In the Making: Mega Man
Sorry, folks – no word on Mega Man Legend 3 in production again, but we do have the next installment of our In the Making series! (It’s the least we can do.) This week we’re kicking off with the first installment in the Mega Man series. Back in the late 1980s when it first came out, it was not a huge success. That’s all changed since then with fans gathering from every part of the world in anticipation for the next one, or to see Mega Man in the all-new Super Smash Bros. game. While we’re waiting, let’s read about where it all started with In the Making: Mega Man!
Mega Man’s development team was few in number. Only six people were assigned to the project, including a project manager and a lead designer who expected nothing but the best out of the finished work. Prior to Mega Man, Capcom was all about arcade games and porting those titles to the consoles. The company put these guys to work with the goal to start making more games in the Japanese home-based console market.
Among the team was Keiji Inafune who had recently graduated from college and worked on another team that handled Street Fighter. Credited as being the creator of Mega Man, he was assigned with creating every character (good and bad) from design to pixels. He also had to work on other artistic elements such as the instruction manual, box art, and logo. Nowadays when everyone in the industry seems to have a specialization, it is uncommon to hear of one person working on so many things for one game.
The leading character himself was an inspiration from another source. He was brought to life from the influences of Astro Boy, a manga made by Osamu Tezuka. Even though Inafune finalized the character and receives credit for his creation, he states that the basic concept was developed before he came on board. In fact, there were other designs that had started prior to his sign on. These designs were Cut Man, Fire Man, Ice Man, and Guts Man. On top of that, sprites had already been made for Dr. Light and Roll, but they were pretty basic.
So if Mega Man wasn’t his first character, then who was? None other than Elec Man, that’s who. The inspiration behind this guy wasn’t from any Japanese comics but from good ol’ American comic book characters. Inafune has stated before that Elec Man’s character design has been his favorite and is also his favorite Robot Master from the game. After creating him, he went on to finishing the designs and pixel art for the rest of the characters.
With the characters created, what about the game play? Their project manager was very keen on having them create something that offered the players an in-depth experience. The team thought that adding elements from anime into their project would help with that focus. For example, when Mega Man’s hand would transform into a gun, the player could watch it happen through a sequence of animations.
Aside from the animation process, they were influenced by the game of rock-paper-scissors. This idea was incorporated into the weapon tactics where certain ones would deal out a lot of damage to one enemy while others did little to none. Also, there was no such thing as an “ultimate weapon” since not one of them could best every enemy. If this wasn’t in-depth gaming, I can’t tell you what is.
Having music was the next key component to the creation of Mega Man. Manami Matsumae, who was new at the time, was given the job of all the sound attributes. In just three short months, she wrote all the songs and created all the sound effects. Matsumae stated before that whenever she was having trouble creating songs, she would switch over to working on the sound effects. After they were completed, she had the daunting task of programming them into the computer one by one.
Music played a big part in the game, and I’m not just talking about Matsumae’s genius output. The team made the decision to use music symbolism within the story by naming their main characters after it. Since everyone recognized music, it was considered a perfect idea. Initially Mega Man was called Rock (thus generating the original name “Rockman”) while his sister was called Roll. Due to its charm, this style of character naming was later used with others in the series.
Like many other things in this world, with time comes change. During the development process, Mega Man’s name went through a couple revisions. Names that were up for grabs were “Knuckle Kid”, “Rainbow Man,” and “Mighty Kid.” Finally, the name “Rockman” came about and stuck – that is, it did at first. When it came time for the North American release, the name was put through another round of reviews and came out as Mega Man. The Senior VP said “Rockman” was a horrible title and preferred the new one.
Sales didn’t do so well after the release in the US. Inafune puts a lot of the blame for this on the box art that came with it. What has been called “one of the worst game covers of all time” is credited due to its massive contrast to the original concept and also the poor quality. I mean, look at this. Mega Man looks far too old for his age. He’s holding a handgun instead of a hand cannon (which is much cooler), and wearing atrocious clothes that don’t match the all-blue attire of the original.
Either way, whether its debut made it big or small, Mega Man has come a long ways since then. Have you seen the legacy that it has bestowed upon the gaming community? Nintendo Power magazine giant has named it one of the “100 Best Nintendo Games of All Time”. If you’re like me and were unfortunate to never play it as a child, you’ve missed out on a lot of good times. What’s a better way to get yourself motivated to play it than reading about how it was made?