1991. Gaming was thriving, to be sure. Having instilled themselves as a household icon in the '80s, Nintendo sought to advancing technology in order to compete with the fancy-ass newfangled Sega Genesis. Their new console was so good that it was super, and thus the Super Nintendo was born. Games for the old 8-bit Nintendo were still made in the 90's, and 8 bits is where classic Mega Man stayed for a very long time. The 90's Mega Man games on the NES are where the series began to become a little stock; almost as if they jumped the shark. If you take that as truth, have another fun analogy. Mega Man 4 is the series zipping up the watery ramp, Mega Man 5 is soaring above the angry shark as it snaps its jaws, and Mega Man 6 is looking over its shoulder at the beach it left to go jump over a shark as it waterskis across the other side of the shark.
That's all well and good, but how are the Robot Masters?
MEGA MAN 4
This is probably the best of the second trilogy of NES Mega Mans; it's ridiculous, but still fresh in certain ways. As for its bosses, some are unique, and some are just shameless god-damned ripoffs of previous bosses. Getting into the thick of it, we have:
The second Robot Master based on an animal is... hehe.. yeah. Toad Man is a successor to Bubble Man, being a water-based Robot Master. Rather unfortunately for him and his design, the programmers of Mega Man 4 made him the goddamned easiest boss in Mega Man history. Shoot him, he jumps. Slide under him and shoot him again, he jumps. Repeat this pattern and Toad Man will not damage you at all. If they had just given him a water-filled arena, MAYBE he'd be more of a challenge. His weapon, Rain Flush, is the first screen-filling weapon in the classic series. Somewhat useful if you're in a jam.
Take Flash Man. Paint him red and glue a lightbulb to his head. Congratulations, you have a brand-new Robot Master! Bright Man attacks you by shooting regular shots at you, and stopping time. JUST LIKE FLASH MAN! Capcom clearly had some originality in the later Mega Man games, so why does this rehash exist? His weapon, Flash Stopper, stops time for a short while and lets you shoot regular shots while enemies are frozen. EVEN HIS WEAPON IS NAMED AFTER FLASH MAN, GOD!
I don't know why, but this is one of my favorite bosses in all of Mega Man. On paper, a robot pharaoh sounds kind of goofy, but somehow it works. It might be that his stage music is awesome. Either that or the fact that in the cartoon he punched Mega Man right in the face once. His weapon, Pharaoh Shot, is a big ball of fire that you can charge over your head. Oddly enough, the orb over your head can kill things while still keeping a charge to be fired. Awesome.
A bit of an oddball design choice here, but okay let's roll with it. Ring Man is a.. ring-based robot master. The obvious joke would be that he stole them from a hedgehog, but we'll not make that one here. Oh wait I just did. Damn. His weapon, Ring Boomerang, is... a ring-shaped boomerang. There really isn't much else to say about Ring Man, he's kind of plain.
This guy gets such a bad rap from Mega Man fans. "OH GOD MEGA MAN 4 SUCKED, I MEAN DUST MAN, NEED I SAY MORE?" I myself don't mind him, he's an alright Robot Master. I can see a scrap metal robot being far more practical than, say, a ring-based Robot Master. Dust Man is a giant junk vacuum cleaner, and his weapon is the Dust Crusher, which throws a big hunk of junk that explodes in an X formation. Don't hate on Dust Man, there are far worse bosses in other Mega Man games.
Oh holy crap a robot skeleton. You'd think that would be cool, but Skull Man loses points due to his weapon. The Skull Barrier is a shield weapon that protects you from harm.. but disappears after one shot hits it. Skull Man started the trend of having a shield weapon, and almost none of them are any good. It's essentially a waste of a cool weapon; why couldn't his weapon be something like... Bone Axe? Or Skull Shot? WHY A USELESS SHIELD, CAPCOM?
Dive Man is a robot submarine who.. wait, TWO watery Robot Masters in the same game? Good lord. Dive Man is much cooler than Toad Man though, being that his stage actually is a water stage. What's more, you fight him underwater! Have we discovered a secret rule for water Robot Masters? Fighting in water= cool, fighting on land= suck? His weapon, Dive Missile, is a homing missile. Nothing spectacular, but still a pass.
Let's see if we've heard this before; Drill Man is a red Robot Master who has no hands and shoots bombs as his weapon. EVEN MORE MEGA MAN 2 THIEVERY! Good lord Capcom, I just.. I don't even know. At least his weapon, the Drill Bomb (only named similarly to Crash Man's Crash Bomber, at least it's not called Drill Crash), explodes on contact as opposed to being a time bomb. Still though.. goddamnit.
MEGA MAN 5
Oh lord, this game. The bosses in this game are just.. oh my lord, some of them are... just roll with the article.
A Robot Master that controls gravity sounds like it'd be pretty cool, right? Well, I will admit that walking on the ceiling is interesting, as is the concept of gravity control. The ball is dropped when you fight Gravity Man, though; his attacks consist of flipping gravity, and shooting regular blasts at you. It's kind of a letdown, really. His weapon, Gravity Hold, is another screen-clearer like Rain Flush was.
Let the barrage of air-based Robot Masters begin! Gyro Man started a little revival of air-based Robot Masters, but how does he himself fare? He has a propeller on his back, and shoots little propellers at you. Also he can fly into the clouds and hide from view. He's.. okay. His weapon, Gyro Attack, shoots little propellers that can be shot straight up after moving forward.
..Okay. Just what are you supposed to be? A... crystal Robot Master. Who hangs out in what appear to be the remnants of Gemini Man's hideout. Right, you're kinda weird. His weapon, Crystal Eye, is a big crystal orb that breaks into four little crystal orbs and richochet around. Not too much else to say on this one.
Oh ho ho now we're talking. Napalm Man is a blue robot TANK. Much more defined than... whatever that other guy was. He's also one of the first "weaponized" Robot Masters, of which there are a few. His weapon, Napalm Bomb, is more like a grenade than the Crash or Drill Bombs. This guy gets a pass, and is one of the best bosses in this game.
Hi Guts Man, it's so nice to see you agai-- Oh wait, you're not Guts Man. You sure do look like him though. This one is more design thievery than the general thievery that plagued Mega Man 4, but still; this is just Guts Man again! His weapon, Power Stone, has to be one of the worst non-shield weapons in Mega Man. Three stones radiate away from you in a circle.. but they move so far away that it's hard to HIT anything with it. Nice one, Stone Man.
Oh for the love of God.. you're not serious, are you? A robot train. He's not even something futuristic like a bullet train, he's a DAMN STEAM LOCOMOTIVE. THIS ISN'T 18XX, CAPCOM. I have a hard time believing that they really made an old-timey train robot in Mega Man. His weapon, Charge Kick, turns Mega Man's slide maneuver into an actual attack. Pretty neat, but did we have to get it from a TRAIN of all things?
Water Robot Master that doesn't fight in the water. Yeah, Wave Man isn't that great, but he's no Charge Man, thankfully. His weapon, Water Wave, shoots water spouts across the ground. I forever maintain that if Wave Man attacked with a trident instead of a harpoon, he would be quite badass.
Star Man is interesting in that his stage is set in space, creating low gravity. Mega Man 5 has a thing for messing with gravity, it seems. Skull Man's curse lives on, as Star Man's weapon is Star Crash, a shield made of stars that has no real practical use. Oh joy, just what we wanted.
MEGA MAN 6
Here's the thing about Mega Man 6; I've talked about it for this site before. However, that was within the context of Mega Man 6 itself, and right now we're looking at this set of eight within the bigger picture of the whole series. So, let's look at what I said back then, and what I have to say now.
: Wind Man is one of the only two bosses in the series to be designed by a non-Japanese person, and his designer rehashed Air Man.
: I frankly find it amazing that, out of all the unique and interesting Robot Masters that had to have been designed from this contest, Capcom went with the Air Man knockoff. It's completely baffling why you would pick a rehash over something that could be cool. Wind Man's weapon, Wind Storm, is a little tornado. YOU KNOW, LIKE THE 20 OR SO AIR MAN WOULD SHOOT AT YOU? Why Capcom? Why?
: Heat Man's Saudi Arabian brother.
: There's not much else to say besides that, really. I wonder if this guy and Oil Man are buddies, though. Or maybe Oil Man hates him because he burns all the oil, who knows? His weapon, Flame Blast, is pillars of fire. Just like Heat Man shot at you. I'm having a hard time telling if all this is just a homage to Mega Man 2, or sheer laziness on Capcom's part.
: A robot snowball on skis oh my god what.
: Blizzard Man is quite similar to Gyro Man, in that they both revived a Robot Master element that would be reused for almost every game afterwards. Thanks to Blizzard Man, every classic game except 9 had an ice Robot Master. Thankfully they weren't all as goofy as a robot snowball on skis. His weapon, Blizzard Attack, shoots out a bunch of snowflakes. This may seem dumb, but remember that in the one Mega Man game everyone calls the best we had a bubble and a leaf shield.
: Shameless Wood Man ripoff.
: Shameless Wood Man ripoff in a game that seems to be swiping Mega Man 2's ideas left and right. I mean, if he was in Mega Man 5 it wouldn't have been so bad, but putting him here is just ridiculous. His weapon, Plant Barrier, is a shield of petals that AGAIN has little practicality. If you're going to keep putting these shield weapons in, Capcom, please make them USEFUL!
: Ethnic stereotype that still manages to be cool.
: The Mega Man 6 robot masters seem to be broken up into two groups. On one side, we have the elementals that shamelessly steal from the older games. On the other, we've got "ancient warrior" bosses, which makes sense considering that the plot of MM6 is a robot fighting tournament. The second set is actually cool, and it would have been great to see the whole game made out of these guys. A shame. Tomahawk Man's weapon is the Silver Tomahawk, and it shoots in an arc. Pretty standard stuff.
: A shining beacon of originality.
: Another "ancient warrior" boss, Yamato Man is a robot samurai. Samurai are very very hard to make uncool, and Capcom failed in making this one a lamer. Translation: Yamato Man is cool. His weapon, Yamato Spear, is just a spear you throw. It works.
: The other boss in MM6 designed by a North American, and the best one.
: Okay, here's how I think this went down. The winners of the MM6 design contest were announced. Wind Man and Knight Man won. Capcom then decided that these two would be the flagship bosses for the two themes in MM6. Hence, we got three ancient warriors to compliment Knight Man, and three rehashes to play with Wind Man. As for Knight Man, he's the best of the ancient warrior bosses. His weapon, Knight Crush, is a mace. Standard stuff.
: Had potential, but ruined by his method of attack.
: This is where my theory about Knight Man sort of falls flat, because Centaur Man is a combination of ancient warrior and rehash. (A centaur counts as ancient, shush) Everything seems fine and dandy with his design, and it doesn't look like a retread... until you fight him. Then you realize the sad truth: he's a time manipulation Robot Master. Oddly enough, his weapon is NOT a time manipulator. Rather, Centaur Flash is a screen-clearing weapon. Centaur Man, you're weird.