Mega Man 5 Review

I have to admit that I was less than enamoured with Mega Man 4’s choice of villain. I mean, Dr. Cossack? He’s just some stereotypical Russian dude with glasses. Not even as cool as Wily, in most respects, so why use him?

That’s why I was much happier to see Mega Man 5, which ended up focusing its energies on a different villain, one altogether more familiar to series fans: Proto Man. Yes, the older brother of Mega Man and prototype to all the crazy Robot Masters out there has gone berserk and kidnapped Dr. Light, and Mega Man needs to set out and save his PhD daddy. Cossack serves as Mega Man’s support while he looks for Dr. Light, but really, how much do these lab coat stooges actually help in the field?

Well, a little, actually. We’ll get into that in a bit.

Mega Man 5 is yet another installment of the Mega Man series that utilizes essentially the same game play as its predecessors. As Mega Man you’re tasked with zipping through a series of themed levels, each roughly based around the Robot Master at the end, full of mechanical dangers and the usual gaping abysses.

That said I found Mega Man 5 to be a little more varied and interesting than some of its predecessors, particularly Mega Man 4. The environments show a bit more evidence of innovation: Gravity Man’s is probably the best stage, as you’ll find gravity flipping around and planting you upside-down, whether you want to be or not. There are some other neat twists, as well, and the level design just plain seems to be better than Mega Man 4.

And so do the bosses. Mega Man games are popular based not just on the design of the levels but on the Robot Masters populating the end of those levels. Mega Man 5 does quite nicely in that regard, with a nice selection of cool looking bosses to fight. It’s difficult to deny the overt coolness of Napalm Man, who is essentially a walking nuclear arsenal. The only boss I was ever a bit skeptical about was Charge Man – he kinda looks like a Transformer, to be honest – but at least he has something of a new gimmick going for him.

And, again, Mega Man 5 has the two final castles instead of one, extending the game play by a few levels. I must admit that I was quite disappointed by the bosses in the first castle, however: every one of them is a variation on an enemy called Dark Man, who just doesn’t look that interesting in sprite form (and isn’t terribly difficult to beat, to boot). The second castle goes back to normal, but by then the damage is already done.

Unfortunately Mega Man 5 doesn’t bring much other new material to the table. Mega Man’s controls remain exactly the same as in 4, though at least he has a new ally: Beat, the mechanical bird. Built by Cossack, Beat will zip at enemies and, well, beat them into submission. It’s not a major addition, and Beat’s sprite looks kinda weird, but it’s something new to look at.

Mega Man 5 was the blue bomber’s last great hurrah on the NES. Mega Man 6 was OK, but it was the definite slipping point into overall repetition. 5 provides enough fun and cool stuff to look at to be bearable, and though it’s a little easy (when I first got it as a kid I beat in in a few hours, to the chagrin of my parents who had just spent fifty bucks on it) you’ll still find yourself having the same fun as always.