Mega Man 6 – Retro Games Review

Disclaimer – This review is part of a 7 part series of reviews for the the Mega Man Legacy Collection for the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. Due to a full review of the collection coming soon, I will not be mentioning everything the collection brings – only mentioning those that pertain to Mega Man 6.

In the wake of Dr. Wily’s fifth defeat, the mysterious Dr. Wi – I mean “Mr. X” – hosts the First Annual Robot Tournament – a competition where the eight strongest Robot Masters battle it out for supremacy. Out of the blue, all eight Robot Masters go berserk, falling under the control of the tournaments patron. Revealing that he has been the mastermind behind Dr. Wilys schemes, and definitely not being Dr’ Wily in a pair of sunglasses, Rock once again suits up in order to keep the world safe.

Mega Man 6 is a game that really shouldn’t exist. With the the launch of SNES and the release of Mega Man X, the idea of a classic Mega Man game on the NES was so beyond the realms of possibility it was practically a pipe dream. Nintendo being the notoriously unpredictable company it is, slapped Capcom into submission. Then, as if like magic, Mega Man 6 materialised in the west.

As this is the sixth entry, the core gameplay of Mega Man is as tight as a Baptist minister’s wife’s girdle at an all you can eat pancake breakfast. This means moving, shooting, jumping and greasing up your Mega Thighs is as satisfying as ever. In an attempt to battle series fatigue, Capcom made a surprising number of changes. Firstly our ever faithful doggo is gone, instead being relegated to one of two battle armours that Mega Man can swap out on the fly. The power variant grants you increased damage, decreased range, baffling hitboxes and the ability to punch through walls. Jet on the other hand lets zoop around the sky like an asthmatic albatross, allowing for easier platforming and alternate routes through levels. Basically, they turned Rush into a fancy coat.

Beat has also seen some pretty major changes, because apparently Capcom like to harm our robo-animal companions in the name of science. Beat is once again acquired by hunting down various letters hidden throughout the game. Get them all, you get Beat. Functionally similar to his previous incarnation, he will gouge the eyes of any foe on the screen in exchange for weapon energy. He can no longer attack bosses however, substantially reducing his usefulness which is a shame.

Companions aside, Mega Man 6 finally manages to perfect the charge shot. It’s size has been drastically reduced from Mega Man 5, meaning you actually have to aim. This teeny, tiny change allows the other weapons in your arsenal to have some time in the spotlight, which is always a good thing. Finally if you manage to hunt down Proto Man, whom only appears once, you will nab yourself the Energy Balancer. This nifty devices automatically recharges your weapons without having to switch to them, providing you are using the Mega Buster or Rush. It mostly just saves time, but is a welcome addition nonetheless.

With Mega Man 6 shockingly being a Mega Man game, you know what to expect at this point. Defeat eight rebellious Robos, rend their souls from their corpses to fuel your weapons, lay waste to a fake castle, acted shocked when Dr. Wily takes off his sunglasses, and then attack the real castle. Following off of the wonderfully varied cast of Mega Man 5, we are given another diverse array of Robots – all tarted up in various hats this timw. Flame Man is rocking a seriously impressive turban, Knight Man has a pretty darn snazzy mohawk-helmet, Blizzard Man has an adorable bobble hat and then we have a fricken Centaur cosplaying as Marvel’s ‘Rhino’. Truly we have reached the pinnacle of bosses designs. It is all downhill from here. Grab the brass band, we are abandoning ship.

An awesome line-up of Robot Masters deserve stages filled to the brim with gubbins. Unfortunately Mega Man 6 does fall off of the fatigue ladder and hitting every repetitive rung on the way down, before crash landing slap dab in the middle of “been there, done that”. The vast majority of the stages have gimmicks pulled straight from other titles. You have your typical ice stage, underwater stage and the ever visually uninspired cloud stage. Fresh mechanics are few and far between, and when they do pop up, they don’t make much of an impact. Sure Flame Man’s stage is covered in ignitable oil, but that just ends up being a bed of reskinned spikes. It is mechanically reliant on past entries and doesn’t do enough to innovate.

What keeps these levels somewhat interesting is the overabundance of alternate paths, secret rooms and hidden consumables that require the use of you various adaptors to uncover. Heck, half of the stages have an alternate boss. Defeat the boss inside and you will be rewarded with a Beat letter. It is pretty great addition to the series, even if the reward for gathering the Beat letters isn’t all that great.

Uninspired nonsense manages to rear its tired ol’ head once again when you consider that the arguably mundane level design is buddied up with repetitive enemy design. Bizarrely each stage has it’s own unique pool of enemies, with a distinct lack of generic foes for the most part. This really helps tie a level together thematically. The issue is the same two or three enemies are repeated over, and over again. Sure their placements can vary, forcing you to tackle them in slightly different ways, but repeatedly overcoming the same challenge gets tiresome after a while. This is especially true if you replay levels for the aforementioned alternate exit.

Picking up the slack are the bosses themselves. As their beautifully 8-bit faces imply, these guys looks amazing. Each and every one of them is brimming with little details that elevate them to a whole new level. Out of all six games, these guys are by far my favourite in terms of design, even if fighting them is a bit on the easy side as a whole. You do get the occasional challenge, especially if an enemy has invulnerability when performing various attacks, but these guys go down fast with very little effort for the most part.

Mega Man 5 had a very unique set of weapons. This ultimately resulted in many players abandoning them entirely – relying on the Mega Buster instead. Mega Man 6 goes out of its way to make its arsenal more accessible, more versatile and significantly more powerful. Your piddly buster is no match for the insane damage, rate of fire and unique properties each weapon brings. Flame Blast launches an arcing ball of fire that erupts into a lingering wall of death. Blizzard Attack is a slow moving, slow firing ‘shotgun’ that can dispatch foes ahead, behind, above and below you – providing you have good timing. Yamato Spear can damage enemies through shields, despite doing less damage over all. The list goes on. Whilst a few weapons have made similar appearances in previous games -Centaur Flash for example – I found myself enjoying, and using, this arsenal extensively. Heck, I frequently burned through my ammo reserves and only rarely used my standard buster.

Once the final Robot Master has fallen, you briskly stroll towards the two Castle stages. Every issue this game has is repeated in these stages. Uninspired level design, over reliance on a small pool of enemies and a lack of challenge successfully swipe whatever legs Mega Man 6 had left. Topping it all off is a laughably easy final boss. After Mega Man 5 managed to successfully reach a happy medium in terms of difficulty, it is a shame this entry couldn’t recreate that – I mean it’s managed to recreate practically everything else!

Castle’s aside, Mega Man 6 is a gorgeous game. Mega Man’s new forms looks absolutely brilliant, even coming with mini-cutscenes showcasing the transformation. Stages have some truly mindblowing environmental setpieces that explode with colour, detail and character. Several stages even have alternate colour palletes depending on whether or not you’ve completed the stage before, which helps break up the potential tedium of backtracking through alternate paths. The Robot Masters are leagues above the majority of the series in terms of aesthetics with your run of the mill enemies following closely behind. Boss introduction are more cinematic and acquiring weapons is explosive and awesome. Probably the best looking game on the NES.

Up until this point, most Mega Man games had a very upbeat, almost chirpy soundtrack. Mega Man 6 goes for a very different approach. The majority of the tracks exude a darker, almost sombre tone. I got the impression that we were on our final quest. That this time we would defeat Wily and end his reign of terror. The last boss theme just oozes a finality in a way the series hasn’t dabbled in before. It may be different, but it is executed exceptionally well. The only problem I have is the the game is not setup to be this serious. They have Dr. Wily wearing sunglasses as a disguise. You can’t simultaneously have a tongue-in-cheek story whilst trying to be dark and serious. Gosh darn it, the two ideas are so diametrically opposed they could head up their own separate games.

Mega Man 6 is interesting. It is not a bad game, in fact it manages to do a lot of things right. The problem is, they have been done before. Mechanics that may have been interesting and challenging in the past, don’t quite have the same impact the second or third time. At the end of the day, this is still a Mega Man game. Whilst it might not be wholly original, it is still a good 2D Action Platformer in its own right. One could even argue that this is a love letter to the series as a final goodbye to NES. That last bit might be stretching it…

What are your thoughts on Mega Man 6? Do you think it is a worthy conclusion to the hexology? Let me know in the comments section below.