Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Forgotten Gems: Mega Man V

Back again, with  another installment of the Forgotten Gems series, looking at more obscure (but awesome) classic video games from yesteryear! Today, in honor of classic Mega Man being announced as a playable fighter in the new upcoming Smash Bros. game, I decided it was a good time to look back at one of my favorite games, in fact my second favorite, and quite frankly, the second BEST Mega Man game ever made, Mega Man V for Game Boy!

New baddie Terra means business!

Not to be confused with Mega Man 5 for NES, this particular gem was the fifth and last of the Game Boy series of Mega Man games, known in Japan as "Rockman World". And also, while Mega Man 5 on NES was a decent, solid game, Mega Man V on GB is without question a far superior creation. The Mega Man games on the Nintendo Game Boy had, up until now, basically been rehashes of the NES games, using bosses and elements taken directly from those, with only a few things (like the Mega Man Killer robots) actually new. For example, the first game, "Mega Man: Dr. Wiley's Revenge", features four of the six robot masters from the original Mega Man on NES, then after defeating them, in Wily's Castle, you must fight four of the robot masters from Mega Man 2. In Mega Man II (the GB series used Roman numerals), you fought the other four robot masters from MM2 on NES, and then four from Mega Man 3. This continued on through Mega Man III and IV on Game Boy, as a typical formula. But then, lo and behold, the wonderful oddity that is Mega Man V came about, a game possessed of a totally, 100% brand new story, bosses, level elements, etc. And not only was it all new, but it was/is also AWESOME. Allow me to elucidate.

The Super Game Boy at work.

Mega Man V actually released after the also-fairly-good Mega Man 6 on NES, in September 1994. Along with being it's own, all-new game, it also was the only Mega Man game to make use of the Super Game Boy peripheral, which allowed Super Nintendo owners to play Game Boy games on their home console, and even add limited color palettes to them. Some later Game Boy titles, such as MMV, came programmed with some SGB compatibility, so as you can see above, they had their own pre-set palettes, as well as cool little graphic borders at the edge of the screen. Beyond that nifty addition, the game itself was one hell of a package.

I didn't personally get a Game Boy until Christmas 1994, but when I did, I was surprised by a fairly random-yet-awesome assortment of games. Among them, were Kirby's Pinball Land, the awesome 100 level Game Boy remake of Donkey Kong, the first Wario Land, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (still to this day my favorite classic Zelda game), Tetris, and Mega Man V. I'm not 100% sure all these years later that I got ALL those games on Christmas with the GB, or if I got a couple of them later which is totally possible. But there were several, and MMV was among them. Looking back, Mega Man V has to be, hands down, my second favorite Mega Man game ever made, behind only the unbeatable classic Mega Man 2 on NES. MMV really has everything, from the Super GB functionality, to a cool original story, to the fact that it is one rare case in the series where NONE of the weapons you gain from beating the robot masters seem useless. They all are at least somewhat useful, a few of them being arguably the best weapons in the series. The coolest, and most memorable, out of all of these, is Saturn's weapon, the "Black Hole", which allows you to create a small black hole in the air which sucks up all items and enemies on screen, and drops any items neat-as-you-please right into your lap. Easily the coolest Mega Man weapon ever conceived. But even so, some of the other weapons you get are pretty sweet too. Such as the "Salt Water" attack, where you fire a ball of water, which then splits on impact into three smaller balls that bounce all around the room. Or the "Grab Buster", which fires a shot that leeches energy from enemies, refilling two units of your health meter.

The Mega Arm in action, made of pure awesomeness.

Mega Man V is so stuffed full of awesome, that even the standard Mega Buster is pretty much the coolest it's ever been, before or since. In every other Mega Man game (from 4 on NES onward) you could charge the Mega Buster to build up and release one big, powerful blast. Well in MMV for Game Boy, Dr. Light, Mega Man's creator, upgrades the Mega Buster weapon to create the Mega Arm, which instead of charging and firing a huge shot, you fire a huge Mega Man fist at enemies. And if you collect enough bolts (the in-game currency), you can upgrade this even further, to make it charge faster, to grab items from clear across screen, and to lock on to regular enemies and hit them over and over till they explode. If THAT isn't the single coolest regular weapon in just about any video game ever, I don't know what is. Rush, Mega Man's robotic dog pal (introduced in Mega Man 3 on NES), even gets into the act, transforming into "Rush Space" for the space journey form Earth to (SPOILERS) Dr. Wiley's secret space station. In this level you ride in Rush like a spaceship, and the level plays out like a classic side scrolling shoot'em up game, similar to R-Type or Gradius.

The actual plot of the game is pretty unique as well. The Earth has been attacked by mysterious space robots called "Stardroids", and in Mega Man's first encounter with their leader, Terra, his Mega Buster has no effect on their super-hard space metal. Thus Dr. Light upgrades it to the more powerful Mega Arm, and once again he must rush off to save the world. The robot masters themselves are singularly unique in the Mega Man universe as well, because unlike the classic Mega Man series, where every boss is named "____ Man", or the X series where almost all bosses are named/based off of some kind of animal, in MMV on Game Boy, the "Stardroids" are named after the 9 planets of our solar system: Mercury, Venus, Terra (Earth), Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto (which is STILL a planet, fuck the haters). As it later turns out, it was Dr. Wiley who discovered these mysterious space robots in some kind of ancient ruins, and reactivated and reprogrammed them to, what else, take over the world. After defeating them, surviving the hard-as-nails space shooter level including the boss fight with the Skull on the front of Wily's space station, and then making it through the station, fighting the "Mega Man Killer" robots one last time, and once again stomping Wily himself, (SPOILERS), you even have to fight one last super-top-secret space robot that Wily also discovered, a fairly all-powerful guy called "Sunstar". He's one hell of a final boss, let me tell you.

Cooler than Rush? Yes....yes he is.

I can't possibly talk about Mega Man V, however, without telling you about possibly the coolest and most unique asset this game has. Dr. Light also creates a new robot pal to assist Mega Man in his battles. And unlike Flip-Top Eddie, or the robo-bird Beat, etc., who are-yet-aren't useful, THIS little guy is fucking bad ass. It's a little green robo-cat named "Tango", and while he only has one function, it's just about the most awesome function you could hope for. When you summon him, he teleports on-screen, lets out a "meow", and then transforms into what basically looks like a giant buzz-saw, bouncing all over the screen and destroying everything in sight. And like Rush, you can refill his energy, so that you can use him throughout the game. The developers originally added Tango because they wanted a new robot pal that wasn't in the NES games. But sadly, as cool as he is, he more or less got forgotten in the future. He can be bought as an item in the SNES/Game Boy Advance game Mega Man & Bass, and makes a cameo playing in the item shop in the downloadable game Mega Man 10. But outside of that, he never has the prominant role he had in MMV. And to me, that sucks, because he's an awesome, and incredibly useful character.

So, in summary, Mega Man V for Game Boy is awesome on many fronts. It's the only all-new, completely original game in the Game Boy series. It's the only game in the entire Mega Man franchise, to my knowledge, that has totally unique names for the bosses. It's the only game that features the super-useful Mega Arm weapon. It's the only Mega Man game I can honestly thing of, where MOST of the robot master weapons you gain are actually useful. It's got the cool Rush Space shooter level. It's got a great soundtrack. It's fun, even though it's tough as nails to beat. It's got fuckin' TANGO the robo-cat! Basically, the game just has everything you could want in a Mega Man game, or an action/platformer game in general. It truly stands alone, and I would have to say, in my opinion at least, is the second coolest Mega Man game ever created.

So if you've never tried it yet, give it a whirl! Though sadly, as of now, Capcom has yet to release this game for download on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. Hopefully they eventually will, sooner rather than later, because it is one forgotten gem that ABSOLUTELY deserves to be played and recognized by a wider audience. Cheers!


  1. I have yet to play this game, but I shall in the future thanks to your glowing review. The other Game Boy Mega Man games weren't very good...

    1. Indeed. They saved up ALL the good Mega Man for the GB series and stuffed it into this one bad ass game. Thanks for commenting! :)


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