By this point in the series, things can either change drastically and get much better, or start going downhill somewhat. Unfortunately, X5 is guilty of the latter. While there are a few new features that make the game interesting, it just doesn’t stand out as a strong contender, and feels only slightly above average.
X and Zero rush to take on Sigma’s head immediately in the intro stage, and upon defeating him, the Sigma virus spreads all over the Earth. To make matters worse, the space colony Eurasia is sent on a collision course with the Earth. When fighting the eight Mavericks, X and Zero can gather parts for the Enigma, which is a laser cannon that fires into space, and a space shuttle, which is used to try and blow up the Eurasia colony in case the Enigma fails. Introduced in X5 are a few new characters, some of which stick around all the way until X8. There’s Alia your navigator, Signas the General, Douglas the mechanic (who makes parts for X and Zero), and the annoying Dynamo, who is more of a nuisance than Vile was.
Some of the new features include a duck move, which is a nice addition, and the ability to select X or Zero before each stage, depending on who you want to use. There are also two additional armor sets for X, Falcon and Gaia, which allow him to get to otherwise unreachable items, or defeat certain bosses with less difficulty. You can also get certain parts to upgrade X and Zero after beating certain bosses, but there is a hidden level value that determines which part you get. I wish Capcom had made it more obvious which part you get and what level the bosses would be at before you fight them, or at least how that value is calculated. It’s a little confusing and you’ll need an online guide to see which parts go with which boss.
Perhaps one of the strangest things in X5 is that the Maverick names in the game are Guns N’ Roses inspired, which is kind of strange for the localization team to do. Thankfully, the instruction booklet has the correct names, so I go by those. One other flaw is that the Eurasia colony can be destroyed without getting any of the aforementioned parts for the Enigma cannon or space shuttle. You can just opt to fire the Enigma or launch the shuttle before fighting a single Maverick, and it could randomly blast the Eurasia colony to pieces. There is a 16 hour countdown to the collision, and each time you visit a stage an hour gets taken off, but this is more than enough time to successfully get all the parts. If both the cannon and shuttle fail (which Zero rides in), Zero is no longer playable for the rest of the game and you see his Maverick form. If neither method works, though, you can just reset the game and try again from your last save, so it’s no big deal. Afterwards, the Sigma virus that roamed each level turns into the Zero virus. Touching enough of these will hurt X, but make Zero invincible, which is kind of cool.
There are more good points about X5, though. The soundtrack is still quite good, much like the rest of the series. There is lots of replay value, and even a difficulty setting, with Xtreme mode being the hardest. Bosses will do different attacks and be more difficult for added challenge in this mode. For those who love nostalgic moments, in Sigma’s fortress you fight both the Black Devil-similar to Yellow Devil from Mega Mans 1 and 3- complete with that familiar grating tune, and Rangda Banga, who is that boss from X1 with the different colored eyes set into the wall. Also, X fights Zero if you play as him and vice versa in the stage before facing Sigma. This is certainly one of the highlights of the series, as the two titans face off against each other once again, similar to back in X2.
Sigma’s stage has a nice techno dance sound to it, and gets you in an upbeat mood before the final battle as you face off against the eight Mavericks in the teleport room. Sigma himself has two forms, both similar to X1, and so it is a satisfying and somewhat difficult battle. There are different endings depending on who you have, and one of them leaves it open for X6. Overall, X5 is not the greatest in the series, but it manages to do some things well. Next time I’ll take a look and see if X6 can turn things around.