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Mega Man 5 (NES) artwork

Mega Man 5 (NES) review

"Who keeps giving the bosses their coworkers' weaknesses? Knock it off!"

Any casual onlooker might see Mega Man 5 and wonder how franchise fatigue didn't set in with many players. Truth be told, it kind of did. People remarked at how this new addition didn't look or play any different than the last four, while hardcore fans didn't care. The game provided the kind of content they wanted, so what was the fuss? The mounting complaints of sameness didn't stop most of us from soiling our shorts in the middle of a rental store when Mega 5 first arrived, yelling, “Let's effin' go!” while patrons cast awkward glances at us. That was another allowance well wasted...

With each installment, the series introduced small changes. Mega 5 brought more branching pathways and hidden letters that grant you access to the robotic bird, Beat, who functions as a special weapon that repeatedly attacks anything on the screen (bosses included). And yes, some bosses were even weak against Beat's strike. Some of the letters proved to be simple finds because they sat in plain sight. Others remained in hidden chambers, waiting to be discovered by those who enjoyed a bit of exploration.

You know what wasn't a small change, though? Watching that opening cutscene and finding out your own brother, Proto Man, was the antagonist this time. Yes, the same Proto Man who saved you in the third installment and betrayed Wily in the fourth- OH... OHHHH...With that line of thinking, I realized this one was going to have something of a plot, and that there would be a twist that anyone could see coming from thousands of miles away.

All the same, Proto Man(?) strangely took a page from Dr. Wily's book in enlisting eight robot masters who all possess weapons that are extra effective against one of their cohorts. Why do they keep doing this? Why not just build the same robot master eight times and make him immune to his own artillery? Anyway, Proto takes things a step further by kidnapping Dr. Light, leaving only Mega Man and his new buddy Dr. Cossack to hold the fort down.

I wish I could gush over Mega 5's awesomeness in a manner similar to my ravings of its predecessor, but the game just doesn't measure up to 4's excellence. However, credit where it's due: 4 is a tough act to follow, and 5 at least comes close.

You see, this one does what the prior outing did in adhering strictly to theme, and it does so wonderfully. Wave Man's stage predictably sports a lot of water, but goes out of its way to differentiate itself from past aquatic levels. Here, we have water constantly raising and lowering like a tide. Spiked pits sit below them, and you must time your leap with the tide to get over them. Later, you climb onto a jet ski and blast away at foes while attempting to survive. Though the segment does a fair job of providing variety to the experience, it doesn't offer much more than basic dodging and shooting.

That happens a fair bit this time around. You encounter a cool stage like Gyro Man's digs, power your way through some challenging segments with moving platforms and collapsing bridges, only to occasionally get stuck in some dull, single-screen moments that feel like filler. Hell, the only level that remains pretty solid throughout is Gravity Man's fortress, where you frequently reverse polarity by running past flashing gates. In other words, you might be on the floor one minute, then stuck to the ceiling the next.

Unfortunately, you run afoul of a couple of stages that aren't necessarily poor, but don't really measure up to the rest of the campaign. Crystal Man's level comes with a few tedious moments, like one where crystals leap out of pits at differing intervals, and you need to wait until the coast is clear before you leap. Sadly, the game sometimes hits you with cheap shots here, causing you to plummet to your doom. Stone Man's level isn't much better, as it repeatedly nails you with falling rocks you practically can't dodge, while the rest of the area provides little standout content.

More than most of the others, Mega 5 places a firmer emphasis on action by placing a lot of multi-hit enemies in your way, or tossing a bunch of small foes who come at you from all angles. You spend more time in this one avoiding damage and ensuring your shots remain on point. While some folks might not dig this sequel's fondness for combat, others (like me) enjoy the fact that it took a subtly different approach to shake things up a bit.

However, the addition of Beat and the collectable letters adds a small measure of excitement to the experience, giving you reasons to revisit levels aside from farming E tanks. It's worth it, too, because Beat is...


Please kill me...

Anyway, the rest of the game progresses as you might imagine. You enter a couple of massive fortresses, plow through some of the toughest trials the campaign has to offer and battle special bosses. The first compound sports villains that are basically souped-up robot masters called “Dark Man,” while the next castle pits you against traditional Mega Man late-game bosses, like massive monsters and weird weaponized rooms.

It all ends the way you think it would, and in some ways that's kind of a bummer. You realize by this point that the series has forsaken surprises in favor of formula. In the short run, games like that always offer their fans more of the same solid material they expect. In other words, you know what you're getting out of a standard Mega Man offering. However, a franchise that lacks fresh takes can only sustain itself so long, and this brand is only by this sequel beginning to show signs of slowing down.

So yes, Mega Man 5 is a terrific game. It provides everything you would expect from its brand, perhaps to a fault...

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (March 06, 2024)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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