Sunday, January 16, 2022

Never-Before-Seen, Early Mega Man Zero Concept Art From 2000

Former Mega Man series designer Mr. Pink Head is back with another piece of unseen concept art. This time, it's an early design for Mega Man Zero 1's opening stage. And it proceeds the game by almost two years.

According to Pink Head, he drew this piece after Turn A Gundam aired its final episode in 2000. He was really into Syd Mead's work at the time (Mead did the mechanical designs for Turn A Gundam), and that influenced the stage's appearance. The Mead inspiration bled into the final game only a little, though. Pink Head says the design of the Transerver and some walls carry on the torch.

Pink Head's handwritten notes (translated by Midori) offer a glimpse at a some early story elements, too. The opening stage was titled "Laboratory 0", and this is where Zero interred himself as "research material" upon learning he carried the Maverick Virus. Enemies would materialize out of data screens, perhaps due to the electronic contamination. Worth a mention, but the enemy's design here veers more closely in the direction of Mega Man X, too. Neat!

Although Mr. Pink Head can't elaborate on the timeline further, it stands to reason that Mega Man Zero actually started development *at* Capcom before Inti Creates became involved (Pink Head worked at Capcom at the time; didn't jump to Inti). His comment about Turn A Gundam wrapping would place this piece around April 2000. The game itself wouldn't hit retail until April 26, 2002.

Interestingly, Mega Man X5 was also several months away at that time (November 30, 2000). In other words, Mega Man Zero's development was relatively concurrent with X5. We're not too sure when Inti Creates took point. Interesting stuff to say the least. 

I don't know about you, but I have a new appreciation for Inafune's shock (and frustration) when he learned Mega Man X6 was going into production. It really puts into perspective the original plan of ending the X series with X5, then transition to Zero

And while X6 initially threw Inafune for a loop, things worked out in the end. But, man; I really want to learn more about this pre-Inti Creates era now...

30 comments:

  1. It's interesting this piece predates X5 given the note about Zero voluntarily giving himself up as research material. I always assumed that was something they came up with to hastily try to connect X6 to Zero 1, but it seems that was always intended to be the plan. Which makes Zero's death in X5 honestly confusing. X6 suddenly feels necessary for the original story plan.

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    1. Inafune didn't have any notable role in X5 and X6's production with Zero done by a separate team even before IntiCreates. Easy enough to see that X5 and Zero were both trying to build on and conclude the foreshadowing started in X2 (X and Zero will do battle) with any lore clashes from the divide in developers.

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    2. I don't think the story was so firmly planned out. One of the notable things about a recently dumped build of X5 is that it has unfinished cutscene art, some obvious placeholders and some scenes just imported sketches.

      Notably, one sketch placeholder shot of Zero has his body is intact. Maybe an early draft of X5's story had Zero surviving throughout, and sealing himself away following the defeat of Sigma?

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    3. Inafune already said he intended Zero to be revived from his death in X5.

      https://web.archive.org/web/20061022074606/http://megaman.retrofaction.com/articles/interviews/interview002.php

      >"I was originally planning on ending the series at around X4 or 5," Inafune reveals. "I really expected that to be the ending. And so I was all happy... 'OK, done with X5. That series is now closed off, now let's start Zero. I'm really excited to start Zero series.' Here's Zero, you know, he's kind of dead, and you power him up and he comes back to life, right? In my mind, in X5, Zero died. And so I'd always planned to make Zero come back to life in the Zero series, but then X6 comes out sooner from another division and Zero comes back to life in that, and I'm like, 'What's this!? Now my story for Zero doesn't make sense! Zero's been brought back to life two times!"

      Therefore, not hard to see that the concept art saying that Zero sealed himself was just throwing around ideas for his game that got used for X6 as a way to transition into it (and officially placed at some point in X's future rather than right after X6 to account for Zero's presence in X7 up besides Command Mission).

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  2. Mr. Pink said the development started at Capcom?

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    1. He worked at Capcom throughout the 90s and 2000s. He did not move to Inti Creates.

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    2. But the development of Z1 also had people from Capcom, like Yoshinori Kawano who created the scenario.

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  3. Wasn't Inafune's shock about X6 more about what X6 did with Zero?
    I still don't buy that he couldn't have known about the game.

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    1. I think the story goes that X6 was a different team; Inafune was focused on MMZ. He intended the story to end with X5, but at thetime there were people higher-up in the company who could make the final decision on things like that. Just because it was Inafune's intention to end with X5 doesn't mean he had the authority within CAPCOM to prevent X6 from happening. The fact that CAPCOM knew Inafune didn't want it to happen may have been reason enough to exclude him from discussions about and development of X6. Inafune never owned Mega Man; he was just appointed to work on it by his superiors at CAPCOM.

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    2. AFAIK, Takuya Aizu of Inti Creates pestered Inafune presumably at E3 2001 (according to Aizu, who said also that X5 had just released when the interest was expressed). X6 was also at E3 2001, and many sites seem to say that Inafune had absolutely no involvement with X6's development. I have no information as to whether Inafune was present as a Capcom rep, or if he was on his own time scouting out what other devs were up to.

      Zero's ending in X6 feels bizarre to me. While it can be reasonably taken as a call forward to the Zero series, it has horribly rushed art (even for X6) and contextually doesn't fit at all with the rest of the game's story. I speculate that while Inafune was not formally involved with X6's development, that the Zero series being given the green light lead to him looking in to what X6 was doing and finding out that they already brought Zero back to life. He made a special request towards the end of X6's development to add a scene where Zero seals himself away, or "dies".

      Pink Head's statement of when this concept art was drawn feels out of place with that timeline of events. The ZERO series was being conceived just *before* E3 2000? It feels too much like Protodude's trying to justify a "one series long narrative" continuity theory by speculating on it.

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    3. I'm not trying to spur any kind of theory. I'm merely speculating that, perhaps, the idea was to move on directly to a Zero-centric title next. Pink Head's comments suggests that they started dabbling with this early incarnation at Capcom, a bit before Inti Creates. That's it.

      I didn't mean to imply anything in the way of continuity or narrative. Just that, you know, they're done with MMX and moving on to a Zero-led series.

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  4. It's always cool to get this little pieces of information about the development of these games, it's like finding ancient relics. They give you answers but also cuestions and both are exciting. Especially when you consider the time frame and how much Inafune could have planned for the future of the series.

    I can understand Inafune but I support Capcom on the creation of X6. I love Mega Man games and I wish I could play them forever. Ending the X series because of the "story" feels wrong in my opinion, even worse when you pretend to kill the past protagonist (X) to make your own creation look cooler (Zero). I don't care how many excuses they make for Sigma coming back, I just want to have fun with my heroes.

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  5. The enemy does look distinctly like Mac... is it possible the enemies in the first stage would have been based on specific Maverick characters from the X series, as Zero's memories of them come to life and attack? This does give the whole Iris theory a ton more precedent.

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    1. Iris is not and will never be a main character.

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    2. "Shadow the Hedgehog is not and will never be a main character"

      Look where we are now.

      And for the record, the Iris theory predates me being in the fandom by a long shot.

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    3. 20 years later Iris is NOT a main character. She is an ancillary character demoted to a plot device.

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    4. What??? Shadow the Hedgehog was always at the very least a main character (like Iris, a dead one... but still) The whole entire game he debuted in was predicated on him. You take Iris out of X4... and I am not sure much changes. Maybe Zero never becomes a hard@ss that never smiles again, that about it. Actually that would be a big change, but still...

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    5. "as Zero's memories of them come to life and attack"

      To me, that would be silly and repetitive, like the Gameboy color MM Xtreme games I never played that look boring and graphically just too dull and very repetitive (using the same bosses was dumb). I was watching some youtube vids on it. Zero was far better + can play it on the big screen even back in the day without too much of a blocky look when using borders.

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    6. I was implying that these memories would be regular enemies, not recycled bosses, to show how Zero's power grew.

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    7. @Gary Daniel
      i'd definitely argue that the second xtreme game was better than the first zero game.

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    8. If they remade it to have at least GBA or DS level graphics (even GBA detail is good enough for me on this and I would play it on my PC monitor), and they had it up on steam, I might buy it, else use an emulator, but it doesn't even look desirable enough for me to even try it on emulation as it is now + kind of lazy to just reuse a bunch of assets from previous X games, levels too. Xtreme 1 actually takes place between X2 and X3 (since it was made later, creates a plot hole with Doppler in X3 saying 'defeated my master twice'), and Xtreme 2 between X3 and X4. A shame they had to make it for a low budget bland looking system (even back then, they could do much better). I wouldn't mind remakes of the classic GB MM games and Xtreme, then I may be attracted to it enough to give it a try (I did buy the classic, X, and Zero/ZX collections on steam, BTW). Agreed that Xtreme 2 does look better than 1. They actually added new bosses to it and characters and wiki and video shows sigma actually has a legit new body. Even saying that as long as people have evil in their hearts, he would return (sounds like evil energy really integrated into the virus).

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    9. Also, I know Austin. I was just saying bringing back any regular enemies to just be 'memories' would be dull and sounds like a storyline from Xtreme 1 (well, data of past enemies stored on a super computer in cyberspace, memories, not much difference). At the least, I would hope they are modified + storywise, not memories. Since the virus is gone at this point, it couldn't be virus data either. I guess if only some of them were old enemies, it would be acceptable.

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    10. At least the Game Boy and Xtreme games were proper Mega Man games in the original freaking timeline.

      I'd play an old 8 bit game boy game before playing anything on a PS5 any day. I have better things to do that run around a giant empty map looking for trinkets with nothing but wind to listen to.

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    11. Yeah, gameplay and story are more important, hence I said it doesn't have to look super good, but I don't want it to look like pong since then I can't enjoy it if it is a platformer with such low detail level. I would rather play NES MM games than a handhelds on GB color. The NES ones can be ok, and later NES ones add new moves and better explosions for some bosses.

      But I'm sure most agree that some standard of graphics matter when it comes to these kinds of games. Oddly enough, X games on the SNES do a better job with explosions than MM7, though debris bouncing and smoke is kind of neat in MM7, a circle appearing when destroying an enemy is boring. Also X SNES games had better sound, I think. Not sure why all the hate for MM8. I feel it was better than Rockman and Forte in sound and explosions and R&F was reusing many assets, though both are good. One can play the SNES version by downloading the rom and a translation patch, though finding the right translation patch can be tricky, though long ago, I owned it on the GBA and played it with the Gamecube Gameboy player. They should have added it to the collections lately.

      As for PS5. Of course I never touched that, or even a PS4 or PS3 (not even emulation). Most games don't seem too interesting the past 10 years, even on Steam, unless I look hard enough.

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    12. Thats why I hate graphics. Yoo much time and money wasted on pretty affects for a game that is boring.

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    13. The following is a good game I got on Steam, Shrap. Classic yet the detail is acceptable. It is old school Contra style called Super Cyborg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJ9D6bheppc

      Here is another which is also good - a Contra-like game but you may recognize some bosses that are inspired by Contra and even Megaman with one boss near the end even kind of having a final sigma W body. The game is called Blazing Chrome and is old school too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfIEttgxEO4

      R-type Final 2 is good and has good graphics, but classic gameplay and every so often releasing redone stages from previous R-type games (it plays like R type, which is important, and I have it on Steam): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqcP5aWfWEE

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    14. @Gary Daniel
      you're really missing out if you haven't played the GB games, aside from maybe the second one. the other 4 all have great level design, improved bosses and entirely new castles, with 4 being a way more impressive reimagining of the rather unimpressive NES 4 and 5 and 5 being a full on new game that later inspired many things in 7. i've seen a hack of 5 that was in development, it removed all the lag and colorized the entire game, bringing it closer, if not above the NES titles, but i haven't seen if it released yet or not.

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    15. I'll think about it. I have known of new castles, read story on some of them, saw some video of them. I remember someone had MM2 on the GB being out as a child. He goes into space in one, quint being an enemy in another, and starloids in number 5. I did have Super gameboy (lets you play GB games in color on the SNES) in 1995. I was late to playing GB. Grew up with the original NES though. The 1st MM was hard as a child. MM4 was when I truly got into it and beat first (owned first too), was easier than MM1. I played MM1 when I was 5 or so from a friend of the family who rented it but at the time, I did not know what it is, but I do remember way back then that Ice Man's stage and Ice Man too was hard, Elec Man too, especially at a young age, but still beat it after renting it some years later after I owned MM4. Later I did have the PS2 collections (came out around 2006 maybe) of classic and X and now have them on Steam.

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  6. I love Turn-Ɐ Gundam, and have been thinking about Syd Mead's work a lot lately. It's great to hear Mead inspired someone (if not more) who worked on Rockman; I love to think that there's a creative thread between my favorite game characters and design masterpieces like Tron, Alien, and Gundam. I have an action figure of the Turn-X, and it's design could fit right into Mega Man X.

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  7. I'm enjoying those concept arts quite a bit. Now if only Mr. Pink can eventually find it in his heart/stuff to gift us the concept art for the female X-Hunter...

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