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1995-2001
GamesFirst! Magazine

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by Capcom

15_med-01.jpg (4593 bytes)The whole 3-D revolution never really swept me along; the 2-D games always proved more entertaining. 2-D sprites have come a long way since Pong. In fact, Capcom’s Street Fighter variants look like an interactive anime with fluid, colorful characters and vivid backgrounds, not to mention the lightening fast action. To get to my point, Capcom’s newest edition to its oldest franchise, Mega Man X5, is a disappointment. It’s one of the most complex games I’ve ever played on the PlayStation with intense gameplay and lots of action. Unfortunately, the graphics are blurry and very dated, lacking the crispness of Capcom vs. SNK and the sound has the quality of an 8-bit system.

22_med-01.jpg (4122 bytes)Mega Man X5 was my first serious foray into the world of Mega Man. This is the 20th game of the franchise that has graced six consoles. Five games have been made on the PlayStation so far. The Mega Man legacy is spread over three different series: the "original" Mega Man, Mega Man X, and Mega Man Legends. This current incarnation takes place in the Mega man X series. To summarize the expansive story line, a certain Dr. Cain discovers X, a robot put into cold storage a long time ago by the venerable Dr. Light (creator of the "original" Mega Man). X, who looks coincidentally like Mega Man, has no memory of his past but is capable of emotion and independent-thought. Dr. Cain starts making robots by the baker’s dozen and, needless to say, a bunch of the robots go bad. Dr. Cain then creates the Maverick Hunters to track down and destroy these rogue robots. Throughout the Mega Man X games, X fights alongside Zero, the sword-wielding leader of the Maverick Hunters. In Mega Man X5, the world’s newest threat is the Sigma Virus, which can infect machines and turn them into "Mavericks", rogue robots. The virus has infected a space colony and is causing it to head into the Earth. The Maverick Hunters have two choices: go and collect parts to assemble a giant laser to blow up the threat or go and collect parts to repair a space shuttle to send to the space colony. Either way, you’ll have to fight four out of eight bosses to discharge either weapon.

24_med-01.jpg (3373 bytes)Mega Man X5 is simple in concept. With only four buttons to worry about, anybody can master the controls. There’s the standard "fire" and "jump" button along with a button to dash and fire special weapons. X and Zero can run, jump, and, yes, even crouch, all of which are skills you will be using.

28_med-01.jpg (4400 bytes)I might as well get the negative stuff out of the way: Mega Man X5 disappoints me with its graphics. Capcom was obviously going for an old school feel, but they’ve done a lot of innovative things with other 2-D franchises that should’ve been applied to X5. And, while some cool effects are used sparingly (like the weapon effects), X5 looks very much like its Super Nintendo predecessors. Granted, any Capcom fan will tell you that the PlayStation isn’t the greatest 2-D machine, but the blurry sprites offered on X5 were clearly Capcom’s intentions and it was a bad decision. There was another Capcom game that was released only in Japan called Rockman and Forte (Rockman is Mega Man’s Japanese alias). It was designed for the Super Nintendo, but the graphics and animation were absolutely beautiful. The sprites moved with such fluidity and beauty that I simply can’t understand why such a style couldn’t be implemented to the PlayStation. It’s Capcom’s prerogative, but they should realize Mega Man badly needs an update.

29_med-01.jpg (4389 bytes)The style of cut-scenes used is really annoying. A series of still pictures and monochrome text that can’t be fast-forwarded through is unnecessary. Really, it’s not the style that gets to me, but the fact that I have to muddle through it at the snail’s pace the game provides. An animated cut-scene would have been a much better choice.

30_med-01.jpg (4183 bytes)The last bad detail I’ve found is their choice in music. Capcom’s never been known for it’s game scores (the Resident Evil franchise exempted), so I wasn’t expecting much, but when I have to mute the TV just so I can finish the game, I figure the sound is worth a mention. Once again, Capcom thinks old is better and sticks with the annoying boops and beeps of classic Nintendo-rock. Sure, the bass line might thump a little more (thanks to the PlayStation’s sound chip) but it’s still dated. Once again, this is a programmer’s decision and a bad one at that. The sound effects are average. This is a 2-D action game, so laser-type devices are everywhere, along with their signature "pssshuu" sound. Zero makes cool light-saber noises when he attacks, but nothing special really stands out.

33_med-01.jpg (3483 bytes)Enough whining and moaning: it’s all about the gameplay, right? Mega Man X5 delivers fast, button-mashin’ action that requires good hand-eye coordination, quick reflexes, and the patience of a saint. It’s enough to make a Quake 3 Arena veteran quiver.

35_med-01.jpg (4066 bytes)There are two playable characters, X and Zero, who both have their own unique fighting style and abilities. X, like the traditional Mega Man, has a semi-automatic gun arm; the gun arm can also be charge to fire a more powerful shot. X can be equipped with three different armors, also with their special abilities. The Force Armor, which you receive at the beginning, provides you with a hovering ability, a powerful gun, and the ability to charge special weapons (more on that later). The other armors are found throughout the levels. There are four parts per armor, so there’s a lot of searching involved. The Falcon Armor provides limited flight ability and the Gaia Armor provides the most protection. Zero uses a sword-like device that makes him more of a close-range attacker and better suited for more advance players. Inspired by Street Fighter, Zero can pull off multi-hit combos and perform special moves. While he doesn’t have any armor, he is more resilient than X and deals more damage.

41_med-01.jpg (4662 bytes)The game starts out with an introductory level that explains the basic plot of the game. From there, you are brought to the boss menu. Just like the classic Mega Man games, you get to choose which boss level you want to explore first. There is no particular order in which to explore the level, but some levels are better visited later in the game.

44_med-01.jpg (5246 bytes)One thing Mega Man X5 truly excels in is its level design. Obstacles befall your chosen hero at every turn as you hop, dash, and fly by the seat of your pants towards your goal. It’s standard 2-D platforming, so there’s nothing really innovative, but the old Mega Man formula still works. The levels are designed in such a way that they use all the abilities innate in your character to get through certain spots. You’ll find yourself in situations where you have to jump, hover in place, dash to the nearest wall, and kick yourself to a different area, all the time zapping away nosy enemies. It’s frantic fun.

Just like in any Mega Man game, it’s all about the bosses and the special weapons they donate to you once you kill them. Interestingly enough, the localization team from Capcom’s American division decided to rename the bosses after the rock band Guns n’ Roses. Can’t say I’m a big fan, but it was an honor nonetheless to do battle with the likes of "Grizzly Slash" or "Axl the Red." Anyway, each boss "gives" you a unique weapon. You can select these weapons at anytime though they have varying uses. For instance, some obstacles and hidden areas cannot be thwarted without a particular weapon that freezes/burns/smashes through. In the Force Armor, all special weapons can be charged so that they are more powerful. Some special weapons are very effective against other bosses, so experimentation is key.

The main problem with Mega Man X5 is that it’s a little too old school. Capcom needs to bring Mega Man into the realm of Street Fighter III: super sharp graphics and decent music. That said, Mega Man is a hard game not to enjoy. All Mega Man fans will love this game, but, unfortunately, Mega Man may die a slow death if Capcom doesn’t give the series the jolt it needs.

Van Davis

Snapshot

Ups: Lots of 2D, old-school action; cool bosses; great level design; fun gameplay.

Downs: Really tough; dated graphics; bad soundtrack; no innovation.

System Reqs:
Sony PlayStation

 

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