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CONSOLE: Game Boy DEVELOPER: Minakuchi Engineering PUBLISHER: Capcom
RELEASE DATE (NA): September 1994 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Space for improvement.

Like leaves falling from the trees, so to did Mega Man see another platformer in 1994. Capcom turned once again to Minakuchi Engineering, who I recently discovered was also responsible for both the Game Boy port of Bionic Commando and that nasty game Qix, among other things, for this sequel. Perhaps tiring of just yanking ideas out of older games or just hating the thought of putting Plant Man from Mega Man 6 in their programming schedule, they decided to break away from tradition a bit for this, the finale of the Mega Man pentalogy on Game Boy.


In what could be a major shock for Mega Man fanatics, our story begins with the Blue Bomber and his sister, Roll, taking a leisurely walk in the bosom of nature when a new robot crosses their path. Claiming to be named Terra, he and the other StarDroids, robots from the depths of outer space, have plans to destroy the planet! Mega Man tries to fire off his Mega Buster to give Terra a good whupping, but it is to no effect — his shots just bounce nonchalantly off his chest plate. That's going to be a problem. Then Terra knocks our hero unconscious. That's going to also be a problem.

Thank goodness Dr. Light experiments in his downtime. Upon reawakening in Dr. Light's lab, Mega Man discovers that the good doctor has equipped him with a new upgrade, and it is FLY. Well, it flies, at least. It's the new Mega Arm, and it's two things: more powerful than Mega Man's previous blasters and a bit of a gimmick. The Mega Arm allows, after charging, his hand to fly off and give his enemies a good smack. It's also upgradeable, giving you the ability to grab items from afar and reel them in, as well as claw into enemies for a longer period of time, dealing more damage. It doesn't make a huge dent in the series' blueprint, but it IS fun to give enemies a good scrunching.

Dr. Light also presents Mega Man with another gift: Tango, the robotic cat that meows and curls up into a spiky ball to bounce around for a bit. Cute, but never used for anything productive. Thank goodness Rush is back in his Coil and Jet transformations to get our hero out of a few jams. The dog truly is Mega Man's best friend.

Mega Man V differs a bit from the norm of having Robot Masters culled from the ranks of the NES hexology by instead tossing in a group of robots based on the nine planets (yes, this game beckons from a time when Pluto actually earned some respect). Otherwise, the formula remains unchanged: enter a stage and defeat its final boss, steal his power, and use that to exploit the weakness of the next boss, and so forth. Although the game itself doesn't present a greater difficulty than any of the other Game Boy titles, selecting which StarDroid to tackle next can be a bother, as their names don't necessarily imply which droid is weak to whose power. It was also nice to see all of the previous Mega Man Killers again (plus Quint, the wanna-be 1991 World Pogo Stick Champion), making Mega Man V a game that "comes full circle", if you will. Maybe they knew this would be the end.

A detachable arm, huh? Wonder if he uses that to scratch hard-to-reach joints.

As I had hoped, Dr. Light continues to be a vigilant entrepreneur, running his shop and inviting Mega Man to bring him P-Chips, which are found either just sitting around or produced by defeating enemies, in exchange for reproducing useful items. Aside from the usual extra lives and energy tank fare, there are also the aforementioned upgrades to the Mega Arm, the Magnet Hand and the... uh... "CL". Please tell us what the "CL" is. We know it's for grabbing foes, but... what does "CL" stand for? Also hidden in four of the stages are gems; finding all four allows Dr. Light to create a device that cuts your weapon energy use in half.

But at least Minakuchi Engineering, the folks behind three of the previous Game Boy Mega Man titles, tried to add a few unique touches, of course including the introduction of the StarDroids. Before Mega Man 8 made it a thing, you can finally hop into a space-equipped Rush Jet and participate in a bland but still welcome horizontal shooter stage, finally facing off against Wily's Death Star—er, space station. Sorry, it just looked a little too much like the Death Star. Very round. There are also a few extra gimmicks, like playing with gravity or having weird bouncy bubble-laced floors. And the return of the Yellow Devil (who isn't as yellow on an olive-coloured screen) is icing on the cake, even if nobody ever genuinely enjoys fighting the giant gallumphy beast.

Presentation-wise, Mega Man V actually feels like a step backward, rather than a step forward (or breaking even with its predecessor). There are fewer impressive cutscenes than Mega Man IV, favouring just using the regular in-game sprits over specifically-created larger graphics. At least this one offers full support for the Super Game Boy, delivering a Met-filled border and unique level palettes for anyone who happened to own the SNES add-on at the time. The soundtrack, which no longer uses previous tunes as its origin, is less remarkable this time around, with more subdued songs overall. There's also a bit of favoritism toward off-key notes from time to time for some reason. Personally, I wouldn't have chosen that; I'd go for something a little more...listenable.

While a very enjoyable game, Mega Man V doesn't add enough to make this a notable conclusion to the series on Game Boy. Mega Man IV seemed a more fitting end, as it really pulled all the stops and created a near-masterpiece, but I will hand it to Mega Man V for trying something different. The game goes to show that, as long as the gameplay elements remain rock solid, you can't go wrong.

...and to respond to one question that may be on your mind: yes, Dr. Wily is still the mastermind at work here. Did you expect anything different?

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