Mega Man, beloved gaming mainstay and robo-midget wunderkind, was introduced by Capcom in 1987. He has since become perhaps the company’s most prestigious and prolific property, featuring in greater than a hundred titles. I’ll concede, this lofty figure includes such farcical fare as that porn movie he starred in, ‘Solid as a Rock-Man All Night Long, Baby, Check My Heroic Penis OUT’ (in deference to his Japanese moniker ‘Rockman,’ naturellement), unless that was just a fleeting joyous dream I once had. Nevertheless, such a stupendous output makes the popularity of the belligerent Blue Bomber quite plain. Amidst some off-color jokes and piss-taking, we’ll attempt to explain why he’s deserving of such heady fame.
The classic series presents Mega Man as a creation of the benevolent Dr. Light, serving him as a humble lab assistant. Light’s cretinous counterpart Dr. Wily (Look, ma! A character foil!) jeopardizes the world with his Robot Masters, a series of ‘bots bent on wanton destruction and general bastardry (heinous behavior like... obscene hand gestures at passing OAPs wouldn’t be beyond these guys. Just so we’re clear on the level of sheer nut-numbing depravity we’re dealing with). In response, the valiant doctor takes the noble course: sending his lone robo-child to combat this menace to humanity, before (quite possibly) retiring to his boudoir to hide under the bed, eat spam straight from the tin like a hobo, and shed an eternal torrent of salty, salty shame-tears. Fortuitously for the old bastard, (although less fortuitously for the latter old bastard, whose ass will later explode, on innumerable occasions) Mega Man’s battle prowess belies his physical appearance, which is about as imposing as a monkey’s testicle with an angry face drawn upon it. Or a cat with one leg. Additionally, it’s the manner in which the precocious little guy’s exploits play out that further lends the games their stellar reputation.
The series pioneered the concept of choice. You would not take a pre-determined path through the levels, instead selecting a portrait of each Robot Master at will from the menu. These chaps have been named Wood Man, Blade Man, Ice Man and suchlike. (I daresay Capcom's resident simpleton strained both his mediocre brain cells coming up with such names:
“The guy that’s on actual goddamn fire could be called... Fire Man!”
“Excellent work, Brian. Have a gold star, while I pat your moronic head. Ah, I see you’ve pissed your pants again. There’s a little drool on your shirt, too.” )
Defeating each opponent allows you to equip their signature weapon, in a canny little piece of resourceful larceny. The innovative element here is that each opponent has a weakness to the weapon of another, increasing replay value exponentially as you sought the ‘correct’ order to tackle your antagonists. That’s a little premature, alas, as you first had to survive the level itself.
Our homunculus hero must endure some of the most fiendish run-and-gun platformery ever devised. Inexplicable enemy spawn points will ensure something unpleasant materializes a nano-inch from your eyeball, sending you careening down a death-precipice like Wile. E. Coyote over a cliff. Copious supplies of those notorious spikes of pointy demise litter the areas, ensuring naught but pixel-perfection with leaps and positioning will see you through. In short, we’re presented with the very essence of quintessential old-school gaming. There’s no hand-holding in effect here, no stabilizers for this tricycle. Oftentimes, you’ll simply lose control of said vehicle and crash into a hedge; limbs akimbo and sobbing piteously. Is your mother there with compassion, chocolate milk and band-aids and whatnot? She is not. Your only companion is Mega Man, and he points and laughs remorselessly at your seemingly-terminal case of suck.
“Get up, fool! I don’t care if you’ve shat your pants, change them and try again!”
Because, as we all know, Mega Man speaks in a manner rather reminiscent of Mr. T.
Most pertinently, in my experience, there’s an inherent endearing quality to the games that defies frustration (to a degree). The series is a hefty challenge, as anyone that’s so much as dabbled can attest. Regardless, each inducing a string of profanities you wouldn’t hear from a drunken sailor demise is purely caused by your own mistaken movement. Difficult, indubitably, but never unfair. Mega Man represents an unadulterated test of gaming skill, a commodity that has become all too rare. The fact that it’s festooned in a harmless cartoon exterior has always struck me as an hilarious dichotomy. It’s gaming’s honey badger, appearing innocuous enough (a little like a skunk that’s been kicked in the face) so you approach to stroke it (‘stroke the skunk,’ while rather an odd thing to be doing, is not a masturbation euphemism). At which point, it reveals the true extent of its bastardry, and rips the nutsack off a lion. This bizarre analogy also applies to our hero himself. Look at that innocent, lumpen body, concealing such latent trigger-happy talent.
The Blue Bomber has found himself in a rather precarious position of late. As with Sega’s Sonic, the three-dimensional revolution slapped him in the groin somewhat. As the video below suggests, he has not yet attained comfort in the 3d arena, with some nut-numbingly bad games (check the clip, hilarity prevails). Capcom have tried to remedy this with the recent Mega Man 9 and 10; fresh retrospective releases that rekindle everything I, and so many fans, relish about the series. We continue to anticipate his next move.