A recent question I got was about the Mega Man series – in particular, the term “Robot Masters”. In the English releases, this term generally refers to the boss robots at the end of each stage, but what are they called in Japanese? I’ve been curious about this for years (and have had my own hunches), so I decided this was finally a good time to look into it!
First, I decided to try and find the first instance of the “Robot Master” term in the English releases. To my surprise, I couldn’t find it in the instruction manuals for Mega Man 1 or Mega Man 2. The first manual to use the term is Mega Man 3:
And here’s another example from the manual:
The phrase also appears on the back of the Mega Man 3 box:
Well, in one instance it actually calls them “master robots” instead, but close enough 😛
Anyway, it’s still possible that the term “Robot Master” could’ve appeared before Mega Man 3 – I’m sure there was a ton of promotional material and such, but so far I haven’t been able to find any earlier uses of the phrase. If anyone out there finds instances of the term “robot masters” prior to Mega Man 3, though, let me know!
Okay, so back to the original question – what is the Japanese term used for these boss robots?
After looking through Japanese manuals and sites it looks like they’re called… nothing at all. Well, nothing special, at least. They don’t really have a special term at all; they’re referred to as “bosses”, “boss characters”, “powerful robots”, and things like that, but there’s no special term they go by.
Here’s a look at one of the Japanese manuals, for example. It uses the term “boss”, “boss character”, and the English word “BOSS”:
So it looks like “Robot Master” is a product of English localization, possibly entirely invented by whoever worked on the Mega Man 3 manual and box. I always felt this was probably the case, similar to the Mega Man phrase “Blue Bomber”, and now I’m more convinced than ever. But if anyone has any more insight or info on this, let me know!
I picked up all of the NES Mega Man games second hand, so I never had manuals for them, do any of the games after MM3 make use of this term? It seems so odd that something from one game alone would’ve caught on like “robot master” did. I can’t even remember when I started using the term myself, but I couldn’t imagine calling them anything else.
It’s definitely strange, it kind of reminds me of how I couldn’t figure out how we kids knew the place in Zelda 1 was called the “Lost Woods” since the game never called it that, but then later people pointed out that the pack-in map did use the term once. I feel like that might have happened here too, like maybe Nintendo Power started using the term a lot from 3 and on (I checked the coverage for MM2 and they don’t use the term there) or maybe Captain N used the term or something sometimes.
The original instruction manuals of Mega Man 3-6 for NES and 1-5 for Game Boy all use “Robot Master” (and sometimes “robot master” or “robotmaster” or “master robot”) for the bosses, as did some magazine ads and box packaging and of course magazines as you mentioned, so it was the most consistent term in the English region for many years. Once in a while “Robot Master” gets referenced in Japan as well, often when using English (like in Elec Man’s track in the Capcom’s Rockman 20th anniversary techno album: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SR7ZFmtEyo&t=128 ). Definitely not a Japan term, though.
Rock on, Mato.
Awesome, thanks for the details! When I think back, I seem to recall the Game Boy series started around the time 3 came out, so that makes perfect sense. I’ve actually never played them, I wonder if they’re any good. I think the mixing and matching of bosses seemed weird so I avoided them back then.
And I definitely didn’t know about the Elec Man thing, thanks!
Some fans consider MMIV and MMV the best games in the classic series. I can certainly see where they’re coming from, but the screens are too cramped for my tastes and I don’t think they’re nearly as good as the NES games as a result. MMV has all new bosses, too, and Super Game Boy support.
It’s probably worth checking out the GB series, especially with them coming to the 3DS virtual console soon. Just avoid MMII if you value your hearing. The rest of the games get better as the series goes on.
I’ve been really getting back into the Mega Man series lately, primarily due to the awesome new comics, but also from them re-releasing the NES games on the 3DS. I know the term Robot Master is standard fair in the comics. I wonder if the digital manuals for VC versions use the term.
I have all 6 games on the 3DS VC so I checked that. MM4 and MM5 use it, but as “robot masters” with no capitalization. MM1-3 and 6 don’t use it. Weird.
I always thought the Japanese term was “Numbers” or “Wily Numbers” since that seems to be used more often in that language. But I guess it’s not in the manual that much, things didn’t seem as set in stone back then. “Numbers” refers to the system of numbering the robots based on build date, so Rock is DRN001 for Dr Right Number 001. Of course, this means that many Robot Masters are not actually Wily Numbers, but they’re the most common.
And of course, the boss characters (and Beck) from Mighty No. 9 are called the Mighty Numbers.
The only time i personally remember hearing them called that was in that one Manga that came out just a few years back.
That’s what I would’ve thought. Then again, I couldn’t imagine the X series not using the term Mavericks but that means a bit more than just “boss” in those games.
I think they’re called Irregulars in the Japanese X games
That’s correct. The PSP remake is titled “Irregular Hunter X”, by the way.
On a related note, most (if not all) bosses in the X series have different names in the Japanese and English versions. In the Japanese versions their names allude to whatever animal they are based on whereas in the English version they are simply named after them. Storm Eagleed became Storm Eagle, Icy Penguigo became Chill Penguin, etc.
Mato when will you continue with your final fantasy 4 and Mother 3 comparison updates?
I can`t see the progress bar any more.
I’m not sure at the moment – the progress bar thing was a neat idea but it also had some problems that I need to sort out first. I’m also looking into making some stuff into book form right now, so things are slow on the M3/FF4 front at the moment.
possibly a stretch but it may be worth considering that the Robot Master term may the localization team trying to communicate that the robot masters are a group. in the credits of megaman 3 all the robot masters are given serial numbers and I guess the localization team didn’t think always saying Dr Light Numbers or Wily Numbers didnt… quite sound very good to an american audience.
In Tales of Vesperia, the character Raven often refers to himself as “ol’ Raven” and I was wondering. What does he call himself in the Japanese version?
Or more along the lines what kind of dialect does he have?
Don’t worry if you haven’t played it, but I would really recommend it.
KH Panda Z
@^ Everyone calls Raven “ossan”, and he calls Estelle “jouchan” IIRC.
And when he use Love Shot, he says “aishiteru ze!”. 😀
I don’t know enough Nihongo to know anything about dialects though.
Back on the subject of the early Mega Man games, The original US manuals refereed to kept changing the name of the city the games take place in. The first game called it something like Monsteropolis, while a later game called it Mega City. I wonder what this is the the Japanese versions, if there even is a city name at all?
Just noticed this reply, I’d be interested in knowing this too. You’d assume a Japanese city, but Dr. Light’s lab is actually shown as being in North America in MM8, and I remember reading that Rockman is American in the OVA. (Which I’ve never watched, come to think of it.)
I may just be delving into fandom territory instead of anything official here, but it might be worth noting that Pixiv-users tend to use a tag for “８ボス” (8-boss), referring to the fact that almost every Rockman game features 8 bosses to fight (even the original when you factor in the PSP remake).
I’m pretty sure the MegaMan TV show never said “robot masters” either; it was always something like “the bad bots” or “Wily’s robots.” This might have something to do with the fact that Dr. Wily mainly used only the Masters anyway, with just the occasional Battonton for spying, and any additional robots he took on would be made up for the one episode.
I like that the Japanese manual refers to the HUD as “cockpit”.
Oh. I thought this would be about the actual names of the Robot Masters, and how they were translated.