Retro Review: Mega Man 5 (NES)

By the time Mega Man 5 was released, the NES was getting old and so was the Mega Man series. The game has a lot of the same issues as Mega Man 4, though it was designed a bit better to compensate. In many ways, this is just an improved version of that game. This is also one of the easier entries in the series, resulting in a fun but ultimately forgettable game.

One thing I’ve always loved about Mega Man 5 is its boss design. There are some stinkers in here, but bosses like Gyro Man and Crystal Man just look very cool to me. The stage design was likewise cool, but not nearly as memorable as in some of the earlier games. There are some memorably obnoxious parts, like the falling crystals in Crystal Man’s stage that will inevitably kill you the first time you see them, but nothing so frustrating that you’d want to stop playing. The game is ludicrously generous with 1UPs and Energy Tanks as well, just in case you run into problems.

The weapons in Mega Man 5 are well-designed but once again pale in comparison to the Mega Buster in most situations. I appreciate how they conceptually improved the short-range dropping weapon with the Napalm Bomb, and the generally-useless non-shot weapon with the Charge Kick. It’s like instead of trying to make cool new weapons, they fixed a lot of boring old ones. That kind of seems like a theme for the game, in fact. Although that doesn’t explain the stupidly hard-to-aim Power Stone.

There are two things that stand out in Mega Man 5 as perhaps a bridge too far. First are Mega Tanks, which are not only hilariously overpowered, but appear repeatedly to make sure you always have one. (It’s easy to not notice since they don’t appear if you already have one, but if you make use of them frequently you’ll note they’re never far away, even in the final stages). Second is Beat, who at the very least is a legitimate challenge to earn. Each stage hides a letter, mostly in locations where you have one brief chance to get them and need to restart to try again, and collecting all 8 unlocks Beat. Beat just flies around killing everything, which is fine, but he also happens to be the weapon of choice against the otherwise quite challenging final boss. I mean, come on!

If you’re not put off by easy Mega Man games, Mega Man 5 is actually quite fun. I never get tired of Gravity Man’s stage and its gravity-reversing mechanic, and the game is a graphical treat by NES standards. It’s worth playing, though I wouldn’t recommend picking up a physical copy as they can get quite expensive. Fortunately, there are collections available on every modern platform (and some older ones, too!).

Review Score: B−

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