I talk a lot about great stories and complex characters in my articles, but honestly, sometimes it’s fun to analyze characters that have about as much dialogue in their entire game series as others do in a single scene. Story in the Mega Man franchise is usually limited to Dr. Wily’s scheme to take over the world, and his attempt to frame other characters and lead Mega Man astray while he pulls the strings behind the scenes. The Mega Man series has a lot of unique characters, but none are very fleshed out and they mostly fit some sort of archetype.
Proto Man is one such character. He’s a “mysterious loner” type that never really goes through any interesting changes during the course of the series. Proto Man, named “Blues” in the Japanese releases, shows up only a handful of times during each game to either fight Mega Man, or give him some guidance. This has lead to many questions as to where Proto Man’s allegiances lie. The Ruby Spears Mega Man cartoon had Proto Man as the right hand man of Dr. Wily, and his behavior in the show was much more similar to Bass in later Mega Man games. This may have lead to some confusion in people who actually gave a crap about the characters and story within the franchise.
Mega Man 3
Proto Man shows up for the first time in Mega Man 3, as a foe, who jumps and shoots at Mega Man in an apparent dead end. When Mega Man defeats Proto Man, he teleports away, and a path opens up to allow the player to proceed. After defeating all of the robot masters and the extra Doc Robot stages, the level titled “Break Man” with what appears to be Proto Man’s portrait appears on the stage select. This leads directly to a fight with Proto Man, who is now wearing a mask over his face. After the fight, Proto Man and Mega Man teleport away. Dr. Wily’s Skull Castle is revealed, and Mega Man takes off to fight the real threat. After Mega Man defeats Dr. Wily, the castle begins to crumble. A large chunk of debris crushes Dr. Wily and Mega Man is knocked out. I wasn’t aware a robot could be knocked unconscious, but whatever. Proto Man teleports in and asks “Where is Dr. Wily?”, grabs the unresponsive Mega Man, and teleports away. When Mega Man comes to, he’s in Dr. Light’s lab. The good doctor reveals that Proto Man was actually a prototype robot that was created before the original 6 robot masters, Roll, and Mega Man himself. This makes Proto Man an older “brother” to Mega Man.
Mega Man 4
Proto Man only makes a short appearance in Mega Man 4. Near the end of the game, after Mega Man has fought his way through Dr. Cossack’s castle and faced the seemingly villainous practitioner of robotics, Proto Man teleports in with Dr. Cossack’s daughter, Kalinka, who Dr. Wily was holding hostage. After Proto Man teleports away, Dr. Wily appears and curses him for his betrayal. This establishes the fact that Proto Man is no longer working for the evil old goat.
Mega Man 5
Here is the game that may confuse gamers that don’t follow the deep and nuanced story line that the Mega Man series presents (that’s sarcasm). A robot that appears to be Proto Man kidnaps Dr. Light and Mega Man rushes to the rescue. When Mega Man defeats the eight robot masters, he must storm a castle modeled after Proto Man’s helmet, but when he reaches the end to square off against who we assume to be Proto Man, the REAL Proto Man appears and reveals the kidnapper to be an impostor built by Dr. Wily.
Ally or Enemy?
Every game after Mega Man 5 presents Proto Man as a loner robot who is very obviously an ally to Mega Man, but when I was a kid, most of my friends assumed Proto Man was a bad guy. I figure that the combination of the Ruby Spears Mega Man cartoon that presented Proto Man as such, as well as the limited screen time Proto Man was given in an ally role in the NES Mega Man games figured into their presumed mindset. If I had to guess, Proto Man was chosen as a rival who worked for Dr. Wily in the cartoon because the show creators wanted to give Mega Man an equal, but also wanted to keep things a bit simple for younger viewers. Sure, Proto Man could have been a rival who didn’t work for Dr. Wily, as is the case within the video games, but it may have been a bit confusing for the target audience.
Proto Man is without a doubt, an ally to Mega Man now, but what happened with Mega Man 3? Why did Proto Man come out of the gate swinging at Mega Man, rather than helping him defeat the obviously evil Dr. Wily? Well, according to a magazine published by Capcom in 1996, it’s because Dr. Wily found Proto Man and repaired him. The author of the linked article, known as #20, translated the original piece from Capcom’s fan magazine, and it really gives us a bit of insight to Proto Man’s character. Proto Man was originally created with an unstable solar power reactor core, and escaped Dr. Light’s lab when he found out Dr. Light wanted to modify him. Proto Man was afraid that the modifications would hurt his sense of identity.
When his reactor core eventually overloaded, Dr. Wily found him and replaced his solar core with a nuclear one. This happens sometime after the original Mega Man game, as it was this event that helped teach Wily to create robots on the same level as Dr. Light. The robot masters Mega Man faces in the first game were created by Dr. Light and simply reprogrammed to fight for the side of evil. The robots in Mega Man 2 were actually created by Dr. Wily.
Proto Man was converted to a combat robot by Dr. Wily and sent to fight Mega Man, who was the creation of Dr. Light. After eventually seeing that Mega Man fought for the side of good, Proto Man defected and turned against Wily. It’s wonderful how it was a little known article from a magazine in 1996 to promote Mega Man 8, (which was never released in the US) that would give us some backstory on Proto Man’s character. It makes me wonder what other interesting tidbits we can find lurking in magazines and articles released in Japan but never translated. PLEASE check out The Reploid Research Lavatory for more translations like this, it’s incredibly cool that one author painstakingly translates stuff like this for English speakers who would be in the dark, otherwise.