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Mega Man 6 (NES) artwork

Mega Man 6 (NES) review

"I don't think this is what people mean when they talk about culture wars..."

I know: everyone bashes Mega Man 6 because they were getting tired of the series back in the day. Some folks ask now if the game was really that bad, and that's a fair line of questioning. If you were to play this installment without touching the others first, would it still hold up? The problem with this inquiry is it presupposes that the only answer we can draw is that Mega 6 is entirely solid or entirely weak, when it's really neither of those things...

You see, parts of this side-scrolling platformer hold up well. In regards to theme, it's top notch. You once again have eight robot masters with different attributes, launched this time by the mysterious Mr. X who totally doesn't look like another villain in disguise. This time, though, each robot is based on a different culture, and their stages exude some of the trappings of those cultures. For instance, you go up against Flame Man, a robot outfitted with a turban. He also happens to dwell in an oil field, an obvious reference to the Middle East. Knight Man comes with medieval sensibilities you might associate with parts of Europe, especially the UK; Centaur Man dwells in a mess of ruined temples that looks like it was lifted from Battle of Olympus; and Tomahawk Man's digs resemble set pieces from a western film.

You have strict adherence to theme with a celebration of culture, which shows in both environmental décor and enemy designs. The aforementioned western-style level also features cowboy robots, while Yamato Man's feudal Japan-themed territory sports murderous tanuki bots. However some might argue that the game loaded itself up with mostly cultural stereotypes that come across as either clumsy or merely superficial. Honestly, if you were expecting a refined extravaganza of anthropology from a Mega Man game, I'm not sure what to tell you...

Here's the thing: the stages themselves are merely okay to play through. They're all a bit brief and slack where difficulty rating is concerned, so getting through them is no major challenge. However, the fact that stages branch a little bit now, giving you more area to cover with extra goodies to find, adds a little sweetness to what would've been a rather bitter title.

Then you get to the bosses...

In almost every entry, there's a robot master you can easily select as your first victim because he utilizes a simple pattern or has something else about him that renders him easy to defeat. Metal Man and Toad Man spring to the mind, with the former just being flat out weak and the latter falling victim to stun locks because of his special attack. In Mega 6, though, almost any robot master could be your first one. None of them come at you with horribly complex patterns, and most fall pretty quickly with the buster alone. The only one that gave me any issue during my most recent playthrough was Tomahawk Man, and even he wasn't that tough.

More than anything, brief levels and lackluster boss encounters give the impression that Capcom was just getting this one out of the way. It was the series' swan song for the NES, and they were looking to move onto bigger, better, more 16-bit things. This notion especially shows in the second half of the campaign, part of which involves Mr. X's fortress. His stages not only leave something to be desired, but end with the most forgettable bosses the NES sector of the brand has to offer. One of them is a robot outfitted with pistons attached to the side of a wall, and it somehow looks horribly uninspired. It's not especially big or elaborate, and it has the appearance of a one-off mini-boss that you would fight mid-stage and forget about.

And don't even get me started on the fight against Mr. X. It really didn't feel like Capcom was even trying with that one. He sits in a massive pendulum-like device, swings back and for, and occasionally drops a blast on the floor that surges across the room. You can easily dodge all he has to offer by hanging out against the left side of the screen and jumping as the surge approaches you. At that moment, you can cut loose a blast and damage X. Honestly, I didn't even take the time to find out his weakness, and finished him off easily with repeated charged buster shots.

Predictably, another fortress opens up, but this time it comes across as the game just padding itself out because nothing improves. Sure, you get some slightly neater looking bosses at the end of each tiresome level, but you also get an anticlimactic fight against the true antagonist that makes you think, “Man, I really finished this thing, huh?” It just doesn't feel like a proper end.

Ultimately, you have a game with a lot of solid concepts, but one that shows bland execution in regard to level design and challenge factor. I really don't mind that Mega 6 is easy to complete, but somehow it feels like Capcom's heart wasn't in this one. It's like the developers were daydreaming of SNES and Genesis games while merely putting in a day's work on this project. That's the thing with this series, though. If its developers focus too much on the same thing repeatedly, the returns begin to diminish. We should be thankful Capcom has taken regular breaks from the franchise in recent years because it's been all the better for it.

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (March 16, 2024)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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