Let’s talk a bit about Mega Man design

So, the concept art for the FPS Mega Man X has surfaced on Granov’s official Tumblr. Let’s take a look at it.

It's like Ultron had taken over Iron Man armour again and painted it to look burned metal
It’s like Ultron had taken over Iron Man armour again and painted it to look burned metal

I could be done with this post with two more pictures posted here; any Iron Man armour Granov has worked on and one of the Pantheon from the Zero series. There would be no need for words, but I need to open this issue a lot more. The thing is that the character Granov designed is not X; it’s an Iron Man take on one of those Pantheons.

But let’s get this Iron Man comparison out of the way now. The similarities FPS X shares with the Mark III armour are in the overall shape and composition with only few key differences, which actually would tell that FPS X design would actually fit very well as a more advanced version of some Iron Man armour. Some of these things are later on shared with some of the movie-verse armours as well. First of all, the plating of FPS X is very similar, if not exactly like, to the Mark III armour. This is not just the selected style of Granov himself, but something he can’t get away with. All great designers have their own style, but they can change their styles according to the needs of the job. For example, while McQuarry’s style is very easy to recognize, the way he made his works look like between different pieces has always been unique. For example, with just one glance you can tell the difference between the man’s Star Wars concept art and Star Trek Phase Two concepts he made. Granov doesn’t bother changing what he makes, which just makes the both of these designs less unique. The main difference in the aforementioned plating between MkIII and FPS X is that X shows more internal components, a weird designer fetish I can’t grasp on when it comes to mechanical designs, but even then the later suits of Iron Man show progressively more internal components. This is one of the reasons why the FPS X design just fits with the Iron Man line.

Now we could say that the both overall lines are similar just because they both follow the design of human body. I would agree if this was all about that. All powered armours are built on the idea of human body shape [Edit:I mean, duh?] and we all know how wildly different designs there are out there. Hell, even the Ultimate Iron Man armours tend to look different. As such, the overall core is the same and this results in a design that is essentially the same. MkIII armour has more bulk than FPS X for obvious reasons, such as it was one of the earliest suits Stark built, it has to actually accommodate a human inside with some extra bulk to make it look like a (modern) powered armour and to follow the selections of shapes in many places. Granov’s style also invades every past Iron Man armour he has made, as the tends to redesign them on the fly which is highly unprofessional. On top of that all, I’m afraid some of the design elements in FPS X are because of the live-action Transformers films. Perhaps from there the “shattered” armour lines came from.

Overall, it’s an unimpressive design which lacks recognizable Mega Man characteristics.

Speaking of these characteristics, let’s talk about them now and how the whole thing misses the points of androids like the Mega Man lineage. First of all, it lacks more shades of blue. No Mega Man is never composed of one blue. In FPS X we only see one shade of burned steel alongside dull grey in the inner components. The only contrast we have is from red, which is now overplayed. Sure, it comes from two region only, but the lack of all other colours just makes it scream the design’s lack of lustre. There was a sort of rumour going on that I haven’t seen confirmed about X’s face, where it changed according to his wishes from the robotic X we see now to more human one as he grows. Ok, sounds decent, but what use would X have for a holographic face? It sounds gimmicky and doesn’t really serve any real purpose. Humanity rarely is shown with a face that looks like humanity, but through actions.  On top of that, it would not have been too difficult to make X learn the expressions humanity has. Then again, this all goes against what Mega Man X is as a character, but we’re here to speak on the design alone.

The most prevailing element with any Mega Man through these years we’ve seen in is the eyes, the expressions they make and the feelings the characters convey. X is the player character, and we are to become him as we play the game. Face, especially the eyes, are perhaps the most powerful way of doing this, as from those few elements we can deduce what the character is feeling, thinking. Faceless heroes usually just talk their intentions and wants out, making it all kinda dull. It’s more or less shooting yourself in the leg, as now having a face on your character quickly makes him either a ruthless killing machine, or you’re telling the player what kind of character he is. Games share a common rule with film; show, do not tell. Too often we hear and/or read the characters in a scene and that’s just not good game. Sure, we could make X into a ruthless, cold killing machine that just ends up killing everyone and everything that comes into his way and—

Oh yeah...
Oh yeah…

Disregarding the differences between East and West, FPS X by all means is just a Pantheon. The idea of Pantheon is to make the hero’s look into the aforementioned cold and merciless killing machine. In Pantheon’s this is realized to the full effect with multiple varieties of Pantheons. For the uniniated, Pantheons are mass-produced cannon fodder of Mega Man Zero series. They are modelled after a copy of Mega Man X, who serves as the boss of the first game. This explains why they are modelled after the legendary hero. The simplest of Pantheons, the Hunter pictured above, shares its weapon element with what Granov had designed. They’re both menacing in their own way. I’m sure Granov had very little to say to the matter of what the weapon is in function, as CAPCOM and Armature Studios most likely dictated most of this. I’d wager that Armature was the one who decided on this more violent and cruel X rather than CAPCOM, but Granov was mostly just following what he was dictated. This doesn’t change the fact he designed an awful Mega Man X, it just shows some elements he had no input in.

One thing that drove the FPS X design was the story of the possible trilogy, where X was supposed to go mad over power and end in the third game in Zero’s hands. I will never agree that X should become the antagonist in the games and in the story. I have gone over this before, and I will shorten the core reason here; X is a hero. While heroes have falls, they always rise back and redeem themselves. The original intended game canon that went from Mega Man X5 to Legends tells that X’s dream is to create the perfect place where humans and Reploids could live together. Neo Arcadia from Zero series is not his dream in any form or shape. The original story wanted real X to be the enemy, but CAPCOM wisely opted out for the better. A Copy X explains why and how this dream got twisted. It would be a misnomer to say that Mega Man X is a perfect being, unable to go insane or make mistakes, but he is a hero more similar to the classic Flash Gordon than the Spawn. It would be a waste of character to make him into the evil end boss. X5 had a decent way of making the player fight against X, and it worked. Out from the two, Zero is the most likely candidate to go batshit insane and start a killing spree.

Back to the topic for now. While on the technical level the design is superb, it’s held back by its intention and the designer’s inability to step outside his comfort zone. The world has no need for uninspired and boring designs like this that do not meet the qualities desired by the customers.

Editor addition; After all, you do not need to design all things to fit one mould. Not all chairs have four legs and they’re just as good to sit on.