Study 17 –Mega Man/Rockman 1 -3 (Capcom)
Capcom’s premiere NES franchise had the most entries of any NES hero or heroine (barring Mario, whose menagerie of appearances is impossible to beat) with six in total. The games all revolved around Mega Man/Rockman’s (American/Japanese) talent for stealing his adversary’s powers for his own use, a clever mechanic. For this article, we’ll focus on the first three games, as they show the most significant localization changes.
In Japan, the first game wasn’t viewed as a success, but Capcom allowed its staff to work on a sequel during their spare time, as Capcom had plenty of other projects for that team to work on. However, upon completion Rockman 2 became a smash hit all over the world, standing as the best-selling title for the franchise to date, with 1.5 million copies sold. The third title was created under extreme pressure due to time constraints and a new supervisor overseeing the project, yet somehow came together incredibly well despite these difficulties.
Rockman’s box arts were all done by Keiji Inafune, a recent hire during the early stages of Rockman’s first game. He was tasked with designing some of the enemies and Robot Masters. While he is not the creator of the franchise (as some have mistakenly surmised), he had probably done more for it than anyone else at Capcom during his tenure there. Fantastic insights can be found in Mega Man Official Complete Works, available from UDON. The North American and European boxes were designed and executed quite differently from Inafune’s attempts, as we shall see. We’ll go in this order for the boxes – Japan, North America, and Europe.
Rockman’s first cover isn’t bad – definitely not Inafune’s finest work, but the game showcases the six Robot Masters and Rockman pretty well, and even teases Dr. Wily’s Castle back there, too. It’s leagues ahead of what American audiences had to suffer:
Arguably the ugliest box art ever made, I’ve ripped it plenty in an Artistic Discussion bit a while back, and I don’t think I can top that…so I’ll quote it here:
There’s so many things wrong here that it’s hard even to begin. Mega Man’s pose is awkward in multiple ways – his legs jut out at odd angles, his shoulders are too far forward, his left arm is holding the gun unrealistically, his helmet is off-center, his right arm is not drawn to scale, his boots look like they were merely colored over his original legs…etc. The background fails perspective 101 practically everywhere, with only the explosives resembling anything that looks like…what it should be, I suppose. The random palm trees that abruptly cut off, the bizarre domes that are in the foreground that seem to serve no purpose other than adding some buttcrack peaches into the mix, and god, I could keep going. When the best part of your box is the nifty 80′s grid BEHIND your composition, there’s a problem!
The European box somehow straddles the line between Japan and America’s boxes, with generally better artwork more in line with Capcom’s designs, yet making it more Western in execution…and having the artist be somewhat more competent than whoever Capcom USA hired to do their box. They even got Mega Man’s jumping face pretty accurate.
Mega Man 2/Rockman 2 Dr. Wily no Nazo
Inafune shows much improvement with the Rockman 2 box, although Rock does look like he’s about to punch out Woodman’s eye, there. I like the enemy selection surrounding the central boss/Rock grouping a lot. Nice layout.
Mega Man 2 looks better than the first box, but there’s still a lot of problems. Dr. Light shouldn’t be giving Crash Man orders, for one. Crash Man and Quick Man’s colors are all wrong…and Crash Man looks like he’s got an eye patch, making him a pirate well before Pirate Man was invented for Mega Man & Bass. That stage is a mishmash of concepts, yet none of them are all that good (and why do you need a ladder to crawl out of the LAVA?), and then there’s Mega Man himself, who A) has a gun when he should have a Mega Buster), B) Doesn’t have a visor, C) and if he did have a visor, wouldn’t he have it DOWN in a firefight?, and D) My god, his right ankle’s broken!
Europe’s box takes its own unique path, and while it takes more liberties than its predecessor did, it’s not a bad effort by any means. Although Mega Man is left handed, not right. :p
Mega Man 3/Rockman 3 Dr. Wily no Saigo!?
Rockman 3′s puts Rush front and center with Rock, and isn’t quite as nicely designed as the last – Inafune’s increased workload probably had a lot to do with that.
FINALLY, a box that isn’t atrocious. It’s not ideal or great, but it’s at least somewhat representative of the franchise at last. Spark Man and Top Man are the wrong colors, and Rush looks more like Top Man’s pet than Rock’s, but on the whole this is a vast improvement.
The European equivalent is probably the worst of its three, although it tries to mimic Inafune’s style but with more metallic paint and the menacing Wily in the back, obviously the best part of the whole thing. Protoman also looks…wonky. Not all that good.
While Inafune’s artwork has a certain cutesy anime flair to it, American and European gamers wouldn’t be able to tell that these games were Japanese save for the game itself, which did little to the sprites or code to hide things. Still, Japanese title screens did feature some differences that Capcom USA altered for unknown reasons – let’s take a look.
Japan’s Rockman on the left, America’s Mega Man on the right (which will be the standard the rest of the way down). Rockman’s is a vibrant blue, with a nice enlarged Rockman dead center bordered by a striking line and a classy logo. Mega Man strips out all of the blue and Rockman for a more subdued, bold title, with its imposing logo and little else to distinguish it.
These two are almost identical, but Mega Man 2 had its building lowered to make room for the larger logo. Capcom’s copyright is also missing, and the NA version has difficulty options.
In localization fun, Clash Man was Crash Man in Japan, due to the L/R confusion.
Rockman 3 has Rockman to the right of the options, a little more grown up than he was in Rockman, but Mega Man 3 axes him out completely for more black. He’s in the game for the “You Got ‘Weapon’” screens, but the American title seems much more barren without him.
Also, the game’s menus read the game’s appropriate title – Rockman III for Japan, Mega Man III for America.
Next time, we’ll take a look at Mega Man 4 – 6.
Jap-sai Page for Rockman – http://www.jap-sai.com/Games/Rockman/Rockman.htm
Jap-sai Page for Rockman 2 – http://www.jap-sai.com/Games/Rockman_2/Rockman_2.htm
Jap-sai Page for Rockman 3 – http://www.jap-sai.com/Games/Rockman_3/Rockman_3.htm
Time Warp Gamer NES Box Art Master Page – http://timewarpgamer.com/features/box_art_master_nes.html
Technomaly Page for Mega Man II title screen – http://www.technomaly.com/2010/01/17/fan-made-mega-man-film-coming-very-soon/megaman2/
Examiner Page for Rockman 2 – http://www.examiner.com/la-classic-game-in-national/chiptune-jukebox-rock-mega-man-2
Giantbomb Page for Mega Man 3 – http://www.giantbomb.com/mega-man-3/61-4518/
Just another little blog world page on Rockman 3 – http://blog.naver.com/PostView.nhn?blogId=yeongjoon890&logNo=70103510057
Mega Man Wikia entry on Mega Man (NES) – http://megaman.wikia.com/wiki/Mega_Man_%28video_game%29
The Cutting Room Floor on Mega Man 2 – http://tcrf.net/Mega_Man_2
GameFAQs Image Page for Mega Man 3 Box (NA) – http://www.gamefaqs.com/nes/563443-mega-man-3/images