Review by Aaron_Haynes

"Do you enjoy solving a Rubik's Cube, no matter how many times you've done it? That mindset is really the only way to justify Mega Man 6."

The last entry in the original Mega Man series on the NES is a sterile, almost depressing affair, dutifully reciting the words with no interest in the music, giving us nothing of any lasting interest. It plays like a funeral march for the series, all the joy and vividness long since drained out of the proceedings. And yet it's possible to extract enjoyment out of this game, but it takes a certain kind of fan who understands what the NES Mega Man games are, and doesn't mind playing another iteration of that formula. It's something akin to people who still solve Rubik's Cubes with the same interest as they had when it came out 30 years ago: a mildly entertaining and familiar diversion that nonetheless provides enough stimulation to be worth the effort.

In the interest of full disclosure, I count myself among this crowd (NES-era Mega Man junkies, not Rubik's Cube people, I could never solve the damn thing). But even for us, Mega Man 6 stands out as the bottom of a steadily steepening slope.

The story is particularly insulting this time around, though it does give the first sorta-plausible explanation for a myraid of humanoid robots with eclectic functions since the original game: there's an international competition where the best eight are chosen by "Mr. X", the judge and funder, who is of course Dr. Wily and steals all eight of them to become the eight bosses. I'm not sure why Capcom thought it was necessary to transparently disguise Wily's identity as the villain starting with Mega Man 4, but it seems to create its own set of problems. I don't think anyone cares that every one of these games has Wily trying to dominate the world in the exact same way. Certainly the structure of the game is never altered in the slightest manner, and Wily always escapes after the last battle. So why insult our intelligence with a string of extremely obvious red herrings? The Mega Man X games were even more egregiously bad about it, starting to pathetically hide Sigma from the second installment. I'm glad Mega Man 9 had the sense to be wink at us with its version of this idea.

With respect to Mega Man 6's bosses, the series has seemingly exhausted every good idea. Not one of them offers anything truly new beyond surface gimmicks. The ones that aren't synonyms for previous bosses instead brilliantly surpass the previous threshold for moronic themes. Their designs are often hilarious, particularly Blizzard Man, and Flame Man as a robot in a turban in a middle-eastern oil pipeline with Arabian music rounds out the game's earnest quasi-racism along with Tomahawk Man quite nicely.

The weapons are pale imitations of what's come before, and bland in their designs, animations, and area of effect. Nothing sums it up better than the Flame Blast, which sputs out tiny flame pillars onto the ground a few feet away. The game is out of gas, limp and only reluctantly effective. The requisite variations on the same basic themes are all here: shield weapon, ground rolling weapon, boomerang weapon, screen-clearer, and four projectiles that move in different arcs. The Blizzard Attack is by far the dumbest looking one -- four tiny snowflakes positioned at trapezoidal points appear behind Mega Man and drift lazily to the right along horizontal and diagonal trajectories.

The game's structure reminds rigidly fixed, identical to the last two games and quietly pathetic in its few new concepts: two adapter suits in place of the collection of Rush transformations, and a throwaway gadget that's insulting to consider as an actual innovation. I'll admit that the Jet adapter is neat, particularly the way Mega Man's falling speed interacts with the throttle. But on the whole, the two suits are really only there to justify obstacles specifically designed to be impassable without them. You have to skip a ridiculous animation every time you switch to them, which will strain patience as you do it ten times in the same level (especially so if you start dying a lot). As neat as they are at first, there's little to really justify them, so they're more gimmicks than features.

There's not much more to say. The levels are mediocre to decent, enemies running the gamut from boring to silly to challenging. The music is good as always. The color scheme produces a few good-looking areas, but on the whole seems flat and a little sickly. The controls are more sluggish than usual, particularly sliding, to which the programmers have added an inexplicable forced pause between slides, making the experience even more halting and unpleasant. Mega Man 6 follows the series formula rigidly and unblinkingly, to the point of making you wonder whether it was really worth making at all. What really necessitated this game? It doesn't bode well that it doesn't seem to make much of an effort to justify its own existence. The only way I can really recommend it is in the terms I detailed early on, for the Rubik's Cube crowd, that has intimately keyed into what Mega Man games feel like and how they operate, and always enjoy some more of that.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 01/16/09

Game Release: Mega Man 6 (US, 03/31/94)

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