After the backlash against Mega Man 4 Capcom went back to the drawing board and released the follow up in the same year. Mega Man 5 was released in December 1992 for all territories except Europe. A bold move, as the 16-bit systems were hitting their stride and most other franchises had moved on. It pretty much focused on executing the core concepts of the Mega Man series well rather than trying to bring something new to the table. In that respect it succeeds but also suffers from playing it a bit too safe.
Protoman has shown up with 8 robot masters in tow and is wreaking havoc across the world. In addition he kidnaps Dr. Light for that added bit of evil. With a heavy heart Mega Man decides to end his brother’s rampage and the game begins. Mega Man 5 continues the trend of trying to introduce new villains to give Dr. Wily a break but in the end we all know who the ultimate mastermind behind the game’s events will be.
Right away the bosses this time around are far more interesting than Mega Man 4. Star Man, Gravity Man, Gyro Man, Stone Man, Crystal Man, Charge Man, Napalm Man, and Wave Man are a damn sight more appealing than friggin Dust Man and Toad Man. Gameplay is identical to all of the other games, meaning you still have the slide, Rush, and the Mega Buster. You lose your built up charge shot when hit this time and the graphic for it has been reworked. It might just be me but in addition to a graphic tweak it seems to charge up faster and is far more powerful. The only addition this time out is Beat. By collecting the chips that spell out the name of the game you will gain the use of Beat who will fight alongside you when summoned. While a nice gesture it’s completely forgettable.
Beat is the only additions this time out. The charged shot is drastically overpowered now.
With more interesting bosses comes attention grabbing levels. It is here where Capcom began to step things up. Wave Man’s stage introduced a vehicle you pilot halfway through to the end. Not a big deal, but a nice touch that would be expanded on tremendously in the X series. There are sections in Gyro Man’s stage that require pinpoint precision jumping to navigate. You contend with gravity switching in, who else, Gravity Man’s stage and Star Man’s stage has you space jumping all over the place.
The boss weapons on the other hand are a bit of a mixed bag. The Charge Kick is almost as useless as the Top Spin from Mega Man 3 and the Crystal Eye functions similarly to the Gemini Beam, meaning its best used head on. The Water Wave only affects enemies on the ground, doesn’t pass through them, and is pretty weak. The Gravity Hold is awesome for saving your ass when the screen is too crowded but causes the enemies to not drop power-ups. The Gyro Attack is like a Metal Blade that you can manipulate after release. Your charged shot actually turns out to be one of your best weapons as it does more damage than most of the boss’s and you can use it infinitely. I remember the Nintendo Power article on the game and couldn’t believe they suggested using your normal weapon in most cases. But having played the game for myself it’s actually a viable strategy.
The bosses are pretty cool but their weapons leave much to be desired. Pray to god you don’t miss with the Crystal Eye and thankfully you’ll only use the Charge Kick for one boss.
On the surface the Mega Man 5 doesn’t seem to be a large step up graphically from 4. However there are numerous little enhancements strewn about. There is much more use of parallax scrolling, and once again the trend of ever larger enemies continues, especially on Wave Man’s stage. Numerous rotating sprites, including Mega Man himself are scattered about and the effect looks pretty cool. By this point the engine was well tested and they continued pushing it forward with this game. There are far more sprites on screen at once and everything is nicely animated. The music this time around was composed by Mari Yamaguchi, a newcomer to the series who would go on to score the Breath of Fire series. Her fresh perspective would prove welcome as the game has a fantastic score.
As you can see the graphics are amazing for an NES game. They knew their engine inside and out by this point.
The only crime Mega Man 5 can really be accused of is not bringing anything new to the table. Whether that is because of a shortage of ideas or just not wanting to offend gamers after 4 we’ll never know. In spite of that the core gameplay is still great. You don’t see many series reach 5 installments, let alone on the same platform which is a testament to the formula Capcom created.