TO: X, Zero
CC: Alia, Axl, Douglas, Lifesaver, MHHQ.all
MEMO: Let’s discuss this at next staff meeting. I strongly suggest we consider a lighter tone in official external communications…
P. S: Happy Holidays from Queen of Robots!
Mega Man December continues!
Mega Man 5 was originally released in Japan on this date, December 4, 1992.
An underappreciated game in the tail end of the Classic Mega Man era – there would be only one more game before the series jumped to the SNES – Mega Man 5 features an interesting character development, focusing on Mega’s estranged and unpredictable brother Proto Man (Blues). Convinced by some planted evidence that his prototype has gone over to the dark side and started attacking humans, Mega heads out to do battle and rescue his creator, Doctor Light!
MM5 has some pretty interesting stuff for a late series entry, including a brain-twisting level where gravity works backward and upside down – a pretty fun if challenging level – and also introduces a support character, the robotic bird Beat, who can rescue Mega if he accidentally tumbles into a pit.
The game has some of the best level music in the whole of the Classic series, beginning with Mari Yamaguchi’s vividly poignant and regretful theme and carrying on strong throughout. It feels a lot smoother than Capcom’s usual tunes, pleasant and balanced. It’s more of a Sunsoft than a Capcom soundtrack. Check it out in the video below!
Why this game’s music isn’t as celebrated and widely appreciated as that of MM2 is kind of a mystery to me – I think it’s actually a lot stronger, and a lot less worn out from endless copies and covers.
Happy 22nd anniversary, Mega Man 5!
Throughout December, we’ll be celebrating the games originally released during this month and talk a little about each one. It turns out these are mostly X series games – which is great, because that subset of the franchise is my favorite!
Mega Man and Mega Man X have really changed my life. It’s one of my favorite robot franchises and I’ve met some great friends through sharing the interest. There’s interesting minutae buried in the lore to explore, as well as a fast, still-moving ocean of fan creativity that long since outgrew its origins. The affection of fans for this franchise is vast and enduring.
The series’ origins lie in fond appropriation of classic 70’s anime heroes like Tatsunoko’s Casshan and, of course, Osamu Tezuka’s massively iconic Astro Boy. Everyone knows the series’ basic story – Dr. Light’s helper robot Rock bravely volunteers to be converted into a ‘super fighting robots’ after Light’s former assistant steals 8 robot prototypes that Light created and uses them to try and take over the world! Mega Man bravely battles through a long series of contests with Dr. Wily, the nefarious trollmaster robot thief. Later, his “little brother” X, a more sophisticated machine capable of making his own decisions, joins partner Zero in taking on the psychotic Sigma and his armies of animaloid “reploids”. Zero moves on to star in his own series and concludes the threads of the X series with a climactic battle in space.
Further down the line, the evolving Reploids that descended from X confront new threats in the Mega Man ZX and ZXA games. Mega Man Legends takes place even further ahead from ZXA, mixing RPG and Doom-style mechanics to show the future Earth covered in water, populated by “carbons”. Meanwhile, the Mega Man: Battle Network universe runs on an alternate track, positing a world where robotic technology didn’t flourish, but AI and Internet avatars replaced them – sentient computer programs living in personal data terminals called PETs, used by the series’ young heroes to battle.
The original series of games is notoriously tricky – it defines Nintendo Hard – but also has a tight and responsive control scheme allowing players to make delicate shifts of position even in mid-air falls and to stop on a dime. The games require hair-trigger reflexes and timing, strong pattern-recognition capabilities, as well as a great deal of patience. (Those disappearing blocks, argh!) It’s ruthlessly punishing of mistakes, but hits a sweet spot of challenge that is just frustrating enough to make you blame yourself for missing that jump or tripping into that pit, rather than the game.
Like any long-lived series, Mega Man has its share of frustrating spots, dead-ends, weird ideas and problem children. The Legends and X series both ended production with huge cliffhangers still unresolved; the original root of the franchise wore thin with yearly “cookie cutter” releases frustrating fans who wanted more growth and development. The series’ move from NES to SNES created new control problems and complexities which made the games feel less balanced. However, Mega Man was hugely successful despite these speedbumps. The series began in 1987 and had a new entry as recently as 2010. By the most recent count, the game holds over 120 entries over 27 years in 7 sequel and spinoff titles.
Although the franchise is currently in suspended animation, the lasting legacy of Mega Man (Rockman in Japan) is a phenomenal one. Like every other massive pop culture franchise, the series has spun off a vast array of related material. The music of the series has spawned a number of basement empires on its own, including the careers of The Megas and The Protomen, as well as countless amateur song covers and remixes. Fans have worked hard to keep the series alive, producing thousands of fanfics, pieces of art, new characters, theory videos, homages, Let’s Plays and live-action films.
Currently, Archie Comics is running a fantastic all-ages comic version of Mega Man that is smart, funny, and getting rave reviews, serving as a friendly introduction to the universe for a new generation while broadening the character portrayals.
Not a bad legacy for a little blue robot who didn’t even get to speak for his first 6 games, huh?
Stay tuned for more Mega Man all month long!