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RTTP: Mega Man Zero Series

Komatsu

Gold Member
Hey folks, so a rather extended work trip had me taking my Switch with me. Decided on a whim to play through the Mega Man Zero franchise on the ZX Legacy Collection. I had played the games when they first came out in the 2000s, but holy shit. These games are the apex of the entire MM franchise.

Plot spoilers to follow - you've been warned.

The Games


Mega Man X was already the darker and edgier sequel to the original series, but Zero just cranks everything to 11. The whole series is basically about surviving a robot holocaust, with tensions between humanity and their creations at a fever pitch. I didn't pay that much attention to it in 2002-2005, but looking back, it really is striking how plot heavy the games are.




The Art

But let's start first with some of the big changes introduced. The first one, which caused a fair amount of bellyache at the time, was a change in character design. Mega Man X, since at least the fourth game, has been mostly defined by the designs of Haruki Suetsugu, the legendary CAPCOM illustrator that goes by the moniker SENSEI.


You can see the art evolution from Inafune's initial design - it was with Suetsugu that the X franchise achieved artistic maturity. All following character designers were heavily indebted to him. However, for Zero, producer Inafune went with Toru Nakayama - a relative newcomer, with a markedly different character style:



The Staff

Let us speak too of the team behind the development of the four Zero titles. MMZ is a bit of the odd duck out in the Mega Man family since all four games were produced and directed by the same people. Director Yoshinori Kawano directed all four games, and Keiji Inafune, then at the height of his powers as the producer of the whole Mega Man franchise, was involved in all four games as well. Here's a bit more about these two gentlemen, taken from their Mega Man Legends Developer Interview (courtesy of shmuplations):



(one wonders that Kawano's remark that Mega Man Legends can be enjoyed by everyone, even women, probably would land him in hot water these days - bear in mind this interview is from 1997)

Besides the two CAPCOM employees at the helm, Mega Man Zero 1-4 were developed as a commissioned product by Inti Creates, a company founded by former CAPCOM staff that was then treading water. It was their involvement with the Zero Franchise that finally put them in firmer footing. Inti Creates went on to produce games such as

The Wiki has a interesting section on how development of the games was tackled by the parties involved:

One goal for the developer was to make Mega Man Zero the most challenging out of all the games in the franchise up to that point. The gameplay model and characters act as extensions of the Mega Man X series, which itself expands upon the original Mega Man series. Zero was a secondary protagonist in the Mega Man X storyline. However, Inti Creates started developing Mega Man Zero without the character as the game's focus. Inafune had originally intended for 2000's Mega Man X5 to be the final game in its own series, ending with Zero's death. When Inafune requested that they make Zero its central character, the company complied and inserted Zero into their draft. Though Zero was mostly depicted as a benevolent hero in the X series, the designers wanted to blur the line between good and evil when drawing up the new game's narrative. This meant having Zero and Ciel's resistance feared by humanity as terrorists and making the Four Guardians and Pantheons protectors of the human race. The game's main antagonist was a popular topic of discussion during production, and the developer often sought input from Capcom in this regard. Tsuda jokingly suggested that they make the original X the final boss, an idea that was at first accepted. According to Ito, Inti Creates realized that it "wouldn't sit so well with the young boys and girls that really do see [X] as a hero", so they replaced him with Copy X just one month before release. It was around this time that the writers designated Ciel as Copy X's creator. Complex explanations were added to the timeline to make this consistent with Ciel's young age. Other parts of the storyline were adjusted towards the end of production to allow for a sequel, as the team felt the characters were "quite memorable in their own right".

The Gameplay



There's a lot of variation here as the games progressed. Quoting here from The Den of Geek:

The basic gameplay of the Mega Man Zero games will be instantly familiar to anyone used to playing as Zero in the Mega Man X games, but there are also several twists. While only Zero is playable, returning roughly a century after the conclusion of the X series, he can still dash, shoot, and use his trusty Z-saber to slay reploids. Other new weapons, such as the whip-like Chain Rod, tonfa-like Recoil Rod, and weapon-stealing Zero Knuckle appear later in the series.
Where the Zero games differ (especially the first game) is their emphasis on chips and Cyber Elves over gaining the abilities from defeated bosses. Chips give Zero new elemental-infused attacks, such as thunder, fire, or ice, while Cyber Elves are single-use power-ups that grant status effects, automatically saving Zero from pits to reducing the life gauges of bosses.

While the Mega Man series is often rightfully criticized for how little each game changes, there’s actually a significant amount of variety in the Mega Man Zero games. Mega Man Zero 3 introduces a new customization system that allows you to use chips to upgrade different parts of Zero’s body, while the fourth title in the series overhauls the cyber elf system so that you continually upgrade one elf. Mega Man Zero 4 also introduces a unique weather system that adjusts the difficulty of levels and affects whether you can gain skills from each stage boss.


The Music

Ippo Yamada and others were involved in composing the soundtrack to all four games. Widely praised at the time, one can find some of the best music of the entire Mega Man franchise here:


Commentary

Holy shit, these games are hard. In Zero 1 you cannot select what boss you are going to face, and the intricate levels as well as diminished field of view make sudden death a fairly common occurrence. Also, I sincerely not know what was in the water in Osaka, but these games are grim. Don't let Nakayama's cutesy designs and all the anime-y talk of elfs, dark elfs etc deceive you, these are the darkest Mega Man games ever released. All four games have downer endings, but...


The final game in the franchise, 4, ends with the series heroine, Ciel, sobbing her hear out while Zero, the hero, dies a fiery death as the satellite he was in disintegrates in the atmosphere. She just sits there crying while the credits roll. And this game was rated "E"!

So, fellow GAFers, what are you guys' opinion on the franchise? Too hard, too silly? A masterpiece?
 
Even in the Easy Scenario mode on the DS version of the Zero collection, I still can't beat Zero 1 X_X I want to beat them all and the ZX games one day but Zero 1 is cursed for me, no matter how hard I try I haven't beaten it...yet
 
Even in the Easy Scenario mode on the DS version of the Zero collection, I still can't beat Zero 1 X_X I want to beat them all and the ZX games one day but Zero 1 is cursed for me, no matter how hard I try I haven't beaten it...yet
What in particular are you stuck on? They're difficult games at first, but they become a lot easier when you learn the levels and bosses (especially elemental weaknesses, which imo has always been a crap mechanic but if you want to effortlessly beat the bosses then that's how you do it lol). I think the main thing that still manages to kill me on a replay is the poor visibility, it's very easy to dash into spikes on a few levels... anyway, my process when I first played them was to get as far as I could before exhausting lives, then restart the game and get further, and eventually you know the levels well enough to get good ranks too

Megaman Zero is one of my favourite series from one of my favourite developers, 3 & 4 in particular are the best but all the games are good. Zero's saber might be the most satisfying video game weapons of all time imo.

It's a shame the ZX games were not great. Advent even has the nerve to hold off on giving you the saber until late in the game. I don't see myself replaying those any time soon.
ZERO>>>>>>>>>> Megaman X.

I never played any of the X games and every time I try to after playing Zero it feels so sluggish and boring by comparison
 
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What in particular are you stuck on? They're difficult games at first, but they become a lot easier when you learn the levels and bosses (especially elemental weaknesses, which imo has always been a crap mechanic but if you want to effortlessly beat the bosses then that's how you do it lol). I think the main thing that still manages to kill me on a replay is the poor visibility, it's very easy to dash into spikes on a few levels... anyway, my process when I first played them was to get as far as I could before exhausting lives, then restart the game and get further, and eventually you know the levels well enough to get good ranks too

Megaman Zero is one of my favourite series from one of my favourite developers, 3 & 4 in particular are the best but all the games are good. Zero's saber might be the most satisfying video game weapons of all time imo.

It's a shame the ZX games were not great. Advent even has the nerve to hold off on giving you the saber until late in the game. I don't see myself replaying those any time soon.


I never played any of the X games and every time I try to after playing Zero it feels so sluggish and boring by comparison
Now I'm stuck on that annoying mission where you beat a boss and then have to disarm bombs...with a time limit too...so many annoying tropes in one fucking level :/
 
Now I'm stuck on that annoying mission where you beat a boss and then have to disarm bombs...with a time limit too...so many annoying tropes in one fucking level :/
Oh yeah, that level sucks. There are a couple of difficult bombs above the moving platforms. The main difficulty is timing the landing when you can't even see the platforms beneath you without dropping down and quickly kicking off the wall. And every time you restart the mission you have to fight the boss. If it helps I don't think there's anything quite as BS in the rest of the series
 
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I wish they'd added more to the collection. Since it was a port and not an emulation, surely they could have put in the effort to work in a wide-screen mode with a wider FOV. Or if that's too much work at least an instant level restart so you don't have to reload saves when you're trying to learn a level (a few levels really need this. The underwater race level from MMZ3 for eg. I try not savescumming as much as possible but sometimes you just gotta)
 
You think so? I quite like it.

I also have no issues with Nakayama's style

The art is the one thing I don't like about MMZ tbh, Zero looks completely cucked out in these games and Ciel is ugly as shit too e: I like how even this artwork is done from a top down angle too... makes Zero look very small and weak. I could break him without even breaking a sweat. Not bragging just an observation
 
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Eddie-Griffin

Gold Member
Making Zero look more like a women (with crop top) with extreme anime design was not appealing. The Zero games made X5 and X6 look like master pieces and makes X7 slightly less terrible than it was, then you have X8 which does more with Zero then any of these games, while having two other characters with a lot more content and methods of dealing with enemies and weapons. Felt like I was going backwards.

The Zero series under an organized Capcom would have never happened, same with the ZX series. You also had Battle Network running along side Zero which didn't do the series any favors since Battle Network overshadowed it by a large scale.

The story is filled with plot holes bringing up events that can't canonically have taken place at the times they did, and then creates a continuity error within its own series on top of that. Don't forget Weil saying he had Zero's original body which has been retconned to be near identical to the MMZ body, and X just unceremoniously being throw out makes me believe Inafune was on a vendetta.

The game has inconsistent graphics and performance, and makes the GBA port of Mega Man and Bass look HD in comparison and that's a downgraded SNES port. All 4 games have little improvement on each other in this front, in most cases i can fool someone with a screenshot of any of the 4 entries and tell them it's the wrong one and they'll believe me because they blend in. Even Battle Network improved the graphics, then downgraded them, then improved them again, over it's 8 GBA games. Zero series seemed really lazy to me in graphic and stage design, and the difficulty was supposed to cover that up.


I never played any of the X games and every time I try to after playing Zero it feels so sluggish and boring by comparison

Which X games are you playing, because X4-X6 are way faster, smoother, and fluid than Zero. Same with X7-X8 but you don't want to play X7.

he was in disintegrates in the atmosphere. She just sits there crying while the credits roll. And this game was rated "E"!

I don't remember the pancake line but reploids don't eat. lol

You can try shooting (or groping) Roll in Legends 2, walk in on them naked in 1 and 2, shoot a bunch of poor orphans, X4 has so many 'damns' and nearly a genocide plot that the game was almost rated T. In Battle Network 2 a 12 year old kid plants a suit case bomb to kill a guy because he lost a internet battle. In BN3 there's some kid in an underground cult running an illegal server, military tanks are hacked and are shooting at children, I think someone was kidnapped, one bad guy almost called a whole hospital to die, the game ends with credits rolling making the protagonist think his brother died until the post-credit scene, one guy tried to burn everyone in a building alive. Battle Network 5 had guys in gas masks, knock people out and kidnap 3 kids, while had to disabled his own son. This is tame compared those.
 
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Krathoon

Member
What is great is that they got all the Mega Mans in really good collections now. It will have to hunt up my original Mega Man collection. I think it had 9 and 10. They made those Nintendo hard.
 
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I heard some of the collections have issues because of emulation and input lag though. That's why I never got the X collection (ColleXion? Someone get Capcom on the line)
 

SpiceRacz

Member
How do these compare in difficulty to the X series and the original MM games? I played Zero 1 briefly when it came out and it seemed really difficult.
 

64bitmodels

Reverse groomer.
Looking back on it, these games were way better than I thought of them back in 2018
Actual masterpieces and the peak of what megaman has to offer.... that being said X4 is still my favorite of all time

And Capcom needs to get their shit together and make a proper 3d megaman.
 

fart town usa

Gold Member
Great thread OP, well done.

I suck at Mega Man games but they've always been a favorite of mine to watch people play. My buddy in kindergarten would crush MM 2&3 on the NES, so many great memories. These days I watch playthroughs on YouTube.
 

Eddie-Griffin

Gold Member
I heard some of the collections have issues because of emulation and input lag though. That's why I never got the X collection (ColleXion? Someone get Capcom on the line)

The Xbox and PS2 collections, which had a lot more content than these recent ones didn't have the problems these new collections had, and they weren't split up either. I'm assuming they ended up with a worse emulator than before but didn't feel like putting in much effort fixing them up.

Heard X7 was more of a pain to play than the original PS2 version which is already something that's hard to fathom.

How do these compare in difficulty to the X series and the original MM games? I played Zero 1 briefly when it came out and it seemed really difficult.

The stage design goes against the conventions of both those series with very little focus on consistency and good placement, as long as the stage is completable it didn't matter, they expected you to eventually learn the stage how it's designed through trial and error and using things like the cyberelf, but if you are looking for good stage design it's not the series for you. But if you want something to challenge your patience for a few hours these are the games for you.

Being fair though, Zero 3 did tone down the trial and error, and Zero 4 is easy, in Z4 they walk back most of what the previous 3 games are known for, and since the story is somewhat isolated, you could just play that game and you'd have an idea of what the whole series is about.

The only MM games that are even close to as difficult as Zero 1-3 is the terrible port of Mega Man 5 on the Game Gear, the Mega Man game released on DOS, and I think one of the the GBA version of Mega Man and Bass playing as Mega Man, but other than the dos game they still aren't very close.

For the X games the hardest game is X7, and that's mostly due to bad hitboxes and cheap hits along with giving enemies and bosses invincibility frames, but as you add chips to your characters things like being knocked back 50 feet from a hit are negated and the game becomes easy, so it's not anywhere on the same playing field in difficulty. if you miss too many and/or mismanage your chip items which is actually common if you are someone who mistakenly believes you can even out the distribution among 3 characters, it's much harder than Zero. Because several stages and bosses become no hit runs because you can fly 20 feet into a pit or instant death if you are touched once.

There's a whole boss in X7, during the fortress stages where you fight Red among a dozen small square platforms and if you don't have the shock buffer that prevents you from being knocked back when hit by them for any character you better be damn good because you can't survive a hit unless you are jumping in the air between platforms and you get luck to the point where if you get hit you land on the platform you just jumped from, but other than that you're done. It's not the only boss where that's a problem too, shock buffer is REQUIRED for most people to beat the game. Same with the chip that cuts damage in half, missing both of those, and not using X, makes it the hardest Mega Man game in the franchise.

But most people don't make that many mistakes unless they do it on purpose, so X7 is easy compared to Zero for anyone who's posting on this site.
 

NeoIkaruGAF

Gold Member
I only ever tried Zero 1 and it’s one of the hardest games I played after the year 2000. I could maybe finish a stage or two, but would always get stuck on a brutal boss in the desert level. The bosses and mini- bosses are crazy mobile, they have multiple life bars, and Zero takes bucketloads of damage. And then the game’s emphasis on perfect runs with its scoring system further cements it as hard for the sake of being hard. Despite being a portable game, the control scheme on the GBA was cramp-inducing with how crazy quick some bosses can get with all their attacks.

I guess the sequels were better, but I refuse to skip the first chapter in a 4-chapter saga. So to this day, I have never completed more than a couple of levels in MMZ1, and that’s about how much I know of the series.
 
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