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Mega Man 5

Year released: 1992
Company: Capcom
Genre: Action

Although I don't consider the effect of Mega Man 4 on my view of the series to be totally cataclysmic, it was going to take a more than passable continuation of the series for me to forgive such a severe disappointment. This is especially puncuated with the fact that MM5 is quite possibly the second most difficult game of the series to find (behind the first). Thus, it took about two years from the beginning of my NES reawakening (at which point I already had three of the games from the series, and within about six months would find two more) to actually get my hands on a copy.

The point being: This game had quite a negative bias going for it. First off, MM4 seemed more a potboiler than a game. Second, its successor, MM6, wasn't all that hot either. Thirdly, it took me quite a while to find this game. To make a long story short1, I wasn't expecting this game to perform very well, and since I had waited years for its coming, it had better perform very well or else I was going to hammer it about as much as I've done to any game (Metroid, anyone?)

And so, upon returning home with this game in hand, I popped it into my deck and, after the requisite karate chopping the NES to get the confounded thing to work, watched the opening cinema scene. Ehh. I've seen better.

Then, I begin playing, as encouraged by an old issue of Nintendo Power, and select the Gravity Man stage.

Thirty seconds later, my jaw drops so far down a hummingbird could have flown into my mouth.

Next, I play the Wave Man stage, and it happens again, although thankfully not to the same degree. By the time I finished the game2, The conclusion was imminent: Not only had Capcom redeemed itself, it had taken the next step and thrust the game among the elite.

The game mechanics change very little from the fourth game to the fifth; virtually every move is cloned exactly as it was before, with the exception of the Mega Buster. And the change that was made to that feature was an improvement: Now it was represented as a more circular blast, so that the weapon's reach became a little higher. The hit detection and response are once again superb; in the later games of the series I have yet to lose a life on account of the play control. The one gripe, however, is the charging for the Mega Buster. In MM4, as long as you kept your finger on the button, you'd be able to charge up. In this game, however, taking a hit resets your charge forcing you to start over. This is a major pain when fighting bosses, especially later ones.

The main fault with MM4 was its presentation. The graphics seemed to be overdominated with red hues, and the music was flat and lifeless. Although I already had MIDIs of MM5's music at hand, I still wasn't sure how well this incredible wrong would be corrected. Well, after careful consideration, I am ready to award the title of "Best music of the series" to this game. The Gyro Man and Charge Man music is proof that they aren't afraid to use major chords in an action game, Gravity Man's music combines eeireness and peppiness into a beautiful combination, and all the other themes are not only memorable, but hummable as well. The graphics, too, seemed to be more polished this time around: the color palette was more evenly distributed and the animation was very fluid.

Another terrific feature of this game is the fact that it's realistically possible to defeat every boss without using special weapons. In other MM games, there was usually one or two bosses that were not only too quick to dodge, but also so immune to your regular weapon that once you ran out of Top Spin or Dust Crusher or what have you, you were a goner regardless of the number of lives in your stockpile. This doesn't happen in MM5. True, you'll probably want to use the special weapons for many of the bosses, but even when you run out of them it's still possible to make it a competitive fight.3 Once again, however, the password just doesn't take you far enough. Like MM4 (and later MM6), the most progress you can glean from a password is having all eight of the original robots defeated. And no, it still doesn't save the number of Energy Tanks or even Mega Tanks (a new feature that fills up both life and weapon strength) when you use a password. Like I stated in the review for MM4, that kinda ruins the usefulness of a password when it only carries you halfway through the game.

The other main complaint with this game is the plot. True, it was a clever idea to use Proto Man as a sort of "evil twin," but the effect this storyline has on the series is a negative one; instead of protraying Proto Man as a renegade or free spirit (as I like to think of him/it), it brands him as being a villain. And even though it's quite clear later on that (all together now) Dr. Wily was behind the whole thing, the ending still doesn't make that much of an effort to win back our trust. Instead, it's a short movie showing Skull Castle imploding to the ground, with Proto Man watching in the corner, and then it's off to the credits. Speaking of which, they aren't fun to watch this time around. The music wasn't as catchy and it seemed to go for too long.

Still, this game is just about as fun to play as MM2. With the ability to fight anyone with the lowly Mega Buster, the "pick your own order" resurfaces itself, while not becoming too easy. The standard Mega Man gimmicks make another visit (the fall down the spike lined shaft, the appearing-disappearing blocks, the multitude of Hard Hats - the only thing missing are destructible walls), and new gimmicks are added, such as those weird lifts that spin around. And if you just want to play for 5 or 10 minutes, the Gravity Man stage is a terrific diversion in itself.

If I had to put all of my Mega Man games in order of quality, Mega Man 5 would probably come in second. Like I said in the capsule review for this game, it's tough to catch the lightning twice. Well, Capcom didn't just catch the lightning again - it harnessed it, rode it, domesticated it and taught it to fetch.4

1. Too late.

2. That is, with Game Genie firmly inserted - I'm not Jimmy Woods, ya know.

3. In fact, that aforementioned issue of NP never discussed weapons - all of the boss strategies used the Mega Buster. I actually had to figure out the "optimal order" on my own. (Which, if you don't know it, is Gravity, Gyro, Crystal, Napalm, Stone, Charge, Wave, Star.)

4. Dief isn't the only one who can stretch an analogy.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 16
Aesthetic Score: 19
Overall Score: 83%

You are now listening to the Gravity Man Stage Music to Mega Man 5.