Since moving to Japan, one of the things I wanted to set out to do was try all these various Rockman games that are released her for mobile phones. It's been difficult, and it cost me quite a bit, but I finally accomplished that goal. From here on out, I hope to be able to give an in depth look at these games. There are a lot of places I could have begun, but I'm pretty sure that if I'd bothered to ask, most everyone would have me start with Rockman DASH: Itsutsu no Shima no Daibouken! (roughly 5 Islands Great Adventure, though not the prettiest localization). Although it released back in 2008, it's surprising how few details surrounding it have come out (especially given how passionate Legends fans can be).
This is meant to be a basic overview, and I'll provide some gameplay videos at the end (which you will likely scroll down to immediately). In the weeks to come, I hope to provide in depth coverage of each chapter, including (hopefully) fully translated dialogue.
So let's get down to business. As you might imagine, being a cell phone game and all, the scale of 5 Islands is cut down quite a bit from an ordinary Legends game. The "free running" aspect of the game is entirely gone, and instead gameplay is cut up into individual stages which are selected via a map. Missions typically revolve around getting to the end of the stage or beating all of the enemies. Each island has seven stages, with the last always being a boss battle.
While on the map screen you can switch to the main menu, which is where you can travel to other islands, talk to townspeople and shop (they are accessible via a list), develop and improve weapons, equip parts, and manage saves. Your health and weapon energy do not recharge between stages, so you still have to go to Data to recharge. But all of these aspects are reduced to menus.
Stages themselves take place in ruins, in natural areas, and in towns. Although some stages are maze-like and have elements of exploration, they are all essentially linear and unconnected. Some stages, however, have secret items where certain weapons or abilities are necessary to get to. You can exit a stage by returning to the beginning or using an escape item you can buy. If you're beat in a stage you just go back to the map, but you lose half the Zenny you had on you.
You can revisit stages after you beat them, even the bosses. Revisted stages will not replay the story segments that occur before and after the stage, and the stage will lose whatever mission requirement it had. This means that the only way to leave the stage is to go back to the beginning or use an escape item. Revisiting bosses is by far the best way to farm for Zenny, since you're rewarded based on how fast you can beat the boss.
As you might imagine, the controls for the game are a bit rough. You use the phone's navigation keys to move around (pretty much all Japanese flip style cell phones have this in some form). You press 9 to fire your buster, 6 to fire your special weapon, and # to jump. Pressing 3 manually turns your lock-on on and off.
There are essentially two modes for moving around. Under normal circumstances, you press up to move forward, left and right pivots you in those directions, and down makes you walk backwards incredibly slowly. I can't see why they felt the last was necessary. Double tapping on left, right or down will make you do a quick hop in that direction.
Then there's lock-on mode. When you're shooting at an enemy, you'll automatically lock onto them after a moment (the amount of time it takes can be shortened with upgrades). When locked onto an enemy, left and right make you strafe that direction, and since you're always facing the enemy you can manage the classic circle-the-enemy-while-shooting maneuver. You always move backwards much faster while locked on. Ceasing fire or taking damage will break your lock on.
Accessing items like switches and chests is done with 9 when you're right next to them. You also use 9 to grab onto ladders, a feature the original Legends games never had.
While the amount of content the game has might be nice for a cell phone game, ultimately this is pretty limited as well. There are maybe around 10-12 total enemy types, although with color variations too. There are even a couple of repeat boss battles including, sadly, the final battle. Because of the small amount of enemies, you'll at times have Reaverbots appearing on the surface, and Bonne mechas appearing in ruins. Sometimes they even appear together, which doesn't make much since. There is also a single new Reaverbot type, a gold, fish-like Reaverbot, though it is essentially a re-skin of a police vehicle enemy.
The game has a fairly decent system in place for customization. There are a variety of parts for your buster, head, armor and feet you can buy or find. You can also bring parts to Roll to develop special weapons, and improve those weapons, as per the original games. You are actually just given the Hyper Shell early on, which remains a pretty useful weapon the whole game. I was also able to build the Machine Buster and Drill Arm, though there is still more.
Graphically the game looks good enough. Visual design appears to be influenced by Legends 2, but I'd actually say the detail of the models is even less than the original game. The camera angle can be a little tough to work with since you can't move it around as freely. As a result, many enemies have the ability to teleport back to their starting position to prevent them from just sitting on you where they're hard to see. The game also has very little music, maybe a total of eight songs including jingles, but it's all original and pretty well composed. Stage music feels a little more like classic Mega Man themes.
Story-wise, not a lot happens. Although there are some overarching elements, each chapter is essentially its own self-contained story. This makes it similar to the original Legends, where you're essentially just traveling about and encountering events as they come up (as opposed to working towards some ultimate goal or purpose). While you do avert some near disasters, for the most part the plot centers around speculating on the ancient ruins and dealing with meddling from the Bonne family. The final chapter ends pretty anti-climatically, with MegaMan discovering a tower with a gateway leading to Elysium that no longer works. Of course at the point of time MegaMan has no idea what Elysium is.
I know some people have brought up the idea of using the engine developed for Legends 3 to easily port 5 Islands to the 3DS download shop, and I was once a proponent of this myself. After playing the game, however, I don't believe it would work so well. More than anything technical, the game just doesn't have a lot of volume. There would have to be a bit more content added and some more cohesiveness to work, especially with how short stages are in the first couple chapters.
In the end I'd say it's a novel little game, and even has some replayability, especially if you want to grab and max out all the weapons. But it's a very short game, can be very awkward to play, and its content would do little to satisfy even a mild Legends fan for very long. While a nice thought, the game was hardly an answer to the years that passed since Legends 2.
Anyway, now for some video samples which I did my best to record well, though there are a few out of focus moments. Also keep in mind that my stats are pretty high level while playing these stages, and I have boots equipped to negate damage from walking on lava.
I hope you've found this report interesting! Please keep an eye out for more detailed updates to come.