Review by dtm666

"Still solid Mega Man, but not as great as previous efforts"

Oh my... Mega Man 5. Yeah, this is going to be a tough one. On the one hand, I like this game as much as I enjoy the other Mega Man games. On the other hand, I was a bit under whelmed when I first played it as a kid and beat it in a couple days.

By the time Mega Man 4 came around, people were pretty much tired of Mega Man in general since it had roughly played the same way for virtually four games now (not counting the Game Boy releases and the AWFUL games released on PC). And while 4 was the most solid refinement that the series would ever get (even though some people may think otherwise), it was nonetheless a drop-off point for many people who were hoping for something new in the franchise. And so Capcom tried to change a few things in Mega Man 5... to mixed results. And while it's still a solid Mega Man game and a good game in general, it's not quite as good by the standards that the early games have established.

STORY: Protoman has gone crazy and kidnapped Dr. Light and now it's up to Mega Man to rescue his creator and figure out what's up with Proto Man. And of course, we all know what happens from here. The only notable thing is that the North American box boasts thirteen levels when there's actually sixteen, so either that's a typo or a clever way of hiding the true villain of the game... I'll assume it's the latter. 9/10

GRAPHICS: There's a slight hint of black on the back of Mega Man's helmet when he's climbing ladders. Other than that, it's the same sprite set that has been used game after game after game. Today, this is widely considered to be classic, but I could have imagined the reaction back then when they were controlling the same Mega Man sprite, facing the same Dr. Wily sprite, and a brief encounter with the same Proto Man sprite (who has been reduced to four frames total) that has been used for six games now (including the two GB entries). Regardless of the series' blatant reuse of roughly seven-year-old sprite sets for its main protagonist, Mega Man 5 manages to retain the same graphical style and flair of the previous games and for the most part, the game still looks good and clean. While it's sort of understandable that Capcom wouldn't want to mess with what works, it seems rather daunting at the time that the series would never change its look where as other NES franchises would evolve in terms of its graphical appearance. Despite the staleness factor, it looks good and there isn't as much flicker as in previous entries. Also, they changed the Mega Buster's charge shot to be bigger, a form it would assume throughout the various Mega Man games and spin-off series. 9/10

SOUND: Mega Man 5's soundtrack feels more like an extension of Mega Man 3's soundtrack - the music in both games have somewhat of a similar flavor that you could swap songs between the two games and they'd still fit. While it seems to lack its own audio identity, the music in Mega Man 5 maintains the top-notch efforts of past games and contains a good number of memorable bits. The sound effects in this game is on par with its predecessors and not all that different. There are subtle audio changes here and there (i.e. the destruction of enemies emits a different sound), but all in all, it's more of the same. Nothing wrong with that, actually. If something works... 9/10.

GAMEPLAY: If you've played past Mega Man games, then you know the drill here; pick a stage, fight through the stage, beat the boss, gain his weapon... lather, rinse, and repeat. Mega Man 5 maintains the formula for the most part and the controls are still responsive and feel tight. Pretty much what you'd expect from a Mega Man game by this point. Of course the fifth go-around of what is essentially the exact same play mechanics is obviously getting a bit stale, so Capcom made some changes and additions to make the game less stale... which it did accomplish, for better or worse.

First thing they did modify the Mega Buster and, apparently feeling that the Buster in Mega Man 4 was a bit overpowering somehow, made it worse. While you can still charge your shots and it still does fairly good damage, there's an added caveat to the Buster in that you lose your charge whenever you get hit. This means that you'll have to be extra careful if you're holding a charge for long periods of time because one hit will cause you to lose that charge. I don't really mind this actually; it's annoying at times, but I can understand the possible intent behind this move. Of course, when they brought Mega Man to 16-bit, this handicap was removed from the Buster. (it's since returned in Mega Man 9 in Proto Man's game.)

Rush has undergone some changes as well. The Rush Marine adaptor is dropped - never to be seen again - and the familiar, ever-so-reliable Rush Coil has been replaced with a new variant which... isn't reliable so much. Whereas the old Coil was a springboard that propelled Mega Man to higher ground, the new Coil propelled Rush to higher ground whenever Mega Man hopped on... and will be required to hop off to reach those higher grounds. It's a needless, cumbersome changeover and a failed attempt at mimicking a double-jump ability that doesn't really improve gameplay all that much. Oh well, at least they didn't change Rush Jet (which acts in the same manner as MM4 - constant forward motion with vertical height control) for worse.

In addition to the butchered Rush Coil and toned-down Buster, you also had two new accessories; the Super Arrow (essentially a suction arrow that sticks to walls and allows Mega Man to use them as temporary platforms) and a new bird-type helper called Beat, which can be used to attack any enemy on screen, including bosses. These don't really add much to the proceedings, but Beat does become a recurring ally in the Mega Menagerie and he can be pretty useful at times, so there you go. While you can obtain the Super Arrow by beating a Robot Master (which one? I'm not saying), Beat is only available once you collect the eight circuit plates scattered about (one per level) that spell out MEGAMAN5. Some of these are in plain sight while others are not. It adds a bit of a side-quest for those who want it.

All things considered, Mega Man 5 does play similarly enough from the previous games, but the various changes and level designs make the whole thing seem awkward to play. 8/10

CHALLENGE: Well, it's your run of the mill Mega Man - fairly challenging but not too difficult that you'll want to give up. The levels themselves are actually rather interesting and the gimmicks on certain levels does give Mega Man 5 some unique moments that raises its stock a bit. In certain portions of the Gravity Man level, you'll be upside down, which is actually kind of cool. In fact, the fight with Gravity Man is also rather fun with the fidgeting gravity taking place. It's one of the few bright and unique moments in the game. In Wave Man's stage, you're riding a jetski and shooting down enemies - and during this segment, you can't pause or switch weapons, which isn't cool, but it's different. In Star Man's stage, you're in space, which means you jump high all throughout the stage (funny how he couldn't jump this high in Gemini Man's stage unless he was underwater.)

Overall, Mega Man 5 is a fairly moderate challenge at best - somewhat easier than previous Mega Man efforts, but not necessarily a walk in the park either. While there are some moments of frustration here and there, it's definitely beatable. I doubt any Mega Man game is going get as nail-grindingly hard as the first one unless they bring back all the defects. Oh well. 8/10

REPLAY VALUE: Same replay value as in all Mega Men... not much more I can say than that. Not to say that there isn't any. With the stage select thing and the ability to tackle the bosses in any order and experimentation of the different weapons, there's quite a bit of stuff to do. 8/10

OVERALL: Mega Man 5 tried to make a few changes to the formula to liven it up a bit, but the end result is a mixed bag. It's probably the weakest of the NES offerings due to the "same old, same old" mixed in with questionable changes and additions, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad game. On the contrary, Mega Man 5 does have its moments of greatness at certain points in the game, makes its mark on the franchise, and is overall a solid Mega offering on the NES. It still maintains the core principles of the series and is a fine game in its own right. If you haven't played Mega Man 5, it's worth a look despite its weaknesses. 8/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/22/10

Game Release: Mega Man 5 (US, 12/31/92)


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