Mega Man 6 (NES) Review

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Review by tankMage (May 2018)

Score: B

   Mega Man 6 (or Mega Man VI if you prefer Roman numerals) was the first title in the series that I played and it got me hooked on the Blue Bomber, so much so that I managed to collect most of the NES cartridges during my teen years. Needless to say, I was excited to revisit this game twenty years later and while Mega Man 6 was just as fun as I remembered it being, it pales in comparison to nearly every other game in the original NES franchise with the exception of perhaps Mega Man and Mega Man 5. In terms of graphics this is perhaps the best looking game in the series, however, and there’s even a bit of plot exposition that may pique some player’s interest in the beginning. Even better, there were some pretty creative stage designs and gameplay mechanics that showed a lot of promise early on, but the game builds itself up only to deflate like yesterday’s birthday party balloons in the second half. The boss AI is the worst in the series, thanks to predictable attack and movement patterns that are easily figured out, the final eight stages in the game seem like they were thrown together in the last minute, and the special weapons were rehashes of those we have seen in earlier titles. As a result, the classic NES series did not go out with the roar I had hoped for, though MM6 at least does the series some justice.

Graphics

   If there’s one good thing that can be said about Mega Man 6 that is nearly irrefutable, it is that this is the best looking title out of the six NES releases. Nearly every stage has it’s own unique visual theme, which is a convention in Mega Man, and these stages often boast detailed backgrounds and vibrant colors, though few of the backgrounds were animated. Players will even encounter some creative things like submarines and and upside down water. There are also nice details, like the time of day changing when the player visits certain stages. I especially enjoyed the blazing sunsets and sunrises in Yamamoto and Tomahawk Man’s stages.

  The devs even created mini-bosses and enemies that were unique to certain stages, which greatly enhanced the overall aesthetic of each area. Many of the enemy robots were the usual goofy machines players encounter in these games, so get ready to see gun toting cowboy robots, evil pandas, and the occasional tanooki bot. The robot masters also looked good for the most part and were more inspired than those of some of the earlier titles (I’m looking at you Mega Man 5!), though their animations could have been smoother in some cases. They even had an international theme going in this title with each Robot Master representing a part of the globe. This brings us to the end game bosses, which were generally trash and either looked like overhauled versions of bosses from previous games or like a doodle of some random machine. Hell, one of the bosses even looked a bit like the tank from Blaster Master which was actually kind of cool, but also could be construed as evidence that the devs were strapped for ideas and time.

   As for Mega Man’s special weapons, a visual and gameplay staple of the series… well the good comes with the bad, I suppose. Many of the special weapons were underwhelming and seemed to be designed lazily. Shields made of rotating flowers, snowflakes, and fireballs that basically fall out of the Mega Buster and plop on the ground are the sort of things that pass as weapons in this title. Perhaps the worst offender is the Centaur Flash, which is literally just a flash that damages everything on the screen. Of course flash weapons have been a common sight in these titles for years, but it would have been nice if they were put to rest this time around. Despite their unimpressive designs, the weapons are generally pretty detailed and looked good for what there were.

   Mega Man and Rush also got overhauled and the result is quite pleasing. Mega Man himself seems to have a touch more detail and the flashing effect that goes with the Buster charge looks more dramatic than that of previous entries in the series. Rush can transform into one of two special suits for Mega Man. Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but both suits look cool and the transformation animation is one of the best animations I’ve seen in an NES title. Cool as this feature may be, the Rush transformation animation runs every time the player equips a suit, which gets tiresome. Capcom at least understood that watching the same cutscene ten million times would get boring, so it is possible to skip past it.

Story

   Same garbage, different game, but at least the story for this one is somewhat coherent albeit vague. A super rich dude named Mr.X (which should raise a red flag right off the bat) holds a tournament to decide the most powerful robot in the world. A total of eight bots join the competition and predictably run amok. For the sixth time, it is up to Mega Man and Rush to save the day as Mr. X uses the robots to conquer the world. Now this raises a lot of questions, like “how did Mr. X take control of the robots?” or “Why would anyone trust a mysterious tycoon with their robots considering the strife caused by Wily in the past?”. Well, the game doesn’t bother to even attempt to explain anything (as usual) and this is basically the only bit of story the player encounters until the final stages. As bare bones as the plot happens to be, it is also one of the more logical backdrops for a Mega Man game, so I have to give the devs at a little credit.

   Like any self respecting Mega Man title, MM6 has the usual not-so-surprising plot twist, which I can’t help but think was an inside joke at Capcom. Just about anyone whose remotely familiar with the series will figure the twist out right away, so needless to say, the entire affair is anticlimactic. What’s worse is the ending lacks the sort pensive and slightly melancholy tone of previous installments in the franchise. There are also a few unfortunate spelling errors in the dialogue that almost made my preteen head explode as I tried figure out how adults making a professional product could allow such an oversight. So, yeah, don’t play this game for the story.

We’ve heard it all before, blah, blah, blah.

User Interface

   Mega Man 6 has possibly the worst UI out of any title in the series thanks to a bug that causes the controls to lock up in certain situations as well as the Rush transformation cutscenes I mentioned earlier. Luckily the controls only seem to stick when the player tries to  jump out of a slide or presses the jump button while shooting. This game did come with one major improvement: it is very difficult to accidentally slide while trying to perform a jump, which was a problem for me in other titles. As for the cutscenes, they can be cancelled, but the process is still cumbersome. The menu screen was nice looking and simplistic, though not as streamlined as it could have been. I often had to navigate through the Rush Adapters to get to the weapon I needed, which was a step in the wrong direction in terms of menu design.

Music and Sound

   Mega Man 6 stands out in the series in terms of music, not necessarily because it’s BGM is better than those of other Mega Man titles, but because of the various musical styles used throughout the game. Each of the initial eight stages take place in a different part of the world and the sound track generally reflects the culture of each area. Tomahawk Man’s stage has a Western theme, Yamamoto Man’s has a Japanese influence, and Plant Man’s BGM has a very South American feel to it, to name a few. All of the songs are catchy, but I felt that the timber of some of the synthesized melodies was not quite appropriate or in some cases the pitch was an octave too high. This was especially true for the Mr. X stages, whose theme song was put together nicely, but sounded a bit harsh due to it’s high pitch. It was also disappointing that there were only two theme songs for the final eight stages, though I must admit that I didn’t mind listening to one of them for the last four levels and I really enjoyed the final boss music.

   This title also saw the introduction of novel sound effects to the series and some nice details, like the bouncing sound made by puck-like robots as they struck walls. Many of the familiar Mega Man sound effects returned, so fans will certainly recognize the sound made by explosions and 1-Ups. Despite these improvements, the devs fell short in this department when they used the generic Mega Buster shot effect for every weapon, which took some of the satisfaction out of using special weapons. It also reinforces my theory that this game was rushed towards the end of development, because it seems like the devs just dummied the Mega Buster effect in for all of the weapons to save time.

Gameplay

   Players can complete the initial eight stages in any order just like in every other Mega Man game. While the main objective of each stage is the boss waiting at the end, many enemies and obstacles stand in the player’s way throughout each stage. Defeating the boss will award the player with a new weapon which is effective against certain other bosses and enemies. This tried and true structure is essentially the backbone of the entire series, but after six games the formula became rather stale, even to a platformer addict like myself. However, Capcom made a commendable effort to inject some innovation into MM6 by adding alternate paths into the stages and even a few hidden items. A few gimmicks like a submarine that acted as an obstacle course and the ability to interact with certain objects (a feature that seemingly vanished from the series after the second game) also made the initial eight stages more entertaining, but the level design falls apart completely in the second half of the game. Many of the final eight levels were slapped together in a rush, offered little challenge or entertainment, and lacked the amusing gimmicks from earlier stages. The final levels were also short in many cases, which served to compound the problem.

Upside down water…that’s new.

   This brings us to the bosses, which were generally wimps. It is difficult to point out why I feel the bosses in Mega Man 6 are so easy, especially since they are quite durable, but it seems to be a combination of low damage output and slow, predictable movesets. Consequently, the player is given a wide margin of error with most of the robot masters and the rock, paper, scissors weapon weakness system comes off as redundant since just about any of the first eight bosses can be defeated with the Mega Buster even by novice players. In fact, Centaur Man was the first Mega Man boss I managed to beat when I was just a wee gamer. Endgame bosses, which were one of the few areas in which the devs could experiment in previous titles, were often dull and uninspired hunks of junk this time around. Many of the final bosses were like those that appeared in past Mega Man games, which was disappointing when compared to favorites like the Mecha Dragon or Yellow Devil.

   Special weapons obtained by defeating bosses are one of the defining features of these games, but the devs began to struggle to come up with new weapon designs as release piled on top of release. Capcom had run out of ideas for weapons by the time Mega Man 6 hit shelves and had basically been using the same concepts with graphical as well as slight mechanical tweaks from game to game for some time. The infamous shield weapons that appear in four out of six of the original NES releases and just about any weapon from one Mega Man title has a rough equivalent in another, with a few rare exceptions. As a result, the arsenal in MM6 is going to be very familiar and a bit hackneyed to fans of the series. The devs did succeed in balancing the weapons fairly well and players won’t encounter any completely broken weapons like the Metal Blade or Flash Stopper, although some of them (like the screen wiping Centaur Flash) come close.

   Rush (Mega Man’s robotic canine) got a major overhaul which turned out for the better. Rather than acting as a springboard or rideable jet as in the past, Rush now transforms into two different suits (called “Adaptors”) that Mega Man can don. The Rush Jet Adaptor allows the player to fly for a brief period or control falls. While the Jet Adaptor can be easily exploited, it is a lot of fun to use and is a vast improvement over the old Rush Jet (that required energy like a weapon), because it was not uncommon to run out of Rush Jet energy in previous games and be forced to die or farm weapon energy to proceed past certain obstacles. Then there’s the Rush Power Adapter, a totally new ability for Mega Man that allows him to throw punches that emit powerful, short range bursts of energy. When charged up like the Mega Buster, the Power Adapter can break rocks, smash through armor, and even knock bosses back. I admit that the Rush Adapters are gimmicks and a bit broken in terms of balance since they allow the player to crack tough opponents apart with ease or fly at will, but they are fun gimmicks, so I’m not going to complain.

Introducing Plant Man, the least intimidating boss ever.

Final Thoughts

   I had a lot of bad stuff to say about Mega Man 6, but by itself it is not a bad game, in fact it is still one of my favorites. As I mentioned earlier, I’m fairly sure Capcom rushed this product to ensure it would be completed before the NES became totally defunct in a market that had transitioned to 16-Bit by 1993, which perhaps explains many of Mega Man 6’s problems, as the game attempted to embrace a new paradigm using outdated technology in a short time frame. At the end of the day, there’s better Mega Man games for the NES and this final release failed to send the series off (and even the console) with the bang it deserved, but it at least surpasses some of it’s weaker predecessors.

Recommendations

Mega Man 6 isn’t the best of the NES series (how many times have I said this?), however it’s low difficulty level makes it a good pick for beginners and the new ideas explored in this entry may interest experienced fans.

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