It’s just a set of eight new sprites, and none of them with smegma hair

Mega Man 6 (1994)

The other day, when my good friend’s young daughter proudly showed me a picture she’d drawn of me, I was absolutely chuffed to buggery. She is four years old and was drawing me from memory, so of course a few artistic licences were taken. I don’t have eight spindly legs, to my knowledge. And I certainly don’t have bile green skin with smegma yellow hair.

But it was clearly me, because she said so, and that’s what warms your heart. It means that there’s someone out there who’s thinking of you. I  was good enough to be committed to her preciously scarce paper. Doesn’t that mean an awful lot?

When it’s a little child drawing whatever comes into her imagination, to be stuck onto the fridge later, it’s a cute little endeavour. But when it’s a competition to decide what the majority of your video game will look like, it becomes a lot more sinister.

It’s true that Mega Man 6 is not the first game in the already knackered series to have turned to the fans, pleading with them for their design ideas. Capcom even dressed their slothfulness up as the fan appeal being a “competition”.

But you see, Mega Man 6 marks the first time that North American fans were allowed to enter such a competition, and this is when this game’s doom was sealed. That’s even before we get to the fact that it released in America in 1994, and it never even touched Europe.

There is no artistic talent in America. Alright, sure, it’s the home of comic book drawers, but who wants to admit to that? You don’t have comic books, in your house, do you? Since you’re over the age of 15 and everything?

I don’t see many Yank names in among the heavyweights like Rembrandt, van Gogh, even Lowry, Pollock, and I’m trying to think of a leading Irish artist. Well, every child of a certain age will defend Don Conroy to the death. And there’s a TV programme called Paint Magic Ireland, featuring an excitable country lad who can knock the socks off Bob Ross any day of the week.

I don’t know many Japanese classic painters, but everyone over there can draw a bit of manga. I imagine it’s on the school curriculum next to bonsai. That gives them the credibility they need to make silly little robot designs for the Mega Man series.

Open it up to the American children though, and you’re asking for trouble – pick up a few back issues of Nintendo Power and you’ll see some of the rotten attempts that American children made at creating a robot boss for the Mega Man series. I’m certain that publications sometimes publish fan submissions out of spite, so that everyone can come and have a giggle at how bad they are.

We’re really scraping the barrel with the Robot Masters now, although at least some of them still manage to hit the classic elemental theme, like Flame Man, Blizzard Man and Wind Man. But how could these lads stand up to the likes of Fire Man, Heat Man, Ice Man, and Air Man? The real question is, is there really any difference?

And then, on the other side of the culturally bankrupt coin, you’ve got Centaur Man, who doesn’t look anything like ED-209 as you might hope. There’s Tomahawk Man, which is probably a wildly inappropriate concept these days, I can’t keep up.

Flame Man, with his metallic turban and Arabian-themed level, would probably be for the cultural chop as well, if this game were ever put in front of a Twitter committee. There’s even an abundance of oil in his level for good measure, something to pique America interests.

In that regard, I must say it’s an awful pity that Napalm Man never made the jump over from Mega Man 5 to serve as Flame Man’s weakness. But we can’t expect him to do everything – where’s Liberty Man and Drone Man?

Then there’s Knight Man, which is a cool idea I’ll admit. And that was an American one, proving me quite wrong. Finally there’s Yamato Man, where your guess is as good as mine – I thought it might have been a dire mistranslation and that it ought to have been Tomato Man, but in fact Yamato refers to the spirit of Japan or something like that. No tentacles, soiled panties or insane hentai available at eye-level in shops are present on his level, but that’s OK.

Mega Man isn’t even very blue anymore in this game; he’ll spend a lot more time in this one being red, as he combines with his robo-doggo Rush in a terrible kind of experiment that evokes imagery of The Fly, mixed with the Human Centipede.

This unholy union of roboman and doggy lets Mega Man zip and zoom across the stages, which makes the game altogether quite easy. For those long-time Mega Man fans who’ve gotten sick of getting lashed out of it in the first game, and the seventh game’s final boss, it’ll make a nice change.

Even if you elect not to use this fairly overpowered trick, which would be a shame as it’s one of the few selling points Mega Man 6 had, you’ll still get extra lives and health refills thrown at you for nothing, so you can hardly fail to get a win here.

In fact, if the game weren’t so banal, I’d probably advise it to people as a good starting point for the series. You’re a lot better off starting here than the first Mega Man game, anyway, although Mega Man 2 is still top of the pile.

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that this is a Mega Man made for kids. In particular, perhaps it was geared towards those unfortunate poor boys you were forced to sit beside in school, the ones whose parents couldn’t afford a well-fitting school uniform and a proper lunch for their child, never mind a cutting edge SNES or Mega Drive.

This is a game for them, and my theory is backed up by the fact (well, opinion) that the music in Mega Man 6 is far too chirpy and inanely repetitive. You’d think it was designed to annoy adults, in much the same way as pre-school cartoon themes and jingles seemingly try for. This game’s soundtrack is a severe climbdown from the other 5 (five) NES games, that much is certain.

Now that you’re combined with your doggy, you can pretty much breeze through all of the levels and not remember any of them, getting this game over with in less than an hour. Even if you decide to restrict yourself – and why would you, seeing as how classic Mega Man has been kicking your teeth in for eight years now – the levels are still easy, and I must say that the bosses in particular have made the crossover into joke territory.

Their behaviour is as predictable as your own dog’s when they hear the ice cream van, or when you’ve left your ATM card in plain view of the beast’s sharp teeth – there is going to be destruction on an almost unbelievable level, and it’ll happen in a flash.

I could be wildly wrong here, but I also feel that there’s a slight delay to Mega Man’s actions in this game, in comparison to its predecessors at least. This won’t get you killed, since not an awful lot does get you killed in this game. But strangely it really does feel that Capcom made a major, though subtle, change to the play control.

This was the end of Mega Man on the NES, but not the end of the Blue Bomber’s fun. You’d have thought that the Classic series would have multiplied exponentially by now. Indeed, after Mega Man 8 came out I thought that’s exactly what happened, since I then saw Mega Man 64 being advertised. As it turned out, we haven’t even doubled Mega Man 6’s number. But I can’t be altogether surprised – after you’ve flogged a horse eleven times, it ends up looking worse than that eight-legged portrait of me.

23 February 2021

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