Part 6: Crystal Man
A tough nut to crack, this stage, with multiple sections ranging from the MM5-typical "eh" to rage-inducing. The first part is basically just showing off the very goofy ballheads, they're not even placed in a way that's really threatening...the riders are a bit more of a problem, because they appear on stairs. In a way, just a tutorial for how they'll appear later in the stage.
What follows is misery, though. How the crystals fall from their chutes is completely random, meaning that the timing "puzzle" boils down to luck. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. They'll never fall so quickly that if you jump just as one falls, you'd get hit by the next; so if you wait until you see one appear and immediately jump, you're fine. If the next one decides to follow immediately though, the timing for this becomes so tight that you might well get hit even though you tried to be as careful as you could be. Also, waiting around can make you twitchy...and because it's random, you might wait a lot. Very poor design overall, it's simply quite aggravating and annoying to deal with.
So by all means break it. I don't know why exactly, maybe because the first drop is hardcoded to come when the chute appears on screen (which would actually be really fair, that way they'd never be a surprise), but flying through with Super Arrow quickly works pretty consistently, as I found. First jump to the arrow is risky, though. Consistent approach: Abuse the fuck out of Star Crash. If you're not weapon-obsessed like I am, it's not like you'll need it for anything else because the thing kind of sucks to be honest.
Afterwards, there's...more crystals. Yeesh. This time accompanied by Joes that are best taken out before you even try to attempt a jump. Still - you're never in any danger if you just wait around. Meaning that the room, if we ignore the bullshit crystals for a moment, is actually very fair. Other games even in the same series might make it so that you had to at least dodge their initial shot before you could take them out. Add one to my "MM5 is the easiest Mega Man" argument pile.
The following stretch is nothing we haven't seen before, with scooters on stairs, shield attackers out of nowhere...pretty basic. Well-placed to require careful dodging, though.
The next drop is an asshole, as the bombers are placed so that you'll almost never avoid getting hit without knowing exactly where they are...and even then. Star Crash or Gravity Hold are godsends here. I flub it in the normal video, the old one shows it properly done.
Then we have a room that's just...there, with the easiest-to-get insanely powerful pickup ever (yeah I'm sure I'm forgetting tons of other examples). This stage's design is all over the place; I'd call it varied, but in comparison to Napalm Man's which followed a logical progression of themes, this is just a cave with random shit in it. Don't much get it, and I had to look at the video again and again just to write up this commentary. Even though I did play it just earlier today. And tons of times before. Was the drop to the V after or before the M-Tank? So damn unmemorable!
But yeah, it's after. Unless you really like sticking to the sides in rooms like that, the spike drop probably won't get you even your first time through...but what you won't ever get your first time through is the letter. In a stage as long as that, especially considering some of the game's hardest obstacles are concentrated in the first rooms, this is quite the dick move. Getting it is a consistent affair, just hold to the left after the second screen, but still.
More enemies we already know to deal with in actually not really hard positions, a devious trap (which I'm okay with because it's not instant-death and you can react to it), and finally, the end with a big guy that's rendered powerless before the might of Napalm Bombs.
Cue the most frantic boss fight of the game.
Crystal Man is one mean motherfucker. Mostly because while his overall pattern is tear-inducingly simple (he jumps in high bounds from one side of the room to the other), things get nasty when he decides to pull out one of his two attacks. The four bouncing shots of his signature Crystal Eye are really tough to dodge; if you want to see how you evade the first volley, consult the old video, I'm not consistent enough to do it all the time when I record it the usual way, that is, in one take with the stage. Afterwards, it's true what I said in the past, below him is safest when he fires, then it's up to reflexes to dodge. Which can make this fight really fun - after all, there's rarely a robot master in MM5 which can make you sweat as this guy does. Sadly, I'm extremely poor at predicting "bouncing" patterns, and tracking four of those...yeah. If you happen to get hit, it's probably a good idea to quickly run into one or even two more of the balls, so they'll poof without you taking damage due to mercy invincibility.
It gets really insane when Chrissy decides to pull out his second attack while the balls are still bouncing. In a vacuum, it's really easy to avoid; wait until he's flashed a bit, then slide away. The shot is always targeted at Mega's position, so it's simple to fake him out. Also, while he's immobile, a quick shot in the face is very much possible and recommended.
Because the biggest problem, at least for me, is hitting him. Obviously, his movement is very predictable, but because dodging all the shots from his signature move consistently is nigh-impossible, at least for my skill level (take that as you want), the fight will be in part a damage race. And that means pressure. Panic. Losing your cool is very easy here, more than with any other boss probably, which adds a layer of difficulty that's not immediately obvious. In the face of a shrinking life bar, you have to calmly wait for him to land (or stop in mid-air) until you fire a shot, which might be gone quickly once the Eyes fly. The charge nerf really hurts in this fight.
And on top of all that, it's simply random in what order and how often he'll use his attacks, disregarding the first volley of Eyes. Meaning that if he wants to, he can be a total bitch and spam the shit out of his bullet hell pattern. Definitely get his weakness first if you are inexperienced in this game!
In general, this is not a stage I'd take early. Star Crash is a great boon against the falling crystals, and I also recommend Napalm Bomb because look at what I do to the stage with it.
- Bomber: They simply fly in from one side of the screen, then, upon nearing Mega, drop a single bomb. It can be destroyed and, important, blocked by Star Crash. Pretty much misused in this stage because what good is a bomber if Mega will enter the screen from above? The second time they appear, it's a good deal nastier, though, so don't take them lightly. Even simple enemies can be tons of trouble.
Crystal Joe: After MM4's pretty inconsequential Skull Joes, finally (ha) we're back to Joes being the annoying roadblocks and timewasters they always were. Just like MM3's incarnation, they take their sweet time being invulnerable and only stop being so after having fired their crystal shot. Thankfully, they're gone in a single charged shot afterwards (seriously, MM3 - six shots worth of health?). Or with tons of special weapons, the most useful being Gyro Attack.
Danger Sweeper: The name is so ridiculous for what it is. Come on, even Dust Man is more threatening. They don't do much, especially in the way MM5 places them, apparently in the firm belief that people just won't bother simply taking them out from the same level before entering the airspace above. If you do that (mostly with a single charged shot), you shouldn't have any trouble with them.
Roader: Thankfully not the Mono Roaders from MM4. As these here are always vulnerable (and pretty damn much so), they are nothing more than cannon fodder.
New Shield Attacker: "Now with new and improved armor! It's still unprotected from the back but we took out the weakness to Ring Boomerang!
What do you mean we might be bullshitting you because there's no way to test in this game? We definitely didn't just copy-paste the design from last time and bend the edges a little, that'd be silly! It's invincibillest now!"
Crazy Razy: Wacky as shit, those guys. Take out the bottom and the head will lazily bounce around. Take out the head and they're gone. Any reason given by the stage design to not go for the head first? No? Then what's the fucking point?
- Crystal Man - Not much good I can say about this one, really. In contrast to others that I didn't like but could respect for the fact, this one doesn't fit the stage at all - it'd have to be far colder, more sterile than the tune we have here. It's pretty subdued, but also jumps around lots so I can't really feel a melody emerging, while the background beat isn't really pronounced but tries to go crazy, accomplishing nothing. All in all it trickles in my one ear and out the other, leaving nothing in between. Can't really give more specific reasons, but this is a very good example of a piece of music in MM5 which I really don't care about but don't exactly know why.