I often miss the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), a time when simplicity was an unwritten guideline to which most games seemed to adhere. Platformers, which are two-dimensional games where a character is guided from one end of a level to the other, were perfect examples of titles adopting this format. These games, which represented the mainstream genre back then, did not focus their attention on creating complicated and overly dramatic plots. Instead, they set out to create a basic background story and left the rest to gameplay. The simplicity of some of these games is probably what makes them so memorable. With the Mega Man series, Capcom offered players some of the best platformers of their time, all the while avoiding complicated aspects.
Even though Mega Man was one of Capcoms most popular series on the NES, its little blue hero had to face the fact that if he wanted to survive, an eventual transition to the 16-Bit generation was inevitable. Oddly enough, the first Super Nintendo title to bear the franchise name came in the form of a spin-off, Mega Man X. New concepts, character controls as well as designs gave the deriving series an appealing look. The goal in the first of these titles was simple: stop a group of robots and their leader who have all gone completely mad or "Maverick", as the game refers to them, from taking over the world. Also, its shadowy connections to the original series and unanswered questions gave upcoming sequels the potential to slowly develop what could turn out to be an interesting story. Unfortunately, as soon as the first sequel appeared, the X saga gave away the impression that it was going nowhere and instead only aimed at complicating itself further with each new addition. As the series moved to the Playstation, the focus on complexity increased to absurd proportions. Mega Man X6 (MMX6), the newest sequel, shows what happens when a game attempts to glorify itself with needless extra features which in this case resulted in what I consider to be the worst title in the X series.
MMX6 begins with a rather average anime-style video which basically summarizes what went on in Mega Man X5, the previous holder, in my opinion, of the "Worst game in the series" award. What ensues is a series of attempts at explaining a story whose foundations seem more fragile than a house of cards. After Zero, a robot similar to X and a fellow Maverick hunter, sacrificed himself to save the planet, X was left alone to face a new threat: the Zero Nightmare. This new menace apparently takes over robots and causes them to go mad. While the game portrays the Zero Nightmare as mysterious and dangerous, what the "Nightmare" system actually does is annoy the player by changing the layout of levels every so often and populate most areas with the same harassing enemies who dont do much except fly around on the screen. So much for Capcoms key publicity element for this game. Those who are familiar with the series and actually believed that Zero had been destroyed are in serious need of a reality check. After all, Zeros death had already been done once previously and Capcom wouldnt be stupid enough to get rid of such a character. What is even more insulting than thinking players are that gullible is the way in which Zero returns. The explanation given sucks any bit of credibility straight out of a story in a bad enough shape already.
Stage bosses, whom I once considered the highlight of any Mega Man title, have now been reduced to a joke. To begin with, the incompetence found in the way this game was translated is evident here due to the fact that these robots are given the most idiotic names ever used. Secondly, one would think that, with the power of the Playstation being obviously superior to that of the Super Nintendo, character designs would have been improved or at least more detailed. Instead, these bosses are designed to look like a bunch of overgrown Pokemons. Also, the creators must have felt that every bad guy should be given the chance to justify his reasons for being "evil". These usually consist of either comments designed to let the player know that the boss is completely insane or, as odd as it may sound, sob stories.
The idea of enhancement items hidden throughout the levels was smart in the original game. However, MMX6 pushes this to a point of ridicule, as X must now find eight capsules in order to complete two different armors between which he can choose at will afterwards. In other words, instead of providing X with a single permanent and reliable armor, this game gives him a wardrobe. "What shall I wear today?" X must also act as some sort of rescue hero and find a number of robots, also know as "Reploids", supposedly stranded throughout the various levels. The problem is that there is not one level that I found enjoyable and these Reploids have no influence whatsoever in increasing the titles replay value. When rescued, some of these robots will give "power up" items which can be customized on either X or Zero. This is just another useless feature, which in this case, pushes MMX6 closer to the realm of role playing games.
While playing through this game, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. This wasnt due to memories I had playing the original Mega Man games as a kid, but instead because I felt the urge to throw my controller against the wall, a fate my old NES controller had been subjected to on a few occasions. Seriously though, this game is supposed to have three difficulty settings and yet, the "normal" setting can only be described as frustratingly difficult. Also, when controlling X, one is bound to get hand cramps. The various moves he has to perform all the while charging a weapon require most buttons to be pressed at the same time. Whatever happened to simply running, jumping and shooting?
I realize that 2-D platformers are slowly becoming a thing of the past in a world of three-dimensional gaming. However, Mega Man X6 is surely not an example by which they should be remembered. This game is basically a regrouping of every negative aspect in the series, with a few new ones added, crammed into a single disc. If Capcom has any intention of releasing more Mega Man X games, it should honestly consider bringing the series closer to its origins and look to simplicity as more than just a concept restricted to games created prior to the Playstation/N64 era.