Mega Man 5 feels... alive!!
In defense of the oft-maligned Mega-fourquel
Can we all please just agree that Mega Man 5 is the second-best Mega Man in the "Classic" series? Because I contend - vociferously - that it is. And for some reason - some bizarre, baffling reason - it seems to be relatively maligned among the others. I feel as though this travesty needs investigating and my premise justified, which merits one of my classic Retronauts "blogs", to wit; this is one. You are reading one right now.
There's a story in Mega Man 5 and it's pretty bloody gripping to say the least. See, Mega Man's brother Proto Man (revealed as such two games ago, try to keep up) seems to have gone bad, setting a group of eight Robot Masters on the general populace while taking shelter in a massive castle shaped like his visor. The ego on this lad! Anyway, it is of course up to Dr. Light's favourite son, Mega Man, to take down the fearsome octet, storm the gates of Proto Man's deeply conspicuous lair, and force his errant brother to pack it in or he'll get no supper.
This takes the form of the now-familiar eight stages, pick one, beat the boss, hope their weapon is the weakness of the next boss gameplay. But it's a surprisingly polished take on the whole business. See, it's my personal view (so you're not allowed to disagree with me in the comments) that Mega Man 5 is the best overall NES Mega Man title in terms of design. The observant among you may have clocked that I recently described it as the second-best, and may well be thinking "Hey, what gives!? This Gipp fellow must take me for some sort of rube!" Permit me to explain.
Like many others, I think the best NES Mega Man title is the amazing Mega Man 2; I consider it the pinnacle in terms of being breezily fun to play, looking great and offering a decent little challenge. It's also a huge step up from the original Mega Man, is a game I played as a kid, has awesome tunes and is generally beloved by the community. For these reasons, among others, I consider it the "best" one. That said, it's impossible not to acknowledge that Mega Man 2 is a little... flawed. The Boobeam Trap is the first thing that springs to mind, I find the "Item" (1, 2 and 3) distribution a little bit off-balance, and the interstitial screens are longer than a full episode of The Orville. Indeed, I think each of the other Mega Man games has a problem that lets it down, but Mega Man 2's are a) not exactly egregious and b) forgivable in what's obviously still an important, formative video game.
Mega Man 3 I find bloated, unwieldy and technically a bit of a mess. Mega Man 4 is plagued by a bizarre issue with the Robot Master health bars taking six hours apiece to fill with energy before each battle. Mega Man 6 has you unable to jump out of a slide, which is instant grounds for permanent dismissal. Are these relatively minor issues? Of course, but the point is Mega Man 5 doesn't have these problems. The worst thing I can say about it is that the Dark Man boss battles in Proto Man's fortress are a tiny bit crap, but they're over so quickly that it's difficult to think about them as any kind of significant issue. That's why I call it the best, even though it's not my favourite.
The levels are well-designed throughout, with an excellent variety of foes (including multiple different types of Metool, the wonderful little hard-hat guys). The boss battles are cool, with their attacks either something fairly unique (Gyro Man's disappearing into the clouds, the entire premise of Gravity Man) or a new spin on a classic attack pattern (Star Man's aerial shield launches, in an arena with low gravity). The hidden "MEGAMANV" letters to unlock Beat are fun to find and the reward is worth the time spent. The music is superb, with one of my favourite tracks in the series. And it looks beautiful throughout, a step-up even from the very-good-looking Mega Man 4.
I don't know, Nauties. I just play Mega Man 5 and I find myself thinking that it's the best one! What do you think? Do you agree? Am I an insane person who should go to jail? Sound off below! Unless you think I am wrong, in which case keep it to yourself.