A Critical Look at Mega Man 5 Stages: Star Man

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Finally, a new stage mechanic... sort of. This entire stage takes place in space, which is functionally the same as being underwater. It begins with a mess of meteors falling on us as we run toward the hole. Dodging randomized falling objects is a simple concept, but fun nonetheless, and it's a shame this only lasts for two screens.

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This section introduces Bounder and B Bitter, the former of which bounces from the floor and ceiling while firing two shots at once, while the latter hides in the floor and pops up to fire when we get close. This combo is already pretty tame, but the larger charge shots wipe everything out effortlessly.

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Tondeall fires two shots like Bounder and dies in one hit. It's nice to see flyers with more firepower, but they're a big, slow target, and we've just dealt with the same shot pattern from a more active enemy. At least the last one here has a chance of attracting the player's attention before they notice the spikes. We can also snag an "M" item here.

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Next up is Space Metall, which dropped the trademark defense for the ability to fly around quickly, though they can only move diagonally. We've seen better spike corridors before, but Space Metall is distracting and numerous enough to make it dangerous.

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Jet Bombs are fast and explode into pieces that move in four directions when we shoot them, but the pieces move toward Mega Man in a spread if we let them hit the wall. This is one of the best new enemies we've seen so far, as players have to shoot or dodge quickly but also think about where the pieces are going, and even pay attention to those that have been avoided.

I like the option to jump over the group, and the spikes in the middle are nice as they can catch a player moving too far forward on the way down. The following Bitters are another obvious test of whether the player remembers that shooting through walls is an option, but we could still make it through by landing on the edges of the platforms.

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Dachone walks back and forth slowly while firing lasers at four angles, three of which aren't likely to hit since the spike pit encourages us to stay away from it. It only takes five hits, but only the area above the gun can be damaged. We could also just jump over it, which is immensely satisfying after how much trouble Big Eye and the like have given us in the past.

Space Metalls surround us on the next screen. I'm really starting to love these guys, as their speed and numbers can seem unfair at first, but their movement limitations make it possible to lure them out of the way, unlike previous enemies such as Telly that just move toward us.

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The platforms in this area move up and down as a group, while Toss Machine tosses grey things at us. This setup might have been dangerous in normal gravity, but here we can spend most of our time off the top of the screen. Toss Machine often can't aim that high, and the projectiles pass through us if we're off-screen anyway. Mizzile can mostly be ignored here, as all but the first don't come high enough to hit us unless we deliberately cross when the platforms are at their lowest. One more Dachone guards the door, and the terrain makes it more difficult to jump over this time.

This stage has some interesting new enemies, but the design mostly falls flat. Bounder can be difficult to hit, but charge shots kill it outright. B Bitter takes too long to fire, so we're more likely to run into it than get shot by it. Since neither can move horizontally, the combination gives us all the time we need to deal with them. The meteors and Tondeall barely get any screen time, while placing Dachone on level with us prevents it from making good use of its attack.

The Toss Machine section looks like the sort of thing that would work in this stage, but in practice there's no bite to it. Space Metall and Jet Bomb are good additions, but the latter only gets one screen. On top of all that, the tight corridors in the first half keep the low gravity from coming into play much. It really needed a design closer to Air Man, with more open space and moving platforms. As it is, it feels like a simple underwater stage with a new coat of paint.

The visuals are disappointing given the other stages we've seen so far, and the radar dishes in the first screen look like flat MSPaint jobs next to the shine most other surfaces in Mega Man seem to have. The teal background was a terrible choice for the spike corridor, as it just makes the comparison with water stages that much more obvious.