perjantai 18. tammikuuta 2013

REVIEW - Mega Man V | GB | 1994

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: July 22, 1994
PUBLISHER(S): Capcom, Laguna Video Games

We've reached the end of this chapter in the Mega Man saga, and it has been one rollercoaster ride. At first, I didn't rightly know what to expect of this game. Capcom never doubted their desire to have their third party make it, although the idea of uniting two NES games into one Game Boy title had ran its course, and Mega Man 6 wasn't such great source material for adaptation anyway. That's why they took a surprise turn and had them make a completely original game, the first and last for the Game Boy. With its originality alone, Mega Man V has got a lot going for it. It's not quite the punch in skeptics' faces as the last game, but a good, unique experience for sworn fans to have.

The planets align

Months after seemingly putting an end to Dr. Wily's struggle for world domination once and for all, Mega Man is attacked by Terra, leader of Stardroids, a group of renegade robots from outer space. After being nearly destroyed in the short fight, Mega Man is saved by Dr. Light and fitted with a new arm cannon, the Mega Arm. Accompanied by Rush and his new robot cat Tango, Mega Man takes on the Stardroids and their powerful leader before travelling the solar system to investigate their ultimate cause.

This screen is cool, although
I have to wonder about the
presence of the Mega Buster.
Apart from some interesting twists in the Mega Man X franchise, the story has never been a strong point or an eligible focus point in the Mega Man franchise, but I must admit Mega Man V has got a good plot, and even I wasn't able to see from a mile or two how it was going to turn out in the end. I still wish they'd just had Mega Man shut up, but him talking is the least of your distractions when heading into this game. It's so similar, yet so different - finally, they got rid of the "Man" schtick for a spell and gave the bosses cool names taken from the planets of the solar system, and designed them in accordance to what they represent in Roman mythology. The end result of that design is not perfect, but at least it's diverse. Actually, the Stardroids and their behaviour's much closer to that of the Mavericks in the Mega Man X series than the Robot Masters in any previous title in the Game Boy and NES franchises. They climb walls and ceilings, have some crazy poses and combat schemes. For example, Uranus (lol) keeps changing the structure of the very room you face him in, and pulls bricks off the walls to throw at you. All things happening between level sets and within the final levels is quite surprising. So, lest we pick apart the whole game in this one paragraph, the bottom line is that while every other series within the Mega Man franchise got worse towards the end, the Game Boy series actually got better; again, Mega Man V isn't quite as good as Mega Man IV, but it's not a huge drop and it's definitely memorable due to the final huge problem harvested, which was the lack of originality.

Bubbles, this game's version
of the springs in Mega Man 6.
Mega Man V is actually the first game to have Super Game Boy enhancements I've ever seen in motion. If recollection of history's evading you right now, the Super Game Boy was actually a SNES cartridge/adaptor instead of a successor to the Game Boy, which you could use to play most of Game Boy's library on the SNES. It was kind of a silly idea, but due to its fair price it sold quite well and encouraged game developers to really work on Game Boy games, I guess, because now people could play them on their TV's, using SNES controllers, which means they demanded more of them. What was the coolest thing about the Super Game Boy in the eye of the child was that the games were in colours - a whole damn total of 12 in-game colours. Seriously, the Super Game Boy games didn't look that good, and the border graphics (which supported 64 colours) made them look even crappier. I guess they were supposed to create some sort of arcade feel, I don't know - either way, today the same sort of border graphics are used in most ports of Konami's arcade classics available on Xbox LIVE Arcade.

OK, I'm playing on an emulator so I don't have to worry about the borders, they've been snuffed out from this particular version of the file, and I guess it's cool to have the game in at least something else than the usual black and white. But, it still doesn't look good, never did - then again, if we think of the game not as a Super Game Boy game, but rather any Game Boy game, it looks quite damn good. The design is good all around, the cinematics and animation are quite impressive on the scale, and although the lag STILL persists, the game looks and feels the most fluid out of all the titles on the Game Boy. Pissing on the atmosphere a little is the soundtrack, which goes from one extreme to another, mostly digging the bottom. The music is not very good. It's all new stuff, of course, which is a plus, but either it's just OK, or just bottom deep crap - and it just so happens that the latter kind seems to play in all the longest levels. It sounds like leftover stuff from a really bad Disney game or a casino simulator.

Although music is an important part of the Mega Man experience, jumbling it up isn't reason enough for me to start deep-criticizing the game. That's where the influence of Mega Man 6 comes into the picture. Once again, if your memory's not on the mark or if you just haven't followed me that long, I hated Mega Man 6. Not only did it suffer from the obvious - repetition - it had the goofiest enemy design ever seen in the series. EVER. It also had the stupidest and most badly disguised plot ever, and to top all the cracks on the surface off, it had terrible ideas in store for the "benefit" and "fresh feel" of the gameplay. "Optional" upgrades to your basic weaponry which you actually couldn't do without, and at the same time the elimination of Rush, and terrains filled with springs or other materials/elements to make Mega Man jump around like a bunny on dope. Like I said back then, despite the similarities, Mega Man was never DuckTales - adding physical elements like this in a Mega Man game was not a good idea. And it still isn't.

Your new weapon, the Mega Arm, is quite neat - Mega Man's still wearing the Mega Buster in the weapon gain screens, though... - it's your arm, and it comes off. Duh. It's also upgradeable by two different upgrades, which seem perfectly optional. Yet, if you want to survive, they're far from optional, and they cost a lot of P-Chips. The most essential upgrade is the Magnet Hand, which can be used to pick up items inside walls or otherwise out of your reach. At first, there seems to be no use for it. You do the natural thing and spend your P-Chips on Energy Tanks and other Tanks between levels. Then, the game suddenly slaps you across the face with a huge dick and produces about 37 instances of "fuck yous" within one single level, level after level. Energy Tanks, extra lives, crystals (I'll tell you about 'em soon)... don't have the Magnet Hand? Well, fuck you! Have a nice day! In all seriousness, the Magnet Hand is not that expensive, but after you realize how much use you'd have for it, it'll take a while to gather the necessary sum of P-Chips, and during that while, you're going to see a lot of essential stuff just pass you by. Besides, in the final levels you don't have much direct use for it, anyway, as much as you'll have for the other, more expensive upgrade.

How many times must we
go over this? MEGA... MAN.
That's it for the upgrades and their unfair importance, but the most annoying thing about this game is that Rush is once again absent for the longest time - the excuse being that Light needs to prepare him for space travel. He's done that in every fucking game in this particular series thus far - I don't know how much more preparation he needs. Instead, you get a cat that has absolutely no use at all in my opinion. Once again, of course partly depending of the order you do the levels in, you might bump into essential items that are reachable only by using the Rush Coil. Just to gain this very vintage and basic tool to your arsenal takes time - a lot of it. Rush Jet is once again the only other obtainable upgrade, but before the final levels, Dr. Light PREPARES RUSH FOR SPACE TRAVEL - God fucking damn it!!! - and you can then use a spaceship version of Rush in a surprising and fairly entertaining, but somewhat hollow and linear space shooter level.

Also, Mega Man 6 had very faceless bosses (remember Yamato Man?!), only a few of which had an obvious theme. Here, they have bosses who have obvious themes; Neptune's level has many water-related hazards, of course, and Mars' level is like a crazy army depot with all kinds of heavy artillery set on destroying Mega Man. But, it doesn't carry all the way through. Waterfalls, for just one example, end up disrupting your progress in a lot of different levels, which renders Neptune's level less unique. Also, some of the bosses don't seem to have any sort of themes to their levels at all, although they could've come up with all sorts of neat level designs for 'em, if they'd worked on the game just a while longer. They ended up just repeating things in different order and fashion, even before the final levels in which that's expected.

I guess Rush is FINALLY
prepared for space travel.
This time, I don't want to break the game's structure down in detail. It's different than ever before, and there are two different boss survivals, one obvious one and one less obvious one, nothing really high-end difficult though. Replacing the Wily letters which enabled you to advance in the last game - and which were therefore absolutely mandatory to obtain - are four crystals, of different shapes, scattered across the latter Stardroid levels (yeah, its 4 and 4, of course it is). The crystals are truly completely optional game - I managed fine without them. I couldn't get them since I didn't have the Magnet Hand, and I didn't have the time or the interest to replay the levels just because of them. Surprisingly, I didn't have to. When combined, the four crystals cut your weapon energy consumption in half, nothing else. It's useful, of course, but not essential to anyone who doesn't use the extra weapons all of the time.

"W"? Could it be? Well, of
course it could. And it is. But
it's not as obvious as usual.
When it comes to difficulty, Mega Man V gracefully takes us down the same middle road as Mega Man IV did - apart from the upgrades, Dr. Light's Lab has pretty much the same variety of stuff on sale, and the most difficult spots are the levels themselves, especially since there are so many variables of a small, annoying flying bastard. It's funny how the smallest ones are usually the worst. The bosses really aren't difficult once you figure out the right path - be warned that some bosses are simply impossible to kill without the luck of having the right weapon - and in contrast to the last game, the final multi-phase fight is extremely easy, uncomfortably easy... then you realize it's not the final one. You're facing off with one more enemy after all you've been through in the final levels, who's just about as frustrating as Zero in Mega Man X2, the main difference being that you fight this guy AFTER the supposed "final boss" and there's probably a checkpoint (thank the Lord I had Energy Tanks so I avoided checking this), while you fought Zero just before the final boss and if you happened to die in the final boss, you had to fight him again. Unless you got all the Zero parts, of course. Luckily the upgrades and all that ain't quite THAT essential in this game. They're just annoying not to have.

Mega Man V is a good game, and definitely one Mega Man fans should seek out for the sake of novelty. It slaps the player around a little for the sake of mischief, in addition to already being difficult in the traditional Mega Man style, and I don't like that. It also draws influence from the wrong place and it sounds horrible most of the time, but... it's good.

+ Another all-around fresh take on a classic formula, and a totally original Game Boy exclusive
+ The plot, as irrelevant as it is
+ Surprising intermissions such as a space shooter level
+ The bosses all have different behaviour like in Mega Man X
+ In terms of artificial design, the bosses are a refreshing turn away from the "Man" gimmick...

- ...However, as strong as some of their themes are, there are a few unmemorable and less unique levels, like investment in them suddenly stopped halfway through development
- The music is awful
- Physical elements like the "nightmare springs" in Mega Man 6 are reprised, and they still simply SUCK... luckily there's only one level with anything of the sort
- The "optional" upgrades, or rather lack thereof, is shoved in your face
- Rush takes the longest time to appear, 'til that you'll have to deal with the useless Tango
- Mega Man is still the one protagonist I prefer silent
- The lag still rears a few times despite otherwise fluid gameplay

< 8.1 >

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