Mega Man 6
by FreezingInferno

1994. What a time to be a kid playing video games. The Nintendo/Sega rivalry of the 16-bit era was in full swing, with Nintendo laying golden eggs like Super Metroid and Donkey Kong Country, and Sega giving the world Sonic 3 followed by Sonic and Knuckles. Blast processing and ACM graphics were in, along with some pretty grandiose adventures for the pretty sprites and renders to undertake. Hell, we were even seeing people attempt to up the ante and offer a next-gen experience; consoles like the 3DO and Atari Jaguar promised a completely mind-blowing experience. (though the only thing that blew with those two were the consoles themselves..) Yet, amidst all this comparing of bits and processors that an intrepid writer could easily make a penis joke out of, an old bastion of video games still held the spark of life; the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Through a combination of cheap price, an extensive backlog, and some people selling their souls, the NES continued to stay profitable throughout the 90's. Underrated gems like Kick Master and Little Samson along with the usual dilude of licensed crap that people still bought kept the system afloat. Folks like Mario, Link, and Simon Belmont had left long ago for the Super NES.. but one little blue fellow had stayed behind; Mega Man. Capcom kept the Blue Bomber in 8 bits as long as they could, pumping out Mega Man 4 and Mega Man 5. In 1993, they did it again with Mega Man 6, and it hit our shores in 1994, with little fanfare. Capcom didn't even publish the game in North America; Nintendo did it. Why didn't Capcom support their own franchise? There are several economic and business reasons, but I'll just assume it's because Mega Man 6 is a shadow of what Mega Man once was; a very thin shadow.

To understand how Mega Man 6 pales in comparison to the Mega Mans of old, one must glance at the big picture. What did the other Mega Man games do right? Mega Man 1 kicked off the series and introduced the rock-paper-scissors element of boss weaknesses. 2 refined the formula, making a bigger game that looked, sounded, and played better than before. 3 added the Rush items, and made you refight the MM2 bosses with your new weapons(a gimmick used to hell and back in the Gameboy Mega Man games). 4 gave you the Mega Buster, letting you charge your shots to deal more damage. It's right around here that the series grew kind of stale; 4 was the start of Capcom sort of "phoning in" each new Mega Man game. The formula had become.. well, formulaic. Mega Man 5 had some interesting stage gimmicks, like Star Man's low gravity or Gravity Man's complete reversal of it, but was otherwise same old, same old. There's another reason why 4 marked the decline of the classic Mega Man series; the fake-out bosses.

Mega Mans 1 through 3 had you facing off against mad scientist Dr. Wily, as he tried to take over the world with a bunch of themed robots. Now Mega Man 4 still had you fighting a bunch of themed robots, but they were reportedly the creation of a crazy Commie named Dr. Cossack. Except, guess what? Dr. Wily was blackmailing Cossack and was the true villain all along. In Mega Man 5, Mega Man's "brother" Proto Man went heel and tried to take over the world with a bunch of themed robots. Except, guess what? Dr. Wily was blackmailing Proto Man and was the true villain all along. When you boot up Mega Man 6, you get a prologue story. The mysterious millionaire "Mr. X" holds a robot tournament. For fun or something. He then proceeds to reprogram the themed robots that won the tournament and try to take over the world, prompting thousands to stare at their TVs and sarcastically proclaim "GEE I WONDER IF MR. X IS BEING BLACKMAILED?". In that case, you'd be wrong; it's revealed that Mr. X is Dr. Wily, wearing sunglasses and a fake beard. What. This brings up several nitpicking plot details, like how nobody notices this mysterious millionaire is Dr. Wily in sunglasses and a fake beard, but let's skip those and cut to the real question; Really? Really, Capcom? You were THAT strapped for ideas on a new bad guy? This lazy creative attitude pops up with the new bosses as well, and is the reason MM6 is so stale compared to the older games; they just didn't care anymore.

What sort of rogue's gallery is Mega Man facing this time? A who's who of elemental cliches and cultural stereotypes, that's what. You could tell Capcom was kind of running low on boss ideas by about Mega Man 5 or so (Charge Man? Really?), but 6 just takes the cake for rehashing. Going over each boss objectively, from weakness to weakness, we have:

It's worth noting that, while all the other bosses in Mega Man games were designed by Japanese people, a special contest was held that let North Americans design bosses. This guy was one of the two winners, designed by one Michael Leader. Really, Mr. Leader? You liked Air Man so much that you had to make him again? Like most other air-based bosses in Mega Man, Wind Man's stage is in the sky and his fight is easy as hell. His weapon is Wind Storm, which shoots little tornados. Fun.

Hey look, a cultural stereotype AND a rehashed elemental cliche, in one boss! Flame Man is your typical fire boss that will evoke memories of fighting Heat Man in Mega Man 2. Also he has a turban and is a Saudi Arabian oil-gathering robot. That shoots fire. Clever jab at the Gulf War, or just plain silliness from Capcom? You decide. Flame Blast shoots a little flame tower for you to melt ice, much like in the stage of...

That is a robot snowball on skis. I am fighting a boss in a Mega Man game that is a robot snowball on skis. We haven't really seen an ice-based boss since Ice Man in MM1, but still. Robot snowball. Skis. His Blizzard Attack shoots little snowflakes at you. That sounds about as harmless as Bubble Lead, but it does do decent damage against things that are weak to it.

Hey look, it's Wood Man! Except instead of a tree, he's a flower! And instead of a shield of leaves, he has a shield of flower petals! Totally original boss design! We may never know why Capcom decided that a shield weapon needed to be in EVERY Mega Man game; 3 did just fine without one, after all. He gives up the Plant Barrier, which.. you can probably guess what it does.

Ethnic stereotype, woo! Tomahawk Man's stage has a very pretty sunset in the background. It looks nice, I must admit. He attacks you by throwing the feathers from his headdress at you, and a great big tomahawk. You get said "Silver Tomahawk" for beating his ass.

Alright, not ALL the bosses are completely lame. Yamato Man is actually kind of cool, and kind of looks like a samurai. Samurais are badass. But Yamato Man uses a spear, so what would he be? A pikeman? Also he throws the spear at you, then walks over to pick it up. Not exactly the most efficient of weapons. You don't have to pick up your Yamato Spear when you use it. Odd.

This is the other contest winner, designed by Daniel Vallé from Canada. Canadia, you sure know how to make a decent Mega Man boss. Knight Man is pretty goddamn cool, and easily the best boss in this game. He has a mace he throws at you, and a shield that blocks attacks except when he's attacking(or if you use his weakness). Beating him gets you the Knight Crush.

Now this guy is kinda disappointing. I admit the design is unique, but it's the weapon that kills it. The select screen calls it simply "Ability Unknown", which adds mystery and expectation to it. What we get is another goddamn time-stopping power. It's not as overused as the shield weapon, but really Capcom, you did this twice already, why'd you add mystery to it and let us down? You get said power, the Centaur Flash, from him.

So we have a ridiculous plot that just goes with the fakeout enemy because it can, and a majority of uninspired rehash bosses. But what about the gameplay? Isn't that good? Well.. it's okay. Nothing really bad can be said about it because it's still the same basic jump-and-shoot Mega Man. Therein lies the problem, though, and the big picture; this whole thing is just uninspired. If it were a PC game, it'd be an expansion pack. Same engine, different bosses, different stages, and some new powerups. That's about it. You get some Rush "suits" that you can wear to smash through cracked walls or jet-boost, but those are the only new additions. Is Mega Man 6 a shitty game? No. I could find worse ways to kill an hour or two other than beating it. Does it live up to its previous games and stand as a gold title of the NES library? Absolutely not. It's just a mediocre Mega Man game, for all the wrong reasons. It's good to see that Capcom finally realized what was bogging classic Mega Man down, and cut all the bullshit for Mega Man 9. As it stands, though, Mega Man 6 is just okay; and that's a sad thing to say about something like Mega Man.

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