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December 2, 2008

I was randomly browsing the TV Tropes site and quite incidentally came across a couple of Mega Man 9 references that an unknown contributor posted to a couple of different areas of the site. Since I do not contribute to that site (nor would such a place be an appropriate forum for such comments anyway), I decided to post my observations here.

The poster in question was lamenting the fact that Mega Man 9 did not end up leading into the X series. As he (or she) put it, while playing the game the poster fully expected Mega Man 9’s ending to link up with the X series because of the way the Robot Masters in the game voluntarily rebelled against their creator and owners at Dr. Wily’s urging.

I’d like to respectfully disagree. Rather than serving as a natural link into the X series, I personally think this plot point in Mega Man 9 does exactly the opposite—it completely obliterates any reasonable link altogether.

Think about it for a moment. In Mega Man X, Dr. Light wrote on X’s capsule that X was the first robot able to think, feel, and make his own decisions. If the Robot Masters in Mega Man’s time could do this already, why would Dr. Light imply on X’s capsule that X was a new and different thing?

Maybe, people will say, X was already built and sealed away by this point in time. Maybe he was even the prototype that Dr. Light used when building the Mega Man 9 Robot Masters. This explanation doesn’t work, however, because why then wouldn’t Dr. Light have sealed away the Robot Masters as well?

The fact of the matter is, Dr. Light was afraid of X. That’s why he put him in the capsule in the first place. He feared X would take his new freedom and decide to do something disastrous. So Dr. Light sealed him away until his loyalty could be confirmed—which he knew would not occur during his lifetime. So this rules out the Robot Masters being able to be confirmed when X couldn’t—and if they could, why wouldn’t Dr. Light release X at that time as well?

Alternately, some argue that maybe if the Mega Man 9 Robot Masters couldn’t actually feel emotions, this would make them different enough from X that what Dr. Light wrote could still make sense.

Although I think this is stretching things a bit, I will grant some of the premise of the argument: While clearly the Mega Man 9 Robot Masters could make their own decisions (they were definitely not following orders in what they did, and it seems Dr. Wily talked them into rebelling before he touched their programming, if he even did so at all), what is not so certain is whether they could actually feel emotions. The game makes it appear as though they could, because their decision to rebel was largely hinged on emotions such as pride, anger, betrayal, and such. However, those feelings could well have been emulated; maybe the Robot Masters simply made a decision to rebel based on logic rather than emotion. (Hey—it’s better than being scrapped!)

This doesn’t make any better sense, however. If the Robot Masters had free wills but could not feel emotions, that would be far worse than if they could. Such a robot could decide to go around murdering people and he wouldn’t feel a pint of remorse. He could rob the city blind and he wouldn’t feel a bit of regret. He would have absolutely no moral compunctions whatsoever to hold him back from arbitrarily deciding to take over the world, harm people, eradicate all life from the planet, or anything else that struck him as logical or reasonable.

If Dr. Light was concerned about X having a free will, then the idea of heartless Robot Masters having free wills would have absolutely terrified him.

I suppose you might say that Dr. Light made a mistake with the Mega Man 9 Robot Masters, and learned his lesson when they rebelled. But why then would the Robot Masters still be around in Mega Man 9’s ending? Did Dr. Light completely retool them when they were rebuilt, recreating them as mindless machines instead of what they were before? That doesn’t really fit his character. Besides, if he’d truly learned his lesson, why would he ever go on to build X? Once burned, twice shy, as they say.

And even if he did, X still wouldn’t be the “first” to “think, feel, and make [his] own decisions” because the Robot Masters that had come before him would have been the first in at least some of those categories (if not all), even if they were never again rebuilt as they once were. Which brings me right back to where I started.

So in all honesty, the plot of Mega Man 9 simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t fit in with the rest of the original series, and it doesn’t allow for a transition into the X series that makes any sort of semblance of sense.

(Update: Unless, of course, you assume the Robot Masters in Mega Man 9 were simply reprogrammed as with all of the other games, which defeats the entire premise of the argument in the first place. Although that still wouldn’t explain robots like Ballade and King and Bass turning against Wily, but I won’t go there for now.)


- The MegaMaster



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