Mega Man X5
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • PlayStation
  • Developer:
    • Capcom
  • Publisher:
    • Capcom
  • Released:
    • JP 11/30/2000
    • US 01/31/2001
    • UK 08/03/2001
Score: 70%

This review was published on 07/03/2013.

Mega Man X5 is a 2-D, side-scrolling platform game developed by Capcom and originally released for the Sony PlayStation. This is the fifth game in the Mega Man X series, which is the successor to the original Mega Man series. This is technically the third X game on the PS1, as X3 and X4 were also released for the system. The PS1 version of X3 was mostly an enhanced port of the Super Nintendo Entertainment original, but X4 was an all new game specifically made for the 32-bit consoles. To that end, X5 is the second 32-bit X game. According to Mega Man creator, Keiji Inafune, Mega Man X5 was supposed to be the last game in the series. That obviously didn't happen, considering there are more games after X5. Mega Man X5 was also made by a different team from the one that made X4. Mega Man X4 was an amazing game that that could even rival the likes of the original Mega Man X, so how does X5 compare to that? It doesn't, sadly. Mega Man X5 is mostly a retread of X4, using a lot of the same art assets and even very similar stage designs. Whereas Mega Man X4 felt like inspiration was coming back to the X series, X5 feels like that inspiration was again coming to an end, perhaps for good this time.

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Wasting no time at all, Mega Man X5 starts off with the revival of Sigma, the main antagonist of the series. Sigma attacks part of the city, this time with the unusual intention of losing the fight. His destruction releases something called the "Sigma Virus" all over the world, infecting Reploids, robots with free will, and turning them into Mavericks, robots that use their free will to cause violence. On top of that, Sigma hired a mercenary Reploid named Dynamo to cause the space colony, Eurasia, to start on a collision course with the Earth. Only 16 hours remain before Eurasia collides with the Earth, causing damage the likes of which has never been seen before in history. The plan is to blast the colony out of outer space by using an enormous gun called the Enigma. If that fails, then the contingency plan is to launch a manned shuttle at the colony to destroy it. In order for the Enigma and shuttle to actually be powerful enough to destroy the colony, they'll have to be upgraded with special parts. Sure enough, the special parts are being held by eight Mavericks. X and Zero, the two Reploid heroes from the previous games, are sent from Maverick Hunter HQ to handle the situation. Mega Man X5 has an incredibly good premise to its story, but the execution of that story leaves a lot to be desired. There are no cool anime cutscenes like there were in X4, so the grandeur of the plot isn't portrayed well. It's a shame, because this story had great potential.

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Immediately after getting through the intro stage, you're taken to the stage select screen, where you can pick one of eight stages to go after one of eight Mavericks. The catch this time is that you only have 16 hours until the colony crashes into the Earth, destroying most of civilization. Time is of the essence, so you can't fool around in this one. The game time doesn't progress in real time, though. Time is actually controlled by how often you enter stages. One hour of in game time passes each time you enter a stage, meaning the time factor isn't really about time. Rather, it's about strategy, as you need to plan ahead on how many times you'll need to visit each stage. You can always reset the game if things don't go according to plan, though it's possible to save your progress past a point of no return, necessitating that you restart the whole adventure from scratch. It's definitely a unique mechanic that changes things a bit, but honestly, it's kind of annoying. In the end, you're still going through eight stages and beating eight Mavericks, so this doesn't radically alter the formula. It does make it way more frustrating, though. When it comes right down to it, the time mechanic only makes the game less enjoyable by discouraging experimentation. Sure, it's something new in a series that needs new things, but if the new thing sucks, then that's not going to improve the experience. As it is, I would rather play a traditional X game than what is offered in Mega Man X5.

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Four of the Mavericks have parts for the Enigma, and the remaining four Mavericks have parts for the shuttle. Okay, here's the weird part: you can fire the Enigma at any time, even when you don't have all the parts for it. Whether the Enigma succeeds in demolishing the colony and saving the Earth is determined by random chance. Supposedly, your chances of success go up if you have more parts, but it's actually possible to succeed without the necessary parts. That means you can skip fighting many of the Mavericks if you succeed prematurely, though that kind of kills the fun of the game. The stupid thing is that it's also possible to fail even if you have all the parts. It's the same deal for the shuttle; if the Enigma fails, then the shuttle is your last chance, and the shuttle also has a random chance of succeeding or failing depending on the parts collected. The game actually doesn't end if you fail with both the Engima and shuttle, but it does change the ending. There are multiple endings to Mega Man X5, and some are better than others. Failing to stop the colony essentially results in a bad ending. As interesting as all this is, I'm not sure why the development team decided to determine your ending based on random chance. You have to keep reloading your save if you want to get the good ending, and that's just stupid. At the very least, collecting all the parts should give you a 100% chance of succeeding, but it doesn't. A lot of these concepts are interesting from a game design perspective, but they don't make for good game play.

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As was the case with Mega Man X4, you can play as either X or Zero in Mega Man X5. The game play differs drastically depending on which character you pick, as X specializes in long range attacks and Zero is all about getting up close and personal with his Z-Saber. A big improvement from X4 is that you can freely switch between the two characters during the stage select screen, so it's no longer necessary to replay the whole game twice as each character. I should also mention that this is the first game in the series to allow all characters the ability to duck. That's kind of a big deal for Mega Man, although it doesn't really impact the game as much as you think it would. X and Zero both gain new abilities each time they beat a Maverick, as they did in X4, and each Maverick is weak to one of these abilities. Not that it really matters, because you can easily take out most of the Mavericks in this game without really exploiting their weaknesses. On that note, almost all of X's special weapon abilities are useless in this game. Zero, on the other hand, gains some useful moves, like the ability to double jump and air dash. Defeating Mavericks is still an exciting proposition for Zero, considering it makes him a substantially better character, but it doesn't do much for X. For the most part, Zero will end up regaining all of his old moves from X4, though there are a few new ones. Being able to switch between characters at any time is one of the few good design choices of Mega Man X5.

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If you thought the Maverick names in previous X games were ridiculous, then you're in for a surprise with X5. Mega Man X5 has, by far, the most ridiculous Maverick names in the entire series. For whatever reason, each of the eight Mavericks are named after members from the rock band Guns N' Roses. The rocking Mavericks are Grizzly Slash, Squid Adler, Izzy Glow, The Skiver, Dark Dizzy, Mattrex, Axle the Red, and Duff McWhalen. There is no way I can say that last one with a straight face. I'm actually laughing out loud as I write this. Anyway, there is something odd about the way bosses work in this game. I tried digging up more detailed information about this elsewhere, but very little information is available, and the game doesn't do a terribly good job at explaining it. There is a kind of leveling system for the bosses in the game, in which bosses can "level up" depending on certain circumstances. What these circumstances are is anybody's guess. All I could figure out is that it seems to depend on your performance; if you do better, the bosses will be at higher levels, and if you suck, the bosses will be at lower levels. As for what the levels actually do, that's also uncertain. As far as I can tell, higher level Mavericks have more health. They might gain new attacks, too, but I haven't been able to concretely confirm that. This leveling system is very bizarre, and it doesn't exactly do a good job at whatever it's supposed to do. Too bad the Mavericks can't level up to get better names.

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Alia, your navigator, will constantly interrupt you over intercom to explain really simplistic stuff about your environment. Thankfully, you don't have to sit through atrocious voice acting, but you still have to tap the button to get through tons of text. There are very few instances where she actually gives you helpful advice about the current stage you're in. Most of the time, she merely makes throwaway remarks that don't contribute to anything. For example, during the intro stage, you come across a ruined street. Alia calls you to let you know that the street is in ruins, and this is terrible. I'll tell you what's terrible; having to sift through tons of menial dialogue every ten seconds. I'm guessing the idea here was to add more depth to the story by having a character constantly chit-chat with you during stages, but rarely does any of it contribute to the overall plot of the game. Alia needs to stop being such a chatterbox and let X and Zero do their jobs. This is a trend reminiscent of more modern games. It's a trend that really ought to die off.

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In the previous Mega Man X games, X could find capsules hidden in various stages by his late creator, Dr. Light, that would upgrade his armor. Mega Man X5 introduces the notion of multiple armor sets, which is pretty cool. The last four games only had a single set of armor that would slowly be assembled throughout the game, but X5 has a bunch of armors to assemble. Once assembled, you can switch between the armors on the stage select screen. The downside is that you can't immediately use a given part as soon as you get it, unlike the previous games. All parts for a particular set of armor must be collected in order to actually use the armor. While that sucks, the idea of having multiple armors in a single game more than makes up for it. There is plenty of variety between the armors, too. You've got the Falcon Armor, which has the ability to fly and allows X to shoot a laser that pierces through enemy's defenses. The other main armor is the Gaea Armor, which lets you cling onto walls, walk on spikes, drastically increases your defensive power, and a few other things. Both of these armors have pros and cons, like the Falcon Armor sacrifices defense for mobility, and the Gaea Armor sacrifices mobility for defense. There are a couple of other armors that are more balanced, but these are the two main ones. The concept of multiple armors is one of the few innovations this game achieves that doesn't suck.

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One annoying thing about the two characters in this game is that certain upgrades must be divided between them. Scattered throughout the game are Heart Tanks that permanently increase a given character's life bar, but only for the specific character that picked it up. There are a finite amount of these upgrades available, and you have to decide how to split these upgrades up between X and Zero. A few of the upgrades can only be acquired by a particular character, but most of them can be acquired by either one. If you're not paying attention to this, you might find yourself in a situation where one character gets all the upgrades and is supremely powerful, and the other character is too weak to be useful. You also sometimes randomly get life upgrades after beating a stage, which further adds to the disparity between characters. The way you have to micromanage upgrades in this game is extremely annoying. This is something that you never had to think about in the previous X games. The good thing is that X and Zero can share the other upgrades, like the Sub Tanks that store life energy for later use. There are also some parts that can be equipped in the stage select screen that you get as you play through the game, and some of these parts can be shared between X and Zero, though some are exclusive. I wish both characters had the same life bar, though, so that it wouldn't matter who you picked up a Heart Tank with. As it is, you have to play a balancing act between the two life bars, and that ruins the game's pacing. This is supposed to be an action game, not an RPG.

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Mega Man X5 is sort of a travesty. The game tries to innovate with many risky ideas, but most of those ideas end up making the game far worse than its predecessors. Everything involving the colony, from the time units to the cannon and shuttle, just get in the way of things and ultimately ruins the experience. The stages and bosses aren't very well designed, either. What's sad is that Mega Man X5 had the potential to be the best game in the series, as the plot had a lot of interesting ideas. Many of the series' unresolved plot threads, like Zero's relation to Dr. Wily, seemed like they were going to find resolution in this game. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Mega Man X5 is where the X series descended into a darkness that it wouldn't return from until X8. What a shame.

Word Count: 2,488

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