Review by Psycho Penguin

"Damn you, Capcom."

The Mega Man series has been one of the most beloved, and longest running, series in video gaming history. Rarely has a year gone by without a new Mega Man game or two being released. 2001 was no different, as two Mega Man X games were released, Mega Man X5 and Mega Man X6. Most people consider it to be overkill, as the games really did not show a whole lot of innovation. However, I am in the minority, as I think that Mega Man X5 does have a whole lot of innovation to it that keeps it from being the black sheep of what has turned into a disappointing series.

When naming the best qualities of the Mega Man universe, usually ''storyline'' is not one of the things that makes the list, and for good reason. To call the Mega Man storylines disappointing would be an understatement. It appears Capcom decides to focus on other areas instead, which is not really a bad call. The Mega Man series doesn't really need a storyline to begin with. The cool thing about this storyline is that it sort of follows up on where Mega Man X4 left off.

The world is finally at peace, and the largest space colony is being developed into an area that can be inhabited. However, an evil force has invaded the colony and has set it on a collision course with earth. And only two people can save Earth from sure destruction: Mega Man X and Zero! Like I said before, the storyline is not going to win any awards for quality or innovation. However, it at least is something different from the ''Evil bad guy wants to take over the world'' and other cliches that have plagued the series.

One of the things that the series has constantly provided the game player with is sharp control, and Capcom refuses to let us down here. Most of the game controls identically to Mega Man X4, which means the control is terrific. With X, you can use special weapons, which requires only a press of the L2 or R2 button to switch weapons, and also fire the X buster. You can charge up the X Buster by holding down the attack button. Zero has a sword, and by pressing the attack button over and over, he can pull off a combo attack on the enemy. He also has a gun, which acts as his special weapons. Both characters can pull off awesome moves like a wall kick and a dash wall kick. The new innovation is rope climbing, which is a cool addition to the series.

Mega Man X5 plays like the typical Mega Man game when it comes to actual gameplay, but you cannot look past the fact that Capcom added a ton of new ideas to the series for this game. Regardless of this, some of the innovations are pretty crappy. The actual game is just like the average Mega Man game: you go through stages, killing enemies, and collecting power ups along the way, like energy bars, etc. At the end of the stage, you fight the stage's boss, and when you complete the stage, you get that boss's special weapon.

Otherwise, the game is totally unlike any other Mega Man game that has preceeded it. For one thing, now you are timed in each stage, and the quicker you complete a stage, the better off you are down the line. The time you complete each stage affects how the game will proceed once you complete the stages. You only have 24 game hours to complete the world. Speaking of completing the stages, you no longer have to complete every stage. Hell, you can go straight to the final areas if you want without bothering with the first eight stages. Of course, this will put you at a severe disadvantage, due to your lack of powerups, and the fact your ending will be weaker.

The stage designs in this game are simply awesome. From riding on a space cruiser trying to make tricky jump after tricky jump, to going underwater, this game has it all. The variety of stages is rivaled by perhaps only Mega Man 8 in the series, and expands on all of the cool stage ideas that Mega Man X4 had. There was the occassional sign of lazy stage design, but for the most part, I was truly enamored with the variety and quality of every stage.

After every stage, you now get a mission report summary. It details how much enemies you killed, how much damage you received, and how long it took you to complete the stage. It also gives you DNA Power, which allows you to create different kinds of items. Depending on the level of the boss you defeated, you can get different items. Defeating a higher level boss allows you to get a better item, like a life up, weapon up, power up part, etc. When you have completed a power up part item, you can equip it on the main screen.

This is where the game starts to go downhill, however. Yes, this game is good, but it has some major flaws to it. It's way too complex for a series that has notoriously been all about gameplay. Yes, changing the whole feeling of the series was a good thing, but Capcom added so much complex gaming elements to it, it will confuse the hell out of the average Mega Man player. I know it confused the hell out of me. You have to worry about weapon setup, player setup, DNA, virus damage, power up parts, armor, combo attacks, special weapons, look at weapon, orifalcon, and orbiter engine. Then you have to worry about sending the shuttle off into space. It will fly way over the head of the average player.

Those of you that hated the boss names in the later Mega Man games on NES will have a field day complaining about some of the boss names here. Capcom has truly run out of cool names to give to the bosses, so they have been reduced to some of the most horribly named bosses I have ever seen in a video game. I think the prime example of this is Shining Hotarunicus. No, I didn't make that up. You figure out what the hell a Shining Hotarunicus is, and then tell me, because I surely have no idea. Other gems include Spiral Pegacion, Spike Rosered, Dark Necrobat, and Burn Dinorex. And I thought Flame Mammoth was bad.. at least it was SIMPLE. Complex names that make no sense = bad naming.

Perhgaps the best quality of Mega Man X4 was the sleek graphics that the game presented. If Mega Man X4 hit a home run, than Mega Man X5 is Barry Bonds. The game looks simply wonderful, from the wonderfully animated characters to the surreal backgrounds. Each background is well detailed and flows perfectly with the feeling of the stage. From the jungly terrain of Spike Rosered to the fiery underworld of Burn Dinorex, the backgrounds never fail to impress. While the enemy designs suffer from the same basic problems that the enemy designs in Mega Man games always do (lack of creativity, repeating), there are some nice additions for an already well balanced group of enemies. And yes, the Hard Hats are here.

Music is definitely not the strong point of the game, which is a real disappointment for those like me who love most of the music in the Mega Man games. Regardless, the music is still pretty damn good in its own right. It just doesn't live up to the high quality that the series has been known for. Some of the music impresses, while other just falls flat. Spike Rosered has some disappointing music, but Burn Dinorex's makes up for it. And don't even get me started on the remix of the Zero Virus theme from Mega Man X3.. it is simply wonderful, and one of the best video game songs ever. Sound effects are truly special, and thankfully there are no cheesy voices here.

Due to the complexity of the game, those avid Mega Man players will probably find themselves going back to a game that's a little more balanced and well paced. This is certainly no Mega Man X when it comes to replay value. I think one of the biggest shocks this game presented was the sudden dearth of secrets. Secret items, like power ups, and heart tanks, have been a trademark for the Mega Man X series, so to see them gone and replaced with ''beat the higher level boss to get a heart tank'' is a heartbreak for me. There are secrets still, don't get me wrong. They're just easier to get this time, and are simply not as fun or well placed.

The challenge level of the Mega Man series has seem to have gone downhill ever since Mega Man 2, and that's a long time. However, Mega Man X5 seems to bring back some of the challenge that the series has lacked in for so long. Some of the stages can get pretty tricky, especially the one stage that has you riding in the Ride Chaser automobile. I think the most fun part of that stage is finally completing it, then realizing you need to get all of the little blue dots floating around the stage in order to open up the secret for the level. The game is challenging for a while, then the challenge goes away. I beat this game fairly quickly, and I never beat Mega Man games quickly, but this game is still more challenging. Makes a lot of sense, eh?

Mega Man X5 is a severely damaged game that could have been something truly remarkable. While it features a lot of fresh ideas to a stale series, the fact remains that most of the innovations made the game far too complex for the average game player. This game feels more like a role playing game than an action game, and all of the various things you have to worry about just to complete the game doesn't help. Yes, the Mega Man series shouldn't have to be ''shoot your way through every stage'', but there should be a solid medium between that and ''complex piece of crap''.

The bitter irony here is that most people think the game's flaw is not enough innovation, but the thing that shoots this game in the foot is too much innovation. The game is designed wonderfully, with some of the best stage designs I have ever seen, but in the end of the day, Mega Man X5 comes up just a little short and fails to be the blowaway game I expected. Capcom certainly tried their hardest to make an enjoyable and unique Mega Man X game, and they almost came up with a home run, but the complex nature of it all makes this just a standup double.

Good Points
-The music is really good, especially the Zero Virus theme.
-The graphics are wonderfully fresh and well designed.
-The storyline is actually relatively good for a Mega Man game.
-It has a lot of innovations and new ideas for a stale series.
-The controls are really solid.
-Stage designs are awesome and very well varied.
-Once you get into the stages, it's really fun!

Not So Good Points
-The game is just way too complex for its own good.
-Some of the music is a bit lacking.
-The boss names are just revolting.
-Outside of the stages, the game is just awful.

I Run Down The Game... Psycho Penguin Style!
Storyline - 7.4/10
Graphics - 8.9/10
Music - 8.6/10
Sound Effects - 9.3/10
Controls - 9.8/10
Gameplay - 6.2/10
Replay Value - Average
Challenge - Average
Is This Game Worth A Purchase? - Yes. 19.99 or less.
Overall - 6.3/10

The Bottom Line
If Mega Man X5 would have been like Mega Man X4 in terms of stage progression, and would have retained the same stages featured in Mega Man X5, then there would be no doubt that this is a wonderful game. However, the complexity of the game turns me off, and it's just average as a result.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 01/08/02, Updated 01/08/02

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