And, of course, Mega Man 6 is Mega Man 3 times two.
OR IS IT!?
Lord, we wish.
No, it’s OK. A lot of people like to hate on Mega Man 6. In much the same debate wherein we try to pinpoint whether Mega Man 2 or 3 is the absolute peak of the series’ quality, we try to decipher whether the series bottomed out the bell curve with Mega Man 5 or 6.
It’s as though those Game Boy titles don’t exist.
Like many of the titles I end up reviewing, Mega Man 6 is a game that gets on everyone’s shit list for reasons other than poor gaming quality. Inevitably, this title was going to happen, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to care like they used to. It was released late in the NES’ life cycle (a strange term, considering that a dead system never comes back to life; thus, no cycle takes place) right as the SNES was hitting its golden stride and Mega Man X was on everyone’s mind. Even Capcom, a company so obsessed with the money-milking qualities of the sequel that they develop OTHER people’s sequels (see The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap), had little if any interest here, going so far as having children design some of the boss characters (trust me, companies don’t do promotions unless it serves some hidden agenda) and not even wanting to publish it in America.
Shit, man. There’s not much of a reason to even continue the review, much less start the game.
And predictably, the tone takes an upswing here, when I inform you that the game has taken its lumps like the Whipping Boy from the famous Sid Fleischman novel Superfudge. The game itself is not bad. It’s even pretty good in some places—it’s just not Mega Man 3. It’s mostly just collection filler to pad out the Mega Man experience. It’s not a standout title; it just bridges the gap between standouts like 4 and 7 (skipping 5, of course, because THAT’S the low point of the series, not 6).
The game is Mega Man, gentlemen. You know what to do. The graphics and sound quality are actually about as good as the NES can ever produce. Everything’s clean and tight. Nice polish on those square waves and well-detailed backgrounds, like the Wild West setting, the Arabian backdrop, and the ruins of Centurion Man’s stage. It’s only too bad the technical accomplishments came AFTER the gameplay of the series had peaked.
For a series like Mega Man, where using the same graphics game after game after game after game is renowned instead of repulsing, creativity doesn’t mean the same thing as it would anywhere else. It’s a conflicting gesture. We want the same shit we’ve had before, we want what we’ve come to expect by now, yet we also want it to be original and to do new things. Such is the curse of Mega Man. How do you pull off something like that, where a move in either direction alienates the same core audience who will still buy any game with Mega Man on it, but bitch about the quality later and then tell others not to buy it, which is moot because it still makes a killing in sales, but the production costs are getting crazy and even Capcom isn’t too hot about producing it…
Yeah, you try making a great seventh game in a series with that kind of pressure.
So it’s little wonder then that Mega Man 6 really doesn’t stand out in terms of originality. It rests comfortably on its laurels, but it does a far better job of keeping things new and original than Mega Man 5 did. OK, 6 offers the most faceless enemy group of any original Mega Man game, but the stages are still solidly built and offer some cool surprises (one stage uses the old water trick upside down, which is cool). The enemy robots are the easiest bunch ever, but it’s still fun to kick them around.
My favorite aspects of this game are the new Rush suits, which are less contrived than I expected and actually kinda fun to wear, the lack of anything really frustrating, and the surprisingly killer soundtrack.
It’s a brisk game with little to scream about or recommend. It’s not worth buying a $30 cartridge for, but it’s a great game for something like The Mega Man Anniversary Collection, where you’re paying about $3.57 for it. C’mon, you can’t even get a donut in this country for that price anymore.