Mega Man 5 – NES
Release Date (NA): December 1992
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
After InfiniteKnife’s most recent live stream on Twitch where we witnessed him plow through Mega Man 2, Mega Man 3, and Mega Man 4, I was inspired to dig out my own few Mega Man games. First I tackled the gold standard, Mega Man 3, and then I moved into Mega Man 5. Mega Man 5 is more of the same – it may not be 100% original, but it’s a solid game with a familiar formula.
As usual, Mega Man is up against a slew of Robot Masters and eventually Dr. Wily himself. In this installment, Dr. Light has been captured, and for seemingly unknown reasons, Proto Man is leading the team of masters against our hero. The set up is the same; the player chooses among 8 different stages, and as usual, it’s beneficial to approach them in a certain order (to both collect weapons that act as the biggest weaknesses to other masters and gain abilities for Rush which assist in traversing certain levels).
Little has changed in Mega Man’s 5th outing. He still has his slide, and he retains the ability to charge up his Mega Buster for stronger blasts (introduced in Mega Man 4). Also reappearing from MM4 is Rush Jet’s reduced usefulness. Rush only flies straight and continually flies straight. Previously the player could control all of Rush’s movement, but now it’s downright frustrating. No doubt the idea was to force the player to “legitimately” travel through difficult platforming sections, but by doing so in this way, the developers have almost completely robbed Rush Jet of any value whatsoever. Not only will Rush not get you where you’re going, you’ll probably fall off on the way there because he’s so damn hard to stay on. Rush Coil has also been slightly revamped too. Instead of acting as a mere springboard, Rush jumps, and then it’s the player’s job to jump off of him at Rush’s maximum height; it’s essentially a double jump with a little less control. It’s usable, and I don’t hate it, but I do prefer the springboard-style Rush Coil.
Without Rush Jet to usher Mega Man through the most perilous gaps, it’s all up to the player. Most of the time this isn’t a major problem, and though some sections are difficult, they aren’t nearly as difficult as those in Mega Man 3. Combat is also scaled back a bit with less powerful and less aggressive enemies, along with more forgiving level design and more generous placement of energy and weapon refills. Eddie (another idea introduced in MM4) reappears with random energy/weapon refills, extra lives, and E-tanks, though he is used sparingly. There is also the addition of the “mega tank,” which refills not only Mega Man’s health but all of Mega Man’s weapons! Good luck finding them though…
Touching on a new concept emergent in Mega Man 4, Mega Man 5 throws in some very minor exploratory elements. The most obvious is the circuit board collection, one “board” for each letter in
M-E-G-A-M-A-N-V. If you manage to collect all 8 (one letter in each of the initial levels), Mega Man will have access to the bird robot Beat. Beat can be a tremendous asset in certain situations, but collecting all 8 letters is prohibitively difficult. Besides, if you miss even one, the deal’s off, since you can’t exactly replay levels. I like the idea, but having only a single shot to grab these makes for a frustrating ordeal. The best one can reasonably hope for is to jot down the password after every successful retrieval and reset the NES as necessary after failed attempts.
Besides the circuit boards, there are a few other non-essential nooks and crannies for Mega Man to explore. They come in various forms, from being able to shoot out parts of the wall to find a new room, to walking through certain sections of a seemingly solid wall, to hard-to-reach ladders that lead to special goodies. I appreciate the effort to add some depth to the early Mega Man series, though ultimately I think the concept is underutilized. I’m not saying that Capcom should’ve turned it into the next Metroid, but a little more commitment to these secret areas wouldn’t hurt.
Aside from those few bells and whistles, there’s not much new going on in Mega Man 5, though the stages and bosses are at least different enough to be distinguishable from other games. One of the most interesting levels is that of Gravity Man, where the gravity periodically shifts; Mega Man alternates between walking on the ground and walking on the ceiling, making for some fun platforming mechanics. There’s also the “Charge Kick” gained from Charge Man, which weaponizes Mega Man’s slide – a fantastic idea. The graphics are improved a bit as well, with a smoother, slightly cleaner look over previous games and a greater use of bright, vivid colors, at the cost of some of the more industrial design elements. Still, it’s pleasant to look at. Crystal Man’s stage uses simplicity to its advantage, and Napalm Man resides in a great looking jungle area.
While the handful of features do make a difference, it’ll go largely unnoticed by the casual fan, unless you happen to go on a spree of playing NES Mega Man titles back to back to back. Overall, Mega Man 5 is pretty much like every other Mega Man on the NES. If you enjoyed them, you’ll enjoy this one, and vice versa. It won’t be hailed as groundbreaking or original, but sometimes having more of a good thing is good enough, and that’s what Mega Man 5 gives us. Even if it tends to blend in with its brethren, it’s still a solid title on its own and a great release for the NES.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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