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RELEASE DATE (NA): June 11, 2000 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Dr. Light never imagined something like this would happen...

I love the Mega Man series, I really do. In fact, I think it is a safe assumption that it is my favourite of all video game series out there. I remember playing the old Mega Man titles on my NES back when I was still in the single-digit age bracket. Those were such happy days! And I also remember my first taste of the X series on SNES, and good things came from that experience as well. Of course, the Mega Man Legends and Mega Man Battle Network series also sweetened the pot. As a whole, the Mega Man series has been good to me. So when I decided to play through Mega Man X6 for the first time, I was a little giddy and excited, because it was a new Mega Man title. How very disappointed I would be...

Let's start off with the storyline. It seems that Nightmare viruses are causing corruption throughout the land, and only our great hero, the Maverick Hunter Mega Man X, can set out to see exactly what's going on. Zero, the other protagonist in the X saga, was defiled heavily (see also: basically destroyed) in the previous game, and thus he does not appear... at least not at the beginning of the game. Be sure to unlock the guy as soon as possible. So you have to go and take down eight Mavericks while investigating the existence of these Nightmares. It may not be very likely that you would know the basic plotline if you did not read the manual or this kindly review; the in-game dialogue is just that bad. More times than not, it seems that the characters talk far too cryptically, as though they know a lot more about what's going on than we do. Poor translation brings about confused players, and I was one of them. Capcom was also too lazy to provide English dubbing, so all Westerners get is melodramatic Japanese voice acting. You'd be better off turning down the volume and listen to this instead. I'm dead serious -- it's so corny, it will make your favourite pet begin to loathe you for forcing it to listen.

Mega Man X6 is a typical Mega Man game, boasting the same formula that had hooked gamers since the days of olde (well, the days of the 8-bit NES, at least). You start off with an introductory stage that sets the scene for a while, and then you have the option of going after eight different Mavericks in eight different themed stages. They have goofy names like Infinity Mijinion and Rainy Turtloid -- running low on ideas is not surprising after six similar games. Once you defeat a Maverick, you get to steal their special powers and use them to your own folly. Each Maverick has a weakness to a specific weapon, and it's up to you to discover what it is. This game is a bit different than other X games, as you don't necessarily have to defeat all eight Mavericks to move ahead to the final stages; there are ways around it, although you may end up feeling short-changed later on without certain powers and will want to visit those forgotten stages. X gets to use his buster and a variety of other weapons; Zero is not so lucky, because although he gets a Saber and a little Z-Buster to fire with, he can't get special weapons. Zero only gets new moves for his saber. Awww. X does get to use a saber, but it's pitiful. Awww.

The game looks pretty much like the previous two iterations in the Mega Man X series on the PlayStation -- standard fare in the second dimension, although slanted a little to make it look all wicked-special like it's in the third dimension or something. But it's not. Awww. The game itself is colourful, but the novelty will wear off somewhat quickly, especially if you've been pampered with the pictoresque settings of X4 and X5, as this game is not a step forward in terms of graphics. Likewise, the music and sound departments do not provide any improvement over the last couple of games. Granted, there's a little more rock-oriented punch in the soundtrack this time around (including a couple of rock tracks to fill the introductory movie, and one at the end, vocals included, just to keep up with all those RPGs which were/are doing the same thing), but the music is ultimately forgettable in the long run, so it's only there to ensure that the game isn't a silent run. Rock music also helps ensure that Mega Man X appears to be cool. The only plus is that there are a couple of remixed tunes from the early days of Mega Man X, which does add nostalgia points. Sound effects are reminiscent of past volumes as well (under the motto, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it or even dare try to improve it"). And I already mentioned what the voice acting is like; I shall not repeat my contempt for it.

Yet the biggest issue I have with this game is the insane difficulty of it, at least in comparison to previous X titles. The difficulty here is occasionally humanly reasonable, but more often it is mind-numbing (although the final boss of the game is a breath of fresh air compared to those of X4 and X5). Part of the problem is that the controls were sometimes irritating. And I use the term "sometimes" when I actually mean "frequently". I found that while performing basic moves (walking, shooting, and jumping) was easy enough, handling some other aspects of the game was more frustrating. Grasping onto poles while falling caused me some grief. However, nothing was more problematic than pulling off special moves with Zero, especially during boss fights when you don't have the time to carefully plan your move -- it has to be done right there and then, and if it's not performed quite the right way, you will suffer greatly (perhaps with the boss reacting before you do and whacking about a third of your life meter away). Zero's moves require a Street Fighter-like button combo (why he can't just equip a move as X does is beyond me), so being quick and well-practiced is the key. After a while, I just wanted the experience to be over because repeating the same boss over and over for an hour loses its charm after a while... about fifty minutes earlier, to be exact.

Another issue arises when players come to discover that not every character can actually survive a level. Sadly, based on mediocre level design, it is consistently true that the levels themselves pose more of a challenge than the Mavericks you face at the end of them. However, it must be noted that there are just some levels that should be declared off-limits for certain characters. I shall use a stage of particular note to illustrate my point, the stage of Blaze Heatnix. Within the stage is a giant red oblique enemy, almost like a giant shifting doughnut. Correction... FIVE of those damn circular things. Anyway, you must destroy four green orbs connected to the different "sides" (I know, a circle has no sides, but...) of this red enemy, and then it will explode. However, these orbs are tough to take down as X (nay, almost impossible), as X gets constantly pummeled and plowed by these mecha-donuts before he even has a fighting chance of destroying even more than one orb. Although he has the Giga Attack (a special attack that can only be used once and then must be recharged by taking damage), it will only take down one of them, and there are still four more to be tackled in the same level. X is basically toast. Zero, on the other hand, has a fighting chance with an attack called the Rekkoha (an untranslated word, just like all of Zero's gained special abilities -- thanks, Capcom) that can destroy all four green orbs simultaneously in one or two shots. Wonderful. And if you need more Rekkoha energy (considering you only get four shots), just die and when you use another life, your weapon energy is filled. Neato, but bad for X. This means X cannot get through that stage. Nuh-uh. And I don't see any special Game Genie-type devices laying around the house, so that won't help either. There are other stages like this, and it just adds to the frustration and overall brainless difficulty of the game.

X is clearly thinking, "Ugh, don't I get a vacation from this?"

In your travels, you also have to save weak Reploids who are calling out for your aid. However, these are usually guarded by Nightmare robots; if you can't get to them fast enough, the Nightmares will abduct them and you won't be able to save them -- ever. Rescuing Reploids is particularly important, as they drop additional parts to help improve your characters, such as improving their life bar or even weapon enhancements. Missing out on these can be devastating! It's also important to defeat Nightmares, because they leave souls behind, which you collect in order to (arbitrarily) improve your character's rank. The rank (ranging from the lowly "D" rank to the majestic and practically unattainable "UH" rank) shows how many extra parts (attained from Reploids) you can equip... but you can't equip any until you reach at least an "A" rank. Boo; they don't help you that much though. Only pure luck will save your soul in this hellish mission.

Finally, there's the goofy Nightmare System, which changes certain elements in other stages after you complete one. The information on the back of the game's case boasts a randomization system, but that's not quite right. Stage layouts are very much consistent (even if it APPEARS otherwise in a couple of stages), and only a specific condition changes in each stage. Some things are tolerable (extra breakable blocks, or rain, for example), while other changes are just painfully nasty (like being attacked by falling boulders, or having viruses in the shape of the other playable character come after you and take off some health). Yet this stage alteration system doesn't seem to help anyone in any way, and would have been better off left out completely.

What else can be said about this mind-blowing game? It enraged me so much during gameplay that any fun aspects of it were lost; the annoying parts were very clear to me, resulting in an overall unpleasant experience. The game IS finishable, at least, but not without me cursing at the television first. It is also clear that Mega Man X6 was a rushed release, as it feels unpolished with errors abound. This is not an unfounded theory, as both X5 and X6 were released (in North America) in the same year. I love the Mega Man series, but still I cannot recommend this game, unless you have the urge to raise your own blood pressure. Expect a few controllers to be flung through the air on this one.

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