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Keiji Inafune is the creative mastermind behind the Rockman/Mega Man franchises. He has been with Capcom for quite a while, and has worked on numerous other projects. Recently, PLAY Magazine sat down with him and discussed the 15-year history of Mega Man. This article was originally written by Chris Hoffman of PLAY, and contains the interview in its entirety.

The Best Damn Mega Man Feature Period
Originally published in Play magazine, volume 3, issue 4 (April 2004)

We go straight to the source at Capcom to learn about the past, present, and future of one of the true icons of video gaming.

by Chris Hoffman

Mega Man. Rockman. The Blue Bomber. Rocky Light. Whatever you call him, there's no denying that Capcom's blue-clad, weapon-swiping hero is one of the most significant, long-lived characters in all of video games. Mega Man had a banner year in 2003, celebrating his 15th birthday (well, since his first game hit Japan in December 1987, 2002 was technically when the partying began) and enjoying the spotlight in toys, comic books, a TV series, and no fewer than five distinct games spanning the Playstation 2, GameCube and Game Boy Advance.

As productive as Mega Man's 15th year was, sweet 16 looks to be even better, thanks in no small part to Mega Man Anniversary Collection, coming to PS2, GC and GBA. (The GBA version, formerly known as Mega Man Mania, contains Mega Man's five classic Game Boy titles.) These anthology titles will take players back through Mega Man's history, letting fans re-experience where it all began and introducing new players to Mega Man's origins. Amazingly, these compilations represent only a fraction of Mega Man's legacy- there have been nearly 40 Mega Man titles released in the U.S. alone.

"The Mega Man series of games, along with Street Fighter, are quite literally the foundation that Capcom is built upon," says Todd Thorson, Capcom's marketing director. "Through Capcom's entire history, there has always been a Mega Man game as part of the line-up. No other character has had that kind of longevity."

Despite the long and rich history the character has had, Mega Man's career began quite humbly. Capcom, primarily an arcade game developer at the time, conceived of a plan in the mid-1980s to create a new game specifically for the home gaming market; previous Capcom games on Nintendo's fledgling Famicom system had all been ports of arcade titles. In order to make the project the best it could be, Capcom assigned some of their most talented young developers to the project, among them an artist by the name of Keiji Inafune, now the general manager and head of Capcom's Production Studio 2.

"I initially joined the Street Fighter team," explains Inafune, who had just been hired by Capcom after graduating college. "Capcom back then was famous for arcade games, not for Nintendo games, because Nintendo had just come out. And the company said, 'OK, we want to make a new Nintendo game. Make a new consumer game. And so, this game, we're going to call it Rockman. For this game, we're going to need the best artist we have.' Which apparently was me at the time. These teams are all very, very small, especially that one, because that was new territory. Capcom's focus has always been arcade, it had always been that, so they didn't want to use too much of their resources, but they knew that they were going to have one man do all the character designs, so they needed the best. I got pulled onto that team. I came into work one day and my seat was not at the Street Fighter team. It was, in fact, at the Rockman team."

The creation of Rockman-which would go on to be renamed Mega Man for the U.S. market since it was easier for American gamers to relate to-was fueled by a number of inspirations, all of them instrumental in creating the characters, visuals, and gameplay that millions of players have come to know and love.

"We were all about the same age, and were all from this generation that really grew up on anime," reveals Inafune, speaking about the game's creative staff. "So the Rockman character is really based on Japanese animation. And when we were making him, at the time, Nintendo games really did not have a huge focus on the characters. It was more the game, not...you know, they didn't really have great characters. and a lot of the time, so long as it looked like a person, that was good enough. And then, when you think about it, even Mario back then, he fired fireballs...out of his stomach? Or...you didn't know where it was coming from, but it doesn't make much sense. Why is it coming out of his stomach? So, it's like, when we made our Mega Man character, you know, if this person's really going to fire, where is the fire going to come from? It's going to come out of his hand or something. His hand transforms into a gun and you can actually see it come out of his arm. We wanted to make sure that the animation and the motion was realistic and actually made sense. So with Mega Man, we had this perfect blending of game character with animation ideas. So you have the game world and anime world all blended into one."

When it came to actually creating the Mega Man world, Inafune was responsible for not only the design of all of the game's characters and enemies, but also rendering them in pixel form for the Famicom, as well as creating the game logo, Japanese package design, and even the game manual. His instrumental role has lead many to refer to him as the "father of Mega Man." As Inafune explains, "There I was all alone, and I had to draw all of these character designs. ...We didn't have [a lot of] people, so after drawing character designs, I was actually doing the dotting for the Nintendo! Back then, people weren't specialized and we had to do a lot of different things because there was so few people, so I really ended up doing all the characters."

Inafune's designs were affected, of course, by the technical limitations of the 8-bit Famicom. In fact, one of Mega Man's most distinguishing characteristics only came about as a result of the hardware he was designed for. "With the design, we were basically after something simple and something cute. We were working with the Famicom, so we were very limited with what we could actually create," remarks Inafune. "And actually, the coloring of the character, back then, we didn't choose to make it blue. Because we were using the Nintendo, we had to make it blue. What that means is that you had, I think, 56 colors that you can choose from, and of that pallette, the most were blue. ...So if you want to use the most detailed color, it would have been blue, so therefore we decided to make the main character blue. The Blue Bomber is really blue because of the Nintendo, not anything else."

The second component that went into Rockman's creation was its thematic use of musical elements. Not just in an aural sense-although the early Mega Man games did have some of the best 8-bit soundtracks ever-but in a broader sense that the creators hoped would appeal to gamers from a marketing standpoint. Though it isn't obvious to uninitiated American gamers, the name "Rockman" is, in fact, derived from rock 'n' roll, not from pieces of stone. "This game's always been based around music," states Inafune. "You know Rock, and the character Roll... you know Blues. And the reason why we did that is because music is something everybody knows. There are very few people out there in the world that don't listen to music in some way, shape or form. We all feel it; it has power. So to base characters on that, that's something that we all can understand, and we can all...buy that concept." This musical influence continued throughout the series with characters like Rush, Tango, Forte and Beat.

Without good gameplay, great animation and thematic underpinnings don't add up to much, but fortunately, Rockman boasted excellent platforming action and unique weapon-swiping gameplay in addition to everything else. As most longtime Mega Man fans already know, the basis for this gameplay device of acquiring weapons and using them to defeat other enemies is based on the game janken-also known as rock-paper-scissors. "This gane has always been based on rock-paper-scissors, which is one of the ultimate games, because it's so easy to play, and there's always a winner or a loser. You can tie, of course, but there's no one element that is stronger than the others. If you have rock, it wins with scissors, but it loses to paper. Paper loses to scissors but beats rock. So there's always a strong and there's always a weak, and when we planned the system, that's what we wanted to do...no single weapon was stronger than any other."

The elements all came together in December 1987, when Rockman was released upon the Japanese gaming public, allowing them to thrill to the exploits of the blue hero as he battled the likes of Cutman, Elecman, Iceman, Fireman, Bombman, Gutsman, and ultimately the evil Dr. Wily. It also let players meet Rockman's sister, Roll, and his creator, Dr. Light, for the first time. Few who played Rockman can forget the dangers of jumping across disappearing platforms, the tension of running under hopping one-eyed mechanical monstrosities, the excitement of discovering a hidden weapon, the frustration of exploding on instant-death spikes. A U.S. release quickly followed, where the game proved to be a sleeper hit. Gamers enamored with titles like Metroid or Zelda initially were repulsed by the game's box art, featuring a blue-and-yellow middle-aged Mega Man on the cover ("Bullshit!" yells Inafune upon seeing the art recently. "Can you imagine what it must have felt like to have one of the marketing staff tell you that it had to be this image or Americans wouldn't get it?! Let's just say I started to think Americans would accept just about anything if they liked this kind of art!"), but once they played it, word began to spread (back before gaming magazines or the Internet were big) that Capcom had a hit on their hands.

Rockman's release proved solid, and helped cement the Famicom as a mainstay of gaming for Capcom, but fell short of being a runaway hit. "While it did sell more than we had expected, [Rockman 1] wasn't a huge success as far as the numbers go," Inafune admits. The Rockman team was assigned to create a new game for the Famicom(which was never released in the U.S.) called Professional Baseball Murder Mystery. However, the team felt very strongly about Rockman and begged management to allow them to continue the series, hoping to build on the knowledge they gained from creating the original and make Mega Man even better the second time around.

"We liked the character," Inafune says, "and our group, even though the company, the business side, said, 'Make this other game,' we said, 'We really want Mega Man to stay around.' And so we spent our own time and kind of did both games at the same time and said, you know, 'Please just let us make this other game.' And the company's like, 'So long as you finish that other one we wanted you to, fine, you can make this other, you can concentrate on the Mega Man series.' So we, of our own accord, got together, spent out own time, we worked really, really hard, you know, just 20-hour days to complete this, because we were making something we wanted to make. Probably in all my years of actually being in a video game company, that was the best time of my working at Capcom, because we were actually working toward a goal, we were laying it all on the line, we were doing what we wanted to do. And it really showed in the game, because it's a game, once again, that we put all our time and effort and love, so to speak, into it, designing it. That's why that's my favorite [Mega Man] game, and that really established Mega Man as a series."

The Rockman team's gamble paid off; Rockman 2, released in December 1988, was a big hit that featured better graphics, better music, more enemies, and more innovative weapons. Robot Masters like Quickman, Metalman, Heatman and Woodman, as well as huge(for the Famicom) bosses like Dr. Wily's dragon and the Gutsdozer, challenged players this time out, and Rockman gained new transportation items that let him reach otherwise inaccessible areas. The U.S. version, Mega Man 2, followed in mid-1989.

With this release, Mega Man was established as both a bona fide hit and a franchise for Capcom. The Blue Bomber spread into LCD games and onto PC, and he even appeared as a pudgy green freak in the Captain N: The Game Master cartoon, but his true home remained Nintendo's systems. Sequels began coming out on a regular basis, each one adding something new to the mix but retaining the gameplay of the original. The third installment, released in 1990, introduced Rockman's robotic canine pal, Rush, and also added a slide move to Rockman's repertoire. Next came Rockman World for Game Boy (known as Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge in America), which was essentially a portable remix of the first two Rockman Famicom games, followed by Rockman 4, Rockman World 2, Rockman 5, Rockman World 3, Rockman 6, and Rockman World 4. Exclusively in Japan, a boardgame-style title featuring the Rockman cast, called Wily and Light's Rockboard, was released for the Famicom in early 1993.

However, by this time, the days of the 8-bit were on the wane. Although fans continued to be delighted by the Famicom/NES games, the Super Nintedo(Super Famicom) and Genesis(Mega Drive) were the dominant systems, and gamers the world over wanted to see what Mega Man would be able to do on new, more powerful hardware. Their questions were answered with the release of Rockman X in December 1993. Set approximately 100 years after the original Rockman series, Rockman X existed in a darker, more technologically advanced world where human-like robots called Reploids lived side-by-side with humans. When Reploids would go bad, they were dubbed Mavericks, and so it was up to Maveick Hunters-such as the series' main character, the titular Rockman X-to track them and stop them. Though much of the series' backstory is open to argument-is Rockman X the same character as the original Rockman?-there was no question that the game looked fantastic, or that added gameplay features, like being able to climb walls or find capsules that contained new abilities, infused new life into the franchise.

Changes to the Mega Man formula have become a trend when new hardware is involved, always pushing the system to get more out of the game. "Basically, it's been because of the hardware that [Mega Man] has evolved," declared Inafune. "Mega Man was a character that was kind of developed-even his color was determined-based on what the hardware could actually do. So Mega Man's always been a character that had to evolve based on the hardware... I think a lot of games are that way; you're going to see changes in the characters based on new hardware that appears. ...That's the obvious process that a character has to follow: evolving."

Another major new element introduced to the X series was the inclusion of the Maverick Hunter, Zero. The bright-red, ponytail-sporting hero, in fact, could have wound up as the star of the game. "When the X series came out, I really wanted to redesign Mega Man," Inafune confesses. "I wanted a totally different Mega Man. I'm a designer, a creator; I wanted something new. I didn't want to use the same old Mega Man. And so I made this new character, and of course I knew the character I created, Zero, wasn't anything like the old Mega Man and people were going to say, 'That's not Mega Man!' So I redesigned Mega Man as well, and we had this other new high-techno sort of Mega Man, and then we had Zero. I really liked this character, so I used him as a sub-character in the game and, you know, ever since then he's gotten more and more popular."

Over the next few years, both the original Mega Man and the X series continued strong across various consoles and beyond-he was even able to further infiltrate the pop culture of North America with a (rather terrible) Saturday morning animated TV show and action figures based upon the same show-but Mega Man hadn't stopped evolving. As new hardware became available, Mega Man took new forms and established new continuities, such as the 3D adventure series Mega Man Legends(Rockman Dash) on Playstation and the RPG-like Mega Man Battle Network(Rockman.EXE) on Game Boy Advance, with the goal always being to appeal to the taste of modern gamers.

"You have to think out of the box," states Inafune. "You have to think of what your average user's going to be, what your average customer is going to be, and if it's kids, you have to think of what kids like in games. What they can appreciate, what new things that are popular in that time period. With the Battle Network series, we took and put in the RPG-esque sort of world... You have to be open minded, you have to be able to think as if you were in the customer's shoes."

Inafune continues: "If I don't appeal to kids in that [current] time period, then he'll be a forgotten character. It's like a classic car, maybe from the '50s or '60s. It may look pretty, and people may say 'Oh, that's cool,' but when they get in and it doesn't have power steering, it doesn't have the auto-locks and there's no AC, you can say that it's cool and it's pretty all you want to, but people that are used to that kind of comfort, used to modern-day, they're not going to really appreciate it. So, the same thing with Mega Man. You have to evolve it and give it all these new features so that people of that day can really appreciate."

One thing that Inafune has no intention of changing is Mega Man's well-recognized, oft-complained-about high level of difficulty. "What I feel truly makes Mega Man Mega Man is getting shot and killed, or falling down a hole, and losing, but yet feeling like-'Aah! Frustrated! I lost! But I want to play again. I want to continue to keep playing until I beat this stage or continue to keep playing until I clear the game.' So people who are complaining now, saying it's too hard...they're not true gamers. They don't truly understand what the game is about, which is the frustration, which is about clearing a difficult goal. That's what Mega Man's always been about."

Alongside the franchise's ability to evolve, Inafune also attributes Mega Man's longevity to a number of factors, including collaborating with younger designers who may be more in tune with what fledgling gamers expect, as well as his own continued love for the character and the series.

"Basically, when I first started creating the character, I really loved Rockman. It's a great character and it made me happy creating it," remarks Inafune. "So probably the reason that Mega Man has been around for this long, and continues to be successful, is because I still love that character. Because I still want to keep doing things with him. If you really like something, and you think you've got something good on your hands, you're not going to want to let it go."

Of course, Inafune admits, there have been frustrating times when dealing with Mega Man, like when he was forced to abandon the Rockman name for the American market. "I came over to America and said, 'You know, I've got this character, Rockman. Let's put it out!' and the staff here said, 'No, we can't go with [the name] Rockman. The name Rock is kind of dangerous and it's not going to actually fit the character.' And another area I got in a tiff with the staff about was about Blues, because they were telling me, 'Blues...that's not a name. That doesn't make any sense.' And they said it has to have 'man' after it like Mega Man and everybody else, and I said, 'But you know, Blues is based on music and it's an actual thing and that's what I want to call it.' And they said that it would be better if it was Protoman. But unfortunately, that meant the ultimate concept of what I was going after with Mega Man, with Rockman, which was based on a music concept, kind of slipped off course..."

Another difficulty arose when it came to continuing the X series after the fifth installment, which Inafune had planned to be the end of the saga. "I was originally planning on ending the series at around X4 or 5," Inafune reveals. "I really expected that to be the ending. And so I was all happy... 'OK, done with X5. That series is now closed off, now let's start Zero. I'm really excited to start Zero series.' Here's Zero, you know, he's kind of dead, and you power him up and he comes back to life, right? In my mind, in X5, Zero died. And so I'd always planned to make Zero come back to life in the Zero series, but then X6 comes out sooner from another division and Zero comes back to life in that, and I'm like, 'What's this!? Now my story for Zero doesn't make sense! Zero's been brought back to life two times!"

Fortunately, Inafune says, the occassional difficulties with Rockman are far outnumbered by its positive aspects, and when trouble does arise, it only serves to help him make better games in the future. "Basically, Mega Man is my teacher and my parent, because he has taught me what it's like to make a game. Thanks to Mega Man, I've been able to create a lot of different games, and he's taught me what my mistakes were. He's taught me what things work and what things don't work. He's been with me longer than any other character and he's always shown me the way. He's always told me how I can make games better, and sometimes he's helped me understand how I made games worse. So he is the ultimate teacher when it comes to developing games."

Presently, the Blue Bomber is enjoying success in three separate series-Mega Man Battle Network on GBA, Mega Man Zero, also on GBA, and Mega Man X, which recently made the jump to 3D on Playstation 2. He's also starring in the hit animated series Mega Man NT Warrior on Kids' WB and has been stirring up interest in the comic shop thanks to the Mega Man comic books published by Dreamwave Productions. So what's next for Mega Man? Plenty. Mega Man X: Command Mission is an RPG set in the X timeframe, boasting unique hybrid battles utilizing both real-time and turn-based elements, which will come on Playstation 2 and GameCube in summer 2004. On the Game Boy Advance side of things, Mega Man Zero 3 and the fourth chapter of Mega Man Battle Network will find their way stateside this year.

But what about something new to entice the older gamer who still longs for another adventure with the original Mega Man? "You first think of Mega Man as a kid's game, right?" rhetorically queries Thorson. "Sure, Mega Man appeals to millions of kids around the world. But now there are also millions of people who have literally grown up with the Blue Bomber. People in their 20s and 30s who played the games when they were younger are still enjoying them. The nostalgia factor is huge." So does that mean that Mega Man 9 could be in the works? After all, Dr. Wily was still on the loose after Mega Man and Bass.

"That is going to depend largely on the amount of input of...fans that actually say, 'Yes, we really, really want a [Mega Man] 9, that's obviously a throwback to the super old-school, which people that are like 28, 30, that have been playing Mega Man for their whole lives...it would be for them, for the fans, not for the actual younger gamers, which is what Mega Man's originally intended for."

Even if Mega Man 9 doesn't come to pass, hardcore fans still have those tempting compilations to look forward to: the console and GBA versions of Mega Man Anniversary Collection. "[The game formerly known as] Mega Man Mania and Mega Man Anniversary Collection are designed to be a celebration of the Blue Bomber," comments the games' producer, Robert Johnson. "The 'old-school' Mega Man games are some of the best platform games ever designed. ...For us older gamers out there, it's a blast to go back and play these classic games and to see if we still have the skills to beat them."

In addition, Capcom almost certainly have something else up their sleeves. Mega Man has already made his mark in action, adventure, RPGs and even occassionally in driving and sports, but it's clear that his creator thinks Mega Man has a lot more games left in him and many more stories to tell.

"I think personally that Mega Man still has a lot that he can do, and he can still get bigger and bigger," enthuses Inafune, "and I think that probably his big successes are yet to come. I feel it hasn't reached its full potential yet."

The article itself ends here, but it contains many sidebars of information regarding the history of Mega Man and assorted merchandise. Below are the transcriptions of those sidebars.




Mega Man (original series)
This is where it all started-with the original Mega Man (NES, 1988) taking on mad scientist Dr. Wily and his crazy robotic creations. The adventure continued in the extremely polished Mega Man 2(NES, 1989) and then further evolved in Mega Man 3(NES, 1990), Mega Man 4(NES, 1992), Mega Man 5(NES, 1992) and Mega Man 6(1994, NES). Mega Man 7(SNES, 1995) introduced the villainous Bass, and Mega Man 8(PS/SS, 1997) ranks among the series' best. The series has also appeared on numerous other systems, including Game Boy, Game Gear and PC, and even spun off into Mega Man's Soccer(SNES, 1994). The last installment in the original saga, Mega Man and Bass(GBA, 2003), just made it to the U.S. last year, but it originally hit the Super Famicom back in 1998 as Rockman and Forte.(Caption: Mega Man 8 ranks among the best of the original Mega Man games.)

Comic Books
Mega Man's foray into the world of comic books got off to a "Rocky" start (ho ho) when the series came to a close after issue #4. A second series, based on Mega Man X, was subsequently announced by Dreamwave, but it has been "postponed until further notice" according to a company representative. Fortunately, fans can look forward to the Mega Man NT Warrior manga from Viz, coming this May. (Caption: Dreamwave's comic showcased Mega Man's battles as well as his school life, where he was known as "Rocky Light.")

Mega Man X
Set 100 years after the original Mega Man series, Mega Man X (SNES, 1994) told the story of Mega Man X, a human-like robot discovered by Dr. Cain, and his ally Zero. "I wanted to make a new Mega Man ," remarks Inafune. "That Mega Man was to be called Zero. Thanks to this series, one of my favorite characters was born, and his popularity has lasted right along with Mega Man's." After sacrificing himself in the original game, Zero returned to life in Mega Man X2 (SNES, 1995), then became a playable character in Mega Man X3 (SNES, 1996). The series made the jump to 32-bit in Mega Man X4 (PS/SS, 1997) then continued in Mega Man X5 (PS, 2000), where Mega Man finally learned to duck, the lackluster Mega Man X6 (PS, 2001) and, most recently, the 3D Mega Man X7 (PS2, 2003). (Caption: Mega Man may have the title role, but Zero is the cool one.)

Action Figures
Mega Man began invading toy store shelves again in 2003 with Jazwares' 6" and 10" figures based on both the original Mega Man and Mega Man X. The second series just hit stores-offering characters like Quickman and Axl-and new assortments are slated for later this year. Meanwhile, toy giant Mattel recently announced their intent to release anime-based Mega Man NT Warrior toys in August; the line will include 10" figures of Mega Man and Protoman, six 2" diorama figure sets and role-playing gear. Though many Rockman toys have been released in Japan, the most notable are Bandai's incredibly slick snap-together models/action figures based on the classic and X series; too bad all Bandai released in the U.S. were wretched figures based on the American cartoon. The other Mega Man figure released in the U.S. came from Toy Biz as part of their Marvel vs. Capcom series. (Caption: X and Axl are part of Jazwares' Mega Man line, available now.)

Mega Man Legends
Not only does Mega Man Legends (PS, 1998) take Mega Man into 3D and dramatically shift the gameplay toward an adventure focus. It takes place on a completely different continuity than all previous games in the franchise. Mega Man Legends 2 (PS, 2000) featured the same type of gameplay, but with more characters and in more varied environments, while antagonists Tron Bonne and her Servbots got to star in their own spin-off game, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne (PS 2000). "What can I say?" says Inafune. "I love it. And you can bet when I get the chance and more importantly the free time, you WILL be seeing a sequel of this." (Caption: In Legends, Mega Man could just never get that monkey off his back.)

Music
Given the musical thematic basis of Rockman, it's only appropriate that a number of Rockman soundtrack CDs have been released, primarily in Japan. These CDs include the original soundtracks of Rockman X7, Rockman Dash, the Rockman.EXE series and the rockin' Rockman arcade games, as well as a jazzy remix of Rockman X, a drama CD and a Rockman vocal collection featuring the lyrical theme songs exclusive to the Japanese releases. The nifties piece of Rockman audio would have to be a commemorative OST three-disc set released in 2002, contacting the music from the six primary Famicom Rockman games; the one to avoid is the 1995 U.S. Mega Man soundtrack ... which is drawn from the cartoon, not the games. Fans may also want to check out the Minibosses' latest CD, featuring their interpretation of tunes from Mega Man 2. (Caption: Relax to the 8-bit tunes of this limited-edition three-disc set.)

Mega Man Battle Network
"I created this game so that I could experience the fun of Rockman with my own son," explains Inafune. "We both really love this series." In this version of the Mega Man continuity, Mega Man exists as a Net Navi program in the PET (PErsonal Terminal) of Lan, his human partner. The RPG-like Mega Man Battle Network(GBA, 2001) has already spawned sequels in the form of Battle Network 2(GBA, 2002) and Mega Man Battle Network 3(GBA, 2003) in both Blue and White versions, with a fourth chapter coming stateside this summer. Spin-offs include Mega Man Network Transmission(GC, 2003) and Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge(GBA, 2004). (Caption: The upcoming Mega Man Battle Network 4 will be available in two versions: Red Sun and Blue Moon.)

Cartoons
The Mega Man NT Warrior cartoon on Kids' WB, which retells the adventures of Mega Man and Lan(and friends) from the Mega Man Battle Network games, is all set to begin its second season this spring. The popular cartoon will pick up right where it left off-in the middle of the all-important N1 Grand Prix NetBattling Tournament. For the masochistic, check out the quality-challenged '90s Mega Man cartoon available on DVD from ADV. (Caption: Mega Man NT Warrior brings the franchise to life on Kids' WB.)

Trading Cards
A one-two punch of Mega Man trading card goodness is set to hit in the coming months. In June, Decipher will deliver the competitive and collectible Mega Man NT Warrior Trading Card Game, featuring approximately 130 cards plus a foil subset. And, for the old-school fan, an impressive-looking set of trading cards, featuring original Capcom art from the original Mega Man series, is coming from Artbox Entertainment. This set, which contains 45 standard cards plus nine foil chase cards, should hit this spring. (Caption: Artbox's Mega Man cards will be must-haves for the die-hard fan.)

By The Numbers...
As of press time, the following number of Mega Man games have been released on each system in the U.S.: NES (6), Game Boy (5), Super NES (5), Game Boy Color (2), Game Gear (1), PS (7), Saturn (2), N64 (1), GBA (8), PS2 (1), GameCube (1).

Mega Man Zero
The Mega Man Zero series is Keiji Inafune's true vision of what occurred several hundred years after Mega Man X5. "It was my dream come true," he says. "I got to use Zero, the character I created of my own accord, as the main hero in the game." In this series, Zero is revived to help fight for Reploid freedom...and wait until you see what happened to X. Both games in this series, Mega Man Zero(GBA, 2002) and Mega Man Zero 2(GBA, 2003) are known for their severe difficulty and serve their legacy proud. The upcoming Mega Man Zero 3 should be no different. (Caption: Classic 2D Mega Man challenge lives on in Mega Man Zero.)

Mega Man Cameos
Aside from Mega Man's usual routine of beating up Dr. Wily (or Sigma ... or the Bonnes ...), the Blue Bomber has had a few guest appearances in other Capcom titles. He and secret character Roll teamed up with the likes of Ryu and Morrigan in Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Superheros (1998), then returned in Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (2000), along with Tron Bonne and a Servbot. Mega Man was also one of the stars of the top-down action title Cannon Spike (2000), and in Pocket Fighter (1998), cat-girl Felicia transformed into classic Mega Man during one of her attacks while his Legends incarnation looked on from one of the backgrounds. Most recently, Mega Man.EXE jacked into the world of Onimusha: Blade Warriors (2004) as a hidden fighter, complete with his own Net Battling background, while Zero (in his Mega Man Zero guise) got to appear in both Blade Warriors and SNK vs Capcom: Chaos (2003). (Caption: Mega Man universes collide in the world of Onimusha!)

In Japan Only
Although Mega Man has headlined nearly 40 games in the U.S., several of his titles have remained exclusive to Japan. Included in that number are Wily and Light's RockBoard (Famicom, 1993), Rockman Mega World (Mega Drive, 1993), enhanced ports of Rockman X3 (PS/SS, 1996), Rockman Battle and Chase (PS, 1997), Super Adventure Rockman (PS/SS, 1998), Rockman and Forte (Super Famicom, 1998), a terrible handheld port of Rockman and Forte (Wonderswan, 1999), six ports of the original Famicom Rockman games called Rockman Complete Works (PS, 1999), Rockman Battle and Fighters (Neo Geo Pocket, 2000), Rockman.EXE WS (Wonderswan, 2002), and Rockman.EXE N1 Battle (Wonderswan, 2003). A special box set, containing all six Complete Works games and Rockman X7, as well as seven commemorative pins, was also recently released in Japan. Any chance any of these games will yet make it stateside? "Stay tuned! We're always working on new ways to introduce all the Mega Man games," says Todd Thorson, Capcom's marketing director. (Caption: Rockman Mega World: 16-bit bliss that never saw a proper U.S. release.)

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