This past Monday, December 17th, 2018 marked the 25th anniversary of the release of the very first game in the Mega Man X (nee Rockman X) series, and to celebrate, I hope you won’t mind indulging me as I recall the occasion with a bit of an anecdote. I also hope you don’t mind the discrepancy between talking about the North American release a month or two later as a way of observing the Japanese release.
I’ve been a Mega Man fan since the very beginning — since the first game, at least, though I’ll admit that was kind of rough going. Over the years, I’ve become increasingly involved with the franchise in various ways, both as a fan (including running The Mega Man Network) and in more official capacities (could I interest you in a copy of the Mega Man Robot Master Field Guide?). As such, you might think that I’ve owned a copy of every game from 1987 on, right?
It turns out just the opposite is true. I never owned a single one of the Blue Bomber’s adventures — that is, until Mega Man X.
Back in the heyday of mom ‘n pop video rental stores and the emergence of Blockbuster Video, there were effectively two types of games in my eyes: Those titles you were ready to invest some serious time and sacrifice some slots on your birthday/Christmas list for, and those that you could knock out in a weekend rental. For me, a lot of great games fell into the “rental” pile, and that included Mega Man (though I’ll admit the first and fourth games required more than one rental for me to finish).
My reasoning was that if I ever wanted to play them, I could just rent them. After all, video stores weren’t going anywhere, and they never seemed to get rid of anything. Oh, but if only I had any idea what the future held.
Well, I did get a small glimpse. By the time 1994 rolled around, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System had been on the North American market for nearly two and a half years, and unlike VHS tapes (which weren’t going anywhere, yeah?), that old NES stock was being shifted out in order to make room for the new hotness of Nintendo’s Super Power — to say nothing of the highly competitive Leader of the 16-Bit Revolution, the SEGA Genesis. New NES games were still coming out, albeit at a reduced rate, while the old ones… who knows? Maybe they were being shipped to a farm upstate somewhere.
Meanwhile, the hype train for what was initially known as “Super Mega Man” had been building, practically since the console’s launch. While other NES stalwarts such as Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, and more had made the jump to 16-bit, a constant question that came alongside each new NES Mega Man release was when he, too, would make the jump. But when news began coming out about his 16-bit successor in early 1993, hype began to build.
I knew I had a decision to make, and, well, there wasn’t really any decision at all. Whereas the “Classic” Mega Man series (as it was not yet known) had proven to have a finite shelf life at rental and my opportunity to play those earlier titles was shrinking, I decided I wouldn’t make the same mistake with the next generation.
So for the first time ever, I took to calling the electronics department of Wal-Mart (back when they had a hyphen) daily, as GameStop was not the presence it is today and street dates for video games had only been invented by SEGA just a little over a year earlier. It eventually came in, and I took my savings in and purchased it with little hesitation.
I won’t bother with a review here, but suffice to say, it was worth every penny of the fifty bucks or so I paid for it. There was no way I was going to let another Mega Man title slip by me!
About a year later came Mega Man X2, and I actually didn’t buy it. Rather, it was something of a going away gift from a friend who was moving away. Then came Mega Man X3, and… I didn’t buy that, either — mainly due to the relative scarcity of it and its fellow release, Mega Man 7, which I instead opted for when the decision had to be made. I bought Mega Man X4 before I even had a PlayStation to play it on, and so on, and so forth.
There are a handful of exceptions, but I have for the most part kept up with Mega Man titles ever since, but I’ll always remember Mega Man X as the first game in the franchise that was well and truly mine to keep.
GamePro and Game Players scans courtesy of The Reploid Research Lavatory.