Bogleech.com Reviews Mega Man X I-III Mavericks
By Jonathan Wojcik
Yeah, you heard me! Regulars of this here website are generally only aware of my interest in "creatures," which extends to everything from real animals to mythological, haunted household objects...but, for whatever reason, does not usually extend to robots. Even in our popular culture as a whole, we don't tend to put "robots" and "monsters" under the same umbrella, and I can't rightfully even explain why that is or why I myself am so much more interested in almost every other kind of entity.
That was not, however, always the case. In fact, a much younger me was every bit as obsessed with robots as he was with space aliens, mutants and insects, and counted none other than Mega Man as one of his absolute FAVORITE things in the entire wide world. There was just something about that colorful, cartoon-eyed aesthetic that made me fall in love with almost every single Mega Man robot back in the day, though truth be told...a robot based on an animal or monster was still the utmost pinnacle of coolness to me, and few Mega Man bosses ever fit that bill outside Toad Man or Snake Man.
Imagine my utter joy, then, when I saw a brand new Super Nintendo Mega Man game on the shelves of our local video store, a game I hadn't seen advertised or was aware existed until that very moment, and saw Mega Man menaced by a mechanical octopus guy right on the cover. Obviously, this was going to be some sort of "Octopus Man," right? And surely already the coolest Mega Man boss of all time!
No, as it turned out. As soon as I was in the backseat of the car with my new rental, I eagerly opened up the game box, pulled out the precious instruction manual and flipped straight to the back, where I knew the new eight main bosses (the same as every game in the series!) would be on display, only to discover that the series had dropped its prior tradition of human-like robots in favor of entirely animal themed villains.
I'm not sure if anyone else in the world was ever so excited about Mega Man bosses as I was the moment I discovered they were now going to be lizards and bugs, so I feel like it's high time I give them a spot on my website, and I'm still going to call this a "monster" review, because damn it, what the hell else IS a giant, metal baboon man?!
So let's start off with Launch Octopus, because he was the first one I laid eyes upon. It turns out the cover artist misunderstood his design when they painted him with a mouthful of fangs, and I have to admit I liked the solid purple color scheme a whole lot more, but Octopus is still a very cool design. How couldn't he be?! He's a metal octopus man! Even without teeth, I'm a pretty big fan of grill-like robot mouths. Octopus's gimmick is launching little homing torpedos from his tentacle tips, pretty straightforward but an interesting enough thing for a robot octopus to do, I suppose.
Octopus also has the only design I actually like from the later remake game. I'm just not even going to bother reviewing the others, because I find virtually all of them inferior...but I like the cuter, more protruding mouth on this one. I don't know if I like the more saucer-shaped head and I definitely don't like the harder edges of his shoulders, but the face is kind of the most important part, and it's a lovable one in either incarnation.
An armadillo is an odd and fun choice of animal for the very first X game, especially considering it's the first subterranean boss of the new series. They could have more obviously gone with a mole and a drill motif, but instead they went with a Cingulatan. Did you know that was the scientific term? Somehow, all my life, I just never bothered to look it up. I knew Armadillos were Xenarthrans, but so are a bunch of other weirdos like anteaters and sloths. Cingulata doesn't really feel like it fits armadillos, to me, but whatever.
Purple and white is also an unexpected color scheme for this guy, not the predictable browns and greys you might expect from the boss of a mine level.
An eagle, on the other hand, is one of the most obvious things you could pick for the obligatory flying boss, and Storm Eagle remains the one I'm least partial to from the original game. Not that there's anything wrong with bird guys, no; there's an inherent level of coolness and a sort of strange hilarity to basically all birds, but nothing about Storm Eagle stands out much from what he is on paper. He's definitely just the baseline for a metal bird man if I've ever seen one.
Another rather obvious choice, this time for the ice level, but a Penguin is at least a much weirder, goofier bird than an eagle, and you can never have enough penguin-themed bad guys. This fat little dweeb even slides around on his belly, and of course, he's the smallest boss in the game! That's adorable! There isn't much you can say about him besides the fact that he sure is a penguin person robot, but that's A-okay in my book. If Storm Eagle thinks that's unfair, I guess he can just go find an American flag to stand in front of while he sheds a single, robot eagle tear.
A primate seems like it was another obligatory one, but a mandrill is a pretty surprising choice for the electricity-based boss. I don't know why it feels oddly fitting to me anyway, but it does. Maybe it's just because of a mandrill's blue and white facial markings? Baboons are also innately terrifying apes, so a huge, metal baboon that can fry you with lightning bolts is pretty much the most terrifying, awful ape ever.
Nature's deadliest animal of all...the Kuwanger.
I'm sure it's apparent to many of us now that this guy is a stag beetle, but it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize it back in the day. I don't know why this is the only boss whose name wasn't fully translated, but "boomer kuwanger" is an awkward attempt at a pun on "kuwaga" (like the beetle) and "boomerang." He's also this game's homage to Cut Man, the most iconic boss of the very first Mega Man game, signifying that this series is basically a reboot for a new game system and a new era.
Not much else I can say except that our first insectoid X boss is a little on the plain, humanoid side, but he is definitely very slick and menacing, and even has beetle wings he can unfold!
The biggest boss, of course, and by his name you know he's the fire-based boss that every single Mega Man game has to have. It's not just a tradition born of trope recycling, either; the gimmick of a mega man game, if you didn't know, is that you can acquire the weapon of each boss you defeat, and though you can fight them in a non-linear order, some are much more difficult than others if you haven't acquired the weapon they're most vulnerable to.
The presence of the obvious elements of water, fire and sometimes ice in every Mega Man game ensures every new player can work out at least some of the boss weaknesses to start their run, while the others become a little less obvious. You really have to puzzle out who the hell is vulnerable to kuwangers.
Anyway, I like Flame Mammoth. I like his hugeness and his stoic gaze. The ears kind of indicate that he's an actual elephant, and not a mammoth, but it's interesting that they look so much like they're for venting excess heat...just like the real thing!
Finally, we come to the breakout star. I was just plain OBSESSED with this guy at first sight, and could absolutely not stop drawing him at every opportunity. He's even reappeared at least once as a hidden, bonus boss in another X title, so I'm obviously not the only one who thought he was the coolest looking in the game. You can absolutely never go wrong with lizard characters, even moreso chameleon characters, and what's not to love about Stinger's thorn-covered design, actually chameleon-like left eye and accurately pincer-like arms?! You can even kind of tell he's got a sneaky, maniacal personality just looking at him, and of course, he has the power to turn nearly invisible.
Mega Man X2
Let's just keep this going for another couple games! Let's go for a trilogy's worth, since it was basically just the first three X titles I played to death and really got so into. While the first game stuck to mostly very obvious animals, the second went much weirder and more exotic with pretty glorious results, starting with this asshole looking robot ostrich whose power is to run extremely fast and whose face tells me he sounds like Daffy Duck. I'm glad this is what the second game immediately went with for its bird guy.
The fun thing about Wheel Gator is that his stage is a gigantic alligator-themed TANK, wreaking havoc as it rolls through a surrounding city. "Wheels" are an odd domain to give a crocodilian, but it somehow works. Did you know that hunks of exploded tire are sometimes called "road alligators" in trucker slang? They do kind of look alike.
Wheel Gator can shoot giant, bladed wheels as an attack, of course!
An ungulate is a surprising choice for this one's fire boss. Granted, so was a mammoth, and few real animals can be argued as "fire themed"...but you would at least expect more desert-dwelling creatures or reptiles in this role, wouldn't you? Or even a sea creatures turned magma-dweller, a tried and true video game trope!
It's cool, but kind of unfortunate that Flame Stag's antlers are made of flame. They're not going to look nearly as much like antlers if there's any kind of breeze out, and he can't maintain them forever without running out of fuel. As a stag, that's basically his whole entire masculinity we're talking about!
So, delightfully, those first three bosses were the only vertebrates among the second game's main antagonists. HELL YEAH! The "least interesting" of the others is still a lovable animal and lovable Reploid, the very small but very angry Bubble Crab! You would think the design would emphasize giving him pincer arms, but instead, he just has regular hands, which is unexpected enough to be pretty interesting. The "claws" are instead on his shoulders, which can generate larger blades of solid energy, in the shape of crab's claws! That's actually really creative! I really like this little crab-themed ball man!
I've been using male pronouns for all of these bosses because that's the official word from Capcom, but even as a kid I thought that was kind of bogus, and Magna Centipede was the first one I looked at and thought "this one should have been a girl." Not because it's pink, mind you, but because it's a centipede, duh. You don't think centipedes are feminine?? Come on! Go look at one!
Magna Centipede is also a ninja, with magnetic powers and magnetic bombs. I like that the centipedeness consists mainly of this huge tail appendage sprouting out from the robot's back, rather than more obvious placement on the ass, though that's more obvious in the sprite than in the artwork.
A moth! Not a butterfly! Heck yeah! Complete with feathery antennae and a sort of "gas mask" face that resembles a coiled proboscis! Morph Moth's "elemental theme" is one of my favorites, a recycling robot that inhabits a junkyard and attacks with garbage!
But what's REALLY great about Morph Moth, and the reason for his name, is that he alternates between his humanoid moth form and a robot bagworm. How positively lovable is that? I mean, I just think bagworms are ALWAYS lovable, but I'm so glad that Mega Man has ever had garbage thrown at him by a robot crafted in their image.
ANOTHER of my favorite creatures ever!? This series absolutely spoiled me to death. This is X2's underground boss, and snails certainly do love their darkness. Specifically associating a snail with a crystal cave is really cool, too, which is also why Crystal's main attack is laser-based, I guess. It may have been even cooler if the eyes could have been on the stalks, but I do like this face just fine, especially with the two lower tentacles instead of any obvious "mouth." I feel like robots always look cooler without mouths, and there isn't any reason they actually need them if they aren't the biting kind of robot.
I really like the fact that, while, this metal robot doesn't get to be "gooey" like a snail, it does get wavy trim on the arms and legs in honor of a snail's sliminess.
And then...SURPRISE! The forest stage boss, following from the first game's Sting Chameleon, isn't even an animal! It's a PLANT robot! A maniacal plant robot that looks like a giant cucumber, has springs for upper arms and does a goofy little dance around the arena. This was another "love at first sight" one for me, for sure.
...But why "Wire Sponge?" Isn't a sponge an animal? I guess they thought more people knew what a sponge was, because this robot's Japanese name is Wire Hechimaru, named for the hechima, which is what other parts of the world know as a luffa.
Still lost? Maybe the spelling you've seen is loofah, the big scratchy thing that we do, indeed, use as a type of bath sponge, though it's actually the dried interior of a huge cucumber-like fruit. This Mega Man character is an evil, robot loofah. I love him more than ever.
Mega Man X3
X3 is the last we're going to cover on this page. From X4 and onward, my original interest in the series finally began to fade, even if they did continue to introduce some pretty excellent character designs with some stellar choices in terms of flora and fauna.
We're also going to go in more precise order from my least to most favorite for this one, not that I have anything against Tunnel Rhino, but like I said...the last game really spoiled me. Tunnel Rhino is awesome if you like rhinos and you like drills, but the "mining level" boss is just never, ever going to top Crystal Snail unless they do something like, I don't know, a blind cave salamander.
I'm pretty indifferent to this one, too. I'm just not that big into charismatic megafauna! You know that! He's got an alright personality, but he's just not my speed.
Another big mammal, but this time, there's definitely some stuff I can appreciate. I love that this is specifically a NEON tiger, in every color of the rainbow, like they decided to model a murderous robot around a Lisa Frank blacklight poster. Tiger also has a face that feels modeled after how tigers and other big cats were portrayed in centuries-old Eastern artwork.
Finally, some bugs! You may recognize this as the type of beetle Japan likes to think of as the arch-rival of the stag beetle, and I wonder if that's why this one is blue? Japan also has a thing about "red oni vs. blue oni," and Boomer Kuwanger was red! G. Beetle is a bit more insectoid than his predecessor, looking much more like the actual animal with more humanoid arms and legs on it, and I like that a creature associated with brute strength uses gravity powers.
Crush Crawfish and Gravity Beetle feel curiously redundant with one another, sort of. They're both big, hunched arthropods whose main thing is using horns or claws to smash stuff, right? The more the merrier, I guess, although this guy really looks more like a snipper than a crusher. Those might be the most lethal-looking appendages I've seen on any of this guys. This thing could so, so easily chop your head right off.
There's something I ALWAYS love about the pointed shape of a shrimp or lobster's face coupled with its swept feelers, and I'm glad that's preserved here. Apparently, Crush was said to be a notoriously dangerous robot even before he turned evil, having a defective AI that didn't easily distinguish friend from enemy! A territorial little bastard!
This is one people tend to remember fondly as one of the most badass in the game, and the heavy metal riffs throughout Hornet's stage certainly help. What ISN'T cool as hell about literally any wasp or wasp-based character? And instead of a "stinger," Hornet fires little egg-like explosives that latch on to enemies, earning the name "PARASITE BOMB!" Blast hornet is more parasitoid wasp than hornet! And I guess a mommy!
Surprisingly in a game with three arthropod bosses, my second favorite is a fish...and so is my first favorite. Catfish are famously associated with earthquakes in Japan, so it's surprising this isn't actually the underground boss, but electricity is appropriate too - electric catfish are even a real thing! The segmented, cable-like whiskers look really nice, and of course, they can touch the big batteries on Catfish's back to channel their electrical attacks! That's just neat!
Finally, we come to my very very favorite-ever Mega Man boss. More than the chameleon, more than the loofah, more than the snail or the garbage-dwelling moth or any that would come still later, which include a mushroom and a water flea by the way.
As conventionally cute and popular as seahorses are, their shape is so utterly alien for a vertebrate that they've always been among my top favorite creatures, aesthetically, so when you make any effort to frame a seahorse as something dreadful, it kind of rockets straight to the top of my favorite possible things in the whole wide world, and this mechanical, anthropomorphic seahorse is, as its name implies, a putrid biohazard! His Japanese name is Acid Seaforce, he lobs corrosive green sludge from his gas-mask like proboscis, he can himself melt into slime to reform at will, and he lives in a damn sewer. This is it. Until the day Mega Man games introduce a blowfly or a goose barnacle, this horrible, barfing sea dragon is totally my ideal canon Megamansona, and it certainly doesn't hurt that every part of the design just looks sleek and badass.
What's up with my favorite from each game always being green, though?!
ALL IN ALL, the love I once had for Mega Man in general was all but blown out of the water by these more creature-like newcomers, and while still working through my rental of the very first game, I found myself inventing dozens of my own fan-bosses, a habit that would be reignited fiercely by the second and third games.
I unfortunately never really got the hang of drawing them in an appropriate style, and maybe that's another reason I fell out of love with rigid robots over gooey goblins, but I still fondly remember such personal creations as Tarpit Sloth, Virus Fly, Nuke Roach, Rust Hyena, Shadow Angler, Razor Wasp, Electro Ray, Hacker Flea, Inferno Cobra, Glacier Nudibranch...and perhaps most significantly, Scythe Mantis, whose design never solidified in my mind at all, but whose name I would spontaneously grab the first time this thing called an "internet" demanded I come up with a thing called a "chat handle."