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With the announcement of Mega Man 10, the Internet is once again awash in a haze of blue-tinted euphoria. Soon there will be the articles and marathon play sessions, and the debate over which is the best game in the series will begin anew. We'll see the usual suspects, Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3. Mega Man 9 will probably crash the gate. Hey, Mega Man 8 might even make a subdued appearance!
Of course, the correct answer is Mega Man 6.
Hu-what? All the NES games past the third were stupid, weren't they? Well, that's because you are stupid. Mega Man 6 has been undeservedly vilified for far too long, probably because you didn't play it and are making up disgusting lies to cover your ass. You need some education and I am here to provide it.
Hold it, you say. Even if I agree the game is good, how could it possibly top 2 and 3? Those games are legendary! I would have to concede that yes, it doesn't seem plausible, not at first, anyway. Using my patented brand of infallible logic, I will prove beyond a cloud of uncertainty why Mega Man 6 is the best of the Mega Mans!
1. MEGA MAN 6 WAS RETRO BEFORE RETRO WAS COOL.
Two decades after the heyday of the NES, retro throwbacks have become quite fashionable. The burning desire to see our favorite franchises revived in all their classic glory has reached such monolithic heights that we embrace the archaic trappings that gaming has spent years of technological progress evolving out of.
However, there were no nostalgia goggles back in 1994 when Mega Man 6 was released. The market was split between the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis; anyone who was still making NES games was laughed at. Kids don't want to play that old-and-busted shit anymore! Check out the Blast Processing and Mode 7 scaling up in this piece!
Mega Man 6 should have been released for the SNES, but it wasn't. Capcom felt confident that it could pull off one last amazing maneuver, one that would rid fans of the bad taste 4 and 5 left in our mouths. It would be the culmination of everything learned since 1987.
Here in the States, it was almost not meant to be. Capcom USA was too chickenshit to publish the game, afraid that children wouldn't buy it because it wasn't fancy-pants enough. Instead, Nintendo had to step in and pick up publishing duties.
Here was a chance to turn against the cogs of commercialism that insist consumers should only buy the "latest and greatest," yet Capcom almost botched it up. Smooth move, chief!
2. MEGA MAN 6 IS UNAPOLOGETICALLY RACIST.
Mega Man 6 kicks off with a tournament that gathers the most powerful robots on the planet to prove their strength and capabilities. Not surprisingly, the tournament is an elaborate scheme by Dr. Wily (oh, sorry, I mean "Mr. X") to reprogram the eight finalists and dispatch them in his bid for global conquest. Since these robots hail from all over the world, each one is a representative of his country of origin. Boy, do they rock some stereotypes.
If you've ever watched G Gundam, you know what's up. From Japan, we have Yamato Man, a noble samurai warrior who guards an imperial palace. From the US, we have Tomahawk Man, an Indian chieftain who lives on a reserve, wears a ridiculous headdress, and wields an instrument for scalping. From Greece, we have a fucking centaur. But the BEST, the absolute best, is Derka Man over here:
This is Flame Man. He wears a turban. He has pointy Aladdin shoes. Would anyone like to hazard a guess where this clown is from?
What really seals the deal is his choice of domain -- an oil field in the middle of the desert. Jesus Christ, you guys. Are we spreading political propaganda in Mega Man games now? Gotta let children know from an early age who the real bad guys are! There should have been a second set of instructions packed with this game that read, "Those brown Saudi bastards are hording our liquid gold! Let's give them a taste of our foreign policy!"
This is what makes the game so amazing. It's racially insensitive and doesn't give a fuck. I respect that.
If Capcom USA had published this, you can bet it would have made some sweeping edits. Just look what happened with Mega Man Powered Up for the PSP. One of the two new Robot Masters, Oil Man, is a blackface caricature. When the game was localized, Capcom gave him a Jynx-like makeover to avoid sparking any parental outrage.
3. MEGA MAN 6 IS AN AURAL MASTERPIECE.
It's cute that you think Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3 have the best compositions in the series. Oh, they are so memorable! So timeless! The ultimate in game music excellence! I could listen to those tracks over and over again!
How many times has the Wily castle theme from 2 been remixed, huh? Aren't you sick of that yet?
To be fair, those early tunes are some of the best on the NES. However, the only reason the tunes from Mega Man 6 are not as well regarded is because you guys gave the game as a whole the middle finger. These are some quality, complex compositions. It's amazing to hear the progression from the harsh beeps of the 1987 original right up to the rich instrumentation of the sixth entry, especially considering that this was all done on the same hardware.
Here are a couple of early Mega Man pieces:
Mega Man - Fire Man Stage
Mega Man 2 - Flash Man Stage
S'alright. Kinda bland, no? Compare those to my favorite Mega Man track of all time:
The improvements are obvious. Listen to that and tell me it doesn't kick ass! The Native American, Old West cues really come through. Wanna have your mind blown? Listen closely to the drum track. Those are horse hooves clopping on the ground. BOOM! I just rocked your fucking world!
I'm gonna chuck a few more up here and let the music speak for itself:
4. MEGA MAN 6 KNOWS HOW TO MAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION.
In each game, you are treated to a short character introduction upon selecting a boss from the stage select screen. The boss will appear on a fairly unadorned banner that is laid atop a colorful and/or scrolling background, he will strike a pose, and his name will appear underneath him, all while a jazzy little ditty plays. The aim is to get you psyched for the battle ahead, but the routine gets stale after a while.
Take a look at some boss introductions from the other games:
Mega Man 4 - Toad Man Introduction
Mega Man 7 - Burst Man Introduction
I guess it was cool and all the first couple of times, but it starts to eat at you after a while. All you wanna do is jump right into battle without the extra bullshit. So how does Mega Man 6 spike the punch?
With fucking style! A ring of light illuminates the silhouette of your opponent-to-be as an electronic scoreboard pops up to give you stats and shit. You can see his energy source, the name of his domain, and even power and defense ratings! You can sense that this guy is not some after-school pushover but a titan of steel whose mere existence is a pestilence!
So you tackle the level and make it the boss chamber. What happens next? Usually, the boss drops from the ceiling and performs his signature taunt as his energy fills up. It goes like this:
Mega Man 5 - Gravity Man Entrance
Mega Man 9 - Tornado Man Entrance
BORING. Mega Man 6, how do you respond?
God damn. The lights dim as the chamber doors close behind Mega Man. All of a sudden, lighting cracks and the walls shake from the thunderous pulsations as your unmaker descends from the heavens like Odin. With an entrance like that, even a weak-sauce pansy like Plant Man looks like a badass!
Mega Man 6 is all about style and panache. It's like attending a K-1 match only with killer robots!
5. MEGA MAN 6 FEATURES THE BALLSIEST ROBOT MASTER EVER.
From the racial stereotypes, we already know that Mega Man 6 is pretty ballsy. However, there is one particular Robot Master whose balls are so massive that he has to sling 'em over his shoulder just so his feet can touch the ground.
This is Yamato Man. I believe I mentioned him already. Allow me to describe his attack pattern. He removes the tip of his spear, throws it at you, and then... runs after to pick it up! And then... throws it again! He only has the one thing! He is the most ill-equipped Robot Master ever conceived!
Slight correction. He has another attack where he jumps and launches three spear tips while suspended in the air. These he doesn't retrieve. That leads me to believe that the tip he throws while grounded is a good luck charm or mystical artifact, the Blade-That-Ended-a-Thousand-Lives or some cold-blooded shit like that. Why else would he choose to reuse it rather than pull from his ample supply?
Despite his seemingly inefficient battle tactics, he is still ranked as one of the most powerful robots on Earth. Against all logic, his methods have brought him great success. Anyone who fights with a self-imposed handicap like that has got to have an ego the size of Jupiter.
Seriously, big brass balls.
6. MEGA MAN 6 IS AN AMERICAN ALL-STAR.
Capcom used to hold yearly contests in which fans would submit Robot Master designs to be used in the upcoming sequel. Implications that Capcom was being fucking lazy by letting children do its work for free aside, those were some pretty cool promotions. One problem -- they were restricted to Japan, and that's bullshit.
Nintendo Power wasn't gonna stand for this and held its own Robot Master design contest. Capcom agreed to include the winners of the contest in Mega Man 6, adding a splash of American invention to an otherwise Japanese-exclusive lineup. And so it came to pass that Wind Man and Knight Man joined Dr. Wily's motley crew of mechanical miscreants.
Wind Man, the Chinese agricultural bot, was designed by Michael Leader. Knight Man, the British medieval bot, was designed by Daniel Vallée. As these are the only two American-designed bosses in the entire franchise and since the United States is the greatest nation on the planet, they are automatically the best Robot Masters in the series.
Technically, Mr. Vallée is Canadian, but Canada is a part of the North American continent and American representation in the series was zero before this point. I think it's fair to make him an honorary US citizen, don't you? Besides, you gotta feel pity for a guy who doesn't live in a real country.
In addition to that, compare Vallée's kick-ass Knight Man to Leader's Wind Man. I know I said Wind Man is one of the best Robot Masters ever, but that's a distinction awarded solely on principle and not on the merits of design. Look how fat he is! He probably ate one too many crab wontons and then placed the empty bowl on his head like it was a clever fashion statement. As a product of Chinese engineering, he was probably constructed in a sweat shop and coated in lead-based paint.
So it's settled. Knight Man is an all-American. Along with the anti-Arabian propaganda, you've got yourself one hell of a patriotic video game! USA! USA!
7. MEGA MAN 6 IS RUSH'S CROWNING GLORY.
Rush has been an invaluable ally ever since his introduction in Mega Man 3. That said, why can't he learn a new trick from time to time? Do we have to use Rush Coil and Rush Jet again? Thank God Dr. Light had the good sense to scrap that redundant Rush Marine mode.
Can Mega Man 6 give Rush the makeover he deserves? You bet your ass it can!
All the old transformations have been tossed out the fucking window. In their place are two full-body suits that are not only useful but pretty damn stylish as well.
The Rush Jet Adaptor slaps a jet pack onto your back, granting you limited physics-based flight. Combining the functionality of the Rush Coil and Rush Jet, the Jet Adaptor can be used to cross any gap or to reach any elevated ledge. Just hold down the jump button and you will fly as long as you have charge in your meter.
I say "physics-based flight" because Jet Mega Man is at the mercy of momentum. If you are in a free-fall, activating the thrusters will gradually slow your rate of descent before reversing your direction. So no, the jet pack isn't an instant bailout whenever your dumb ass falls into a Punji pit. It takes finesse to handle the awesome power of flight.
The Rush Power Adaptor grants you Tyson hands with which to pummel your opponents back to the Stone Age. As Power Mega Man, you trade in long-range capability for close-range Herculean strength. When you charge up an attack, shit really starts to fly. Enemies taunting you from behind an impenetrable shield? Fuck 'em up right through their barrier! Enemies gliding towards you across the floor? Wind up a haymaker and send them careening back whence they came!
And do you know what the best part of these adaptors is? Neither requires weapon energy! Once you obtain these items, you just swap between the two for the rest of the game. You are the Messiah. You are the Alpha and the Omega. Nobody fucks with you anymore.
Beats the hell out of a "dig up useless shit" function.
8. MEGA MAN 6 TAKES THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED.
Though Mega Man games give you the option of battling bosses in any order you so choose, the levels themselves are strictly A-to-B affairs. In Mega Man 4, I was pleasantly surprised when I came across a branching path in the fourth Dr. Cossack level. It's a welcome treat to be able to replay a level and face a whole new set of challenges.
What can Mega Man 6 do to build upon this concept, I wonder?
In contrast with 4's piddling one level, 6 features no less than eight levels with branching paths! Some of these levels even have two separate forks for a total of four possible means of stage completion! That's a lot of value on top of the already fantastic and inventive level design. The game provides 120% of your daily requirement of vitamin AWESOME, bitches!
You would think that's enough, but no! Four of main stages feature two separate exits, one guarded by a false boss and the other by a true boss. Their abilities are identical, but don't be fooled! Should you vanquish a false boss, you obtain his weapon and continue with the game none the wiser. Should you defeat the true boss, you will receive a special token. Only after collecting all four tokens are you allowed to summon Beat, Mega Man's avian companion.
Not that Beat's services are required, but are you just gonna settle for a gang of imposters when the real villains are out there, acting all high and mighty, confident that they've successfully pulled the wool over your eyes? Don't give those bastards the satisfaction of knowing they got the better of you!
9. MEGA MAN 6: THIS IS THE FINAL BATTLE.