The last title of the series on the original Nintendo Entertainment System, Mega Man 6 comes off the heels of a rather lackluster previous installment. Redundancy finally caught up to the series, and landed a swift backhand across our faces, in the form of repetitious bosses, recycled powers and a general sense of “more of the same”. The gameplay was the same classic Mega Man goodness, which is hard to fault, as the formula and controls were still well configured and practically untouched. That couldn’t save Mega Man 5 from mediocrity. But could Capcom prevent a total series regression with their final installment on the NES?
Taking a look at one of the issues that’s carried over even since Mega Man 3 — the boss names and powers, you’ll notice that Mega Man 6 tries to create unique bosses and powers. While Charge Man was unique in his own way in Mega Man 5, he really didn’t fit the Mega Man series feel up to that point. Unfortunately, there’s about four different Charge Man type bosses you’ll encounter. Two of the bosses you face were actually chosen from entries sent to Capcom Japan, which explains Yamato Man and how he doesn’t feel like a Mega Man villain at all. Tomahawk Man, Knight Man and, I’m not kidding here, Centaur Man, round out the other three robots that just don’t fit in with the series or the experience. Not to mention the powers you gain from them are pretty much absurd, as well as the new Rush power adaptors being not only goofy but situational, furthering the feeling that the final two NES titles were nothing but throw away games, after your money more than your loyalty.
Luckily, the stages seem to have been stepped up some. The quality of the visuals in Plant Man’s backgrounds are some of the best in an NES title, with detail abound. Some stages, mainly Flame Man (I wish I could have thought of such an original name and concept for a boss) have clever obstacles you have to bypass, such as oul slicks below you that can light on fire if you don’t kill an air born enemy. It feels less of an artificial adage to the difficulty than the numerous spikes around Yamato Man’s stage, or any other stage that features instant death spikes sprinkled around with no rhyme or reason to them.
The rest of the visual presentation is a step up from the last title, although as a whole, it’s not the greatest looking Mega Man title. Stock use of villains, stock use of sound effects really brings the sense of “been there, done that” back again. The music, however, is a tricky beast. Stages like Yamato Man have fitting music, but I can’t really go out on a limb and say that it’s anything worthwhile. Flame Man suffers the same fate as well, so does Plant Man. The soundtrack isn’t bad, but again, it doesn’t really fit nor feel proper.
Luckily the Mega Man series ended on the NES and move onto the Super Nintendo, with commendable results. While Mega Man 6 was a step above its previous installment, the attempt to revitalize the boss roster fell flat on its face. The new gimmick bosses are lame, their powers are equally absurd, the recycled elemental bosses are tiresome and not enough was done to stave off the recycled feeling that Mega Man 6 gives off. Even still, once again the saving grace comes in the form of the excellent gameplay, regardless of its meager attempts at evolution, as well as a stronger visual presentation. An above average gaming experience, and a below average Mega Man game.