The blue bomber strikes! Ever since I was a young boy visiting my cousins and friend’s houses I have loved the Mega Man series. Though the side scrolling and jumping action was similar to Super Mario, it wasn’t at all the same. Mega Man was vigilant blue robot created by Dr. Thomas Light to destroy the Robots corrupted by the villainous Dr. Albert Wily. (Mind you Thomas and Albert seem to very clearly be the namesakes of other great scientists, while Wily does look like a demented version of Einstein, Dr. Light looks more like an educated Santa Clause.)
Within the entire original Mega Man series by Capcom, one game always stands out as the ultimate, and best in the entire line…and that game is Mega Man 2. Now someone might insist that just because Mega Man 2 was the first in the series that it has profoundly affected my bias—but I say thee nay! It isn’t true. It just so happens to be the greatest in the series. The game is challenging yet simply controlled, beautifully designed but not distractingly busy, there is a balance yet it can be chaotic, the puzzles are frustrating yet easily mastered by children. It is simply one of the greatest sidescrollers ever coded. Even the music (which is a department in which Capcom never fails to deliver) is both timely to its original date and classic, not to mention wonderfully written and composed in 8-bit midi with those wonderful NES synth-sounds.
From the moment the game starts epic storytelling begins with iconic view of the city, telling the story of the battle of the robots in the far off year of 200X—a year so futuristic they have either combined numbers with letters or roman numerals—climbing in view up the side of the tower to reveal MEGA MAN, without his helmet his robohair flowing in the wind! The story continues without story as Mega Man fights his way through the evil robots of Wily’s design until you have beaten them all only to be shown Wily’s Skull shaped fortress, and the Evil Scientist himself piloting a flying saucer! What could it mean? Enter Wily’s Keep at your own risk and find out—and make sure you write down that grid password or you’ll be screwed! Truly the entire game is a moment of total perfection in both game play and super awesome childhood memories. Ahh 1988, a fine vintage for gaming.
My love for Mega Man ran deep in those days. So deep that the terrible portrayal of the Blue Bomber as a green hued 3-year-old in Captain N: The Game Master that prefixed every sentence and adjective with “mega” couldn’t attack it. Ah yes, Mega Man (or Rockman as I found out he was called in Japan) was a bad mofo.
Fast forward to 1993. I’ve moved on from the NES, my mom has taken it over to master Super Mario 2, Tetris, and Dr. Mario. I’m on the Super NES. Super. Can’t get better than that, can you? Its friggin Super. I’ve got Super Mario World, I’ve got Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, I’ve got Home Alone (which was terrible), and I’ve got Mortal Kombat II. Life if good (except for Home Alone, that is). But then I am introduced to a new game. A side scroll adventure set in the fantastical year 20XX came on the screen. I found out what was more badass than “Super” and that my friends is “X”. Mega Man X hit the scene and brought back fond memories of Mega Man 2 quickly. The music was timely and rockin’ with the 16-bit glory of SNES midi, the game play was fast paced, the villains had attitude, and the master of them all Sigma…he was not to be trifled with.
Mega Man X was another fantastic moment in the series—but wait? It wasn’t part of the series at all. This wasn’t the same Mega Man that I had come to know and love back on the NES. They had made that abundantly clear. While this Blue Machine Beatin’ Machine certainly was created by Thomas Light—his ultimate invention in fact—he was not, by all accounts, the original Mega Man. And with Light long dead how could he ever reach his potential? What of the original Mega Man, or Wily? Or Roll, Rush, or ProtoMan and the entire Mega Man cast of characters? We had Dr. Cain now, and Zero, and Sigma who all seemed to be analogues but there seemed to be a calamity that had occurred!
The game play and its awesomeness did nothing to avail the mystery. Though Dr. Light had had the forethought to have enhancement capsules laid hidden all over the world (and conveniently enough on boss levels. What a guy!) and he would often tease about X’s ultimate potential and dangerous ability but never would he give any information about the past. Then you start to play the game some more This new Mega Man could climb walls, and dash, and charge his X-Buster (an improvement on the original’s Mega-Buster) and even charge ENEMY WEAPONS once acquired. Whoa. And the cut scenes made you want more.
The worst part is here we are damned near 20 years later and still neither the original Mega Man Series or the X series has reached it’s end. Eventually, one would think that the answers would come but they haven’t. I still want to know what happened. So I keep playing, keep getting awesome Capcom music, keep fighting ridiculously named robots, and keep getting equipped—with awesome. Mega Man and ProtoMan toys stand proudly on my desk with my Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader and my Lantern Corps Rings. I’m waiting for answers on all of those epics—and I don’t think I’ll get them but I’ll be damned if I don’t keep Mega-waiting and mega-buying.
Post Script: In the past few years Archie Comics launched a new Mega Man comics series based on the original NES video games and following a super hero format. When we went to New York City Comic Con that year I was able to snag an interview with the inker Rick Bryant. Check out the Comic Con coverage and see that epic interview below!