Mega Man V – Game Boy (3DS Virtual Console)
Platform: Game Boy (3DS Virtual Console)
Developer: Minakuchi Engineering
Release Date: September 10, 1994
Nerd Rating: 8/10
Reviewed by Gunsavior
In Christmas of 1993, Mega Man X debuted in epic, 16-bit fashion single-handedly restoring the franchise to its former glory. It was obvious that the Blue Bomber’s 8-bit legacy was winding down but not before one final performance. The portable sub-series (known as Rockman World in Japan) had started as little more than monochromatic remixes of the console adventures, but would eventually step out from their shadow with Mega Man V and cast a shadow of its own. It was a bold move by Capcom and its rarity has helped it to achieve holy grail status for collectors and fans. With the game’s 3DS eShop release imminent, the question becomes “is Mega Man V worthy of its status”?
In the year 20XX (which is technically the past at this point) Mega Man and his robotic sister, Roll, are on a mid-afternoon stroll. Suddenly, they get mugged by an alien robot named Terra. Mega Man refuses to hand over his wallet and responds to the attacker with a face full of mega buster. The act is laughed off by Terra who knocks Mega Man unconscious with little effort. An army of evil alien robots promptly invades the planet and takes out all opposition. In what may be his most questionable decision since creating a robot with scissors on its face, Dr. Light swaps out Mega Man’s buster for a powered up fist projectile. With this (odd) new weapon, the Blue Bomber must free the earth and track the evil back to its source in the far reaches of our solar system.
By 1994, it appeared that Mega Man’s innovation tree had been picked clean. There are only so many random nouns you can put in front of “man” and call it a robot master. Mega Man V alleviates this issue by naming its bosses after planets but then goes one step further by throwing in all four Mega Man Killers (Enker, Quint, Punk, and Ballade) from the previous portable iterations. This bit of fan service plays out a lot like Mega Man 3‘s resurrection of Mega Man 2‘s bosses: you face them all in one epic boss rush-esque level but don’t inherit their powers.
With the team at Minakuchi Engineering no longer shackled to the console games, they were free to fix an issue that plagued all the portable Mega Mans: claustrophobic levels. The team had done an admirable job of cramming the NES levels and graphics onto the Game Boy’s tiny, blurry screen but it was hardly ideal. The tight quarters (and regular slowdown) made these games even harder than the NES counterparts. Mega Man V‘s levels were designed specifically for the small screen and were nowhere near as hostile toward players. Despite the added playability, the levels here do seem less ambitious, a bit on the easy side and their cut and paste nature may have you feeling deja vu. Mega Man always shined much brighter on consoles than on portables (until the GBA at least) but MMV shows how to tailor to a portable without losing the magic.
Let’s face it, levels are great but the real draw of Mega Man is the weapons. In addition to the powers of the eight robot masters (which are generally useless) you now have a new pet: Tango the Cat. Your robotic feline acts as an assist character and will attack anything and everything not bolted down when you call upon him. Within the in-game shop you can pick up health refills and extra lives as well as two useful weapon upgrades: one that allows your flying fist to grab onto enemies and deal multiple hits while the other can snatch out of reach items. The Mega Fist is actually a pretty versatile weapon (once you get the upgrades) and it adds an element of strategy to the gameplay.
The Game Boy wasn’t known for its processing power but Capcom had a knack for working graphical/musical magic with its modest hardware. Arguably the game’s best feature is its music. Even when the Blue Bomber started to LOOK dated in the latter days of the NES, his games never SOUNDED dated. The music has that classic Mega Man magic and makes great use of the Game Boy’s modest sound chip. The varied soundtrack shows a spark of creativity that can stand alongside some of Mega Man’s 8-bit best. Graphics are also solid in a charmingly primitive way (it liberally borrows assets from the previous four games). Mega Man V‘s Super Game Boy support looks about as lazy as SGB “enhancements” usually go but since 3DS eShop doesn’t support it, no harm no foul.
When it was released in 1994, MMV was a game that nobody wanted, on a system that few people seriously played anymore (Pokemon was still a few years away). It received middling reviews and sales were abysmal so Capcom only produced the game in limited quantities. Twenty years later, it now sells for over $100 on the aftermarket! It hurts to say this, but Mega Man V is NOT worth $100 to anyone but collectors. It IS, however, worth the $3.99 of an eShop download. With save states and a bright, beautiful screen (especially on 3DS XL) this is the ideal way to play this obscure little gem without breaking the bank.
In hindsight, this may be one of the most charming titles in the earliest era of the Mega Man franchise. It’s a love letter to fans of his portable adventures and lets this series end on a high note rarely extended to the Blue Bomber’s other console finales. Mega Man V is a surprising oddity in a long running franchise that is definitely worth your time and attention.
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