The Return of the Blue Bomber. Again.
The Eurasia space colony has spun out of orbit and is barreling right towards Earth. With a mere 16 hours to go before this Deep Impact will surely spell Armageddon, the only hope for humanity lies not with Bruce Willis or Morgan Freeman, but with Mega Man, his pal Zero, and several nobodies that help them out.
The team has managed to come up with two plans, both involving explosions. Plan A is to equip the weapon Enigma and blow up the colony. Plan B is to hurtle a shuttle into the colony, thereby blowing it up.
Plan C, which I assume is the anti-catastrophic-collision petition, didn't make its way into Mega Man X5, the latest 2D Mega Man X side scroller. Though it takes a few interesting turns, it's still the same old Blue Bomber we've seen a million times before.
The initial eight stages each contain equipment needed to fix up either Enigma or the shuttle. Every stage you choose will take away 1 hour away from your dwindling 16. Therein lie the choices.
For example, instead of recovering parts, you can just send Enigma and the shuttle off on their merry little colony-exploding way. Or instead, you can collect a vital piece of equipment, allowing the Enigma weapon to waste the colony. The choices you make will direct the story towards several principle branches, but you still retread the same levels regardless of how you get there.
As it is, the plot is just clunky and convoluted. Sigma, the chief baddie of the MMX games, has developed a case of the Wily syndrome; he seems to just exist in every iteration as the foil, for the sole purposes of causing trouble and mindlessly carrying out the role of the 'Last Boss'.
What about these other characters? Not only are the names bad, but there are multiple lousy names for each one. The instruction manual and the game list different names for these Boss characters. Burn Dinorex or Mattrex? Shining Hotarunicus or Izzy Glow? Boy, those names really roll off the tongue. It's almost as if they named Sigma, X, and Zero, and then just gave up.
But hey, at least the action is good. If you've played any of other Mega Man X's, you're already on familiar soil. You'll find charge weapons for Mega Man, a shiny green sword for Zero, and plenty of wall grabs and dashes. It's like riding a bike.
Most importantly, Mega Man finally has the ability to duck. It seems so simple, but the duck cuts down on the cheap shots and adds so much to the technique. Hooray!
Before stepping out into the fray, Mega Man can slip into a comfortable suit of armor. The different armors endow Mega Man with extra abilities, like special weapon charging and hovering ability. Right from the get-go, Mega Man has the Force armor. The other two optional armors, Falcon and Gaia, are broken up into pieces and hidden throughout the stages.
Is it still possible to have an original Mega Man special weapon? Apparently not. The new 'Crescent Shot' mirrors the 'Cuts Shot'. The 'Dark Hold' is the exact same as the 'Time Stopper'. Every weapon is just a combination of weapons from previous Mega Mans. And even at their fully charged states, your weapons are never as cool as when the Bosses use them.
That's what makes playing as Zero worthwhile and fun. The weapons he gains from Boss battles are different than Mega Man's, with a greater focus on close range combat. This spells worthwhile replay and experimentation.
At the end of each stage, you can choose to create some custom parts for yourself, with a choice between life and weapon. It isn't as good as it sounds, sort of the equivalent of choosing soup or salad without knowing the specifics. The soup could be clam chowder or minestrone, but the waiter just picks one for you. And you just have to make do.
The 'continue' system is handled very well. The checkpoints allow you to keep trying against a boss until you've finally nailed it. That shifts the flow away from repetitive section completion, and more towards learning patterns and techniques of the bosses.
For the most part you'll find good 2D graphics, just nothing that pushes the envelope. Some areas make use of animated looped backgrounds. While not especially detailed, these backgrounds work well with the whole digital atmosphere. Unfortunately, they dropped the cool FMV-style intermissions between stages in favor of 2D art stand-ups and text. Not a wise choice.
The sound effects are the old familiars. Thankfully, they've eliminated that cheesy voice from X4 that made Mega Man sound like Mega Boy. There's a nifty remix of the original theme that brought back memories. The rest of the music is relatively good, except for that repetitive boss music.
On another note, why does a hefty guy like Sigma laugh like a little school girl? "Hee hee hee." That's called baaad writing.
Honestly, this is a fun game. It's classic Mega Man, a formulaic game that sticks to the same ground rules, but still works. And getting back into the familiar 2D groove just felt really good, especially with the gameplay refinements.
If you've never played a Mega Man game, this would be a great place to jump on and see a solid iteration in this long running series. X5 is perfect for a rental, followed by a long-night gaming binge to finish this puppy.