Mega Man Zero is one of those Game Boy Advance games everybody seemed to own once upon a time, even though (or because) its challenge level is best suited for the criminally insane.
Being a giant Mega Man nerd, I enjoy playing the game well enough – there ain’t nothin’ like doing a mid-air somersault with the beam sabre, says I – but I find the Zero series’ story more compelling than its gameplay. Neither Mega Man nor Mega Man X do a whole lot to explore the dynamic between robots / Reploids and humans, but the Zero series offers a lot of interesting insight between the two species.
There is, for instance, a Reploid named Andrew that seemingly had a human mate at some point in his life, and he has a lot of interesting stories to tell about living amongst people. Problem is, the series portrays him as an old bore, so he kind of trails off just as his talks get interesting.
ANDREW: “I’ve lived long enough to watch human attitudes towards Reploids go through several transitions. I taught human children, I was a sailor, and a baker. I saw the rise of Neo Arcadia. I fell in love with a human woman and lived with her, but when she started to get old, I began going through an existential crisis of my own–”
RESISTENCE: “Be quiet, Andrew. Nobody cares.”
ANDREW: “B-but if you pay attention to my stories, you can actually piece together parts of the entire Mega Man series’ timeline–”
RESISTENCE: “Shut your fat old face. Or we’ll put you in a home.”
ANDREW: “What ‘home?’ There’s nothing outside the Resistance base except for dirt and that dead dog Menart dragged over to scare Alouette–”
RESISTENCE: “Yeah, exactly.”
ME: [Gnaws on Game Boy Advance]
I think that under-explored relationship between humans and Reploids is part of the reason I like the music accompanying Mega Man Zero’s Neo Arcadia shrine stage. Throughout the entirety of the game, we hear about how humans have bundled themselves into a city where Reploids are required to be totally subservient or risk being killed (by Mega Man Zero 2 Capcom wasn’t even bothering to be subtle with its Jews / Nazi Germany metaphors). This stage offers us a rare glimpse of the “paradise” – a tower within some kind of park housing a massive tree (not the Tree of Life that would come into play in, again, Mega Man Zero 2). It’s not the kind of visual that pops up often in the techno-organic world of Mega Man.
The music itself kind of urges you on, too. What’s the deal with this “Copy X” maniac? What happened to the real Mega Man X?
“Keep on going,” wails that guitar lick. “You’ll find out.”