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To be blunt, Keiji Inafune, the father of Rockman, is a genius. Take two steps back and look at what's actually occurring in X series, you'll realize that there isn't even the slightest room for a lighthearted interpretation. The whole of it takes place in a time where mankind faces tremendous turmoil, war, carnage, and robotic controversy. Reploids are the machines in the Rockman X universe that emulate humans in their ability to make choices through emotion, Rockman X and Zero easily the most well-known. Mavericks, reploids infected by a severe program virus called the Zero virus, decided in their best interest not to be oppressed by humanity and rebelled against the established hierarchy, providing the central plot conflict of the series. Revolving around such a plot, Inafune was able to use Rockman X as a segue towards the injection of mature themes into the Rockman universe. Spanning eight games, these themes are expanded upon throughout the X series, finally becoming the brutal quintessence of extreme prejudice that symbolizes Rockman Zero. Themes such as the conflict between humans and reploids setting the stage for a dystopian future have existed since the first X installment, but were by and large overlooked as much inference was left to the player as the game stood as a platformer, not a text-heavy roleplaying game. With X4's facelift in graphics, Inafune had another medium to introduce serious concepts such as human genocide and betrayal to the X series by being able to have them visually hit home rather than exclusively conceptually. Inafune uses this medium in full force as we see the total annihilation of Neo Tokyo by the maverick Magma Dragoon in the beginning of Rockman X4.
In the same vein of prejudice that we've read about in history textbooks, post-Elf Wars humanity proves to us that they too can disgustingly set their morals aside like silverware and persecute the reploids in the most inhumane ways. Inafune illustrates the game's horrifically dystopian nature through the stark contrast between the original Rockman and the Zero series. The original Rockman titles were lighthearted, humorous, and even comical at times, running through colorful levels destroying silly looking enemies and bosses with ridiculous names. The names of Rockman Zero have taken on a far more serious tone; instead of Burn Rooster and Boomer Kuwanger, we see names like Omega, Harpuia, Capcom even making allusions to Greek mythology, reflected in Leviathan. From ruined refuge bases to desecrated warehouses, the game's color palette almost exclusively runs on shades of grey, setting the tone for the game's overwhelming levels of depression and rampant persecution. In Rockman Zero 4, the fact that there is only one place outside of Neo Arcadia that can sustain human life, as Earth is now a barren desert entirely devoid of nutrition due to excessive and incessant warfare, is yet another powerful testament to the overall melancholy and horrifically oppressive feel of the Zero series. I remember downloading a translation of the Rockman Zero instruction booklet and being simply unable to register it as Rockman. The plot was one of the darkest, most nightmarish things I've ever read, much less in a Rockman title. This is also the first time we see blood in a Rockman game, showing how violently and unempathetically the humans persecuted and witch hunted the reploids.
From defending the base against the raid from Neo Arcadia to his finest hour, valiantly swearing in trademark Zero fashion to defend the people he believed in, Zero, I salute you.
December 17, 1993 - April 21, 2005