We've reached a turning point in the progression of the Mega Man X series, so it seems. At this point, it's pretty much common knowledge that Mega Man X5 was intended to be the end of the X series, to close it off and lead into the Zero series. And of course we all know from that informative interview that Inafune was surprised when he heard of X6. So let's analyze this now - is the recent fumbling of the X series (X6, X7, and the seemingly incohesive X8) the result of it spiraling down the rabbit hole trying to search for a plot?
Perhaps. There are those who take a defensive stance and argue that X6, X7, and the upcoming titles (Command Mission/X8) shouldn't be included as canon for a simple reason, and that reason is this: Inafune didn't supervise the games, so they shouldn't be counted. I'll sit back and let you, the reader, digest this.
... Done? Good.
Now, those who have seen me post about this on our own MMN Community know that I've often shot back at this with my examples of the Metroid series, how the creator (Gunpei Yokoi) was killed in 1997, and how the series still went on - after an admitted eight year hiatus - but it's coming back stronger than ever. To imply that a game shouldn't be counted as canon simply because the creator didn't oversee it is faulty logic at best, and foolhardy at its worst. If anything should be learned from this example, it should be that even without the creator at the helm, it's entirely possible to make stunning games (I reference Metroid Prime and the gorgeous remake of the first adventure, Zero Mission). But, could the Metroid series have continued the way it has if the Yokoi's last contribution (Super Metroid) had seemingly put an end to the series? Sure, they could've made Prime (between the first two games) and Zero Mission, but Fusion would've been impossible. And hence we reach the core of this editorial.
The X series, as of late, has been desperately trying to search for some form of a plot to latch onto and go with - and the best thing they seem to be able to do is go with "Zero's resurrected and we'll keep him around until he decides to seal himself in a capsule, then we'll end it, we guess". The newly-revealed details of Mega Man X8 frankly have me worried because they claim to see the final end of Sigma - and the way in which Sigma goes out is explicitly outlined in the second Zero game. What will happen if the team for X8 offs Mr. Clean in some other fashion? A major continuity gap, that's what'll happen - far bigger than ones they've already managed to establish.
And this is almost assuredly a result of X5 having been designed to end the series. In that game, Zero dies a noble death, and X continues to fight for peace, carrying his friend's Z-Saber into battle. Perhaps the city in the background of X's ending is the eventual Neo Arcadia - after all, this ending I'm describing does take place three years after the ending in X5. Theoretically, it's still possible for us to reach that point, but Zero will of course have to die or become inactive again in such a way that he leaves X his Saber (for X is the one who returns it to him in the first Zero game). But X6 was a mild disappointment (primarily for the gameplay, to be fair), and X7 almost completely deviated from what X4, X5, and a wee bit of X6 did to establish to the plot. Suddenly we have nothing whatsoever to do with Dr. Wily, the world has been mostly rebuilt (yet it's in shambles again in X8... odd), Dr. Light seemingly acts like a recorded hologram instead of the obviously-sentient entity he was in X4-X6, and X comes off as a pacifist baby instead of his usual "I don't like to fight, but I'll do it because I have to" attitude. X7 did a lot to alter the series, and it came off as worse in a way. One can only hope X8 does something to reverse this trend, or at the very least, follow the events laid out in Zero 2 for the end of the Maverick Wars, the onset of the Elf Wars, and let the X series die in relative peace.
Does this mean I want the X series to end? Of course not, no more than I want the Classic series to end. All I would like to see is them cement the plots together more than the new teams have been doing lately, and not take their own radical departures simply because it's their property now.
-Tim, not redefining his definition of "canon"