MegaMaster Musings

Moronic Stage Design
January 17, 2006

As I was playing through Mega Man X6 for the Mega Man X Collection, I was reminded of the hideous level design that this game suffers from. Believe it or not, I’d actually forgotten how bad it was, but it didn’t take me long to remember why I’d scored Mega Man X6 so poorly in my original review of the game.

Just as a few examples...

  • The first station of Gate’s fortress. This has to be the oddest stage design ever. The game designers allow you to skip all of the other stages and go directly to the fortress, but then they make it impossible to proceed without having beaten most of the rest of the game anyway. (In all fairness, Mega Man 1 sort of pulled this, in that if you fail to pick up the Magnet Beam you can’t complete the game.) X simply cannot navigate this section of the stage normally. You must have the Jumper part or the Shadow armor, and getting the Jumper requires either collecting all four pieces of the Shadow armor, or having the Ultimate Armor that is available only through a code. (Zero can navigate through the stage without any special equipment, but if you don’t have the black armor—again available only through a code—then you likely will not survive against the boss at the end.)

  • The second station of Gate’s fortress cannot be navigated normally by Shadow X or normal X because they lack an air-dash. The only way to get through it with these two characters is to use certain convoluted combinations of Parts. What’s more, you don’t find this out until after you fight the mid-stage boss. (At least the problem area in the first station of the fortress is right at the beginning, so you discover right away if you can’t navigate it and you don’t waste a whole lot of time.)

  • In the Recycle Lab, once you drop down to where the helmet capsule is, you are stuck there until you either cross the pit—which you might not even be able to do, depending on what items you have—or lose all your lives. If you select “Continue” instead of “Stage Select” after losing all your lives, you end up right back down where you were stuck before, and you have to die all over again.

  • Due to the slightly overhead view, the trash compacter found in the Recycle Lab is far more annoying than the one in Dust Man’s stage in the original series. In the NES game, you could tell exactly what would crush you and what wouldn’t. In Mega Man X6, it’s difficult to determine ahead of time whether you can stand, duck, or die (usually the latter). The only good thing is, enemies can get crushed too (well, except for the Nightmares—which, of course, are the one enemy type that you really wish couldn’t go through walls).

  • In the rising magma sections found in a couple of stages, the magma is too far up on the screen. You have to have your character half off the top of the screen just to be a safe distance, so that if you attack—say, swing the Saber—you can recover from the motion and start moving again before the magma hits you. At this height it is, obviously, impossible to see where you are going. You basically have to just jump blindly and take the hits from any enemies that happen to be lurking up there off the top of the screen because you can’t see them. The giant mini-boss in the Magma Area stage that insists on pasting itself on top of ledges that you need to be standing on doesn’t help either.

  • The trash compactor in the fortress stage that Zero gets after High Max is similarly too low. It also takes up too much of the screen; during the sections where Zero must hang on the walls of the pits to stay out from under the crusher, he has barely enough room for his body to remain above the bottom of the screen. The compactor takes up 90% or more of the screen.

  • There are several places where the screen scrolls and cannot be scrolled back. So if you were trying to, say, make a tricky jump into a passage and you scroll the screen by accident, you’ll have to exit the stage and come back in order to get back to where you were actually trying to go. And of course, if you haven’t beaten the Maverick, you can’t exit the stage without losing all of your lives. (In this game, it’s actually almost too easy to get extra lives; every Reploid you rescue gives you one, so you tend to be running around with 8 or 9 lives all the time, which is a lot to burn through when you just want to go back and try to make a jump again...)
I do like a number of the features in Mega Man X6, but if the stages are going to be more frustrating than entertaining, all the features in the world can’t save the game from being irritating.

- The MegaMaster