Zero (Mega Man)
Zero (Japanese: ゼロ) is a video game character present throughout Capcom's Mega Man franchise. First appearing in the 1993 game Mega Man X for the Super Nintendo, Zero is a Maverick Hunter: A mechanical soldier (or "Reploid") in charge of defeating "Mavericks" (Reploids who turned against humanity) and their more utilitarian counterparts ("Mechaniloids"). He continues his job as the main character of the Mega Man Zero series. Zero has also played a supporting role in other game series such as the Mega Man ZX series and appeared in crossover video games as a guest character.
|Mega Man X, Mega Man Zero character|
Zero as he appears in the X series
|First appearance||Mega Man X (1993)|
|Created by||Keiji Inafune|
|Designed by||Keiji Inafune (X series)|
Toru Nakayama (Zero series)
First developed by Keiji Inafune when he was attempting to create a new design for the X series, Zero was instead used as a secondary character. In the Zero series (developed by Inti Creates), Zero was the protagonist and had a change in his design that was meant to impart a more "human feel" to him. Zero has since also played a minor role in the ZX series as Model Z. His inclusion in the Mega Man X series has generally received positive critical response from reviewers. His story within the Mega Man Zero series received similar response, at least partly due to how much darker and mature Zero became compared to previous Mega Man characters.
Conception and creation
Zero was created by designer Keiji Inafune when he was told to recreate Mega Man for a new series on the Super Nintendo, Mega Man X. He wanted to design a Mega Man different from the original one. However, Inafune realized afterwards that the character he created was too different from Mega Man's old appearance to be viewed positively by fans. Deciding to let another designer work on the character that eventually became Mega Man X while he developed Zero, Inafune created the character intending him to be "the 'other main character' that would "steal all the good scenes". He further described Zero as representing the idea that "nothing is absolute", and circumstances can change anything. When asked if Zero had killed the cast of the original Mega Man titles, suspected due to their absence in the X series, he replied no, adding that given how he had designed the character, "Zero is not such a person--it is not in his profile."
Believing they were too similar in Mega Man X3 (in which Zero could only be played as for part of each level), Capcom wanted Zero to be further distinguished from X for his first appearance as a fully playable character in Mega Man X4. This resulted in the removal of his Z-Buster (his equivalent of X's X-Buster), leaving only his lightsaber-esque Z-Saber. This close-range combat weapon stood in stark contrast to X's projectile weapons. Due to the difficulty of playing as Zero, the vast majority of the developers were against that decision at first during Mega Man X4. As a result, Zero was given special techniques (some of which hailed from the Street Fighter franchise) by defeating each boss, which resulted in the approval from the developers. In order to make Zero's story to be more engaging, Capcom created Iris, a female Reploid, believing it was a fresh idea not used in previous games in the series.
The concept of Zero starring in his own series was proposed by Inafune. Inafune proposed that Zero star in his own series, and planned to go forward with the idea at the end of Mega Man X5. However, he was unable to after Capcom announced another Mega Man title without his involvement. Designed by Toru Nakayama of Inti Creates, Zero was meant to have a more "human feel" rather than the complete "mechanical feel" of the X series. Nakayama wanted the public to recognize that this series was different from the X series. Since Capcom wanted Zero's general structure to be the same, Inti-Creates concentrated on how different they could make him, rather than how similar. Zero's depiction in the series was intended to be morally ambiguous and depend on the perspective, appearing as a hero from one point of view and a terrorist from another.
Designed to be "harder and wilder" than the original Mega Man, Zero's design ultimately resembled Mega Man X in several ways due to his initial character concept, Inafune's insistence on drawing the character, and input from other project artists. In the X series, Zero has red and white armor with twin "horns" on his helmet. Zero also has his signature long blonde hair. His main weapon is the Z-saber, an energy-based sword that introduced melee combat to the Mega Man games. His secondary weapon is the Z-buster, a cannon mounted at the end of his right arm, similar to Mega Man X's primary weapon. A tertiary weapon that would orbit around Zero was also considered, but left uncompleted. Unlike the original Mega Man, who had a full head of hair under his helmet, Zero has a smooth secondary helmet, intended to imply the characters were older. In Mega Man X4, Zero was going to receive his own enhanced armor in the same way X does, but the development team decided not to finish it.
In the Zero series, Zero sported a much more humanized and sleeker redesign. His mecha-inspired armor was eschewed for a red uniform consisting of a vest, gloves, and boots, while his arms and legs were more anatomically detailed. His Z-buster was no longer fused inside his hand, instead it was a handgun, Buster Shot, that fired energy bullets. The Z-saber also became a triangular holographic blade, rather than a lightsaber-like weapon. Early concept art featured Zero with solid-black, pupil-less eyes, though this changed to a normal set of eyes as development progressed.
In Mega Man video game series
Zero made his debut appearance in Mega Man X in 1993, and a cameo appearance in Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters. In the latter, Zero was revealed to have been originally created by Dr. Wily sometime during the Mega Man series. Zero works as a Maverick Hunter, a soldier in charge of defeating Mavericks, robots who turned against humanity. He plays the role as X's comrade and best friend in the X series. The two, later accompanied by Axl, fight Sigma, Vile, and other enemies throughout the series. While in the first two titles he only assists X during gameplay, he becomes an optional character in X3. In Mega Man X4, Zero is one of two playable characters, along with X. In his scenario, Zero is haunted by nightmares of a shadowy figure (implied to be Wily) awakening him and giving him orders to destroy an unknown individual, and visions of ensuing carnage. Additionally, during his scenario, Sigma reminds him of the time that he led the Maverick Hunters, and the encounter between the two that led to a vicious battle that led to Sigma punching out the crystal on Zero's helmet, leading to Sigma later becoming infected with the Maverick Virus. Depending on the story development, Zero can be fought as a boss character in Mega Man X5. In Mega Man X6, Zero is not initially present in the game since he went missing in the end of Mega Man X5 during a fight against Sigma, and he becomes an optional character depending on how the story develops throughout the game. In the spin-off title Mega Man Xtreme, he is an assistant character but becomes playable in the sequel, Mega Man Xtreme 2. He is also playable during the prologue and the last chapters from the role-playing video game Mega Man X: Command Mission.
The Mega Man Zero series features Zero as the title character and protagonist. Set around 100 years after the X series, Zero helps a scientist named Ciel fight the human city of Neo Arcadia, during which he destroys Omega - his original body, Dr. Weil, and Copy X, leader of Neo Arcadia, twice. Zero makes an appearance in the ZX series as Model Z, who plays a minor supporting role in the plot in the first ZX game. In ZX Advent, Zero plays an even smaller role, only having a few lines throughout the game. Zero's Mega Man Battle Network counterpart, Zero.EXE makes an appearance in Mega Man Network Transmission as the antagonist of the first half of the game. He later aids Mega Man against the true villain, The "Professor".
The Mega Man Zero version of Zero's character appears as a sub-boss in SNK's crossover fighting game SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos and as a hidden character in Onimusha Blade Warriors. The Mega Man X version of Zero appears as a hidden character in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars and as a playable character in Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. and in Project X Zone and its sequel Project X Zone 2. In the latter titles, Zero was chosen to represent the "Mega Man" franchise over Mega Man himself, as director Ryota Niitsuma thought he had more variation in his moves. Zero also appears as a collectable trophy in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and as an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.Both games feature a Mii Fighter costume based on Zero as downloadable content.
Zero's appearances in the two manga series based on the Mega Man X series resemble his video game portrayal. However, in the Mega Man Zero manga, Zero is depicted as a Reploid having two personalities depending on his usage of a helmet: without his helmet he is portrayed as cowardly, whereas the other one resembles his video game counterpart. Zero also makes guest appearances in the Mega Man comic series by Archie Comics, appearing in stories set shortly before the events of Mega Man X and as part of the "Worlds Unite" crossover event.
Zero's character was met with positive critical response by publications for video games. Game Revolution called him "mysterious, androgynous" and compared him to Proto Man "with a ponytail". Jeese Scheeden from IGN named him one of his ten favorite sword-wielding characters in the video games, describing him as an answer to the question of how Mega Man would fight if armed with a sword, and noted his fighting style as popular with gamers. GameZone writer Michael Knutson praised the inclusion of Zero in the Mega Man X series, citing his playability as popular amongst series fan as it expanded the gameplay. Jeremy Parish from 1UP.com stated that his appearance as a playable character with his own story in Mega Man X4 by itself made it the best game in the X series. GameSpot noted the contrast in his gameplay to that of Mega Man X in Mega Man X4 increased the difficulty of using him in the title. Additionally, Brett Elston from GamesRadar credited Zero as one of the reasons the X series became so popular and that his own popularity within gamers earned him his own video game series.
Zero's connections with the original Mega Man characters have been the subject of speculations within fans. As it is believed that Dr. Wily created Zero in the image of Protoman or the possibility that he was responsible for multiple deaths offscreen as it is unknown what happened to the original Mega Man cast, explaining their absence in the X storyline. In 2018, Capcom left clues about how Wily dies when creating Zero but the idea of Zero killing the Mega Man characters was negated.
IGN repeated their positive sentiments about Zero in their list of characters they wished to see appear in a future Marvel vs. Capcom title, describing him as "arguably cooler than Mega Man", regardless of version in comparison. PSM praised the character as well, stating "[he] might wear some funky shoes, but that doesn't stop him from kicking some robot butt". While reviewing Mega Man X: Command Mission, 1UP.com criticized that his English voice acting makes him "sound like a surfer". GamesRadar also cited Zero's actors across the X series, finding the first from X4, Wayne Doster, unappealing due to his infamous scene where he yells in front of the dead Iris. On the other hand, the site praised Yong Bosch's take on the character, believing it was likable. The fandom in general found the scene where he yells "What am I fighting for?!" as one of the worst parts in voice acting in Mega Man history alongside some cutscenes from Mega Man 8 to the point of calling it an "horror".
In regards to his Mega Man Zero incarnation, GameSpot believed the character's redesign was well employed based on his presentation. IGN considered Zero's retake be like a breakout character due to how he develops his own skills unlike previous versions of the Mega Man cast. Destructoid simply described Zero as "a red death machine who uses pistols, lightsabers, shields, and multiple other melee weapons..." due to his dark characterization when compared with previous main characters. Nevertheless, Nintendo Life noticed that across Zero's spin-off, the title Reploid continuously showed a character arc that would make him more likable to gamers, earning the spotlight for the first time based on how he was originally a side character. Similarly, US Gamer referred to Zero to have one of the more elaborated story arcs in the Mega Man franchise in general due to how he changes between the X series and the Mega Man Zero. The writer further added that the apparent misrelationship between Zero and X before the revelation the latter was a clone gone corrupted was one of the darkest things seen in Capcom's games due to the idea of Zero working to kill X, the former protagonist of the series.
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