By Josh Speer / July 30th, 2013
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Mega Man X, Mega Man X3 and Mega Man X6.
Hey, guys and gals. Bear with me, as this is my first attempt at this type of article. Today, I want to discuss a video game character very near and dear to my heart. If you’ve read some of my articles, you may be jumping the gun and saying, “He’s writing a Mega Man article!” And you would be partially right. I DO love Mega Man and have pretty much played every series or offshoot, be it classic Mega Man, Mega Man Battle Network or the X series. Hell, I even played and enjoyed Mega Man Soccer for the SNES. (Yes, we’ve established that I’m THAT old.) So my writing a Mega Man article would be a natural assumption, but it would also be an incorrect one, because this Building Character piece is all about X’s red-armored, saber-wielding, ponytail-flashing counterpart, Zero.
Zero was introduced in the Mega Man X series in 1993, and he quickly stole the show. Referred to as an A-Class Maverick Hunter, he was basically the tougher, cooler older brother to Mega Man X, kinda like Proto Man in the original series. He was tasked with hunting down Reploids infected with the Maverick virus and preventing them from harming humanity and other Reploids at all costs.
What I didn’t know until recently was that Zero was also designed personally by Keiji Inafune, the godfather of all things Mega Man. This explains why, deep in my heart of hearts, I always secretly liked Zero better than X—turns out Zero was the true inheritor of the greatness of the original series, while X wasn’t even designed by Inafune!
But you probably want reasons—besides his sweet design and badass demeanor—why I prefer Zero over X. There are a couple of reasons. In the first Mega Man X game, Zero is introduced as a top dog tasked with hunting down the former leader of the Maverick Hunters, the deranged Sigma, as well as his attack dog Vile. While X is given the job of slowing down Maverick activity, Zero heads straight to the heart of madness itself, Sigma’s fortress. When X finally catches up to him, Zero has been imprisoned by Vile.
Not interested in playing fair, Vile attacks X in his impregnable Ride Armor and nearly crushes him before Zero intervenes. Using the last of his strength, he shatters his prison, leaps onto Vile’s Ride Armor, and fires a devastating blast of energy point blank, utterly destroying the Armor. This noble act gives X a fighting chance, but it also costs Zero his life. You have to understand, this sort of drama was very inspiring to me. Zero gave his life to protect his comrade—thus cementing himself as one of my favorite video game characters.
Zero’s heroism, however, isn’t the only reason I like him. After painstakingly rebuilding him in Mega Man X2, in Mega Man X3, Zero becomes a playable character for the first time ever, which was a real game changer for me. Though you could only summon Zero once per mission, and though he could never fight the bosses, he was freaking ridiculously powerful! Wielding not only his Zero Buster but also his powerful Z-Saber, he decimated any and all opposition. X had to copy others’ abilities, but Zero could crush the opposition just fine with his own skills. In later entries, Zero became fully playable, and his combat style evolved into more martial-arts-oriented acrobatics, putting his Z-Saber to even greater use.
So we’ve established that Zero is cooler-looking and more powerful than X. If that was all there was to it, I would still prefer my true blue Reploid. However, Zero has one more thing going for him that tips me over the edge: a tragic backstory. In the first few X games Zero is a protector of, and later partner to, X. They complement and rely on each other to fight off Sigma and his Mavericks. What makes this interesting is the fact that Zero was built to destroy X.
Whereas X was built by Dr. Light to protect the future, Zero was built by Dr. Wily to annihilate X and rule the world. Through a series of mishaps, however, this doesn’t occur, but Zero does eventually discover these hard truths and is consequently haunted by them. In Mega Man X6, Capcom plays with this premise even further, as the Maverick virus is superseded by something called the Nightmare virus, which looks suspiciously like hard-light holograms of Zero. Throughout the whole game, you have to wonder if Zero has finally given in to his dark side, which adds to the suspense and feeling of dismay. While you eventually discover the true author of this deception, it’s a fun mind trip to experience.
If you all need further proof that Zero is something special, take this into consideration: Zero is one of the few characters from the Mega Man universe to not only get cameos in other games, but to get his own series, Mega Man Zero. Don’t be confused by the “Mega Man” in the title—this series focuses entirely on the red-armored Reploid. Though he is redesigned, and his new weapons don’t always work well, Mega Man Zero is a great series in its own right. And in Mega Man ZX, the sequel series, it’s Zero’s form, not X’s, that features most prominently in the first game. Zero has also gotten some love in such recent games as Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds and the fantastic RPG mash-up Project X Zone.
Zero’s redesign for the Mega Man Zero series of Game Boy Advance games.
Vent and Aile assume Zero’s form and powers in Mega Man ZX for the DS.
So, in closing, I must reiterate what a cool character Zero is. With his tragic backstory, his sweet design and massive power, it’s no wonder he went on to become such a popular character. If you’re not convinced, please do yourself a favor and pick up the Mega Man X Collection for the PlayStation 2 or GameCube. It will let you experience Zero’s history from the beginning, and you’ll get to see firsthand what I’ve been talking about! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for our next Building Character article!
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