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After the events of the Reploid rebellion in Mega Man X4, Sigma openly attacks the Maverick Hunter base and purposely loses a fight against Mega Man X and Zero, sacrificing his latest battle body in order to inflict the devistating Sigma Virus on the planet. This virus causes Reploids to go Maverick, some of which then activate the re-entry sequence for the Eurasia Space Colony in orbit above Earth. Unless X and Zero can destroy the colony before impact, all biological life on Earth will be destroyed, and so begins Capcom's 2000 video game release for the Sony PlayStation (and PC in 2002), Mega Man X5.

This fifth installment in the Mega Man X series retains some of the classic elements of the series while adding in some new challenges, The dual-play mode from X4 returns, although now players can switch between X and Zero between levels instead of being stuck with their chosen character for the entire game. Zero has also picked up a blaster of his own in addition to his trusty sabre, although it is a low-powered little gun and not very useful. Furthermore, our heroes can now crouch to avoid hazards and attack smaller enemies. Upgrades and enhancements are still around, although now X's armor parts must all be collected before they can be used, meaning that X will spend most of the game without enhancements. There are eight enhancement capsules to discover, each of which provides one part of one of two different armors. X begins the game with the full armor set from the previous game, the Fourth Armor, and can earn two new armor sets: Falcon Armor (which allows flight and brief invincibility) and the Gaea Armor (which boosts defense, downplays weapon strength, and allows X to safely walk on spikes). A ninth hidden capsule contains the Ultimate Armor, a boosted form of the Fourth Armor. This ninth capsule can also give Zero his only capsule-earned enhancement, the Black Armor, which boosts his defense abilities. In addition to all of this X and Zero can still steal weapons from robot masters, plus they can build additional enhancement parts such as a Quick Charge item, an item to boost X's walking speed, and so on.

Mega Man X5 is the first game in the Mega Man X series to openly imply that there is a connection between Zero and the nefarious Dr. Wily from the original Mega Man series. Watch for a return of the Rock Monster/Yellow Devil boss from Mega Man, Mega Man 3, et al., some familiar stage music, and even the classic "Dr. W" logo. Also, while the Sigma Virus causes damage and insanity in Reploids, Zero himself becomes stronger when exposed to the virus, a fact that Sigma notices and connects to Zero's origins. The arcade title Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters was the first game in the classic Mega Man series to imply a connection between Zero and Dr. Wily, so now it would seem to be only a matter of time before the entire story behind Zero's creation is revealed.

Another first for the series, Mega Man X5 includes a ticking clock element to move the storyline along. At the start of the game the Eurasia colony will crash to Earth in only sixteen hours, and every stage that X or Zero visit consumes one of those hours, win or lose. Our heroes are planning to use an old Enigma Cannon to blast the colony to bits, although the weapon is become obsolete and needs additional parts to produce enough of a blast to take out the colony. Four of the eight Mavericks are in possession of these items, and when X or Zero defeat each of them, the items are collected and installed in the cannon. If time runs out and the colony crashes, Zero goes Maverick and the game cannot be completed with the "good ending". If the Enigma cannon does not destroy the colony and there is time still on the clock, the second collection phase of the game will open up and X and Zero must collect four parts from the remaining four Mavericks to equip the last remaining space shuttle for a suicide mission that involves crashing the shuttle into the incoming colony.

While the game's sixteen hour deadline does not play out in realtime, the game does keep track of how fast players complete each level. The faster levels are completed plus the number of enemies defeated combined with how little damage X or Zero take determines their rank, GA being the top rank and E being the worst. Rank level determines how difficult the game becomes, with bosses picking up larger energy meters, additional enemies showing up in levels, and various upgrade parts becoming available over time automatically. Keeping a high rank is not required to achieve the best ending of the game, but the rank system will allow novice players to have just as much fun as the more advanced players.

For reasons known only to Capcom's American translation staff, the Mavericks of Mega Man X5 have had their names changed from the original Japanese version of the game. The American names of the Mavericks all have names that are tributes to the members of the band Guns n' Roses. This leads to continuity problems later in the series, as no other Mega Man X game ever uses these tribute names again. Here are the names of all eight Mavericks, both Japanese and American:

Overall, Mega Man X5 is an enjoyable addition to the series that provides some fresh challenges to fans. There's not very much new to see here - the game uses the same sprites and animations from Mega Man X4 for the most part - although the PC version does look better graphically than the PC version of Mega Man X4. Some of the stage music includes remixed tunes from past games in the series, plus a special training level includes a cameo from slain Maverick Magma Dragoon. The game does have a few poor qualities, such as the infuriating and frustrating speeder bike level and the constant interruptions from Alia, the Maverick Hunter radio operator, do grow tiresome as she repeats the same information about where to go over and over again. Nevertheless, the game is recommended to fans of the series. The Sony PlayStation version can still be found in used game shops and bargain bins, but the PC edition has been out of print for a while (and even when it was in print, Capcom didn't produce very many copies). The Mega Man X series continues with Mega Man X6.


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