Rock of Love
Remember the movie Wild Things? It featured Denise Richards and Neve Campbell back when they were young, chic and interesting enough to be considered sex symbols, playing the role of two crazy whores who swim in pools and sleep with guys, themselves and other objects a lot. While I’m sure that’s not what the movie was about, it’s what people remember the most and therefore the film was something of a success at the box office. What you may not know is that there exists sequels to Wild Things. You wouldn’t know they existed unless you saw them on the shelf of your local Blockbuster, for they were straight-to-video releases! Now obviously, most sane people wouldn’t bother renting these due to the reputation of straight-to-video releases (i.e. THEY SUCK) but let me be the first to say…I have not seen these sequels either.
This, I feel, is a semi-accurate portrayal of the plight of the Mega Man games. Oh, the first three games were definite hits amongst the gamers of the day, but most people didn’t realize, or care, that Capcom kept making new ones on the NES. Gamers had since moved on to the Genesis and Super Nintendo and were more enamored by the technological pixilated glory of Mode-7 and whatever the hell Blast Processing was than they were of playing the latest low color-paletted NES release . And by the time Mega Man 5 had rolled around, I was too preoccupied with my new SNES and the likes of Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Super Adventure Island, Super Bomberman, and Super Castlevania. I wanted my games to be Super! Merely being Mega wasn’t good enough anymore.
Replaying Mega Man 5 in retrospect, even I can suspect that this was the point in which Capcom stopped putting their heart into these games.
Mega Man 5 is guilty of reusing one gimmick too many from past games. We’ve got another ice level, another water level, another air level and even yet another construction level. The game also gets into the habit of stealing gimmicks from other, less-mega platformers. The forced-scrolling stage (the “pushy” stage, as we used to call it) is here. There’s a single sequence where Mega Man has to ride a waterski in a scrolling vehicle scene reminiscent of Battletoads or a million other platformers. Here, you’ll shoot enemy robots, fight a giant squid and, much like the Mega Man games at this point, jump over sharks.
Not that the levels aren’t complete wastes of time. They’re just sometimes lame. The Crystal Man stage, for example, has you hopping from one small cliff to another, studying the rhythmic pattern of several crystal dispensers (I guess that’s what they are), waiting for the moment when ‘tis safest to jump. That you’ve got ten consecutive crystal dumpers in a row is something is a bit redundant. Assembly lines seem to be the bane of On the other hand, there’s one particularly memorable level where gravity makes some unexpected shifts in direction, requiring a Mario Galaxy-like level of thinking in wrapping your mind the reverse physics of climbing down ladders and jumping over bottomless sky pits.
The game makes little in the way of changes in the Mega Man formula, but then again, it feels like the more Capcom experiments with this franchise, the more hideous the result (just look at the DS games.) The Mega Buster shots cover a larger area, which Wikipedia cites as an upgrade from Mega Man 4’s Dr Cossack (who makes NO appearance or even a mention in this game) and the Rush Coil now transforms Rush into a giant pogo stick-platform. This leaping ledge approach, while safer than the old-fashioned form of “Rush’s ass launches a spring that upchucks Mega Man in the air”, I’m a bit more partial to the Super Dave-like original coil. And then there’s the letters; in each of the 8 original stages exists a letter needed to spell “MEGAMANV”. Except for one, all of the letters are in plain sight but demand some mega footwork to access. I went well out of my way to try and collect these assorted letters with the hope of earning some kind of hidden weapon or ability to unleash megahell on my enemies with.
And I got Beat. Beat. Beat is this little bird robot that appears and attacks other enemies on the screen, or at least that’s what he was programmed to do. His little bird brain takes a bit of time to recognize the presence of other threatening life forms in the room. While Beat comes in handy in some tight spots and even works as an unlikely remedy in curing the final boss of his plagued health, having a diminutive bird as the reward for such a major scavenger hunt feels a bit of a rip off. Especially since later Mega Man games concoct much more exciting hidden power ups.
Remember Tuxedo Mask? I barely do. Proto Man is kind of like him only without the part where he makes out with the protagonist. He’s sort of the ancillary “mysterious” character that so many animes seem to need. Some of those characters have elaborate, dark backstorys, and some are merely mysterious for the sake of being mysterious. The latter describes In Mega Man 5, he kidnaps Dr Light and leads a rebellion of 8 (of course 8!) new robot masters.
Joining Proto Man in his insurgency are…
Gyro Man: Oh look, it’s Air Man! Except the fan is on his back instead of in his pancreas! And he wears a green leotard! And every time he squats, the fan spins. That’s got to make going to the bathroom a real task and a half. Gyro Man attacks the human race from the sky with vicious Greek pitas of pain, horrifying hummus and terrifying tatziki.
Napalm Man: I’ve joked in the past that if Dr Wily was serious about tactical world domination with his robots, than he’d stop with the Bubble Mans and Toad Mans of the world and create villains like Gun Man and 747 Well hot dawg, here’s the closest we’ve gotten to a real WMD Man! However, Napalm Man doesn’t quite throw Napalm so much as he throws…explosive pills. Still, at least Proto Man has the right idea in how to make evil robot masters right.
Star Man: Nope, no wait, nevermind. Star Man challenges his adversaries with elaborate glitter patterns and one of the most flamboyant costumes in Mega Man history. Proto Man is definitely showing a side of himself we’ve never seen by designing this strange fellow.
Stoned Man: This Great Canadian robot was designed to be Proto Man’s recreational drug use machine. From the caves near , Stoned Man lights up his adversaries with a crushing smoke attack. When teamed with Wave Man, they fight Mega Man with deadly bong water powers.
Wave Man: Meet Bubble Man’s crazy cousin. Wave Man is the deranged member of the water boss family, last seen flirting with Dive Man’s fiancée Splash Woman. Recruited to the cause just so he doesn’t ruin the wedding, Wave Man brings little to the rebellion. His special ability of making pipes leak doesn’t quite bear much of a competitive benefit.
Charge Man: A giant bipedal train creature. In his youth, he was one of the red trains that picked on Thomas the Tank Engine. Now fully grown, he turns to a life of crime by hijacking civilian locomotives. A very strategic move on Proto Man’s part if I say so myself, as the human race has not quite moved beyond railroads as the primary source of transportation in the year 200X.
Crystal Man: Inspired by Proto Man’s crystal meth addiction, Crystal Man leaps onto the scene throwing giant pills like projectiles in an attempt to overdose Just like how Mega Man 3 was all about the phallic-shaped villains, Mega Man 5 brings on the drug addicts.
Gravity Man: Finally, there’s Gravity Man, whom for all intents and purposes, should be the most powerful of the bunch. After all, gravity is a pretty significant force to control. But he looks an awful lot like a scale, and perhaps Proto Man merely modified the one he uses to measure “product” into his weapon of mass destruction.
Once you beat this troupe of pushers, you make an attempt to invade Proto Man’s castle. Yes, Proto Man has his own castle. And it’s shaped like a giant Proto Man helmet. How self-serving. The stages in these later levels are challenging, but they all end in rather disappointing battles with small, boring robot tank bosses. And then there’s the confrontation with
Now, anyone that knows anything about Mega Man knows that all this attempted “storytelling” is a waste of precious seconds out of my life and that Dr Wily was merely FRAMING The real Proto Man sets things right, revealing that his imposter is really “Dark Man”, another generic robot tank boss. Thus begins a new challenge, at Dr Wily’s newest Skull Castle Amsterdam Hostel. Mega Man re-thrashes the 8 robot masters, he fights Wily’s giant skull ship, then he fights Wily’s UFO, blah blah blah, we’ve done this all way too many times before.
Mega Man 5 isn’t a terrible game. The jumping, shooting, baseball sliding, blinking action still holds up favorably against other NES platformers. It’s just that far too much of the platforming, jumping, shooting, and so forth happens in a very uninspired setting, and I feel that I couldn’t let this game get away with crimes the same way I wouldn’t let big budget space marine shooters escape my wrath. Unless you’ve somehow dug up an original copy, you’re playing this off of the Mega Man Anniversary Collection anyways. With that being the case, give yourself a Mega rest after finishing the first four games before tackling this fifth game. It’s a solid game, but it’s a Mega Man game that you can function just fine in life without.