Part 10: Proto I
Two things before we start: I've got a slight cold and you can hear it. Doesn't matter too much, I think. Secondly, no old video for this episode. I did Proto 1 and 2 in one video back in the day, so I'll link that in the next update. To preserve the looks, the OP banners for Proto I and II will both link to the same old video.
And one more thing:
Those things bug the hell out of me. They are 2D background tiles, I'm sure you could find them in one Mega Man game or the other almost exactly like that. I just noticed them the first time and now I can't unsee how absurdly out of place they look.
Finally, for the stage. It's a pretty peculiar one, can't really decide if I like it or hate it. The design is certainly less than consistent. From really good stretches of level like the very first one (I'll get to that in a second), you get to bizarrely stupid rooms like the forced Rush usage ones or, obviously, the block puzzles. The boss is its own subgenre of lazy as hell design, but we'll burn that bridge when we get to it.
As said, the starting stretch is really nice except for WHY THE HELL IS THE SKY PINK OH GOD MY EYES. Tigers on uneven terrain made their introduction in Napalm Man, they're taking to their logical next step here with even more instant death surrounding them, a different enemy type in-between to shake things up and more of them on the screen at once, cementing their position as top contender for hardest enemy of Mega Man 5. Too bad you can cheese their AI completely, but tell that to a player who just accidentaly tripped one early and subsequently gets pounced on until only shreds of Mega remain. Charge Kick is still my favourity solution, though not one that's always applicable (see: uneven terrain); the same obstacle also makes the Buster not always ideal, which forces you to think and try out stuff. Especially against the one on the higher platform at the end, who, coupled with his bro, can really ruin your day; if you try and buster him, he'll just jump over the shot, ready to make mincemeat out of you. As you'll also activate his buddy...yeah. Well done in how evil it is!
As is the next screen. Doing it only with Buster is unwise; weapons like Gravity Hold, Gyro Blade and Star Crash make it into a breeze. Without them, you'll have to goad the second guy into falling, by doubling back in mid-air; not something you often have to do in a Mega Man game, and I appreciate it.
In case you fall, the true evil of the room reveals itself, as you'll land right on top of a tiger. It's still preferable to a pit, though. A mistake should cost you health, not a life immediately, is what I'm saying.
Then you have to use Rush or Super Arrow to get up to the ladder, why would they do this? It's so goddamn pointless. Especially considering that you have a power-up out of reach on the very next screen, which should be all the reminder that you possess the powers of Wonderdog you need!
Buuut apparently we need a Rush Jet section later. If you're not psychic and start at the edge of the spike pit, the wall is far too high to clear normally; you can hold back to make Rush go more slowly, but...I just thought of trying that out, it's not really obvious. If they intended it to be required in early versions of the game until they added that random jut-out from the wall to catch you, that'd have been a major dick move. As it is, it's very annoying, because from there you can only proceed with Super Arrow. I know I switch weapons often myself, but constant forced switching is just tedium.
What follows is definitely one of Power Stone's greatest moments, because it's really quite useful. Still nowhere near efficient or even good, because you still have to wait for the rocks to disappear (or go in and out of the menu all the time), but...it doesn't actively hurt you, that's a plus, right?
Nice trap on the next screen, unless you jump really far to the right, the homing mine won't hit you upon transitioning, then it's up to your reflexes to Rock out from in between two hard places.
The walker is a cunt.
I don't think I need to say any more about block puzzles after having ranted on this stupidity for four games now. Fuck any designer who think it's a nice idea having them. Best part? If you fuck it up here, you'll get sent back to in front of the walker. Possibly with no Super Arrow left. Or even Rush, because you know, you HAD to use him before. Good times.
Last screen is nothing but distractions and "hey remember that you have special abilities?".
All in all, there's a few really good ideas and fun stretches here, but it also feels like a list that just ticks off "stuff that has to be in a Mega Man game", trying to cram it all into a single level. At least we get spared that bullshit later.
What's definitely good about it, though, is the increase in difficulty. It feels like a first castle stage; an unsubtle reminder that shit is now getting serious. If it had continued from there till the end of the game, this could have been the first completely enjoyable endgame in the whole series. As it is...you'll see.
Meet Dark Man 1. Yes, that means there'll be more of this guy later. Which I'll address the second time we encounter him. For this fight...it's lazy. Big surprise. His attack pattern consists of moving and stopping to shoot, that's it. The shot comes out quite fast, which can catch you off-guard if you're near, and it can aim for Mega, which isn't an issue though. Most problematic is his movement, dredging up ugly memories of Charge Man's fight; clearing his bulk isn't too easy. And he'll turn around for you. And get faster at two-thirds health (this is not how desparation attacks work, by the way!). It's moderately tough to deal with, because you can get cornered easily, panic, you lose your charge all over the place and getting it up can be tough, haha I know. As evinced by the Buster video.
Water Wave erasing his bullets is a nice usage for its almost never relevant power...and it gets invalidated by how sucky Water Wave is. Because you have to stand in place, once the battle gets hectic, you can't well slide away from him, turn around quickly, stay put and fire off a Water Wave to block the shot. It's doable, certainly, but almost trickier (for me at least) than just dodging him normally. Which still makes it an okay weakness because obviously, you're always gonna hit because the fucker never leaves the ground, but that's just accomodating for how bad the Wave really is. Not that we needed to analyze this boss to figure that one out.
So in the end, I have the biggest success by trolling his AI into oblivion with Charge Kicks. Once you find the right distance, you're never going to get hit. Consumes weapon energy like crazy, because of the invincibility, but who cares. Most of you won't use Charge Kick for anything else, probably.
- Rounder: This guy is most certainly a thing. They're solely a distraction, blocking your shots for a good while, what with the 4 HP thing and all, but ultimately, the room is so unthreatening that it matters fuck-all. Their bizarre weakness to Water Wave makes them into an even more puzzling enemy to me. I could see them get use in a more threatening way, coupled with enemies against who you really don't want your shots to be blocked, but that'd just be annoying. You can even wait them out until they get bored! And now, we're never going to see them again. So strange.
- Proto Man stages - this, right here, is the best piece of traditional music to come out of MM5. I really like it, it's catchy, got a fun melody and is right in the line of upbeat songs for the first fortress stages. I'd still have liked it more if the whole soundtrack had been more along the lines of Gravity and Star Man's pieces, because Proto 1, while good, isn't really great, and - to my ears at least - it still being the best of the melody-driven ones...you know where I'm going with that.