Review by SethBlizzard
Reviewed: 07/15/09 | Updated: 05/05/15
The washed-out one
At first glance, there's nothing very much wrong with Mega Man 6, the last of the blue bomber's NES incarnations. Still holding its own as a record for number of titles for a single console, the Mega Man series somehow managed to stay fresh with every instalment up to this point. If you've never played a Mega Man game before, you'll probably fall in love with Mega Man 6. It's a sidescrolling platform game that looks and plays almost exactly like its predecessors, where blue humanoid robot Mega Man fights his way through tricky levels to a rendezvous with assorted robot baddies and takes their special powers for his own. The gameplay is simple and easy to get into, and you get to beat eight bad guys in any order you wish before going after the mastermind; a formula that was proven to be fun already with the first game.
If you're like me, however, and you've played the other five Mega Man titles (or at least most of them), you'll notice that there is something missing; substance. Each of the previous five instalments had a distinct personality and a charm identifiable with them. Mega Man 6 feels like it's squeezing the last drops out of the idea box. There is none of the joie-de-vivre of the previous games; in fact, there is an air of depressing duty as opposed to creativity hanging over the whole experience. Mega Man 6 can be a little fun for fans, and it does have its ideas and charms, but it's still the weakest of the bunch especially after you defeat the 8 Robot Masters.
Two Robot Masters were designed by the winners of a special contest by Capcom. The two winning designs Knight Man (by Daniel Vallie) and Wind Man (by Michael Leader) are ironically far and away my fave Robot Masters in this game. The 6 designed by the game team are B-side material through and through, from the silly skiing robot Blizzard Man to the emperor-like Yamato Man. They fail to capture my imagination like most casts of Robot Masters. And that's not touching on the ridiculous Centaur Man and Plant Man (seriously the worst idea for a Robot Master ever). The fans clearly were a few steps ahead of the team.
The game is beautiful, though, that's for sure. Mega Man 6 makes full use of the graphics capability of the NES, and even features a new and pleasing boss information screen. Many enemies look great, like sitting panda bear robots and especially a beautiful dinosaur robot boss in the final fortress. The landscapes are quite beautifully done as well. Blizzard Man's ice world, including a sinking and rising submarine, and Flame Man's flammable oil field are not only beautiful but also clever level elements. Knight Man's stage is a forested medieval castle; charming stuff.
The rest of the level design, however, hints at a blandness which plagues the game. While Wind Man is one of my favourite Robot Masters, I can't say the same about his level, which is fairly uncharacteristic and looks like it was barely based on Mega Man 5's Gyro Man level (apart from giant fans that catapult you into the air). Yamato Man and Tomahawk Man have similar problems with their level designs, where most of their levels are at the base of structures. Flower Man's stage looks like a super-irritating version of Wood Man's level from Mega Man 2 with some lakes and a building thrown in. Centaur Man does have an interesting element to his level where, in complete contrast to Dive Man's level from Mega Man 4, the water rises up into the ceiling and off the ground, so you must jump into it when you want to clear large pits. The first Mr X level starts in a great way, with a lovely view of a city in the moonlight, and you must scale and enter the building. Once you enter, it all becomes rather uncharacteristic. Almost all the bosses to follow are bland and nondescript, just like the levels.
The music is also, on the whole, below the standards of the series. Written by Yuko Takehara (I guess Yasuaki Fujita aka Bun Bun & Mari Yamaguchi were busy), it has its qualities and its glaring flaws. Some of the tunes are wonderful Flame Man, Wind Man and especially Blizzard Man. Knight Man's tune is mysterious and borders on being captivating. Others, however, can be painfully generic (Yamato Man, Plant Man). Some, like Centaur Man's tune, sound only half-composed. For some reason, MM4's annoying explosion effect has been implemented into the game again. I have a soft spot for Mr X's theme, but (spoiler warning but what the hey) Dr Wily's theme is his weakest ever, no contest. His is supposed to be the pinnacle score of each game, where the excitement kicks in and the knowledge that you're catching up with the bad guy motivates you. In Mega Man 6, his Skull Castle tune has no drama or excitement about it; it sounds like a funeral march, lamenting the glory days of Mega Man.
This last sentence sadly can describe most of the game. Mega Man 6 is a good representation of a bland adventure. The plot is a complete joke; how can someone we've never heard of until now have manipulated our main antagonist for this long? It makes no sense... and indeed it doesn't, because it's not true. Is there seriously anyone who didn't see right away that Mr X is really Dr Wily? This makes the plot even more of a tosh. At least the other games attempted at coming up with believable plots.
Mega Man 6 has some ideas going for it. Getting Beat requires considerable more effort this time; you can only acquire Beat if you use your Rush adaptors to take alternative routes to four bosses; Tomahawk Man, Yamato Man, Centaur Man and Knight Man. If you've fought them before, you must fight them again in the new lairs. This concept is interesting and encourages you to explore some levels more fully... but at the expense of Rush. Yes, Rush is supposedly present but he's mutated into much more ineffective body adaptors for Mega Man. They may allow you to fly and smash blocks without weapon refills, but they're barely effective as these, much less so than Mega Man's robo-canine sidekick in all his glory. Besides, taking Rush away from you like that negates the wishes of the series's fanbase. It doesn't help matters that you have to watch an intro EVERY TIME you switch to the Rush suits.
To top it off, the game is, aside from a few frustrating parts, pitifully easy. These 8 Robot Masters are supposed to be the toughest robots on Earth, yet as anyone who's played earlier Mega Man adventures will immediately see, they wouldn't last five seconds against Mega Man's earlier foes. Knight Man can actually block your shots at times, but that's about as difficult as it gets. You don't need much skill to beat the bosses, and even if they incorporate some damage on you, they'll die long before you do if you just keep firing. Speaking of firing, the weapons you get from your fallen foes are just like the rest of the game tired, uninspired and barely effective. Even the Mega Buster, just like Rush, has taken a painful and needless redesign. The blast is barely bigger than your normal shots, and the sound is the same as those little balls as well. This demonstrates precisely what is wrong with Mega Man 6 it just isn't as strong as the other titles, nor does it look as though it was attempted to make it as such.
Mega Man 6 is definitely the weakest of the bunch for the NES, and yet it's still playable and enjoyable to some extent. I enjoy playing Blizzard Man's stage and fighting the dinosaur boss in the first Dr Wily stage. It's just that compared with its strong forerunners, the game is quite facile and leaves little with the player. It represents too much of a good thing, which then ends up cancelling itself out. Even good moments such as the dinosaur boss in the first Dr Wily stage are hampered by being in an enclosed space (why on earth did they do that?). Mega Man 5 really should have ended the series even if Dr Wily goes to jail at the end of this one (which is a strangely simple plot device).
Now get this; Mega Man X for the SNES was already in development when this came out. That probably explains why Mega Man 6 is so bland it never got the proper creative work it needed to be great. It still doesn't explain exactly why it was created if MMX was already in development, except to be a final gimmick for the NES. The Mega Man games usually aren't gimmicks, and it's sad that Nintendo couldn't just round up the series after the strong Mega Man 5. Instead, Mega Man 6 has the dubious honour of ending the blue hero's adventures on the NES with a peep as opposed to a bang. Mega Man 6 is by no means bad and it's perfectly playable and even enjoyable at parts, but as a Mega Man game it was an unnecessary and disappointing round-up to the series. It needn't have been, it shouldn't have been. Yet it was, and it ended up... washed-out.
UPDATE: I used to wonder how this game passed me by for all these years, especially since I was utterly obsessed with the blue bomber and his games as a kid. Well, the reason is that Mega Man 6 was never released in Europe. Well done, Nintendo of Europe, for doing your part in maintaining Mega Man's legacy.
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Product Release: Mega Man 6 (US, 03/31/94)
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