Mega Man 6 Retro Review

Mega Man 6 Retro Review

It's been 25 years since Mega Man 6 came to North America. Nadia plays it again to see if it deserves the thumping fans and critics tend to administer.

1994 was a great year for 16-bit action games. The Sega Genesis was in the prime of its life thanks to the excellent Sonic the Hedgehog series. Meanwhile, the Super NES was starting to prove itself as a serious contender with its deluge of new games on top of offerings like Castlevania IV, Contra 3, and Actraiser. Even the malnourished TurboGrafx-16 showed its paltry few owners a good time with the Bonk series.

The rise of the 16-bit generation led to more and more NES owners stuffing the Boxy Grey Lady into their closets and garages while the new hotness took over the family TV. But anyone who held off on doubling their bits after '92 still had access to some well-polished NES action titles. Taito in particular offered a lot with Little Samson and The Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak, two games that are unfortunately better known for their insane eBay prices than their great platforming action. Capcom also delivered Mighty Final Fight, an adorable super-deformed beat-em-up.

One game Capcom didn't deliver to the NES was Mega Man 6. Well, it did—but only in Japan. Nintendo picked up and published the Blue Bomber's sixth adventure in North America on March 15, 1994, three months after Mega Man X arrived on the SNES. It's hard to believe classic NES Mega Man still had something to offer the action genre in a post-Mega Man X world. Like many fans who jumped into the future with X and Zero, I balked at the very idea of looking backwards.

Mega Man 6 is now over a quarter of a century old, and it still receives side-eye from action game fans. One problem is that it exists in the shadow of Mega Man X, which is frankly one of the best action games ever produced. Another problem is right there in its title: Mega Man "6." By the time the game arrived, the classic Mega Man series was regarded as something of a joke. A good one, to be sure, but a stale jest your well-meaning dad has told again and again.

For ages, I thought of Mega Man 6 as a faded, unspectacular punctuation mark for a pedigree NES action series. If you dig deep enough, you'll find old 1UP articles wherein I laugh at its feeble staleness. But after re-playing Mega Man 6 for the 25th anniversary of its North American release, I see now that I wasn't being fair to it. It's a good, fun game that actually has some interesting ideas and levels that are satisfying to work through. I suppose I spent all this time comparing it directly to Mega Man X, which is neither necessary or fair. Mega Man 6 stands on its own merits, and if you own it (say, via the Mega Man Legacy Collection), it's absolutely worth a go-round.

One reason I disliked Mega Man 6 is because I thought its story was stupid. To be fair, it is. An individual named "Mr. X" (not the same Mr. X who can be modded to wear a Speedo) finances a robot-building competition, then turns the winning robots to the Dark Side and begins taking over the world. When Mega Man literally asks "Why?", Mr. X tells him he's been manipulating Dr. Wily all along.

Well, I'm convinced. | MobyGames

The "Dr. Wily isn't evil anymore!" twist was old by Mega Man 4, but I do think Mega Man 6's robot design contest angle is a good one. After all, Mega Man 6 marks the first time North Americans were allowed to contribute to Japan's celebrated tradition of designing Mega Man robots. Michael Leader, an American, designed Wind Man. Daniel Valee, a Canadian, designed Knight Man. The rest of the Robot Masters include Yamato Man, Blizzard Man, Flame Man, Plant Man, Tomahawk Man, and—my favorite—Centaur Man. Mega Man 6's Robot Masters are a strange-looking bunch, but when you remember each one is supposed to represent a different country, you understand why Mega Man has to fight a horse hybrid from Greco-Roman myth whose race is infamous for heavy drinking and debauchery.

Each Robot Master's lair is outfitted to represent its home country, too. Plant Man hangs around a level that resembles the Brazilian rainforests, albeit with robotic foliage. Tomahawk Man's (admittedly culturally insensitive) level is engineered to resemble the Wild West, and has a lovely sunset to go with it. My favorite is Blizzard Man's stage, which has mean-eyed curling puck robots sliding to and fro. I'm still a little surprised Knight Man, not Blizzard Man, was designed by a Canadian, but it is what it is.

Mega Man 6's levels are made even more interesting with their abundance of secrets. There are lots of cracked walls to break down, some hidden items to discover, and even occasional branching paths that might shepherd you into a fight with a "fake" Robot Master. While beating the fake still counts as a victory, you miss out on collecting the parts for Mega Man's robo-bird buddy, Beat. By the way, Beat is a maniac in Mega Man 5 and 6, where he pecks enemies to death instead of simply rescuing Mega Man from pits. If you miss one of his parts, it's not the worst idea to go down the path you initially snubbed.

Like many late NES releases, Mega Man 6 boasts some of the best graphics the system can offer. | MobyGames

Exploring Mega Man 6 thoroughly is only possible with the aid of the Rush Adaptor parts, which are likewise won by taking down Robot Masters. These parts, which offer Mega Man the option to fly for short distances and punch real hard, replace Rush's traditional role as a springboard and a jet sled. I miss Rush's gormless doggy-grin, and it's seriously cumbersome how you're expected to sit through a small cut scene every single time you equip one of the Adaptors, even though you can skip the animation. Still, I found myself enjoying how the stages encourage you to use the Adaptors to punch down weak walls, shatter armored enemies, and reach mysterious ladders in high places. Mega Man 6 tries hard to differentiate itself from Mega Man 5; probably a little harder than it needed to, given its release window.

Mega Man 6 still feels slow and a little awkward next to the smooth and suave Mega Man X. Even the best classic Mega Man games, like Mega Man 2 and 3, tower over it. But I spent years dismissing it as a desperate and cynical attempt to grab money from game-starved NES owners (who I now realize were anything but starved for good action games at the time). It's not, so don't breeze past it next time you sit down for a classic Mega Man marathon. Get equipped with Rush Adaptor, keep a wary eye on Beat's blood-covered talons, and enjoy the strong ending to Mega Man's NES career.

I spent a little too much of my history as a Mega Man fan spitting on Mega Man 6 instead of appreciating its interesting Robot Master designs, its inspired levels, and its nice graphics. It's not as good as Mega Man 2, 3, or Mega Man X, but it's a solid action game worthy of helping the NES bow out.

3.5/5

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

Read this next

With Mega Man Legacy Collection's Switch Debut, Nintendo Needs to Reassess its Retro Priorities

Capcom's made a lot of effort to improve its retro catalogue on the Switch. Now it's your turn, Nintendo.

Should You Get Mega Man Legacy Collection for the Nintendo 3DS?

Mega Man Legacy Collection is out for the 3DS. But what if you already have the Collection? And how does it stack up against the individual Virtual Console games?

10 Handy Things to Know if Mega Man Legacy Collection is Your Introduction to the Series

New to the series? Intimidated by the unrelenting meanness of these ancient games? Don't be!

Mega Man Legacy Collection Xbox One Review: The Robot Museum

Finally, six NES classics get the treatment they deserve. But is less truly more?

The Most In-Depth Mega Man Legacy Collection Interview You'll Read Today

We discuss the philosophy and tech behind the anthology with Capcom and Digital Eclipse.

More Reviews

GreedFall Review

And I'm greed, greedfallin'.

Sayonara Wild Hearts Review

Wild hearts can't be broken.

Logitech G604 Review

Logitech revives another one of its older mice for a new generation.

NHL 20 Review

A conservative update that nevertheless shouldn't be ignored by hockey fans.

More on NES

The First Three Dragon Quests Finally Leave Their Mobile Prison For Switch

Erdrick's violent kids are about to run rampant on your Switch.

Why Dragon Quest Failed to Make it In America 30 Years Ago

Nintendo tried its best to make the West love RPGs, but culture—and more importantly, timing—was against the attempt.

Starting Screen | EarthBound’s 25th Anniversary Makes us Pine for Classic Instruction Books

Earthbound's player guide is a great example of the effort publishers expended trying to make the West fall in love with RPGs.

Where Nintendo Switch Online Has Gone Wrong

The reasons Nintendo's online service is flaccid, and what it can do to pump things up.

Sorry, but a Zelda 2 Remake Isn't Being Planned

Inti Creates boss would like you to know he's not working on it.

Recovered Super Mario Bros. Super Show Animation Cels Bring Us Back to the Franchise's Weirdest, Most Aimless Days

If you can't mix Super Mario Bros. with Billy Idol, then what's the point of life?

More Action Games

The 25 Best Nintendo Switch Games

Our rotating list of the best games on Switch, now updated for the Nintendo Switch Lite release!

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening's Most Famous Song Now Has Soul-Shredding Lyrics

Let's be honest, you knew it wasn't going to be an uplifting ditty.

Call of Duty Mobile Release Date - Android, iOS, Price, Battle Royale

Here's our guide on the Call of Duty Mobile release date, Android and iOS download details, battle royale news, and more.