Old Buttons

A nostalgic over-analysis of the Helmet Guys from Mega Man.

By: Evan Cooper

Filed Under: Editorial Reflections Retro


This weekend, while I was goofing off here in Portland, Oregon, I found myself in one of the many Buffalo Exchange second-hand clothing shops scattered throughout the city – this one right smack downtown. When I was at the check-out stand with an awesome t-shirt that just says “Pardon My French” displayed in big block Helvetica letters down the front, I noticed some sweet buttons in the impulse-buy bin.

They featured someone you might know, a one Sniper Joe:

He’s on the right. But the far more comforting and nostalgic presence was none other than Met, a subject to some pause for thought.

One of the first enemies you meet in the prolific Mega Man series, the Met is also known as the “hard hat guy,” or the “cross hat guy,” or however you chose to refer to him (there wasn’t an official English translation for their Japanese name, Mettōru, until about 2004, which was inexplicably “Mettaur” instead of some of the more clever names like “Mettool”). You remember them. The little guys with yellow hard hats with crosses on them that would pop up, shoot a white bullet at you, then retreat under their hard hats. (Why the cross? More on that in a minute.)

The Met is, in a word, comforting. You found several generally at the beginning of levels, as they were more there for target/tempo practice than as an actual challenge. They weren’t going to get up and start flying around the stage on you, showering you with bullets.

Well, not the smaller ones, anyway.  From the looks of things, later games helmed these guys with a little more gusto than I remember from my childhood. To a young boy playing through the first three Mega Man games, the Mets seemed a lot more like me than the intrepid Mega Man or the mechanical genius Dr. Wily. In retrospect, maybe it was more than mere identification with a shy, vulnerable bot that scuttled around cowering under an indestructible helmet that drew me to them. There was also the fact that they had an indestructible helmet! Mets were apparently the most powerful characters in the game from a defensive perspective! (I guess you could pick up their helmets and use them as shields using the Zero Knuckle in Mega Man Zero 4. Don’t worry – I forgot about that game, too.)

That said, I have a lot of memories of hearing my mega-bullets ricocheting off of these little guys’ helmets in rapid succession in my youthful eagerness to shoot anything that moved on-screen. The only time I “ran away” as a child was when my mother refused to rent Mega Man 2 for me. I made it as far as the side yard of our house. I couldn’t leave my NES – nor the Mets – unattended for too long.


Oftentimes, these Mets seem to look like fish, much like the Cheep-Cheep fish enemies in the Mario Brothers series, with wide eyes and a seemingly gaping mouth, as if they are whistling or just perpetually surprised. (In the earlier versions, their helmets seem to halve their bug eyes, so they look cynical or shifty, like a crooked informant in some hard-boiled noir.) But here’s the deal: That’s not their mouth. It’s a gun, the gun they use to shoot the little white pellets at you as you approach.

The NES’ low pixel count made it difficult to tell the pellet’s point of origin, you know?

Another mysterious point was the cross on their helmets. This is obviously the same symbol as the Red Cross uses (it even appears in-game as red at times). So are these bots some sort of robotitarians, in that they don’t want Mega Man to pursue Wily and wreak all kinds of havoc in the Mega Man universe? Are these bots the Vichy to Wily’s fascism, seeing Mega Man’s resistance as merely prolonging the oil-shed? The question of the cross’ origin remains unanswered.

I thought about all this after I found these guys in the button bin, excited that someone remembered their cute, whimsical image. How iconic they are despite being such small characters in the game.

And how cool they are for nostalgic suckers like me, even though if I don’t have a backpack (or helmet) to put them on.

Filed Under: Editorial Reflections Retro

About the Author:
Evan Cooper is a combat android created by a mysterious tribunal of shadow governments from another dimension to fight back the Illuminati menace with words and a mean stink eye.

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