From my perspective, the Mega Man X series has been in constant decline since the launch of the first game. Each game is just slightly worse than the last, and with X5, that decline seems to have picked up speed. Considering I count Mega Man X as one of my favourite games of forever, it’s sad to suddenly feel like I’m slogging through, just trying to reach the end. I’d almost rather be playing the Army Men series again.
To be fair, X5 wasn’t that bad. I didn’t really enjoy it, but I’ve played worse. Far worse. It was also supposed to be the last game in the series, according to producer Keiji Inafune. However, Capcom decided to keep on trucking, and we soon got an X6. So, maybe with a new producer (but the same director), this one will fix the mistakes made in its predecessor. Haha! I know the answer to that.
BUILD UPON THE RUINS
So, it’s been, like, three weeks since Sigma last wreaked havoc on the world; a timeline I don’t quite buy for a number of story reasons, but whatever. Anyways, Zero’s dead, but he was rebuilt before, so what does death even mean in this series? Anyways, there’s this strange nightmare… thing going on that bends reality somehow. It might be a virus, but then, isn’t that what was going on in the last game?
I may make the plot sound really stupid, and it is, but the idea of an omnipresent nightmare floating around and causing strange phenomenon is pretty cool. It’s a lot more interesting than just Sigma again. Hey, speaking of which, do you think he’s really dead this time? Go on, guess!
Anyway, there’s this scientist dude who is trying… Woah, okay, this is a bit of a mess. So there’s this scientist who is trying to either study, control, or maybe he created the nightmares? I don’t know. Then there’s this other scientist who says he wants to study the nightmare and recruits eight reploids to help him, but the reploids are, like, already dead? So they’re possibly already part of nightmare.
I’ve got a headache.
The nightmares tie into the game in a pretty weird way. You’re given the standard list of eight mavericks, but sometimes their levels are highlighted red, which means that they’re currently under the influence of the nightmare and something has changed on them. It’s usually not something terribly big. Sometimes, it’s just that there are blocks that otherwise wouldn’t be there.
The biggest new addition is the redesign of the power up system and the greater emphasis on rescuing reploids. Each level has a certain number of reploids you need to rescue, and helping them sometimes nets you a special power-up. While this process was somewhat mystifying in Mega Man X5, here it’s rather straightforward. You also gain XP in the form of “DNA” which allows you to level up and equip more of the power-ups.
Gameplay itself is generally the same as the other X games, so you charge your buster, dash jump, and wall hump to climb. The good points of those games are still here, it’s just this time around they’re all buried in crap.
A VERITABLE AVALANCHE
How do you feel about video game bats? Those bite-sized bastards have been harassing players for years, and that’s the purpose they fill. They’re pester enemies that are meant to slow you down, but not necessarily cause a lot of damage.
Whoever is responsible for the enemy designs must love bats. They must view pester enemies as peak design. Mega Man X6 has so many annoying enemies, it’s like returning to my high school days. There are these mosquito robots that block your shots and make dash jumping difficult, all while hovering just outside of range. There are bosses with tiny, tiny hitboxes. There are other bosses that can’t be hurt by all but a specific weapon; it’s atrocious.
A lot of the level design is similarly bad. One of the final stages actually let me get most of the way through it, before it blocked me by adding a jump that could only be made using specific armor configurations. I had to quit, adjust my armor, then replay the entire level because someone decided I should have the foresight to know it was going to screw me over. And that was just to get to one of the most frustratingly awful bosses in the series.
There are other level hazards that are just plain annoying, like the one that turns out all the lights and only lets you see the area illuminated by constantly criss-crossing spotlights. That would be fine for an area you had to do once or twice, but this cropped up repeatedly.
The defining moment for me was during the ice stage, where you have to take shelter from constant avalanches by ducking into cubbies. When I played, there was a ghostly figure of Zero who would show up, then slowly float into me causing damage. I couldn’t kill it, and it would constantly appear when I was hiding from the avalanche, so I had no choice but to take damage. Who the hell designed that? Why? How is that fair?
JUST WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU FIGHTING FOR?
Saving reploids is also a massive pain in the butt. The biggest issue with them is that they can die. A lot of the time, they start off with a nightmare monster hovering directly over them, and the moment you walk into view, the monster descends and kills them. It’s a bit ridiculous, since often when this happens, you need to recklessly dash towards them to try and prevent them from getting possessed. And when they die? There’s no going back unless you load your last save. Any upgrade that they had is lost forever.
This may not be surprising, but Zero shows back up after you meet one of a variety of criteria. How? It’s never really adequately explained. Somehow he survived Sigma’s attack in X5, and then repaired himself. I guess if Sigma can come back repeatedly without explanation, that rule can apply to everyone else. Anyways, it made X so amazingly happy, and then they swore they’d never be apart again. I’ll let you make of that what you will.
At that point, you can select between X and Zero at the start of every stage, which is unfortunate because Zero’s stats start off in the gutter and you’ll have to essentially grind to bring him up to X’s level. That makes it tempting to just ignore the guy.
After playing through the previous five Mega Man X titles, X6 was an exhausting experience. Advancing through the franchise is already testing my endurance, and having X6 show up with its dizzyingly terrible plot and aggressively annoying design has just made things more trying. It was the last game to be released on the Playstation before things moved on to the Playstation 2, and thank goodness for that.
X6 continues the series decline. We’re now far past mediocrity and are now in the dismal depths of deficiency. It’s an awful way of closing off the Playstation trilogy, cementing the 32-bit entries as inferior to their 16-bit siblings. Playing through the X series is beginning to wear on my emotions. My only comfort is that there’s a mere two titles left for me to get through before I can forget that anything past X3 ever happened.
This review was conducted on a Nintendo Switch using the Mega Man X Legacy Collection. It was paid for by the author.