Mega Man 5 (NES) review
"After you’ve played a certain number of the classic Mega Man games, they can become very difficult to rate. On a positive note, when you put a Mega Man game into your Nintendo, you know you’re going to be playing an excellent cartoonish platformer with tight play control, the ability to steal weapons from bosses and a fateful encounter with the overlord of all evil senior citizens — Dr. Wily. "
After you’ve played a certain number of the classic Mega Man games, they can become very difficult to rate. On a positive note, when you put a Mega Man game into your Nintendo, you know you’re going to be playing an excellent cartoonish platformer with tight play control, the ability to steal weapons from bosses and a fateful encounter with the overlord of all evil senior citizens — Dr. Wily.
But on the other hand, you also know that you’ll be essentially playing the same game each time out. Sure, each new NES Mega Man game had a few new elements, but in the grand scheme of things, those new elements never provided anything remotely resembling a dramatic alteration in the gameplay, graphics, sound or any other staple element of the series.
So, what does all that mean? To phrase it simply, I (your humble reviewer) was left facing a bit of a conundrum when analyzing Mega Man 5. If you played any of the first four Mega Man games (or read the previous two paragraphs), you’ll know what to expect. The real question that needs to be pondered is if the formula still works. If this is your first or second Mega Man game and you like platformers, you probably will love this game. However, if you’ve played this series religiously, the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude that Capcom has taken towards this franchise may be getting stale by this point.
If you played Mega Man 4, you’ll already be intimately familiar with the way this game works. First, you go through eight robot master levels, killing fellows with names like Star Man and Charge Man to get new weapons for your blue robotic hero. After the eight robot masters have been reduced to scrap metal, you’ll then have two big fortresses to work through — with plenty of tricky spots and difficult boss encounters to contend with. At the end of the first fortress is the adversary hinted at in the opening cutscene. Whip it to be introduced to the true evil mastermind (three guesses as to who that is in the NES Mega Man world...). Finish the second fortress and wipe out the final boss and you’ve saved the world from the forces of evil yet again.
Fortunately, the game isn’t a true carbon copy of Mega Man 4. Capcom made a habit of putting a number of minor alterations in each Mega Man game after the first one to keep things from getting too repetitive and MM5 is no exception.
The most notable addition to the cast is Beat the Killer Bird. In each of the eight robot master levels, there is one letter from the game’s title. Pick up all eight letters and you’ll gain the services of Beat, who will act like a special weapon. Have it equipped and your feathered friend will be a feathered FIEND to villains, flying into them for an impressive amount of damage. Beat can be a very useful tool against some of the game’s final bosses, as you can concentrate on avoiding their attacks while it does the actual work.
Also included in the fifth installment are a new type of energy tank and a few levels that are more impressive than the zones in previous games. The “M” tank makes it’s debut here. While very rare, it is much more powerful than the standard (and more common) Energy Tank. Instead of simply filling your life meter, the “M” tank also will recharge all your special weapons. Since this game follows the standard Mega Man format of making you run a gauntlet of all eight robot masters before meeting the final boss, this item will definitely come in handy.
As mentioned above, there are a number of levels that struck me as just being more innovative than those in previous games. For the most part, these levels work, although the section of Wave Man’s level where you’re riding some sort of watercraft brought back some pretty bad flashbacks of the poorly-crafted skateboarding section of the arcade Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Game.
On the brighter side, we have Charge Man’s stage — in which you control the Blue Bomber on top of and inside a train and Gravity Man’s lair — where fluctuations in the level’s gravity will frequently result in Mega Man running upside-down along the ceiling. To make the enjoyment of these levels last a bit longer, I found this game to be a bit more difficult than Mega Man 4 (but not as tough as the third in the series). It’s a good level of difficulty, as I found myself having to work to overcome obstacles, but rarely getting frustrated or discouraged at my apparent ineptitude at such tasks at hopping from one tiny conveyor belt to another over a long bottomless pit or timing my shots to hit Gravity Man just as he reversed the gravity in his lair.
To add to the good times, the boss fights in this game seemed a bit more enjoyable than in previous outings. A number of robot masters seem to have a bit more attention placed on their construction than the foes of previous games. Wave Man resembles a pirate, while Charge Man is a mobile train. Other robot masters provide exciting and fun battles. Gravity Man constantly changes his room’s gravity, bouncing you from the ceiling to the floor and back again frequently; while Gyro Man hides behind a large cloud background to shoot his blades at you.
And it isn’t just the robot masters that provide fun battles. Look at the first two bosses of the final fortress. First, you have a tall robot that you have to hit on the head. The only way to reach this point, which is far out of your jumping range, is to shoot his two lower sections, causing them to fly at you. Jump on those sections and then plug its head with the weapon of your choice to eventually win. Then, you’ll be fighting a large circular robot that is only vulnerable when hatches on each side of its body are open. However, to reach those hatches, you have be on one of two small platforms in the room — no easy task when the robot and its projectiles are constantly threatening to knock your from that precarious perch.
Flaws in the game are much harder to find. As I mentioned before, the watercraft section of Wave Man’s world left much to be desired. The annoying power-up robot, Fliptop, is back. The bosses of the first fortress are like the robot masters....without the personality. In other words, while the game has flaws, it’s not like they’re of the sort that completely suck the enjoyment out of playing the game.
So, with all that said, how does one rank a game such as Mega Man 5? Without a doubt, it is an excellent platforming adventure with plenty of positives that easily outweigh the scant few negatives. However, as a veteran of the Mega Man series, I must admit that this game isn’t exactly bursting with originality, as anyone who is familiar with the series will recognize nearly everything they see in MM5. There is an old proverb which says that “familiarity breeds contempt”. While that may not have been true about the series at this point, MM5 was the first Mega Man game that truly made me wish for something new and exciting — something that would surprise and amaze me, as opposed to something that simply made me think, “They executed that concept better than they did in Mega Man 2,” or something else along those lines.
Community review by overdrive (May 14, 2004)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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