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CONSOLE: PlayStation DEVELOPER: Capcom PUBLISHER: Capcom
RELEASE DATE (NA): January 31, 2001 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

X-hibiting strange behaviours...

We're now at the fifth entry of the Mega Man X series. One would somewhat safely assume that by the time a company gets to the fifth game in a successful series, they have a pretty good grasp of how to develop a good game. I wish that were the case here, I really do. The X series prior had always been one of generally decent gameplay and design. Mega Man X3 faltered a bit, but it was not a terrible game by any means, and Mega Man X4 more than made up for the shortcomings. But then we have Mega Man X5, a game that, by logic, shouldn't be terrible. And yet, it is, and frustratingly so.

The storyline this time is definitely one for the ages. They don't even hide the fact that Sigma's still alive and kicking, as is the cruel Sigma virus. Sigma attacks the Maverick Hunter headquarters with the absolute intension of losing, just so that the resulting explosion can cause the virus to somehow spread all over the world, causing other innocent Reploids to go Maverick. As well, Sigma also hires some Reploid fop called Dynamo to cause the "Eurasia" space colony to crash into the Earth. He also pops in a couple of times to distract the Maverick Hunters from saving the world by spouting off his nonsense. Now X and Zero need to collect parts for a cannon, the Enigma, so that they can blast that colony to smithereens before it can wipe out the Earth. Fight, X and Zero, for everlasting, er, temporary peace!

Like clockwork, Mega Man X will face off against eight Mavericks themed from nature (more specifically, animals and plants). There are definitely some strange entries in this one, showing that Capcom wasn't necessarily running out of ideas as much as running out of animals from which they could draw inspiration. Now we have menaces such as Tidal Makkoeen (or Whale), Burn Dinorex, Spiral Pegacion (or Pegasus), and Spike Rosered (a Maverick based on a rose). Each one is susceptible to another Maverick's weapon, and it's up to you to determine the best order to defeat these guys. Of course, Capcom made it easier on us because the storyline basically directs you to the first four; those are the ones with the parts to help destroy that dang-blasted Eurasia Colony. This is all well and good, except for whoever localized this sucker. Instead of being true to the source material, it was one of Capcom's voice actors, Alyson Court, who thought it would be acceptable to replace their names with ones inspired by the band Guns 'N Roses.

NO. JUST NO.

Now the names are terrible and take away from the spirit of the X series by infusing a pop culture reference that wasn't even RELEVANT at the time of the game's release. Thanks, Alyson. Go back to The Big Comfy Couch. Here's a little chart to show just how ridiculous they became:

X and Zero control the same way they did in X4, which was generally rather well, though I do wish that they responded more quickly to my commands. I suffered a few unnecessary bruises that way. Zero gets his hand buster back in this one, so now he can use both that and the Beam Saber for maximum efficiency. Actually, X5 is a little odd in that you can use both your regular buster and a special weapon simultaneously, as each is assigned to a separate button. That's actually convenient, I'll give them that. Sadly, the game's design philosophy pretty much voids any excellent controls. Enemy placement is more cruel than ever, and whoever designed the actual layouts clearly just wanted to get this game out the door. Plus (and this is most tragic), another hoverbike level rears its head in X5, and it's about as welcome as the last one (which is "not at all"). As for the bosses of Sigma's fortress stages, hoo boy, they really tried to boil the blood on this ol' player (they basically pulled their ideas from past games by making them even more difficult).

Capcom added a few extra things to try and freshen up the series, all of which ended up ruining the formula more than improving upon it. Where do I begin? Oh yes, how about how you receive a grade at the end of each level based on your performance. The game keeps track of how much time you take, how many Mavericks you destroy, and how much damage you take. This was never important before, so why is it relevant now? Is it really motivating to throw a "D" grade in my face and tell me that I've done poorly? (Granted, I never actually received a "D" grade — I'm a solid "B" student — but it's the principle that matters!) Even my save file kept a record of my achievements or lack thereof. I know it doesn't make a huge difference in the gameplay, but being told that I stink is not something I want from a video game. I have real life to give me that bad news.

For some reason, neutral Reploids ends up getting caught in the fray, and it's up to you to rescue them. In various stages, yellow Reploids are just standing around near enemies with the word "HELP!" hovering over their heads. If you touch them (thereby rescuing them and allowing them to transport out of there, something I guess they couldn't do on their own), you'll get some bonus life energy and an extra life; these Reploids take the place of the now very rare extra lives in X5.

Another irritant is the inclusion of the Sigma Virus, which has now infected the entire world. The virus comes in the form of floating pink Sigma heads that appear in seemingly random spots as you venture onward. If it grabs a hold of X, he receives damaged and slowly becomes infected; this, of course, affects your overall performance grade. Zero is relatively unharmed and actually becomes MORE powerful because of it, an allusion to his backstory and close relation to the Sigma virus' origins. That or he has Norton Antivirus installed in his chest. It's a subtle plot point, but at the same time, it does create a slight imbalance to this particular game mechanic.

Perhaps the most intrusive change is Alia. Alia, Alia, Alia. You cheeky devil. Alia is basically your remote spotter. She'll tell you exactly what to expect ahead and also state the absolute obvious. You can't skip her speeches, and she has much to say. She'll tell you about an obstacle you can clearly see in front of you. She pretends that both X and Zero have never undertaken a single mission in their lives. This is great if you've never played a video game in your life, but for those who HAVE played a Mega Man X game, Alia's spiels are nothing more than monospaced textual hogwash! Heck, there's a tutorial mode on the title screen for beginners, so there's really no excuse to mollycoddle players.

Oh, and both X and Zero can duck now. Well, if you can't stand up for what you believe in, you can at least crouch.


Things are going to *ahem* heat up for our brave hero...

On the plus side, you can now play as either X or Zero in each stage, depending on how you feel. X's full armor from X4 is now readily available from the get-go (oddly dubbed the "Fourth Armor"), if you choose to don that. You can also collect parts for new types of armor, the Falcon Armor (useful for flying... as in REALLY useful) or the Gaea Armor for greater defense and power (though you can't use special weapons). But you can't use any of these parts unless you find ALL of them for one suit! This is in contrast to all previous Mega Man X games where you find an enhancement and adopt it immediately. You also get bonus upgrades by defeating Mavericks, dubbed "Life Up" and "Energy Up" bonuses. Take what you will from THAT...

(As a sidenote, the hologram of Dr. Light appears in the capsules when X or Zero locate them. There were strong hints that Dr. Light was aware of the chaos surrounding him, despite reportedly being dead for decades. Now, they don't even try to hide anything: Dr. Light clearly is aware of the Sigma Virus having spread all over the planet. So is he dead, or is his conscious now electronically generated? I wish they would explain that one...)

Graphically, the game is mostly on par with the fairly decent job that X4 accomplished. The developer put more emphasis into pre-rendered sprites, such as several forms of Sigma. They don't look particularly terrible, but they do contrast a bit shockingly against the other moving sprites on screen. There's also a battle on top of a 3D modeled airplane that looks absolutely ridiculous. It made me a tad unsure of what perspective I was looking at as well. As another sidenote, I wish they had proofread the anime intro a little bit. They misspelled Douglas' name as "Doglas":


It's just Rush in a clever disguise.

Mega Man X5's soundtrack is quite a spectacle. Again, it's a swift mix of rock and electronic music for that hard futuristic vibe. Many songs here are remixes of classic Mega Man tunes, notably a boss theme from the original Mega Man on the NES, as well as Zero's theme from the first X game. Even MORE obvious is the direct copy of Bubble Crab's theme from Mega Man X2 for Tidal Makkoeen's stage. Apparently, the original song that was composed was a bit too serene, and as such, it was scrapped and replaced with a song someone else composed five years earlier. That's using your head! Sound effects are directly pulled from X4, so they're about as decent as you'll probably get. There isn't much voice acting in this one; the story scenes are narrated with text. At least X sounds a bit more robust and manly.

X5 tried to innovate, but instead it merely degenerated. Only the most dedicated and hardcore X fans will be able to overlook the flaws in this title and give it some serious love. It's not a horrible game that deserves flinging in the trash bin, but there are definitely far superior entries into the series that are more deserving of your attention.


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