Mega Man X6
Review by Jjukil
"...but kicking it while it's down is never a good idea!"
I was looking forward to Mega Man X6. I really was. It did start to look a little more dubious to me, I'll admit, when I realized it was due for release only a week after the Japanese version. But that didn't stop me from buying it. And when I played it, I was impressed by a lot of things. But I was also depressed by a lot of things, from some aspects of the improvements to basic game elements Capcom has rendered totally flawed. Frankly, I'm wondering how some of this wasn't caught in beta testing.
Capcom continues to reign as the only--I mean, the best producer of 2d graphics on next-generation systems. Luckily, X6 is an effort more deserving of the title than its predecessor, though I still long for the crispness and videos of X4. Yes, X6 still has cinema screens instead of videos...but the stills have more room allotted to them, and they seem more detailed to me(if also more goofy). The in-game sprites also have better design quality to them, replacing most of the awkwardness of the last game with impressive, entertaining sprites and effects. Working against the graphics, though, are a couple of poor quirks and a glitch or two that really should have been addressed; slowdown occurs sometimes, and some effects (like the ice flows in Blizzard Wolfang's stage) are downright laughable.
Sound effects have gone down a bit in this game, due largely to the voice acting. There are voices during the cinema stills in this game, but luckily, they weren't redubbed: the English version of X6 includes the same voices the Japanese version did. Considering the voices in X4, this is probably a good thing...but unlike that game, which loaded all the voices and video at once, these samples seem to be loaded individually. The cinema scenes can really drag on if you've got them enabled. The rest of the sounds are the same as always, meaning they're appropriate, have decent stereo usage and are sometimes pretty cool.
To me, the most obvious improvement about X6 is the music. Unlike X4 and X5, not all of this is background noise. Many tracks are actually entertaining music, and a few are even EXCITING. (How novel....) I actually remember the tracks from Blaze Heatnix's and Infinity Mijinion's stages, and fondly at that. Not every sample is a gem--in fact one or two are hideous--but the music hasn't been this good since X3, or maybe even X2. There are more recycled tracks here, unfortunately, but at least they're remixed more than they were in X5. They're in slightly better places as well.
To borrow a quote from a review here on Gamefaqs for Legend of Mana by Vincent: now here I come ripping with rage.
There are some staggering problems with the gameplay that bring X6 down heavily. First off, this is, by far, the most difficult Mega Man X game for the Playstation; it may even beat out X3 as the most difficult X game period. Ordinarily, this would be great, because the X games are not exactly tough for Mega Man veterans, but the ridiculously frustrating instant-death situations of X5 have also been made more difficult. I spent more than half an hour trying to get through one stage; I imagine my controller would be in fragments if I hadn't already been battered into a cold acceptance of it all. These are not the only problems with the stage designs, either. A staple of X games has been finding items, which often must be accomplished using another item. But there have always been escapes to these setups; in X6, you can find yourself trapped in them, leaving you no choice but to die trying to get through them or, well, just die. At least one such situation is required playing, meaning you HAVE to get an ''optional'' upgrade for the first time in the series. This seriously makes me wonder how much of the aforementioned beta testing this game actually went through.
The controls don't help matters this time around, either. X and his partner have good design schemes and can be very entertaining to use, but they suffer from several poorly thought out or just plain unfinished control aspects. If you swing X's new saber while jumping, you will make a full jump, regardless of how long you hold down the button, unless you release it before pressing the saber button; pressing Up and Fire during a jump with X's partner results in an uncancellable attack that rockets you to the bottom of the floor--or the pit, especially while navigating on ropes. There are plenty more of these, but suffice it to say that this is, by far, the worst control seen in the X series, and it seriously hurts the game.
The innovations in this game are fewer and less sweeping than those in X5, and nearly every one of them I can count has problems. Luckily, X5's option to complete the game early is here again, but the dual armors and basically unlimited lives also return, each of which have their ups and downs(though I would never have gotten through this game without the latter, I swear...). X now starts with a saber, as mentioned above, and it's useful but it handles slowly and poorly, making it disappointing. You now obtain the ''optional'' powerup parts through a massive item hunt that has you rescuing Reploids, who in return give you parts. The problem here is that of a staggering total of 128 Reploids, only a small fraction give you parts, and the game won't tell you where to find them without exhausting trial and error. The level design I lamented so much above is supplemented by new optional sections to stages often accessed by teleporters...which are responsible for some of the inescapable situations, and sometimes placed so that you may not know which path leads to the optional section and which leads to the boss. As for the highly publicized Nightmare system, what Capcom calls a ''random level generator'' is little more than a set of toggle switches that turn on or off based on where (and when) you've been. For the most part it simply adds effects rather than actually changing the terrain. This is nice on its own, but a far cry from actual randomly generated levels, making it come off as a cheap gimmick.
Plot, too, has gone down overall, but the improvements balance out the problems better than the gameplay. The first and really main problem with the plot is the translation. It's been bad before, and you really noticed it sometimes in X4, but X6 is actually starting to approach Daravonese. (If you don't know what this is, play Final Fantasy Tactics immediately.) The rushed localization pushed the translators to the limits, and there are some places where they obviously snapped. The other problem is that the advancement of the main story, which has been slowly creeping along throughout the series but picking up recently, nearly grinds to a halt in X6; the endings are not very satisfying to those looking for answers. But what X6 lacks in main story, it makes up for in an entirely unexpected way: supporting cast development. Alia, Signas and Douglas ACTUALLY RETURN, and you'll see a distinct relationship between the new villain and Alia that is fleshed out extensively through her end-stage reports. Additionally, there are multiple endings once more...though, again, they may not satisfy.
Replay Factor: 5
If--and that is a much bigger if than it should be--you can survive the initial playthrough, there's a good chance you'll want to pick it back up. X6 hides some solid, satisfying game experiences in its muddled mess of errors, and X and Zero are just so fun to play as when handled properly that replaying them with experience in handling them seems appealing. You can even try to figure out the Nightmare system or the new, degraded parts system, if you're really nuts. But the glitches and level designs can make for such a painful experience that you get frustrated all over again, dulling the desire to give it another playthrough even as you do it. It all depends on your enjoyment of the series and 2d gaming in general--and, more importantly, your tolerance. My own measure of a good Mega Man game is whether I'll ever want to pick it up and play it again years later; X6 does not strike me as one of those games.
Mega Man X6 makes me sad. A lot of it is fun, and it's very nice to be legitimately challenged again after so many years of drought in that department. But if you want these great gameplay experiences, you have to choose carefully where you go and what you do, because the rest of it is poor, sometimes even terrible. Like X5, this game leaves me wanting more, because it's been done better before and it can be done better again. But unlike its predecessor, X6 has actually made me start to think that maybe there shouldn't BE more. The fact that after this many years, Capcom has produced an entry as riddled with holes as this one suggests to me that maybe they CAN'T churn out good 2D platformers anymore. If there is a next entry, it will be the verdict, and I'll snap it up eagerly and immediately...but thanks to this game, it may be through a rental.
Try before you buy? Oh yes. Even I'm having a little trouble justifying this one; I'm quickly running out of patience on my second playthrough, and as I write this the idea of a third almost sounds like torture. And I've been a Mega Man fanatic since MM4 for the NES.
Can't wait for X7....
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 12/18/01, Updated 12/18/01
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