I am a sucker for robot angst


A couple of weeks ago I made the mistake of picking up the Megaman X Collection. Now I find myself playing through them sequentially – I’m currently on X2.

While I was a bit too young to play the classic Megaman series (Rockman in Japan) as it came out, I grew up with the Megaman X series, which, like the similarly titled Dragonball Z, prides itself on being bigger and badder than its predecessor series. There’s more firepower, more speed, more enemies, a darker storyline, and the soundtrack rocks out as much as the SNES  would allow.

I naturally ate all this up as a kid, even if the difficulty level was often a bit too punishing for me.

For those not in the know, the backstory of X goes something like this: Megaman X is the final creation of Dr. Light, the guy who built the original Megaman. X has the ability to make free ethical choices and develop himself. Since Dr. Light is too old to finish the job, he seals X in a capsule which will complete the work on him. A century later, Dr. Cain discovers X, and starts mass producing the tech that X was made with, resulting in the Reploid robots. Due to the fact that he doesn’t quite know what he’s doing, a lot of the Reploids are flawed and buggy and tend to go Maverick (i.e. start wiping out humanity or just acting as general ne’er do wells). So Dr. Cain creates a team of Maverick Hunter reploids, headed by a robot called Sigma, to take them down. Then Sigma defects, along with most of his team, leaving X to take the reins (along with his friend Zero, who was evidently evil at some point).

The series takes itself way too seriously, but, well, I happen to have a soft spot for this sort or ridiculous comic book drama. A couple of thoughts:

– It occurs to me that Megaman is the Sailor Moon of video game franchises. Granted, there is a lack of magical girls, but both of them are based around rigidly following a formula and all the attendant rituals. In Sailor Moon, every season will have a big bad, with several henchmen. The season is divided into subsections devoted to each one of the henchmen, who dispatch one monster per episode to terrorize some hapless soul. In each episode the Sailor Senshi will undergo their stock transformation sequences and attacks until the monster is defeated. At the end of the section the henchman is defeated, and at the end of the season the big bad is confronted.

Now, just about every main Megaman game will have several Robot Masters/Mavericks that Megaman defeats in whatever order the player wants. Before fighting them at the end of the level, he will almost always pass through a long hallway and two doors. After the fight, Megaman gets a new weapon. After those guys have been dispatched, Megaman storms the HQ of the big bad, having rematches with his defeated foes along the way, before having a final showdown.

And in the X games in particular, X also needs to scour the levels for armor upgrades that change his appearance, just as Sailor Moon inevitably needs to add more frills to her outfit.

Lastly, the enemies in Megaman are always at least as goofy in design as the monsters in Sailor Moon.

– On that note, it seems to me that there could be some potential in a robot magical girl show/game, if someone hasn’t done it already.

– Should the defects of the reploids be considered as mental illnesses, inhibiting their free-will, or are they more along the lines of original sin/concupiscence – giving them an inclination towards evil? Since the Mavericks tend to be well organized enough to attempt various take over/destroy the humans plots, I tend to lean to the latter. Which, I suppose, would make X into a sort of pre-lapsarian robot Adam…

About Josh W

Scribbler and doodler
This entry was posted in Our Allies in Nippon, pop culture and its discontents, Setting: THE FUTURE and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to I am a sucker for robot angst

  1. Don says:

    I can’t think of any robot magical girl offhand, but there is at least one android, Go Nagai’s Cutie Honey.

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