As part of a celebration of Mega Man’s 25th anniversary, 1Up did a series of special articles talking about different aspects of the character’s universe. On November 26,David Oxford of The Mega Man Network wrote a piece on the site discussing the world of the series – or rather, the lack of a world. Oxford talks about how we only see very minute aspects of the world in which the series as a whole take place, and when they opt to give us the ability to explore (such as in “Mega Man Legends” or “Mega Man X: Command Mission”), we see a very limited part of it. Indeed, much of what he talks about is true: In the original series we mainly got to go through a series of strange levels before making our way through fortresses to ultimately do battle with Dr. Wily. Later entries into the series began to show us cutscenes that showed cities or perhaps Dr. Light’s lab, but much of the world was left as a mystery to us. In “Mega Man 8′s” opening animated sequence when you start a new game, we did get to see a bit of the city that Mega Man and Bass are fighting in, but that’s really about it. Even the remade game “Maverick Hunter X” only shows humans (something Oxford says we almost never see outside of a few rare examples) running away during a Maverick attack. The only other major time I remember seeing humans was in the WonderSwan title “Rockman & Forte: Challenger from the Future” in which we see humans running in the opening sequence as the Dimensions attack their city.
One thing he does go on about is how we do see humans in the Mega Man Legends games, but I think it bears noting that not only does Legends take place thousands of years in the future (estimates say around 80XX or even 8XXX A.D.), but “humans” don’t exist on the world of Terra anymore. Without wanting to go into all the details, it should suffice to say that humans as a race no longer exist on that world (if they ever did – a matter which I will mention here shortly), but an artificially-created race called Carbons are what have replaced them. Yet, your character’s interactions with them is something very different from the experience in most of the other games, and so that is worth noting.
Some people have suggested that Terra is not actually Earth, but rather an Earth-like world that was found by explorers from Earth some time in the very distant past of the planet’s history. In fact, they posit that Elysium is a giant ship that was used to travel the stars and eventually found this new world. Perhaps some ancient civilization once lived there as evidenced by the ruins, but we know very little about them. When was this planet found? Probably sometime long after the events of the Mega Man ZX series (around 25XX, approximately the 2560s or so) when humans and Reploids could turn their attention to other matters again (like they started to during the later points in the Mega Man X series with the space program and the orbital elevator) and begin space exploration. Still, there isn’t direct evidence that Terra and Earth are not the same, and there is the fact that Master Albert’s comments at the end of “Mega Man ZX: Advent” hint to some of the things discussed in the Legends games, so maybe the Masters of the ZX games have some kind of tie to “The Master” mentioned in Legends?
Still, we do know that these games take place on a fictional version of Earth with the main games (not the backstory) starting in 200X A.D. (December 2008 is the beginning of the Classic series), but there are some inconsistencies. For example, in “Mega Man X5″ we see an image of Earth as part of the stage select, and this image drastically changes when the Eurasia Colony crashes into Earth later in the game. Earth appears to take catastrophic damage in this disaster, but by “Mega Man X6″ and beyond the world seems to be alright again. Although never directly said, this is likely remedied by the fact that, even though there are different courses of events in X5 and even different endings, Capcom seems to have chosen one of those (mainly where Zero doesn’t go Maverick at the end and the colony is damaged enough not to completely destroy the world) and gone with it as canon.
Hmmmmm…So, why is it then that we don’t see too many humans, as he points out in his original article? Perhaps Capcom only chose to show us the major human players in the series (Dr. Light, Dr. Wily, Dr. Cossack, Dr. Cain, etc.) and the story mainly revolves around certain key characters. It is true that in most of the games you are going through rather fantastical stages and therefore you aren’t having chatty conversations with world leaders or even normal citizens, but we do get glimpses of different things now and then. We do know that the world has a sizeable human population that comes to rely on robots in the 21st century, but the Wily Wars seem to put them off for a while from further advancement. This is perhaps why Dr. Cain’s discovery of X in the early-22nd century (around A.D. 2116 or so, but certainly after 2114) is such a big deal at the time. Humans appear later in the Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX games and we are even told that by the time of ZX, the differences between humans and machine are almost non-existent. Maybe this is why The Master from Mega Man Legends was a big deal as he was the last biological human on Terra (again, which may not be Earth, although this isn’t clear).
One day, maybe I will write a very long article about humanity and their crisis with machines in this universe, or maybe a detailed history of the evolution of robotics in this universe, but this wasn’t exactly what I was getting after with this piece. Here, I just wanted to point out that humans are a part of the story and we do find out bits and pieces about the world’s history, but I do believe that it wasn’t until later in the evolution of the franchise that all of these plot points meant something to Capcom itself. Inafune was a good story-teller, but I think even to him it was mostly about coming up with games that were fun to play. Questions regarding the status of world political systems or other matters like that ended up being kind of secondary.
Yet, if there are enough people out there who want to know more, like David Oxford, then perhaps I should write something about it and try to compile all the official statements with some speculation into a neat little piece?