.

That's not to say the two ZX games were awful or anything. Aside from retaining the traditional action gameplay of X and Zero, ZX and ZX Advent typically had fantastic music, incredibly beautiful environments, and personally some of my favorite boss designs from any Mega Man title. It also forwent new weapons instead with the ability to gain new forms, which was very novel although in practice I think most players just stuck with the most useful ones. And while the story and world can be seen as strange, I know at the same time how much it appealed to fans for attempting to tie together the past with the present. It felt like we were solving mysteries, and for the time when ZX was new I was hooked by it myself.

It's hard to say what the future holds for ZX. A likely answer is probably not much, but then you never know. Even after ending years ago, the Zero series still lives on in other merchandise like albums and model kits. So long as the fan voice is there, there's a chance ZX can at least have the same as that.

A short-lived series, but still one worth looking over.

[audio:|titles=Rockman ZX - 05 - Green Grass Gradation]

Mega Man Battle Network Turns 10

When I think of Mega Man Battle Network, it still seems like a pretty new series to me. But the original title released in Japan on March 21st, 2001. And as the day has just turned over to the 21st in Japan, that makes Battle Network a whopping 10 years old. This makes me feel unnecessarily old.

Mega Man Battle Network was always a bit different, and attracted a new kind of gaming fan to the world of Mega Man. But it's also one of the most successful Mega Man series to be released, wielding one of only four Mega Man games ever to sell over a million worldwide (Battle Network 4). The series also has a lot of personal meaning to me. While I'll always consider classic Mega Man my favorite, Battle Network played a large role towards my ambition of learning Japanese and working on websites like TMMN. Funny enough... I thought it looked awful when it was first shown. I thought the characters looked ridiculous! But the series grew on me in a really big way.

I don't know what the future holds for Battle Network, especially following the lackluster Operate Shooting Star a couple years back. But I still think it has a lot of potential, even if it technically "ended." Nevertheless, who knows what the next ten years will bring!

[audio:|titles=1-01 - EXE - THEME OF ROCKMAN EXE]

Happy 23rd, Mega Man!

Though it's been the 17th in Japan for sometime now, Mega Man is officially 23 today. Culturally, I guess there's nothing real significant about age 23, but this 23rd year for Mega Man has been anything but dull. First, the games. Even though they seem like such a long time ago, we did get a couple this year. Mega Man 10, the retro followup to Mega Man 9, came out back in March boasting even more content and features. As well, Mega Man Zero Collection hit in May, delivering a great package of games at a value price.

But perhaps more than than the games was the merchandise we got. This was a tough year not to spend money! UDON Entertainment released a slew of long-awaited localizations: Mega Man Megamix and Mega Man ZX, and just recently announced Mega Man Tribute. Bandai brought out a collection of Rockman mini-figures, and Kotobukiya started their line of high-quality Rockman model kits. Not to mention there's much more coming the following year; more from UDON, Kotobukiya, Archie and Jazwares, just to name a few!

And then there were the announcements. First we got the enigmatic reveal for Mega Man Universe, which came to light as a DIY Mega Man side scroller based on Mega Man 2. In recent months, however, there's been a complete blackout and information. What could be going on with this one?

Perhaps because it got overshadowed by one of the biggest Mega Man announcements since Mega Man 9 (I'd reckon to say bigger than that): Mega Man Legends 3. A game fans have passionately waited a decade for. And what's more, the fans get a hand in the development too! For many it's a literal dream come true...

...Only to be followed up by the departure of Keiji Inafune. Hardly a month after announcing Legends 3, a game he claimed he always wanted to make, Inafune resigned from Capcom citing uncertainty with his place in the company. Many were shocked, and it's left some speculation in how Capcom will continue to handle Mega Man.

Ah, and let's not forget Rockman Online. Even though it's a game we may never get here, it astounded fans with its sheer amount of Mega Man content and mythos rolled up together. I do feel Capcom could stand to take a page from this approach!

All-in-all, this has definitely been a memorable year Mega Man, with some large highs and large lows. But as we usher in 2011, we continue to look forward to what Mega Man has to offer.

Incidentally, today is also the 17th anniversary of Mega Man X, tomorrow will be the 13th anniversary of Mega Man Legends, and a few days ago was the 4th anniversary of Mega Man Star Force. Time sure flies, doesn't it?

Mega Man 22nd Birthday Live Stream now available for review

If you happened to miss the wonder Mega Man 22nd Birthday Live Stream, you can quit kicking yourself over it. Stickam now has the footage from the show in their archives in two parts, which you can enjoy here. And to those who have seen it, now you can relive the wonderful experiences like the Mega Man cake, Mega Man 10 gameplay footage, and good ol' Hironobu "Fail Man" Takeshita. Poor guy, I wonder if he'll ever live it down. Additionally the Japanese stream is available here.

Mega Man's Birthday Live Stream - Chat Live with Us! (Updated with Show Footage and Inafune Q&A)

What's better than watching Mega Man's 22nd live stream birthday party? Watching it and chatting about it with us Mega Man nerds! We'll be goofing around as the show goes on, and then update afterward with show highlights. So sit back and enjoy! UPDATE: The live chat is now over. Thank you everyone who came in and participated! It was very fun, maybe a little weird. Comments are now open for this post. We will post media and info from the show below.


Ariga's slice of Mega Man birthday cake, as seen on the Spiceman blog.

Update 2: Seems we forgot to include this in here, but Inafune did answer some questions presented to him from the Capcom*Unity, though for the two hours the show took, this portion was disappointingly short.

The first question was, naturally, about MegaMan Legends 3. Inafune jokingly responded that "if Ben Judd (one of the English co-hosts for the evening) would produce it, we could have a sequel."

Another question involved another possible move for Mega Man into 3D, which Inafune said would be difficult due to the different expectations which would be had by fans of 2D and 3D games. He added that there were some elements of 2D Mega Man which simply would not translate well into 3D. (If anything, X7 seems like proof of this to some degree.)

Asked about creating a new 16-bit Mega Man game in the style of Mega Man 7 for the Super NES, Inafune responded that 8-bit is where Mega Man was born, and he hasn't done everything that he wants to in that style yet. But in the future? He'll have to see where the series takes him.

Naturally, once Legends 3 was out of the way, a question regarding Mega Man X9 was inevitable (they should have simply combined every series into a single question). Inafune professed his love for the X series, but noted that he was quite busy at the moment, and has some different things he would like to do with Mega Man before heading back down that road.

Asked about the popularity of Mega Man 2 making a Mega Man 2 Powered Up possible, Inafune did not commit to the idea, but expressed a rather surprising amount of confidence toward the possibility of it happening.

Someone suggested the idea of Inafune creating a Mega Man game which uses hand-drawn artwork as Vanillaware's Odin Sphere and Muramasa: The Demon Blade do, and while he did like the idea to some degree, he said he would not wish to simply imitate that idea.

And shortly after that, the show ended. Capcom says they are archiving the video, however, so we'll post/link to it when they have it up.

Happy Birthday Inafune!!

3513955004_29f9b0579d_oPop the bubbly and cut the cake, because good ol' Keiji Inafune, creator of our beloved Mega Man, is celebrating his 44th birthday. Wow, 44 years old. That means for nearly half of his life, Inafune has been working on Mega Man (of course for many of us, it's an even bigger percentage). But that's all good, man. Even as we continue to get older, Inafune's games will always make us feel young. So kick back, buddy, and have some fun. You can worry about Legends 3 tomorrow.