Since the announcement of Mega Man's much deserved inclusion in Super Smash Bros., there's been a lot of debate in regards to the look of the robot. Some fans welcome this modern take on the character's design, others not so much. I've seen some say that it throws out the years of evolution his design has had since the NES days, deeming it a "deevolution" or a "relapse."
In all, there is one thing both sides can agree on: Mega Man looks different. But why?
In a recent editorial with the Official Nintendo Magazine, Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakurai has provided an explanation why Mega Man looks the way he does. It all hearkens back to Sakurai's desire to provide players with a "complete" representation of the character. There's a certain image Mega Man has, and Sakurai and worked to ensure this immediate recognition.
"Mega Man's most unique trait is how he gains new attacks from bosses," he said, referring to how most of his attacks are abilities drawn from the Mega Man series itself, like Metal Man's Blade, or Hard Man's Hard Knuckle.
"Working that fully into the game results in a more complete Mega Man. That's why he's done up in NES-era proportions, rather than something more realistic; that's why he's expressionless, why his jumping and damage motions and the way he can fire the Mega Buster while walking are all what they are. It's all in an effort to present the character."
Sakurai's pretty committed to designing characters with recongizable traits. Personally speaking, I feel this is the best method they could go with Mega Man. Here we have the character in his most basic, most well known form and everything about him is here. It's a very "compact" design, combing concepts from numerous sources like Ariga's take on the character (all those little details like vents, rivets, and panel lights). I like it.
Anyway, Sakurai has plenty more to say on the methodology behind characters. You can read up on those details, among other topics, at ONM.
Thanks for the tip, Eric.