Rock, man

Huh, that accidental Mega Man 9 article turned out to be way more popular than I expected. I was hoping I’d be able to stress-test the site’s new private hosting service, but I didn’t expect an all-time one-day traffic record so soon. And so far as I can tell, the site only broke down once, and then just for a few seconds. So that’s good! It looks like this mad sucscription/hosting thing is going to work out after all.

I can’t complain that this particular article was the one to catch the Internet’s fickle attention, either. It’s a piece that honestly represents several years’ worth of observations and thinking, and I spent about a week formulating it in my head before spending a good chunk of yesterday putting into actual words. Of course, even then it didn’t quite turn out like I had intended, but I think the ultimate point comes across regardless: Games, as a medium, can employ a full range of styles and technology, and as the medium matures I think (or at least hope) we’ll see developers making deliberate decisions to anchor their creations at all different points on the technological spectrum — not just at the “bleeding edge” end.

Well, the ultimate point mostly comes across. This being the Internet, I did notice a bit of the usual myopia, with people either willfully striking out to disagree or simply getting hung up on utterly incidental comments which had no bearing whatsoever on the main thesis. Much to my surprise, it turns out that some parts of the Internet really like Mega Man 5! I mean, really really like it, as in the collective reaction at every site where the article was linked to my offhand remark that MM5 was soulless and phoned-in was about he same as if I had just stabbed everyone’s mother in the eyes. The fact that I didn’t write the site’s MM5 review myself notwithstanding, this heartfelt love for what I’ve always considered the low ebb of the NES Mega Man games caught me rather off-guard; and while I’ve long since learned to roll my eyes at the feral fury of the Internet’s collective temper-tantrums about games, I’ve seen enough genuinely sorrowful responses to our cumulative MM5 criticism that I feel compelled to reconsider my opinion.

Bear in mind, though, that I have quite a history with MM5. Specifically, it is the game that made me get rid of my NES. Let’s recount history, here: I saw Mega Man 2‘s glory previewed in two Nintendo Power screenshots and promptly went and mowed a bunch of lawns so I could buy the last copy of the original Mega Man at our local Waldensoft, along with MM2 when it arrived a few months later. They were fabulous and I loved them. Mega Man 3 arrived the following year at Christmas, and Mega Man 4 the Christmas after. (They were excellent and pretty good, respectively.) But I merely rented Mega Man 5, because it didn’t look to offer anything particular new…a suspicion which was borne out through hands-on gameplay. I realized with much sadness that the heyday of the NES was long past, and that innovation and fun had hitched their wagon to the Super NES’s Mode 7-capable trailer post. And so I bade farewell to my NES…well, sort of. I retired it to the closet and only pulled it out again to be broken down to use in a college art project. (That’s right: I was doing cool, artsy things with video game stuff back in 1995. Screw you, Internet, you Etsy-using, late-blooming bunch of wannabes.)

Still, maybe I was wrong. Maybe there’s this nugget of amazing brilliance hidden in some part of MM5 that I simply overlooked in 1991, and again in 1999 when I imported and played through the Rockman Complete Works PS1 reissues, and again a couple of years ago when I reviewed Mega Man Anniversary Collection for GameCube and PS2. You never know! I’m never afraid to admit I was wrong.

But… I kinda doubt I am.

23 thoughts on “Rock, man

  1. Actually, that last screenshot there reminded me that Gravity Man’s stage is pretty awesome, even if the rest of the game offers nothing new at all.

  2. Actually, that last screenshot there reminded me of the time my friend and I busted out a Game Genie code to get Infinite Weapon and spammed the hell out of the Gravity Gun. There’s something so stupidly delightful about watching nearly all the enemies (and some of the bosses) simply flip upside and fly away that it didn’t get old after an hour and the game beaten.

  3. I’m not ashamed to admit I was a huge fan of Mega Man 5 in the day. I haven’t played it recently enough to really realize if that was justified or not. I do remember a lot of it had to do with the fact that 1. It centered around Protoman, my favorite character and 2. I could actually beat it, unlike any of the other games. That may say something about it’s quality, I admit, but when you’re an impressionable child from back then, accomplishment has a lot of meaning, good and challenging game design be damned.

  4. Mega Man 4 was a little more brutal than I’d have liked, so 5 was a nice return to just plain fun for me. I rather thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Being accompanied by a Nintendo Power triple-feature with nice art (far better than what they put together for 4) didn’t hurt, either.

    –LBD “Nytetrayn”

  5. Without a doubt, the holy trinity is MM2, 3, and 4. Keeping that in mind, I played through MM5 again recently for the umpteenth time and I just don’t have the same amount of disdain. It’s a fairly solid game.

    But I understand the sentiment. Mega Man 6… . Talk about phoning it in.

  6. From where I sat it seemed like the phenomenon which usually goes down like this:

    1. someone says: Game X is terrible
    2. someone else thinks: well it wasn’t so bad
    3. then: maybe it was sorta good
    4. followed by: actually pretty good really, how could they call it bad?
    5. finishing at: they called it bad? morons, it’s the best game ever

    I think somewhere in the last eight years Legend of Dragoon went through this process, and I’m baffled as to why. Recently it happened to Kid Icarus too.

    After writing I realise all that what I meant was reverse backlash. Forwardlash?

  7. Mega Man 5 is kind of special to me because it was the first Mega Man game I owned, although I’d had experience with Mega Man previously. It was the one that made me try like hell to beat the bosses, and it made me subsequently go out and get all the other Mega Man games.

    Of course, being in the here and now, I would have to say that Mega Man 2 and 3 are probably my favorites, even if they didn’t make as big of an impact on me when I was a kid as Mega Man 5 did. Probably the main flaw I see in 5 is that it tends to coddle you with its features and design, and I can really think of only a couple small parts that are really challenging. Mega Man 5 is a good Mega Man game to replay when you don’t even want to think about what you’re doing.

  8. I think that MM5 is one of the best of the original series. MM1 laid the groundwork for the series, but in retrospect, is lacking (when compared to the others). MM2 and MM3 are great, no argument there. I found MM4 to be too steep in difficulty. MM5 and MM6 added some cool features, but between the two of them, I would have to say MM5 is the better (MM6’s boss designs sort of seemed to jump the shark for me). So yeah, after MM2 and 3, I’d say 5 is the next best.

  9. For me, these screenshots say that MM5 has a handful of neat touches that don’t aggregate to much of anything. But I am willing to reconsider, especially given the more rational defenses of the game on display here.

  10. I mainly recall liking Mega Man 5 a WHOLE LOT for one reason:

    The music was way, way, better than Mega Man 4’s. Despite the whole gimmicky train level thing, Charge Man’s was probably the best. Gravity man’s was a close second. And actually, all of the music in this game just seemed to sync a whole lot better with the increased background graphics. Versus maybe Mega Man 2 or 3, where all of the pieces were great on their own, but Capcom hadn’t had as much practice tying them to every flashy and/or rotating thing in a level. And once again, the less said about Mega Man 4’s music, which seemed to have been composed entirely independently of the game, the better.

  11. MM5 does seem to be coming form the, “What, you love Mega Man? Well here’s some more for you, then!” angle. I liked it as a kid, but as a kid I gobbled up anything Mega Man, so…yeah. Still, solid little game, even if it doesn’t do anything particularly new. (And I, too, would like to say that Gravity Man’s stage is always a blast to play. It’s like the predecessor to the second Bowser stage in Mario Galaxy.)

  12. I don’t think another replay is going to blow your mind, but I’m still not sure how it’s really any worse than its brethren. It’s a workmanlike but solid entry in a series that has sunk so, so, so much lower. As the reviews on your site would attest, though, by the time MM5 came out, the Game Boy games had become the standard-bearers.

  13. Wow, Parish. I just got around to reading the Mega Man article, and it’s honestly one of the best things I’ve read in a while. Thanks for that. Perfect.

  14. I’ve always felt MM5 was Capcom’s attempt at another mega man III. There was innovation to be had (wave man’s bubble segments, jet-ski shooting segment, gravity man’s level, etc) but if you played the previous four games, you were most likely burnt out on the formula, and hey, who can top mega man II.

    But if part five was your first foray into the series, it offered great gameplay, level design and music. The series has always been systematic, but relies a lot on balance. I feel part six and to an extent four, lacked the balance that the rest of the NES games had.

    Great piece by the way.

  15. Like I’ve said before, MM5 is my favorite in the original series after MM2. The levels were wonderful, the music was great (Napalmman!), and the boss designs are still my favorite in the series to this day (Chargeman notwithstanding). It’s pretty much the antidote to everything that was lacking in MM4.
    Of course, then came MM6…

    No wonder MM5 gets a bum rap so often. It’s a cut of prime roast beef stuck between two moldy pieces of bread.

  16. While I think MM5 can stand alongside 4 and 6, it falls short when compared to 1-3 for same reason that all the MM games after 3 have failed: the charged megabuster.

    I’ve said this before, but introducing the charged megabuster broke MegaMan. The ealier games had a faster pace and were simply more exciting. Once charged shots were introduced, the natural result was a re-balancing of the game. To account for your more powerful attacks, enemies were simply given more health so that they took more shots to kill, and thus the pacing became more sluggish than in previous games.

    MM1-3’s quick pacing feels worlds better than the slower pacing in later games, and unfortunately this will probably still hold true for MM9, as I highly doubt the developers would take the *true* risk of going back to the non-charged megabuster. It’s a shame that so few realize this profound truth…

  17. Don –

    Definitely agree about the megabuster messing a bit too much with the core mechanics. The slide was, well, superfluous for one thing, but not really intrusive to the main design – but the charge shot messed with the balance.

    You make a good point – and the six NES games could really been seen as two distinct “trilogies” in this respect.

    Of course we can’t know for certain yet, but Inafune has said in an interview that he wants 9 to be out of the design mold of the second game – that includes leaving out the megabuster. The writeup over at Games Radar can confirm that the charge shot has been omitted, at least thus far.

    Who knows, they could get this one *really* right.

  18. JHay –

    Wow, if that’s the case, I’m feeling newfound enthusiam for MM9. I hope my dreams don’t get mercilessly crushed now :)

  19. I love the slide – it adds just enough extra agility to Mega Man’s moveset, but it’s always kind of a gamble to use it, so it’s not just a blind advantage.

    The Mega Buster would have worked better as an unlockable item. It’s great for boss rushes where you’re feeling hardcore and want to go without the special weapons.

  20. Mega Man may be one of -the- classic console gaming franchises but it doesn’t have that much in the way of super-famous universally-revered touchstone games (except for MM2 and maybe MMX1). Instead of single titles that stand out it’s gone for having a consistent presence in various forms post-NES era – always hanging around but never achieving significant acclaim. But now the series has done something incredibly distinctive. I think there’s the possibility that we could look back in a few years and say Mega Man 9 was one of the best things the series ever did because it blazed a trail for a potentially awesome new market/school of design (new games on established classic hardware).

    As for the MM5 defenders, this amuses me because I associate this behaviour with the X series fans rather than the Classic. With Classic I see a near-unanimous fan consensus on the best games (1 is too hard, series peaks with 2 and 3, degenerates after 4 through repetition) but with the X fans their opinions on the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ of the series can be anything with the only absolute rules being X1 is above reproach (but not necessarily the best) and X7 is a travesty.

  21. If anything, at least Mega Man 5’s engine was used in the wonderful Darkwing Duck.

  22. I honestly don’t remember enough about five, aside from the fact that four and five were letdowns for me. Six was pretty nasty though.

  23. Mega Man 4 and 5 had one section each where you could die instantly by moving between screens onto a layer of spikes. I’m not exactly gung ho over MM2, but at least it seems better crafted than that.

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