A Critical Look at Mega Man 5 Stages: Gravity Man

Gravity Man's Stage and Music mm5gravity_01

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Conveniently, all of Gravity Man's new enemies appear right away. Suzy G sits on the ground and fires shots forward and back occasionally, Graviton drips red liquid that splashes on the floor which hurts us if we walk over it, and Nobita walks back and forth while stretching itself upward (relatively) when it turns around. Suzy can be easily killed in three hits or a charge shot before it fires and the first Graviton appears within our range, so the first area serves as a simple introduction to them.

The main attraction for this stage occurs after the drop. Stepping across the flashing line with arrows on either side flips the stage's gravity, and we now have to hold up when sliding on the ceiling. Nobita sticks to whatever surface it appears on, but Suzy will fall to the new floor. This screen handles the new enemies well, allowing Suzy a chance to surprise us and leaving enough room for us to slide past a fully-extended Nobita instead of killing it. The second Nobita also acts as a shield, taking four hits before we can attack the other Suzy.

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The next screen introduces the concept of jumping with reversed gravity, and while I can understand the decision to go easy on the player for a bit, the following area is extremely tame.

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Things pick up again on the next screen, with the player needing to jump to a small platform and switch gravity again to fall down. I thought Rush Coil might be useful here to skip the platform and go straight down, but unfortunately, Rush does not understand gravity shenanigans and won't land when it's reversed.

You'd have to be holding left for the entire fall to hit the spikes here, but they're not completely harmless, as these games have previously encouraged moving to the opposite side you fall from in these situations. Falling straight down leaves us in front of a B Bitter, giving it a good shot at hitting us.

Unfortunately, the long string of Bitters afterward get no such advantage, and players should blast through these without a care. Even the Power Muscler (whose legs have fallen victim to sprite limitations) can't save this section as we've got plenty of room to slide under him, and a slide won't bring us close enough to the final Bitter to run into it.

The best thing in this area is that large health item, which acts as a trap for players who think they can jump there (a thought encouraged by the preceding energy refill, which can be jumped to). Rush can get us there, but a slide from the top also moves us forward just enough to make it.

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The gravity mechanic finally shows its teeth, making us jump over pits to switch in midair. If we don't kill Graviton before jumping, it'll have a chance to surprise us by dripping upwards, and it's easy to misjudge how fast Mega Man will fall and smack into it. There isn't enough time to slide through, so we'll have to kill it regardless.

The next Bitter gets better placement than most, as it won't appear if we don't make a full jump to the area above it, and a careless player could jump into it while shooting the Graviton.

The "M" item here looks like it would require a tricky jump to grab, but practically any jump arc will work as long as the player doesn't move a few pixels off the edge and make a full jump. Naturally, this is exactly what players should have been learning to do for the whole series, so it's a neat trap for experienced players. Of course, Rush Coil can get it for us from the other side just fine, or we could just jump back and try again.

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The remaining part of this section simply gives us a bunch of switch spots in a row. The Bitter in the first shot has decent placement, as the messy background serves as a good hiding spot. We could use Rush to get on top of the last platform, but all this does is skip a Bitter and put us at Graviton's mercy if we haven't killed it yet.

The next screen is quite good, as the action of climbing up into the room can make players forget for a moment that they'll fall upward when they leave it. The spikes serve to punish those who blindly hold forward when entering, and act as a barrier to let the Pukapellys catch up with us. The last fall brings us to more dangerous spikes and one final, sad Bitter who can't even get up in time to fire at us before we walk through the boss door.

Parts of this stage work well, particularly those that mess with players' expectations, but the Teckyuns once again get nothing to do beyond their introduction and B Bitter is not an appropriate enemy to use in long stretches by itself. Bitter's only advantage is that it can surprise someone who isn't expecting it, so once players see the first they'll have no trouble spotting the rest. A few of them are placed well, but those would have been more effective if the stage wasn't littered with them.

Another problem is that all of the new enemies along with Bitter are either stationary or remain in a small area, allowing us to take out each in turn. There's no pressure to react to anything for most of the stage, and given how long Suzy takes to get a shot off, a few more distractions like Pukapelly would have gone a long way toward making them effective enemies. The stage also missed the opportunity to put a Graviton out of our reach to make us move through the drips.

It's not quite as bad as I'm making it out to be, and the gimmick is at least a memorable one, but it's a shame that the overuse of Bitter wasted so much of an already short stage. The color scheme is messy, but the animation in the background is some of the most complex we've seen so far.