"After the hiccup that was Mega Man 4, we're back to Mega Man at his finest."

Anyone who has ever seen me talk about Mega Man 4 knows that my single biggest problem with that game, aside from hideously easy bosses, was the Mega Buster. It made the game too easy, and even worse was that the rest of the game had to compensate for the Mega Buster instead of the upgrades Mega Man received after battle. In Mega Man 5, a very simple change was made to rectify this problem. If Mega Man is charging the Mega Buster and gets hit, the charge is canceled. That one change is enough to have a Mega Man game worth playing, but Capcom reached levels in Mega Man 5 that almost, almost, made me think to mention Mega Man 5 in the same sentence as the Godsend that was Mega Man 3. Had they taken the Mega Buster out altogether, we would have the best game in the series, but with it, you have the second or third best game in the series. Not saying that this is a bad thing, but a game needs to be virtually perfect to stack up to Mega Man 2 or Mega Man 3.

In the beginning, you learn that Protoman has commandeered an army of robots in an effort to destroy the world, and it is up to Mega Man to stop him. Just like every other Mega Man game to this point, Mega Man is soon thrust into the middle of a Robot Master selection screen where you must choose between one of eight bosses in succession before going into the more difficult levels afterwards. The formula for Mega Man 5 may be the same thing seem in every other Mega Man title, but Mega Man 5 manages to get back to what made the series so good in the first place. Good music, the best graphics one can see on the NES, difficult enemies and bosses, and absolutely amazing level design are not just seen in Mega Man 5; they are the standard.

Some of the level designs in Mega Man 5 were the best yet in the entire series, and they are highlighted by one of the single coolest levels ever to grace mankind: Gravity Man's stage. Everything starts out normally enough, but after you go through the level for a little while, you will notice arrows on the ceiling. Advance a little further, and you will notice the arrows pointing up instead of down. After passing through these upside down arrows, BANG, you soon find yourself upside down. This is not a glitch. It's the level design! Even better is what happens afterwards, as you must guide Mega Man through upside down combat and avoid all the same traps as before. Upside down. This is one of the absolute epitomes of badass, but it gets even better. Later in the level, there are sections, where you must make jumps that shift Mega Man's perspective to gravity multiple times in midair while narrowly avoid death traps and barely landing on solid ground halfway across the screen. Again, the epitome of badass. But it gets even better in the level's home stretch. After guiding Mega Man through some of the coolest twists and turns ever seen in a video game, there is a pitfall on the ceiling. A pitfall on the ceiling! In my opinion, seeing Mega Man die by going through the ceiling indoors as if it were a bottomless pit on the floor put me in one of the better states of shock I've seen in quite some time. It was going to a party and having the most drop-dead gorgeous girl there act as if you were the only guy that existed in the room, then seeing her make the first move on you as if she could care less about anyone else there. Seriously, a pitfall on the ceiling!? This level was so damned cool that I literally let myself die right before the boss hallway just to examine the level and stare at it in the awe that it so definitely deserves. I suggest that anyone else who ply this game do the same, because Gravity Man's level design is something that we may never again experience.

Speaking of Gravity Man, the boss fight with him is one of my all-time favorites. As you enter his room, you immediately find yourself on the ceiling; subsequently, Gravity Man's ability is to shift gravity itself so that he and Mega Man are always on opposite sides of the room. When this shift takes place, both Mega Man and Gravity Man go flying through the air, cross paths for a split second on the horizontal axis in the middle of the screen, then resume working on trying to beat the hell out of each other. If that weren't cool enough, Gravity Man has no problems shooting a constant stream of bullets in Mega Man's direction, some of which are fired at Mega Man while the two characters are flying through the air. The method for defeating Gravity Man --- avoiding his attacks as well as personal collisions with him in midair while managing to hit him with the Mega Buster in the split second allotted during Gravity Shifts, respectively --- is one of the more satisfying game experiences ever, and it becomes downright ethereal to defeat him if you manage to have Star Man's weapon available to you in the fight.

And Gravity Man is simply one example in a great cast of bosses. Mega Man 5 has the same problem as Mega Man 4 in that the Mega Buster renders a lot of enemies and bosses easier than they should be, but the game makes up for this with the fact that the Mega Buster's charge is canceled should Mega Man take a hit. This puts the challenge back into the game that was simply not there in Mega Man 4, and it makes this game as fun as Mega Man 2 or Mega Man 3 were. To add to this comes outstanding level designs, amazing music, as well as the fact that Mega Man 5 actually features a good backstory. If the Mega Buster were ditched once and for all to put the proper time into the various upgrades attained after defeating the various bosses, this game would easily be on the level of Mega Man 3 in my eyes. But as things currently stand, it is just a touch behind the elite games in the series.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/17/04


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