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Page 1:
Introduction
Influences, Development, and World-Building

Page 2:
Characters

Page 3:
Mega Man Legends / Mega Man 64

Page 4:
The Misadventures of Tron Bonne
Rockman DASH 2 - Episode 1: Roll-chan Kiki Ippatsu!

Page 5:
Mega Man Legends 2

Page 6:
Mobile Games
Rockman DASH: Adventure to Save the Planet

Page 7:
Mega Man Legends 3

Page 8:
Cameos
Other Media

Page 9:
Red Ash: The Indelible Legend
Tail Concerto

Discuss on the Forums!

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by Neil Foster - August 8, 2016

"[My favorite game is] Mega Man Legends, a title that really didn't sell well..."
-Keiji Inafune

The 5th generation of video games was a transitional period for the medium. For years leading up to the 32- and 64-bit age, technological advancement and programming know-how had strove to shift games past a plane consisting of merely two axses, and by the end of 1996 every major platform had a polygonal title to showcase how 3D gameplay can be done. Once the landmark title Super Mario 64 shook the gaming public at large, 2D and sprites in general became passé. Suddenly every classic franchise had to make the jump to the third dimension in order to stay relevant. Regrettably, much like many actors from the silent film era after the advent of "talkies", few could survive that transition. It wasn't just due to aesthetics (though 3D prowess of the time may have left something to be desired compared to sprite art of the later 16-bit variety), but issues with converting a game franchise's gameplay to that new open dimensionality. Too often the concise framework and trappings of a great 2D title gets lost expanding it with a Z-axis, or the end result becomes retooled enough that the original charm is flat-lined, or perhaps the struggle of a functioning camera in 3D space is too much of a hassle (the latter issue still plaguing video games to this day). Regardless, the cutthroat business forced IPs to evolve or die in the wake of the next generation, and thus casualties were rampant -- or at least left many out of commission until the luster of newfangled 3D had faded.

By all accounts, a 3D Mega Man game would be terrible. Judging by how Mega Man X7 turned out, this hypothesis does prove to be true. All that running and gunning gets muddied when threats can come after you at all sides, and the wonderfully tight level design would have to become compromised in order to make it easier to grasp and view it within the new dimension. But Sony, for a time, was very anti-2D for the most part, as they wanted to focus on bringing the future of games with their polygon-pushing console. While they did allow for the sprite-based 2D Mega Man 8 to be on their PlayStation due to brand recognition alone, and would host three Mega Man X titles later on, there came added pressure to pump out a 3D Mega Man title for the system as a concession. How would Capcom create classic Mega Man gameplay that would break through the proverbial polygonal ceiling?

Short answer: They didn't. What became the first Mega Man Legends game was created with the express purpose to be an entirely different Blue Bomber outing.

INFLUENCES, DEVELOPMENT, AND WORLD-BUILDING

For a game made in the burgeoning days of 3D leaps, Mega Man Legends can often come off as tangential to the original. Sure, the overlying elevator pitch of "blue robo hero shoots at bad robots" is there, yet most of the delivery comes off as a ripoff at face value, alluding to the actual Mega Man franchise rather than being an active part of it. This risk amplified the obstacle of creating a successful 3D continuation in the infancy of the polygonal pioneering as multiple titles for classic series were failing to keep momentum even adhering to the original's designs. The reinvention of Mega Man's image places it under scrutiny from the outset. This branch of Mega Man is much more subtle in its ties in spite of naming the major duo as Mega Man and Roll. However, that doesn't undersell how much groundwork Legends is inspired by the classic and X line. Sure, Volnutt doesn't normally wear a helmet, but the ones he acquires early on are nice throwback designs to the blue original. As the games progress, his arsenal expands with new special weapons that carry limited ammo compared to the trusty lemony-yellow pellet blaster, while they aren't as fantastical or elemental-themed as the gear scrounged from defeated Robot Masters, the attachable weaponry still sport better firepower and strengths to bosses battled. The ruins also serve as self-contained levels much like the stages of the older games, complete with little nods of the double doors before heading to the large threats hidden behind. If the classic Mega Man and Mega Man X are like Mario, Legends is their Zelda.

Along with obvious callbacks to Astro Boy and other Tezuka's work, the original Mega Man and its sequel series X took many cues from superhero and big actions shows from both East and West. Each stage in every game can almost be broken down into serialized episodes of taking on the villain of the day, defeating a colorful boss in an overall quest to finally take down the big bad at the climatic resolution. While this isn't a bad kind of story, it is not one that lends itself to a world of exploration nor downtime for such a goal-oriented blue robot hero. To that end, the Legends games are more adventure titles that purely action ones.

Mega Man battling robots is a normal sight for the franchise. Interacting with innocent bystanders wasn't at the time.

The Japanese title for the spinoff "DASH" is not a mere suffix; it is an acronym: "Digouter's Adventure Story in Halcyon days". Outside of the semi-Engrishy word structure, the "H" is the important key for the overall theme. Halcyon is taken from Greco-Roman mythology of storms calming for a period of time from the forces of Aeolian gods of wind. The period is said to occur within the winter season, when the seas and skies will stay perfectly calm. The term "halcyon days" slowly became an idiom, thanks in part from Shakespeare, to refer to a nostalgic moment of time from years past that one looks back fondly. Truly, the double meaning rings clear for the Legends franchise's story and setting: a world currently nestled in the safe frame of turmoil from the ancient era and threats looming in its future, and tropes harkening to tales long past.

The Mega Man Legends timeline takes place thousands of years in the future, far past the 20XX days of the original and the Maverick hunting X series a century after that. In fact, the games were developed in line with the original downer finale that was X5 with the character X wishing to create a utopia away from the turmoil on Earth. This moment of X choosing to hang up his helmet was meant as a button to the second series of Mega Man games before Capcom forced the development of further titles and even more franchises. In any case, much akin to Judgment Day in the Terminator movies, dark destinies can not be avoided, only merely delayed. Whether judging from the ending of Mega Man X5 or all the way up to the latest prior game chronologically, Mega Man ZX Advent, the end result has the old world destroyed and life on Earth changed. Humans as a species are now long gone.

The world as it is now in Legends lies almost completely covered in endless water. A Waterworld / Wind Waker type of post-apocalyptic setting isn't too uncommon, especially with certain environmental messages warning about a potential-- if not an inevitable-- outcome whether by climate change or natural continental drift. Regardless, the reasons for the sea levels rising so high isn't fully explained, as the knowledge of the incident is only mentioned in tales of the ancient Great War that changed everything. The biblical allusions don't even stop with the end of the world flooding. Much of the creation of the current world is from a supreme God-like figure from an artificial moon literally referred to as Heaven in the Japanese games, protected by seraphic subjects of his design removed from humanity that wield the keys to Eden (seen in the game as a weapon and not a paradise). Sure, they are android or robotic in appearance, but many of these denizens of the sky sprout wings and transform into devilishly divine forms willing to cast judgment below.

Apocryphal Mega Men (and Women) that might have served as protectors and destructors of the blue planet.

While religion isn't a major focus in the series, Legends does spin the idea of a divine figure in a different way. Mankind's god and creator was simply a human. No, not Dr. Light, necessarily. The alluded manufacturers of whom dwells on the planet now named Terra were mortal men and women from days long past. Their level of benevolence is relatively striking compared to what is worshipped in-game: gods and goddesses that foreshadow events to unfold in the playthrough. What is deemed god-- or the last of them-- is good, but his guards and staff may not align as such. The realization of their exact creation does get glossed over, however, as only the handful of main protagonists become clued into the details.

Mega Man Legends borrows many motifs that Hayao Miyazaki popularized from older literary works as well as other media. It's not just in the usage of aircraft and flying ships Miyazaki was very fond or, nor the whimsical adventurous tone much of his oeuvre entails, either. The catastrophic backstory of the rising water levels isn't too far removed from the tale of Alexander Key's 1970 sci-fi novel The Incredible Tide, which had the world's axis shifted due to the events of World War III. The novel was adapted to Japan as an animated series known as Future Boy Conan, which was staffed by many pre-Ghibli talents including directors Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. In Conan, the view of the wastelands are from the eyes of a youth, treating the end of the world as a place of adventure and discovery in the desolate remains of what laid before, proving that there is still hope in those left with most of humankind vanquished. Much of the world in The Incredible Tide and Conan mirror the setting of Legends: an idyllic post-apocalypse life for the plucky protagonists with remnants artifacts left over from the past and a powerful group wishing to restore the former glory of the time before the cataclysm. (For those wondering, yes, Wind Waker took a few cues from Future Boy Conan, as well.)

As of the games' timeline, the signs of civilizations that are left reside on high-altitude mountains-turned-islands of varying sizes dotting the oceanscape with a labyrinth of cavernous underground ruins lying below. A microcosm of Conan's influence is visible on Calbania Island in the second game: a small group of young kids living in hallowed out shanty remains of a village roughing it with a carefree smile while danger lurks right outside their home. Also, in a more directly-lifted inspiration, the enemy robots that patrol around the world bare heavy resemblance to Miyazaki's robotic designs, first seen in a directed finale of the Lupin III 2nd TV Series, “Farewell My Beloved Lupin” -- a plot which was blatantly based on Fleischer's Superman animated short “The Mechanical Monsters”. Even Mega Man 8 borrowed this aerial bot design for a flying Wily stage boss.

It was only the second theatrical Superman animated short, but it resonated enough to be drawn as an inspiration in multiple works for decades, even beyond the examples shown here.
Upper Left: Superman (1941); Upper Right: Lupin III (1980); Middle: Laputa: Castle In the Sky (1986); Bottom Left: Mega Man 8 (1996); Bottom Right: Mega Man Legends (1997)

For such an end-of-the-world scenario, much of the leisurely gifts of the 20th century and beyond are readily available. The Legends series would be the first spin-off of the Mega Man franchise to show the player enough of a cozy downtime and break from constant run-and-gunning before the likes of Battle Network and Star Force would paint settings of suburbia. The life this distant in the future has reached a point of reconstruction where the inhabitants can indulge in the pastimes of watching TV, purchasing the latest hit single on CD, buying new outfits, or just live normal lives without having to hunt for shelter or clean drinkable water. Granted, the search for fuel sources and the risk of robotic threats in the wild are on hand, but that only adds to the fantastical mystique to sail the among the clouds.

"Drifting on this sea like scattered leaves on a forgotten pool..."

There is a little known phrase stated in the older annals of Gamespite.net that mentions the "Laputa Effect". The 1986 Miyazaki-directed Studio Ghibli film, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, derived in part from Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels, is almost a modern day monomyth for Japanese genre films and media. The movie distills characters and themes that Miyazaki set the blueprints for in the animated Future Boy Conan. Pazu, like the eponymous Conan, is the standard idealistic go-getter youthful boy of numerous shounen protagonists. Sheeta from the movie is the poster child for the standard "mysterious girl with a mythical pendant/amulet/MacGuffin that holds the key to _____" in countless RPGs. Of course, there are villains seeking that key the girl has, driven to covet the power it may hold. Along the way, romances are teased, various alliances are struck, some not-so-bad antagonists that will team up with the good guys before the story's end. Surprisingly, the Mega Man and Roll of Legends share mixed duties as Pazu and Sheeta's archetypes, with Mega Man having -- or rather, being -- the mythical MacGuffin.

As stated earlier, humanity has been vanquished from Earth -- or Terra as it is named in-game. That is to say, Homo sapiens as a species have long been extinct at this point. In its place, the humanoids wandering the planet are known as “Betas” or "Carbons" ("Decoys" in Japanese), which are neither man nor machine but can be called a fully blended cyborg race. This outcome of merging identities had been highly adverted throughout the Mega Man series: Dr. Light wished for robots and humans to coexist peacefully, creating free will Reploids, only to culminate with humans and Reploids slowly accepting one another and bridging the gap over time by cybernating humans and limiting Reploid lifespans. This coexistence is shown within the prior chronological ZX spinoff, but between then and Legends, the gap became fully closed with the creation of Carbons to live on the planet, existing long enough that society has known only life in the transhuman persuation. In practice, Carbons are essentially living, breathing, propagating flesh-and-blood human beings like we are now. The key difference lies in the ease of implanting or exchanging body parts for mechanical replacements or enhancements. The people of this future generally don't see a problem or hold reservations about these sorts of procedures though, as modification if not downright complete mechanization is fairly common and, as seen by Mega Man Volnutt himself, can easily be done on the fly if needed. These sort of modifications are majority performed on males, potentially due to robotic parts not being as attractive (if not frightening, as the dev team mentioned with the early designs for a female nurse with a syringe cannon for a hand). Everything from arm gun attachments, ocular replacements, and full-scale robot bodies are seen, especially with those in the Digger business.

Some Diggers aren't as decked out in robo armor, and they have loved ones to provide for.

Diggers (known as Digouters, like the subtitle states, in Japan) are an important occupation in the Legends universe. Much of the world is powered and built on the ancient tech found deep within the subterranean ruins, and that tech runs on Refractors. Refractors are gem-like energy sources that come in all shapes and sizes and basically function as crystal-shaped batteries. Going down to collect these Refractors is a dangerous venture, as the old ruins are teeming with traps and robotic threats known as Reaverbots. Imagine excavating for coal while having to fend off hostile mechanical mole monsters and you'll see the sort of Indiana Jones-level danger the profession has -- enough that you need a license just to become a Digger. Usually, it's not enough of a task for one person, as sometimes a two-man team is required to make it through the ruins: the Diver who goes underground and the Spotter that watches over as support. Nevertheless, the job is vital for the entire civilization and its energy sources, not to mention lucrative enough for pirates to want in on the action. For you see, Diggers find not only Refractors, but a bounty of treasure and clues to the ancient world. The profession has lasted enough to sustain its own tales and legends, spawning whispers of a massive Refractor known only as the Mother Lode, a power large enough to solve the energy problems for the entire world. Such a find would not only rid Terra of its power crisis, but make the discoverer rich beyond their dreams.

Already the stage is set for a pulpy adventure with colorful characters. The Laputa Effect is in full effect as the thrilling dangers and escapades keep within family friendly borders. However, Miyazaki wasn't the sole influence over Legends. As with other classic Mega Man titles, Legends also took cues from Tatsunoko Production's line of work. Tatsunoko was an animation company in Japan as ubiquitous as Hanna-Barbera was when it started in the 1960s. Although while the original and (especially) X series borrowed from the likes of the compay's Casshern and Tekkaman, Legends instead leaned more on, say, the wackier Yatterman and Muteking. This can be seen in the optimistic view of the world, the family-linked ragtag collective for the heroes with the grandfather figure sidekick mascot to boot, and with shades of cartoonish tinkering of the gadgets used. Indeed, Roll Caskett appears a spitting image to Ai-chan/Yatterman-2 with her work ethic, apparel, poofy hat, and affluence with machinery -- not to mention taking a liking to the main boy.

The parallels of merging Tatsunoko and Miyazaki whimsy keeps the action from getting to dark and deep in the gloomier undertones. At first. Mega Man Legends was released in a post-Evangelion world, so shades of introspection, deconstruction, delving into bleaker implications, and the soft spoken mysterious almost-robotic girl paradigm was the norm. In all honesty, the series askews more to Hideaki Anno's prior TV program Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water in that respect. Conceived by Miyazaki for NHK and based on Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Legends plays out Nadia's progression to unraveling dramatic secrets of characters and the world in similar ways, slowly depressing the bright outlook as more of the overarching tale is revealed. Fittingly enough, Nadia was also heavily influenced by the Laputa film and Tatsunoko's work. It'd be hard-pressed to remiss how Legends does seem to lift some of the alien glowing grids of the underwater structures from Nadia's Atlantis for its ruins and Reaverbot designs, as well.

Ancient advanced technology may be alien, but it's fairly consistent.

That doesn't mean comic relief is removed. It is from the Time Bokan series that a distinctive villain trope was made standard with Japanese media. The first of many antagonists within the Tatsunoko franchise began with the Time Skeletons, a trio of nasties led by the woman with the only sense of brains among them while 2 men of usually similar design offer differing wacky antics. The three are the ones routinely planning schemes, wearing disguises, and building the latest in a series of mechs/contraptions to thwart the protagonists. Their competence is usually in short supply, leading them to constant failure. Their level of evilness is equally low-- or at least lower on the totem pole -- compared to a boss or higher up they serve to; thus they tend to be rather sympathetic and sometimes more interesting than the blander heroes of the show. Jessie, James, and Meowth of Team Rocket from the Pokemon anime are the de facto image of this trio in the US, but Time Bokan's baddies were the influencers, dating back 20 years prior, and were a staple for countless Tatsunoko productions aimed at youth. This sort of cartoonish convivial villain triad crops up a lot in anime and video games, among other works, and the Legends series is no different with its Bonne family. Sure, the 3 Bonnes have their own spin on the trope so as not to be total ripoff, but they also carry the aspect of stealing the spotlight from the protagonists at times and being a team you can cheer on and feel sympathy in their well-meaning failures. That skull motif lifted from the Doronbo Gang from Yatterman is a nice touch, too.

Just a small selection of villainous trios you love to hate, or at least root for, from anime/manga as well as video games.

It is a lively world in Legends. With child-like splendor, it paints a comfy place to set off for daring stakes; having the role playing yin-yang of the welcoming overworld with towns and cheerful folks to interact with with the hazardous underbelly to square off in dank ruins. The light-hearted playfulness makes it a joy to experience even strolling the plains and cities. Even with takes from anime and literature, it's the people in the games' world that make it memorable.


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Introduction
Influences, Development, and World-Building

Page 2:
Characters

Page 3:
Mega Man Legends / Mega Man 64

Page 4:
The Misadventures of Tron Bonne
Rockman DASH 2 - Episode 1: Roll-chan Kiki Ippatsu!

Page 5:
Mega Man Legends 2

Page 6:
Mobile Games
Rockman DASH: Adventure to Save the Planet

Page 7:
Mega Man Legends 3

Page 8:
Cameos
Other Media

Page 9:
Red Ash: The Indelible Legend
Tail Concerto

Discuss on the Forums!

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