A Critical Look at Mega Man 5 Stages: Wave Man

Wave Man's Stage and Music mm5wave_01

The first section of Wave Man's stage is a trap room, with jets of steam that shoot from the pipes as we approach and a swinging ball and chain called Teckyun. There are three of each, with the first two pairs being nearly identical. We can walk through Teckyun's chain, and neither trap is affected by our weapons. While there's nothing wrong with the traps themselves, this setup is very lazy, with each pair in nearly the same relative position. Even as an introduction, this could have been given more effort.

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These pipes will suck Mega Man into them if he stands too close to the opening, so grabbing the large health is a little harder than it looks. We're also given an extra life for making it into the second pipe. Not much to it, but it's visually fun.

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This area is also tame, as Giree moves very slowly, so the only danger here is if the player lets the second Giree onto the top platform. Even then, there's enough time to move back through the steam if a player screws up.

Speaking of the steam, I appreciate that they activate when the player approaches and reset when they back off, avoiding the potential for their timing to sync badly with something like Teckyun and prevent the player from progressing unharmed. The downside to this is that Mega Man has to stop and wait for each one if there's no room to jump over them. The two jets next to each other here accentuate that downside without adding anything of interest to the gameplay.

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Here's a neat stage gimmick. Bubbles appear from below, and Mega Man can ride them upward. The small ones break after a moment, so the player has to wait for an opportunity to jump across to each large bubble. I particularly like the last screen. If players know when the small bubble will come they'll have enough time to jump onto it as it appears without worrying about hitting the spikes, but if the player needs to react to it they'll be running short on headroom. However, a slide will get the player to the next bubble without risking the jump. For such a small moment, it does a good job of rewarding both knowledge of the game and strategic thinking.

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This area kicks off one of the more controversial gimmicks in Mega Man, but in this image I just wanted to point out that the area leading up to it is entirely empty. That sort of thing can work for building suspense or giving the player a breather, but Mega Man does not have enough room in its stages to be doing this.

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This vehicle section scrolls automatically. We retain the ability to jump and shoot, but sliding and charge shots are out. We also lose the ability to pause, which I can only imagine is a lazy fix to avoid weapon switching. The water also messes with our movement, with Mega Man going faster forward and slower backwards. This seems opposite of what would be expected for this setup, as going faster is usually harder than slowing down.

The new enemies are a floating mine known simply as V, a dolphin named Irucan, and Rider Joe. V takes three hits, giving us enough time to kill it by the time it gets 2/3rds of the way across the screen. Rider Joe takes two hits and can appear from either side of the screen. While the ones from behind will shoot now and then, the ones in front don't. I see no reason why they wouldn't unless it was a programming oversight. Irucan is the best of the group, jumping across the screen and landing roughly where the player wants to be sitting. They die in one shot, but can jump at a variety of heights to make reacting to them difficult.

This area mixes up the enemy order well, which is about the most we can expect given the limitations of this mechanic.

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The screen darkens, and we meet Octoper OA. It moves in an M shape, emerging from the water twice each time it moves across the screen, and fires a large projectile towards Mega Man at its highest point. It has 20 health and can only be damaged in the green gem, but offers little challenge despite our limitations and can be easily killed before it finishes a movement cycle. Considering that previous minibosses often had multiple attacks or at least some randomization, this is a major disappointment.

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The next section drops V to put more focus on Irucan. This was a good move, as they're more fun to avoid and their jump arcs are more erratic now. By the end they're appearing in pairs, with the last giving us an opening to jump between them if we don't kill them. The "E" item is placed in the air along the way, making it by far the most annoying hiding spot for these things.

Unfortunately the level ends abruptly after this area, with only a lone Twin Cannon to guard the door. I feel sorry for this one, as it was somehow given the one placement worse than directly in front of us, as both of its shots move under our feet but it's within range of our charge shots.

While I'm willing to give the vehicle segment credit for being reasonably fun on its own, this was not the proper way to introduce it. We only get about 10 screens worth of normal gameplay (ignoring the empty screens), and the Teckyuns and bubbles taunt us with the possibilities they had for use in a normal stage before it throws us in a jet ski all the way up to the boss door. A third segment with more complex traps would have helped round it out and justified the lackluster use of them in the first section, but I think this gimmick would have worked out better in a Wily stage, which already have a habit of being short and doing odd things now and then.

The stage looks nice enough overall, but some things feel lacking, like the fact that the teal fluid is animated but the water behind the washing machine doors is not, and that Octoper has no animation whatsoever.