Mega Man X4 – 1997 Developer Interview
originally featured in Sega Saturn Magazine
Yoshinori Takenaka – Producer
Koji Okohara – Planner
Ikki Tazaki – Designer
—The cover for Mega Man X4 looks really cool.
Okohara: Yeah, we wanted it to feel that way, since this is the first game where you can use Zero from the beginning. When I first saw it, I thought he looked too much like Mega Man. (laughs)
—The universe of the Mega Man series continues to expand, but how long do you think it will continue?
Okohara: Good question, I really don’t know. The truth is, we originally had no plans to make Mega Man X4, even.
Takenaka: But we had a lot of people saying they wanted to try doing a Mega Man game on this new hardware.
MMX4’s rendition of Zero, fully differentiated from X by a plethora of fun and flashy moves designed for close-quarters combat. (image courtesy of vgjunk)
—I see you’ve updated the controls a bit for this entry as well.
Okohara: Looking back at X3, we felt there wasn’t enough difference between the way Zero and X controlled, so we we tried to really distinguish them this time. Zero only gets his sword. And there’s no “charge” ability for his weapon, either.
Takenaka: I remember the vast majority of the developers were against that decision at first, actually.
Okohara: Yeah, his sword doesn’t have any reach, and they thought it would make the game too difficult. To address that, we raised his attack power and added Street Fighter-style moves, so he feels completely different from X.
—The CG, voicework, and other technical aspects are a huge jump up from the previous Super Famicom games.
Tazaki: Yeah. In particular, we struggled in the beginning with the massive amount of backgrounds we had to draw, but I think they came out looking really nice. There were twice as many sprite animation patterns to create too. And four times as many for Zero.
Okohara: Zero’s main body and his hair are made up of two different sprites. So, for example, if he’s walking and he suddenly stops, his hair comes to a rest in a more natural way. There was so much data for both X and Zero, that we had to employ a compression routine to store it all, then decompress it when you actually load a given stage. The voice data, too, really ended up being too much…
Takenaka: Yeah, the boss voices were recorded in CD quality.
—The original Rockman series has a few staple features, like the way spikes==instant death. Are there similar “must have” things like that with the X series?
Takenaka: Well, there’s the fact that X, at the end of each game, always gets rid of his suit enhancements. (laughs) We like to say he’s a masochist who enjoys the thrill of danger. (laughs)
Okohara: X has a lot of issues with fighting itself, so he throws away those upgrades once he no longer needs them. That’s my take, at least. Also, to strengthen our theme of “Robots and The Future”, we decided not to include any humans this time. Even in the single city scene, it’s nothing but Reploids.
—There are a number of new characters this game, but the female character Iris is especially interesting. Can you tell us more about her?
Okohara: In order to add individuality to X and Zero’s stories, we added characters that only appear in one mode or the other. X has a “new cousin”, who is kind of like a double of him. Then, to give breadth to Zero’s story, we added a female character. We also felt like there haven’t been enough female characters in the Mega Man series so far. (laughs)
One of Mega Man X4’s most striking cutscenes, mercifully presented without audio.
—I’ve got lots of other questions, but one thing I wanted to know: is there a connection between the original Mega Man series, and the X series?
Okohara: The world of Mega Man X is not the strictly determined future world of the original series. It’s merely one possible future, or parallel world. There’s a character that resembles Dr. Light in the X series, but whether they’re the same person or not, we leave ambiguous.
—In the backstory, X is discovered before Zero, but of the Maverick Hunters, Zero is senior in rank. What is that about, exactly?
Okohara: Dr. Cain used the discovery of X to create the other Reploids, but as the first Mega Man X story explains, he sensed a possible danger with X and had to seal him away. Once that danger had passed, X joined up with the Maverick Hunters. So that’s why Zero is the senior ranking member.
—In other words, the seniority of the Maverick Hunters isn’t based around who was built first.
Okohara: The truth of that is still unknown—for now, at least…
—The Bandai Carddass series for Mega Man X4 contains what feels like a nice little side story to the main narrative, but are there any plans to turn that into a game?
Okohara: There are some connections there to the story of X3, but we just thought that would be kind of fun to have. Since it was a limited edition, we also had Bandai create an original Mega Armor model kit. We’re hoping to have more tie-ins with other products and toys for Mega Man like this in the future.
Desigining that Mega Armor was a real struggle because it came at a very busy time, and we had to create the planning and design for it ourselves (without any prior experience of how to do that). Our artists basically drew it up without understanding how the parts would actually connect together.
Tazaki: It was crazy how perfectly Bandai re-created those drawings! What can you say, they’re pros when it comes to modeling.
Capcom-penned illustrations of X and Zero’s “EX Armor”, as well as X’s “All X Armor”, designed for Bandai’s Rockman X Mega Mission 3 Carddass series and produced as part of the “Mega Armor” figure line.
—Are there any behind-the-scenes stories from the development team that you have to share?
Takenaka: When it comes to partying and drinking, we’re second to none. (laughs) The other teams can’t touch us.
Capcom Staff: Yeah, for gross stuff they’re number one!
Okohara: It’s not gross, it’s fun!
Takenaka: It’s an artform, really.
Capcom Staff: And the food you guys eat is pretty damn weird.
Takenaka: It’s because we’ve got a world-class chef in our ranks. An artist, you see.
Okohara: Yeah, he makes these really spicy taiyaki. It looks the same as normal taiyaki, only the filling is different. He puts kim chi, stuff like that in there.
Takenaka: It seems really hard to make. (laughs)
Okohara: It’s bedlam at these parties. Look around and you’ll see people with cream smeared all over their faces, people throwing eggs at each other… then you’ve got people trying to take food home with them. I once saw someone put a shaved ice dessert in their pocket…
Capcom Staff: Yeah, no matter how exhausted they are from work, they always seem to find time for those shenanigans. (laughs)
—Any final words for our readers?
Okohara: I hope you enjoy playing as both X and Zero, and be sure to try and see Zero’s ending.
Takenaka: It’s on a different system, but please also check out Breath of Fire III.
Tazaki: I worked really hard on the design for the special armor. I hope you enjoy playing Mega Man X4.
From left to right: planner Koji “Ohko” Okohara, producer Yoshinori “Bamboo” Takenaka, and sprite artist Kazunori “Ikki” Tazaki.