The Shitennou (the Japanese name for the Four Guardians of Master X) make up some of the most memorable new characters from the Zero series. Despite their being on opposing sides of a domestic war and harboring an intense rivalry with our protagonist Zero, somehow they were never quite our enemies. They sought peace while fighting tirelessly to serve humanity, protect their beloved homeland, and uphold the name of their world’s savior, X. By the end of Zero 3, it seemed they had finally wound up on the same side… And then they disappeared from the next game without so much as a mention. The series ended, but the Shitennou were nowhere to be found. What happened?
On June 23 back in 2005, U-CAPCOM answered a fan letter about the Rockman Zero series, asking why the Shitennou were absent from Rockman Zero 4. Their answer left many fans excited, for reasons you can surmise by reading the translation below.
I finished Rockman Zero 4. Why oh why aren’t the Shitennou in it!? I really like the Shitennou! In fact, I love them!! The Shitennou are the reason I’m interested in Rockman Zero in the first place!! So why aren’t they in the latest game, huh!?
Oh please oh please put all four of them in the next game!! Bring back Phanotom from the dead too!!
Signed, Pale Clearwater
Following the “EXE Corner”, were starting up the “Zero Corner”!
This time, we’ve brought in the Rockman Zero 4 development team to answer this question.
From the Entire Development Team:
Thank you very much for your passionate support of the Shitennou.
To tell you the truth, at first our plan was for Zero and the Shitennou to conduct their final decisive battle in Rockman Zero 3, a coup de grâce to be the crowning glory in the climax. However, all of the developers had gotten really attached to the Shitennou and their strong character, and several of us felt “It’s such a shame for the Shitennou to end up defeated like that!” So that’s why they wound up appearing in Rockman Zero 3 the way they did.
Then Rockman Zero 4 rolls around, and due to Vile’s “Operation Ragnarok”, everyone in the world and the very future of mankind is in crisis. Even though they are bitter rivals, the Shitennou just wouldn’t be able to go chasing Zero around as they please in a situation like this.
They are first and foremost “soldiers born for the sake of defending humans,” you see. So perhaps at the same time Zero was fighting his battle, they were off in other locations waging their own struggle to protect the humans.
Honestly, we all regret not having been able to depict what happens next with the Shitennou in Rockman Zero 4, but at least this way all the Shitennou supporters out there have made their voices heard and let us know how popular they really are.
We can’t promise anything now, but someday if the opportunity arises to report the adventures of the Shitennou to all you users in some form, we would like very much to do just that.
So that’s the kind of thing you discussed going into Rockman Zero 3… Thank you for this priceless inside look behind the scenes! We’ll be looking forward to the day when the Shitennou’s activities can finally be brought to light.
And so fans went on believing that while Zero’s story may have ended in Zero 4, the saga of the heroic Shitennou was a tale still to be told, especially when a certain image popped up amongst the goodies in the Remastered Tracks Rockman Zero 4 Physis album later that year in September, 2005.
So you can imagine the Japanese fans’ surprise the following year when instead of the Shitennou game they were anticipating, they met Vent and Aile’s mighty morphin’ cosplay rendition of the four. When the Rockman Zero Official Complete Works book hit Japanese bookshelves in August 2006 (just a little over a year since their original word on the Shitennou’s fate), Zero series producer Takuya Aizu and his crew dropped a surprise retcon bomb on the Shitennou fans:
So now it seemed, they were all dead: sacrificing themselves to save their sworn rival, possibly some measure of redemption for their past sins under the despotic rule of Copy X. This was unexpected for many reasons, not the least among them that the ending of the game doesn’t seem to show anything like that happening. So that image that generated so much excitement, that was just a non-canon unsolicited service cut? Or was it their ghosts observing the event from the netherworld of Cyber-space?
The very idea just seemed to fly in the face of what the developers had said before, and some frustrated fans felt that this untimely end to the trio was shamelessly tacked on by the game’s developers just to get the Shitennou out of the way so people would move on and concentrate on the new ZX series. Well, like it or not, that the Shitennou had died saving Zero in the end of Zero 3 was the final official word on the subject.
Until December 2012, when along came R20+5 and with it The Answer, where Inti Creates’ own Takuya Aizu changed his story yet again.
Q05: Seems there are 2 versions regarding what happened to the 3 Shitenou members from the Rockman Zero series: U-CAPCOM’s “they’re off somewhere fighting for the sake of humanity” theory, and the Official Complete Works’ “they died shielding Zero from Omega’s explosion” theory. So in conclusion, what really happened to them?
Aizu: According to Neo Arcadia’s official record, there is no documentation of the three’s activities following that incident. Therefore their registry access was deleted (handled as if they were deceased). However, I can’t deny the possibility of them fighting for the sake of the humans someplace outside the scope of Neo Arcadia’s surveillance.
So now they’re maybe… not dead? Or didn’t die there, at least?
So is that image of the Shitennou with X at the fall of Ragnarok canon now? Were they somehow fighting Dr. Vile’s regime without being detected, or working against some other threat? Did they scour the Earth to bring Ciel the remains of Zero, allowing her to make Livemetals of them all? Or was that explosion their end after all, and the rest naught but stories and rumors by humans who still held a candle for Neo Arcadia’s stalwart generals? (Come on Inti, make up your minds!)
For now, like so much else in the realm of Rockman, it seems the ultimate fate of the Shitennou remains a mystery. Probably the kind where fans can believe whatever they want with neither contradiction nor confirmation coming to intervene. Then again, we may have a new answer in another couple years. As it stands, I think I’d rather their fate be revealed as a flashback in a new ZX title than a Shitennou spinoff game, but neither one seems too likely at this point.
The legend continues…