Mega Man 6 – NES
Release Date (NA): March 15th, 1994
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
After recently revisiting the third and fifth installments of Mega Man, I bought my first new Mega Man game in quite some time, Mega Man 6. Despite following almost exactly the same formula as its predecessors, it received lukewarm critical reception due to its presence on the aging NES. Looking back on it, I can see where this sort of design and relatively simple gameplay could be off-putting in 1994, but today we have the luxury of being able to judge it outside of its chronological context. It may not have been what the public wanted at the time, though when viewed alongside the rest of the NES’ library, it’s obvious that Mega Man 6 is up there with the console’s highest quality titles.
Mega Man’s final excursion on the NES plays out pretty much like the 5 before it. He goes up against 8 Robot Masters in 8 different stages, and then moves along to an extended 2nd half in a fortress. In some respects, its clear that the developers were running out of ideas for the Robot Masters. Plant Man produces a spinning shield of projectiles not unlike Wood Man, we have a Flame Man despite previous games featuring both Heat Man and Flame Man, and Centaur Man uses a time-stopping ability reminiscent of Flash Man. It’s not all that noticeable if you haven’t hit the previous titles recently, though some of it may feel a little too familiar.
Gameplay is virtually unchanged: we still have the chargeable M. Buster and the slide, and Mega Man still absorbs abilities from his enemies as they are defeated. However, the environment has evolved towards that of a more straight up platformer. There are lots of tricky segments involving precision timing and jumping, sections that Mega Man cannot bypass with his abilities. Comparatively, the action has been toned down some as well. The real treat here is the amount of exploration that Mega Man 6 encourages.
Quite often, the player will be forced to take one of two paths, and many times are unable to go backwards to see where the other pathway would’ve lead. Some of the forks involve random choice. Others are accessible by facing a certain peril, and still others depend on having one of Mega Man’s Rush Adapter abilities equipped. The Power Adapter allows Mega Man to break through certain structures, while the Jet allows him to fly. It’s difficult to tell which path is the “correct” one, but generally the harder choices will lead to items like E-tanks and extra lives.
In 4 of the 8 stages, there will be a fork towards the end, one of which leads to the “real” boss, the other a “clone” boss. It’s tough (read: impossible (as far as I know)) to tell which is which, but if the clone boss is defeated, he will only yield his weapon. If the “true” boss is brought down, Mega Man will also acquire a piece of the Beat Adapter. This is similar to collecting the 8 letters in Mega Man 5, except here, only 4 letters are needed, and they are awarded when one of the 4 “true” bosses is defeated. Confusing? It is! If you want to grab Beat this time around, it can actually be a little easier than snatching up the 8 letters in the previous game, you’ll just want to know which pathways to take beforehand.
This brings us to Rush, who is treated drastically different this time around. Instead of making the Rush Jet appear or the Rush Coil appear, these abilities manifest as Rush’s transformation into an adapter for Mega Man’s existing suit. The Power Adapter makes Mega Man’s blast more effective at dispatching foes, while the Jet Adapter functions as a full-on jetpack. Previously, once Rush Jet was depleted, energy had to be collected to refill it. This installment is much more forgiving. Instead, Mega Man can fly at will until the energy is depleted. At this point he drops, and when he hits the ground, the energy replenishes. So instead of a finite amount of flying energy, each flight essentially runs on a timer. This makes flight a much more viable option for exploration (and indeed encourages taking alternate routes), and the method of controlling Mega Man in flight is far superior to the forward-flying Rush Jet from Mega Man 4 and 5. Though not quite as versatile as the Rush Jet from Mega Man 3, the energy situation more than makes up for it.
All of the new features add up to give Mega Man 6 a slightly different feel than previous games, while the format, graphics, and core gameplay are immediately familiar to anyone who’s played any of the other NES installments. Again, it’s not difficult to see why gamers may have been reluctant to latch onto yet another NES-flavored entry in the series back in 1994, but today we can put all of this aside and appreciate it as not only a game that added new features to the series, but also a well-made and comprehensive addition to the NES pantheon. A disappointment in ’94? Maybe. A bad game? Not at all.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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