By Former Contributor Nathan Stiles / May 29th, 2014
|Title||Mega Man X5|
|Release Date||JP November 30, 2000
NA January 31, 2001
EU August 3, 2001
|Platform||PS, PS2, PC|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Everyone|
Since I started with the first game in the Mega Man X series, I’m ending with the last. Well, sort of. Mega Man X5 was indeed supposed to be the last in the series timeline according to Keiji Inafune, but Capcom didn’t want to let their cash cow go free without first milking it dry. This has led to a divide in the Mega Man X community, with half the fans not acknowledging any title after this one as being canon, while the others obviously disagree. Whether or not you consider this the final title in the timeline isn’t nearly as important as whether or not the game holds up on its own merits, and that’s what I’m here to discuss: Is Mega Man X5 a fitting end to the series?
If this were the series’ ending as far as the story is concerned, I couldn’t think of a more exciting conclusion. Both X and Zero have to team up once more to defeat all of the members of the rock band Guns N’ Roses before they are able to take over the world! That’s right, you will be facing off against the legendary Grizzly Slash, Duff McWhalen and Axle the Red. Okay, joking aside there actually is a bit of an interesting history in this game regarding the English translation of the mavericks’ names in this title. The translator for the game was married to a Guns N’ Roses fan, and, well, history was made. I’ve pointed out before that I don’t really find the story important in these titles, but for those that are curious, there is a Virus that is taking over robots and making them turn evil. This same virus also takes over a space station and causes it to fall towards Earth, and it’s your job as X and/or Zero to stop it before time runs out. Without spoiling anything more than that, the game’s ending would have made for a conclusive and a well-implemented series wrap up.
The game’s graphic and sound design are fairly decent overall, but there hasn’t been very much change throughout the series from Mega Man X to Mega Man X5. The graphics are still detailed 2D sprites and the levels are colorful, though they tend to lack the charm of earlier entries. The music and sound design leave me with the same feeling. It’s all passable, and feels like Mega Man, but it’s all kind of forgettable. It’s not a bad soundtrack — it just doesn’t stick with you once the game is off. This game is heavier on storytelling than some previous entries, and has quite a bit of dialogue for a platformer. The story is primarily told through text, all scrolling over well-drawn, but non-animated art slides. One thing about all this dialogue that annoyed me, however, was the text crawl sound effect. I know it seems like a nitpick, but it got really annoying to hear after a while, especially when you are constantly interrupted throughout each level for another character to tell you some useless bit of information such as, “Lava is hot!” These constant in-level interruptions are very detrimental to the pacing of the game, and, though they only last about 30 seconds, that adds up when the game can easily be beaten in under an hour.
If you are a fan of Mega Man, you should know by now that the gameplay doesn’t vary much between titles, and most of the changes that make each game stand out are in the subtle details. This title is no exception. You still face off against eight bosses each with their own weapon weakness. There are still a bunch of small secrets and upgrades to discover hidden about each stage, and you still may die a lot until you memorize all of the games patterns. Speaking of dying, this game has some highly frustrating level design at times, with poor enemy placement that can easily get you killed. The game seems to try and compensate for this by making it probably the easiest in the entire series for getting more lives and filling up your energy tanks. While the level design suffered in comparison to some of its more finely-crafted predecessors, I still found it was fun more often than not, and only got really frustrating towards the end of the game.
This game’s unique quirks come out when you look at the way story progression is handled. Because of the falling space station, you are limited to a certain number of in-game ‘hours’ until collision. Each time you enter a level, you lose an hour, so you only have so many attempts at each stage before you are out of luck and the plot progresses anyway. This in itself is interesting for the series, but add in the fact that, depending on your actions and a great deal of luck, thanks to the random number generator within the game’s code, you can actually stop the collision and alter the game’s story because of it. This setup means that multiple playthroughs could potentially give you different outcomes, which I suppose could be interesting, but it’s mostly a luck-based affair unless you lose on purpose to get the results you want. In addition to this, the game contains a pretty poorly-explained and implemented upgrade system where, if you beat a level fast enough and get a high ranking, you will be rewarded with equippable bonuses down the line. The only problem is, when selecting your potential bonus, you have no way of knowing what it will do or even what character it will be used for, which defeats the purpose entirely. Luckily, however, none of these make too much of a difference if you just play through the title like you would any other Mega Man game.
Now for the more positive aspects of the gameplay. This title lets you play as either X or Zero, and their combat styles are actually quite different. Both characters get completely different movesets, with X focusing on range and Zero focusing on close quarters. This not only gives you two very unique experiences and stories, but it also provides a more difficult gameplay mode for those who want to make the game more of a challenge. There are two new shared abilities for these characters, the first being the ability to duck, which becomes a very important thing to remember when dealing with the game’s numerous hazards. The other ability comes into play far less often and takes the form of a kind of hook you use to hang onto very specific bars hanging through stages that are generally hanging over bottomless pits. Honestly, the ducking was far more interesting of an addition than the hooks, but at least they were putting in some innovation.
While I don’t find Mega Man X5 to be a particularly noteworthy entry in the series, I do still think it’s a fun title. It does a decent job of offering replay value, which is good since a playthrough will only take you a little over an hour once you know what you are doing. If you do want to try this game out for yourself, it shouldn’t be hard to find and only costs about five dollars, so, if you are interested in playing this flawed, but still entertaining title, you have very little to lose.
Review Copy Supplied by Author