Different Time Period, Different Art Style, Same Old Zero

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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Over 300 years have passed since the time of the original Blue Bomber’s conflict against Dr. Albert Wily and only a little over 100 since his successor fought against Sigma and his Mavericks. The world is now a barren and broken shell of its former self, the scars of the Maverick and Elf Wars still being felt. Reploids are now being hunted outright by a paranoid humanity, being labeled as Mavericks for any dissenting actions. A number of them, led by a young human girl, have formed a resistance against this new regime of Neo Arcadia, hoping to finally end the century-long feud between humans and Reploids and bring peace back to the world. Desperate to have some sort of edge against Neo Arcadia’s forces, the Resistance find some ancient ruins that might hold the key to their salvation, but their enemy has already found them, sending in massive Golems to massacre the soldiers. With only a few left standing, they finally find what they have been searching for: the franchise’s most popular character and the only one strong enough to fight back against Neo Arcadia. Shame that he cannot remember who he is or what his purpose/past is. Again.

The fifth series entry in the Megaman franchise and the third chronological one in the main continuity, Megaman Zero debuted on the Gameboy Advance in 2002 and features Zero, X’s partner and the most popular character in the franchise, as the main playable character. Taking place after the Megaman X series, this series continues the the trend of slipping into darker and more violent themes, such as the plot’s conflict involving racial genocide and features the single most evil character in the entire franchise. The series was originally planned as a trilogy, but lingering plot threads led to the fourth game in 2005 and brought a definite conclusion to the series, the first Megaman series to actually do so (It was followed shortly by Megaman Battle Network in 2006 and Megaman Star Force in 2009).

100 years of stasis have not been kind to Zero. Losing his memories of everything from the X series (fighting alongside X and Axl, dealing with his origins and viral nature, losing Iris, etc…), he has become even more distant than before, trading out his good-natured confidence and snarkiness with cold professionalism. Even so, he still is the hero he was 100 years ago, doing everything he can to protect those he cares about and fighting for those he believes in. Even when faced with dilemmas that would shut other people down, Zero powers through in order to keep his promises and never wavers when an enemy is in front of him. His biggest supporter is Ciel, the leader of the Resistance and a brilliant young scientist that was responsible for finding Zero and brought him back to life. She despises all of the wars that humanity and the Reploids have suffered from, wishing to help put an end to the fighting by finding a solution to the current energy crisis. With this, she hopes that Neo Arcadia will relent long enough so that peace talks can finally happen. While the Resistance is filled with numerous Reploids that want to fight back against Neo Arcadia’s tyranny, there are a few recurring characters that regularly interact with Zero, such as the engineer Cerveau, the gluttonous Hibou, bridge navigators Rouge and Jaune, adorable young child Alouette, old-timer Milan, and pint-sized genius Perroquiet. In the fourth game, a group of humans running from Neo Arcadia unwillingly team-up with the Resistance and are led by Niege, a strong-willed reporter that wants to find refuge in Area Zero, the crash site of Space Colony Eurasia. Finally, X himself, now a Cyber-Elf, supports Zero however he can as he works with his best friend to stop Neo Arcadia.

Neo Arcadia might be a utopia for humans, but it is undeniably the worst place to be for Reploids, where they are regularly “retired”. Ruling this place is Copy X, though the player and Zero are led to believe that it is actually X turned power-hungry. A flawed copy created by Ciel in the original X’s absence, Copy X does not share a shred of the original’s kindness and decency, instead ruling like the iron-fisted tyrant he is, keeping the Reploids under his thumb, and stamping out all threats to his rule. Serving him are the Four Guardians, the ultimate enforcers of his will and each based off of portions of the original X’s DNA. They consist of the proud and honorable Sage Harpuia, the battle-hungry and hot-blooded Fefnir, the graceful and teasing Fairy Leviathan, and the composed and stoic Hidden Phantom. A charismatic Reploid named Elpizo became commander of the Resistance in the second game, but after botching a frontal assault that cost the lives of many soldiers, he fell into despair and sought out the Dark Elf, the very first Cyber Elf the initially helped eliminate the remnants of the Maverick Virus before being corrupted and used to start the Elf Wars, the cataclysmic conflict responsible for wiping out 90% of all Reploids and 60% of all humans. Eventually, the two responsible for that tragedy and everything wrong with the series come to light in the forms of Omega and Doctor Weil. Omega was designed to be the most powerful Reploid ever, possessing unmatched strength, amazing regeneration, and a bloodthirsty mindset that demands the death of all sentient life. His creator, Doctor Weil, instigated the Elf Wars to get back at the Reploids in revenge for the Maverick Wars, but his sheer hatred and insanity disgusted the survivors, who locked him in a regenerating body that could never die and exiled him for a century. This comes back to bite everyone as Weil eventually usurps control of Neo Arcadia and is set on using Project Ragnarok in the final game to bring ultimate suffering and despair for everyone on Earth just out of pure and utter spite.

Staying true to the Megaman formula and expanding on the Megaman X side of things, the player controls Zero on a 2D plane, dashing, wall jumping, and platforming in order to get to the boss at the end and clear the stage. In a sort of departure from the earlier series, Zero has more than just a standard Buster weapon, implementing a Primary and Sub Weapon mechanic. His trusty Z-Saber is the mainstay that most players will use, which is ideal in dispatching most enemies and bosses. Aside from a more distanced Buster Shot, different weapons such as the Shield Boomerang, Triple Rod, Chain Rod, and Recoil Rod all have their different uses in each game. The fourth game introduces the Z-Knuckle, which allows Zero to take enemy weapons from them to wield for a time. Also crucial to the game are the Cyber Elves, cute digital-based entities that aid Zero in numerous ways, from acting as attack and shield drones to being used to obtain additional Energy Tanks and extend the Life Bar. However, once they are used, the Cyber Elf is gone forever and permanently reduce the ranking after each mission.

While the first game had more of an open world, the subsequent games adopted the series standard of selecting an area to warp in and complete, with the main hub of Resistance HQ being open to explore. As was said before, this was the first Megaman series to successfully reach a conclusion, closing the story of Zero once and for all. The next series to directly follow was Megaman ZX in 2006 for the Nintendo DS, taking place another century or two after the fourth game, using a more Metroidvania approach and featuring MANY direct ties to Zero. A sequel in the form of Megaman ZX Advent was released in 2007, but it seems to have also fallen to the wayside and never received a sequel since. In 2010, the Megaman Zero Collection was released on the DS as well, featuring all four games and adding in some content that was never properly implemented in the western launches.

The Megaman Zero series is one of the more popular Megaman titles, featuring a solid and compelling story, unforgettable characters, a cool and sleek art-style, awesome music, and tight and challenging gameplay. While getting the original GBA games or the Collection on the DS is a bit of a challenge now, the Nintendo E-Shop does have all four game available for purchase, making this a must-have for fans.

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