Megaman is among Capcom’s best-known video characters. The Guinness Book of World Records called him the 23rd most popular character of all video games worldwide, and the game industry has continuously praised his style and abilities.
Megaman was “born” in 1987 with the release of the video game Mega Man. (The Japanese title was Rockman; the video game designers originally intended for there to be a Rock Man and a Roll Girl, but ended up deciding Mega Man was a better name. Roll still made an appearance, though.)
The story goes that in the year 20XX, two roboticists, Dr. Thomas Light and Dr. Albert W. Wily, developed a new kind of artificial intelligence. They called it “Robot Master,” as robots using this program would be able to command and manage less intelligent robots. Dr. Light’s research pulled ahead of Dr. Wily, and Dr. Wily fell by the wayside — for the moment.
Dr. Light implemented the Robot Master program in a prototype robot called Proto Man. (In keeping with the music theme, the original Japanese name was Blues Man, blues being the predecessor to rock’n’roll.) Proto Man was given the ability to lead other robots in small-squad military tactics, with the idea of letting robots fight wars. Unfortunately, Proto Man “went rogue,” escaped Dr. Light’s lab, and — as far as Dr. Light knew — was destroyed.
Needing a robot to replace his escaped prototype, Dr. Light set to work on two more. He decided to make two, because he believed Proto Man had disappeared because he didn’t have any peers. Dr. Light called them Rock (later known as Mega) and Roll.
Rock was a lab assistant. Rock was supposed to be able to use any tool, and mimic what it did using a built-in “Variable Tool System.” Being able to take on nearly any task made Rock an ideal assistant for Dr. Light’s lab. Roll, on the other hand, was meant to handle housekeeping.
Once Dr. Light had Rock (Mega) and Roll up and running, he went on to design and build six more robots, for industrial purposes:
- Cut Man, for cutting down trees
- Guts Man, for building and digging
- Ice Man, for exploring in the extreme cold
- Bomb Man, for demolition
- Fire Man, for incinerating waste
- Elec Man, for running nuclear power plants
(Later games also introduced Oil Man, who could generate oil, and Time Man, who could partially slow down time.)
All of these robots had the full Robot Master artificial intelligence program, so they could act and work on their own.
The Drama Begins
The twist came, when Dr. Wily — resentful for his colleague’s tremendous success and the way in which his own research had played so small a part — discovered the dying Proto Man. The escape from Dr. Light had left Proto Man with a malfunctioning energy system, which was slowly running out. Dr. Wily repaired Proto Man, and in the process reverse-engineered the robot and made his own: a police robot called Sniper Joe.
In the process of reverse-engineering Proto Man, Dr. Wily also discovered a way to reprogram the other robots Dr. Light had built… and decided to use them for revenge.
Dr. Wily broke into Dr. Light’s lab, and stole all of Light’s robots. All of his robots, that is, except for Rock and Roll. Dr. Wily saw the helper robots as useless, “as good as scrap metal,” and left them behind. As for the six construction robots, Wily brought them back to his lab and reprogrammed them to work under his rule.
Using the industrial robots to help, Dr. Wily built an army of robots with destructive capabilities, with the eventual goal of taking over the world — or at least seizing control of the city to demand the recognition that had been denied him.
Roll Becomes Megaman
With Dr. Wily making fast progress taking over the city with his army of robots, Rock volunteered for conversion — to go from a lab assistant to a fighting robot. The new Rock was known as “Megaman ” (or Rockman in the Japanese game.)
Megaman started out armed with a Mega Buster arm cannon, and a special ability to copy the weapons of any robot he defeated. (Also, a continual tendency to preface words with “mega” for emphasis.) Over the course of the Mega Man game series, Megaman gained additional abilities as well — like the “slide” in Mega Man 3, or charging up his arm gun in Mega Man 4.
One thing is clear in the games — Megaman’s sense of ethics goes beyond his simple programming. For example, faced with the possibility of killing Dr. Wily, Wily tries to save himself by reminding Megaman that robots aren’t able to harm humans. Megaman refutes this statement by saying he’s not just a robot, he can think independently of his programming. Unfortunately for the world (but fortunately for the possibility of a sequel) Dr. Wily manages to escape anyway.
Megaman Lives On
Megaman developed a rich life outside the original game series. He’s made appearances in everything from Mega Man Soccer to the arcade fighting games Mega Man: The Power Battle and sequels.
Outside the Mega Man games, Megaman appeared as a character in the newer PS3 / PSVita versions of the game Street Fighter x Tekken, in the 3D shooting game Cannon Spike, the card games SNK Vs Capcom: Card Fighters Clash, even Card Fighter 2: Expand Edition.
On TV and film, Megaman was a main character in Captain N: The Game Master, helping save Videoland (and even fighting Dr. Wily.) He had his own anime OVA (Mega Man: Upon a Star), and he’s even made it into the music industry — a Tennessee band called The Protomen made a rock opera about the Megaman story.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there have also been Megaman comics. Starting in 2011, Archie Comics put out a series of Megaman comics with original story arcs. The writer and creator of the Mega Man comics is also head of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic series, so perhaps to better keep the two stories straight, the series have crossed-over in a story arc that brings both characters together over twelve issues of the two different comics.