AKA: Rock, Rockman, The Blue Bomber
As seen in: Mega Man (NES)
Also in: Mega Man 10 (Wii/PS3/360)
Distinguishing feature: Blue suit, running animation that looks suspiciously like dancing.
Strengths: Platforming, shooting, catchy music, stealing enemy weapons.
Weaknesses: Spikes.

Profile by Anthony Rogers | March 7, 2010

Few things can wear a man down like repetition. Sure, there are worse things in life -- poverty, violence, etc. -- but nothing grinds away at the soul in quite the same way as being forced to go through the motions with no end in sight. It's the reason husbands cheat on their wives, people hate their jobs, and you don't eat the same kind of sandwich every damn day of your life, no matter how delicious it is. Still, it's a sad and easy trap to fall into, and the mind-numbing effects are potent no matter what kind of man you call yourself -- even a mega man.

Of course, it never starts out feeling that way. One can never really tell which steps they take in life will lead down that path. Rock -- much better known in these parts as the Mega Man -- was all too eager to volunteer himself to take on Dr. Wily's robot army. And why wouldn't he have been? It may have been dangerous, and perhaps he never gave much thought to the fact that he was single-handedly slaughtering hundreds of his own kind, but (ironically) it was a bid to escape the cold, indifferent hand of repetition. Had Rock not asked Dr. Light to upgrade him to the super fighting robot -- Mega Man -- there was little future outside of remaining Light's lab assistant.

And for a while, Mega Man's gamble paid off. He traveled to exotic locations and met interesting robots (even if he was mostly killing them). Mega Man was an inspiration to nerds everywhere -- with just a few tweaks, a lowly lab tech had risen to be the world's premiere badass. Now able to fire energy shots from the gun on his arm and equipped with rock-solid jumping abilities, there wasnít an enemy too powerful or obstacle too dangerous for him to overcome -- and in fact, it was the mastery of both that allowed him to survive. Even better, his former status as an all-purpose lab robot let him take other robotsí powers once defeated -- which, conveniently, made defeating another foe even easier. (Of course, this power was only useful when Mega Man correctly guessed a Robot Masterís weakness; itís easy to assume Ice Manís powers would do well against Fire Man, for example, but it was a stickier situation when trying to determine, say, what a Yamato Manís weakness would be, given the absence of an Commodore Perry Man in the Wily ranks.)

Looking back, it's almost funny how good things were for Mega Man -- for that short while, anyway. After squashing Dr. Wily's initial plan to tweak Dr. Light's robot masters and conquer the world, the fame it brought him was like a drug. A few weeks prior, he had been cleaning used test tubes, and now he was a national hero; few men -- yes, even mega men -- could resist the allure of that kind of popularity. So when Wily unleashed eight robots of his own, Mega Man jumped at the chance to go back into action. It certainly paid off, too; years later, he would look back on this adventure more fondly than any other. Each locale provided something new and interesting, the indigenous music was top-notch, and he even got some shiny new items to play with and keep things interesting. In fact, he had such a good time and beat Dr. Wily so soundly that he nonchalantly discarded his helmet in a field -- a final act of confidence if you will, a way to say to the world, "I have bested my enemy so vigorously I will never again have to fight." If only he had known the truth.

Replacement headgear notwithstanding, when Wily attacked a third time, Mega Man was more than ready to have another go. There wasn't a single household that hadn't heard of him at this point, and Mega Man -- now a full-fledged cultural icon -- took every opportunity to show off his prowess. By now Mega Man had entered into the showboating phase of his career, and with it brought on a whole slew of new criticisms. Was it necessary to show off by sliding under enemy attacks, when conservatively jumping over them had always sufficed? Sure, every celebrity had his quirks, but at what point did his insistence on entering every room by leaping into the door cross the line from "cute" to "borderline insane"? And was the inclusion of his siblings and, yes, even the family dog really necessary, or was were the rumors true and they were simply a more marketable family image that brought in more bolts to fund his energy tank addiction? In the end we may never know the truth, but whatever the case, he got results, and results are what really counted.

As expected, Wily's robots were no match for the Mega Man, although after three consecutive victories he did start to wonder if saving the world was beginning to lose its luster. The third adventure had been good, yes, but he had a nagging suspicion he was fast approaching a point where he was simply going through the motions. Luckily Dr. Light was supportive and did what any dad would do: Buy his kid a new toy to shut him up. He had already bought Mega Man a puppy to keep him happy, but desperate times called for desperate measures: In this case, a fancy new Mega Buster that let Mega Man fire charged up shots. It was indeed cool-looking, but sadly all through his fourth adventure, Mega Man found himself wishing that more than a couple enemies would attack at any given time and really give him a chance to use it. In the end, plowing through enemies even faster had somehow managed to make his latest outing even less entertaining.

It was all downhill from there. Mega Man's personal life was in shambles; imposters, a group called the Mega Man Killers, and the police's utter failure to keep Wily behind bars ate up his free time and made it impossible for him to connect with anyone. Deep down, though, the bigger problem was that the spark that had driven him just a few years earlier seemed to be extinguished. Saving the world was no longer exhilarating -- it was exhausting. Like anyone else earning a living, he was now a slave to his job, doomed to save the world when all he really wanted was some personal time. To make matters worse, Wily's creativity petered out exactly when Mega Man needed it most. It's not that Ice Man or Quick Man were particularly inspired to begin with, but in all his diabolical schemes Wily did nothing more devastating to his adversary than make him deal with something as bland as Plant Man. Oh, sure, Mega Man tried to compensate with an increasing number of new outfits, but even the thrill of boldly stepping into the world in chic salmon and peach did little to cheer the lad up. He ended up spending billions on pet cats and freaking rocket packs, but in the end they were all empty gimmicks that further isolated him from what he had originally loved about his work. Mega Man was officially in a funk.

Eventually, Mega Man hung up the mantle. He tried to fight the dissatisfaction he felt, but as time marched on he found himself moving slower and slower and becoming more and more distracted by the increasingly gaudy landscapes these younger generations craved. Calling it quits did him good, let him reconnect with his sister Roll and -- most importantly -- gave him the rest he so desperately needed. So much so, in fact, that he recently stepped out of retirement for another romp. He'd had offers in the past, of course, but he always deferred it to someone else until his creator was framed for a robot attack. Invigorated after years of relaxation, Mega Man wisely decided to withhold all of the excess baggage that had weighed him down over the years and ended up having one of the most thrilling outings of his life. Obstacles seemed fresh and interesting, the battles were intense and inventive, and above all else, Mega Man no longer felt like he'd done it all before.

Apparently the hiatus had been good for Wily, too -- the robot masters he put forth were challenging and unique, and the devious traps played off of Mega Man's every instinct brilliantly. Facing such encounters was surely difficult for Mega Man after years of idling his thumbs, but the thrill of something new and exciting was a drug, intoxicating him until once again his opponent lay defeated before him. It's still unclear if Mega Man plans to remain out of retirement at this point -- after all, there's something romantic about capping off his 20-year career with one of his most exciting adventures -- but either way, it's nice to see at least one aged hero is still rocking with the best of them.

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