When any franchise reaches its sixth entry, things can start to feel more than a little redundant. This is especially true when a series reaches that number as quickly as Mega Man did. Mega Man 6 is not a bad game by any means, but to say it’s a predictable one is an understatement. It delivers a solid NES experience – often dubbed the last worthwhile game in the NES library – but it is exactly the experience you’d expect.
Mega Man 6 follows the same structure of its five predecessors: There are eight Robot Masters in as many selectable stages. Mega Man needs to defeat them, gain their powers and use them against each other, then he can move onto the castle for the final battle. Capcom was definitely working under the concept of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” on this one.
It is true that there isn’t much broken with Mega Man’s core structure, but the previous entries all tried to add their own spin to the mix to some degree: 2 expanded everything the original started. 3 introduced Rush and Proto Man. 4 added the charged shots and a second castle. Even 5 had some smaller but no less creative twists to its level designs. Mega Man 6 attempts two innovations of its own, but their inclusions don’t do much to prevent it from being the most straightforward title in the series.
The first, and most prominent, of these attempts are the new Rush Adaptors. In the past three entries, Mega Man could call his dog Rush to aid him by turning into a jet or submarine or by giving Mega Man a boost in his jumps. In Mega Man 6, Rush instead fuses with Mega Man with two new abilities.
The first sees Rush combine with Mega Man to create a jetpack that gives the Blue Bomber short bursts of flight, while the second gives Mega Man extra strength, being able to take out objects and enemies much easier, though in a much closer range.
These two Rush Adaptors are actually pretty neat at first, but it quickly becomes apparent that they ultimately make the Robot Master abilities superfluous. The Mega Buster of Mega Man 4 already diminished much of the usefulness in the Robot Master powers, but here they are an outright afterthought between the Mega Buster and the Rush transformations. Capcom strongly reinforced this by making every Robot Master ability copied and pasted from Mega Man 2 (that damn Leaf Shield is recycled yet again). As cool as the Rush Adaptors are at first, you can’t help but wonder why they weren’t just made into Robot Master abilities.
Mega Man 6’s other innovation is that many stages include branching paths. There are now multiple ways to reach the boss at the end of each stage, with some paths being more difficult but bearing better rewards (like more extra lives and those ever-precious E Tanks), while others are easier but give less. It’s a fun concept that isn’t always used to its fullest, but it adds a nice twist to otherwise straightforward level designs.
Level design is one of the areas where Mega Man 6 falls short of its predecessors. There is nothing innately wrong with the stages, as they provide the usual Mega Man fun. But there is also nothing remarkable about them either. Mega Man 5 kept things fresh with inventive stage designs that introduced fun and creative gameplay ideas, but 6 seems to be running on empty in this regard (save for one segment in Centaur Man’s stage, where Mega Man must utilizes a body of water suspended above his head to make it through some treacherous platforming). The level design is solid enough, but it lacks the wow factor of the previous titles.
Those seeking a challenge will be happy to find that 6 has upped the difficulty from Mega Man 5, though it’s never quite as hard as the first four games. And if you’re curious about the story, Mega Man 6 basically rehashes the same plot of the past two games.
An international robot tournament is being held for the first time, hosted by the mysterious Mr. X. But the eight finalists in the tournament then get corrupted by Mr. X, who uses them to “begin taking over the world.” Mr. X claims to have been manipulating Dr. Wily from the very beginning, but given the history of the series, the truth about Dr. Wily and Mr. X shouldn’t come as a shock to any player.
The Mega Man games were never about plot, but there was a charm to their simplicity. But here the story almost seems tongue-in-cheek, like it’s more or less laughing at itself and the series. Whereas the previous storylines felt a bit earnest even in their predictability, the plot of Mega Man 6 just comes off as laughable.
The visuals are still crisp and vibrant. The graphics hadn’t changed much from the last couple of games, but they proved that even with the SNES and Genesis on the market, the NES still had some life left in it. On the downside, the character designs are among the most forgettable in the series, with the lineup of Robot Masters feeling close to bottom of the barrel. Given the “international robot tournament” setup of the story, the game has some fun with various exotic locations in its stages, though some of the Robot Masters unfortunately come off as stereotypes (need I bring up Tomahawk Man?). The music, while good, is similarly unremarkable. There’s never been a bad soundtrack in the core Mega Man series, but if one were to compare them against each other, the soundtrack to 6 might be at the bottom of the list.
When taking the whole game into account, Mega Man 6 is fun. It gave Mega Man one last hurrah on the NES by letting him do what he does best. It’s just a shame that the Blue Bomber’s final game on the platform lacked the depth and ambition needed to send him off in the style e deserved.