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Levels of Shame: Mega Man X6

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This is the example piece for the October 2011 Bitmob Writing Challenge, called Levels of Shame. If you have been traumatized by a bad game, write about how terrible a particular level, puzzle, or boss fight is and post an article about it by October 31, 2011. You can read the rules here.


Once the goose that laid golden eggs for Capcom, the Mega Man franchise now has trouble just getting games out development. While I count myself among those who wish to see the Blue Bomber make a comeback, let’s remember that not every one of his games is a classic. One of the worst in Mega Man’s catalog is Mega Man X6. While it’s hard to keep people interested in the same formula for so long, X6’s level design is truly bad and feels like no one had time to check if the game is even fun to play. Among the worst offenders is the stage belonging to the game’s fire-themed boss, Blaze Heatnix.    

The visuals of this area are forgettable. It’s a dreary cave with a factory in the background, and for no reason most of the lava and fire effects are purple instead of red. It doesn’t take long, however, to meet the real star of the level: An enemy called Nightmare Snake. This sub-boss is a robot snake shaped like an oroborous symbol and uses two attacks: shuttling along in a preset path like a high-school Flash project and firing a volley of rings toward Mega Man X that are difficult to avoid in cramped areas.  

To beat this menace, you have to destroy the four crystals on the corners of its body. This will be a trail by fire, however, because the area leaves little room for dodging, and you’ll need to keep your thumb taped to the dash button to run away from and jump over the boss.

After destroying it, X must navigate the level’s only platforming section before facing another Nightmare Snake in a larger, rectangular room. This fight is easier, but you’ll also notice how tedious destroying it is due to how much health it has.

Next is a small chamber with two boss doorways. Regardless of which door you take, you’re in for your third duel with Nightmare Snake. Now the game throws in a few Zero Nightmare robots, which are annoying DNA-shaped squiggly lines that also happen to make up 80 percent of the game’s enemies.

Once that’s over, you enter another doorway and yet another battle with Nightmare Snake. This time, you have to climb up the stage as a sea of instant-death purple flames cover the bottom of the screen as the sub-boss floats up and down the stage. Of course, the Zero Nightmares also appear so that you can run into them while escaping the fire. Sometimes you’ll have to run into Nightmare Snake, take damage, and use the few moments of invincibility to avoid getting killed by the flames.

You could wait until you reach the top of the corridor to finish off the snake, but X is safe in only one corner of the room, and it’s impossible to hit the snake’s bottom-left orb safely without a special weapon or the full-screen Giga Attack. Just in case you think you’ve finally reached the boss, the next doorway pits you against Nightmare Snake for the fifth time, now with small platforms on top of a sea of lava. I haven't even mentioned the out-of-place extra obstacles the game adds if you visit the stage after beating several bosses, and the level's only saving grace is the plentiful restart points if you die.

Mega Man X6 Blaze Heatnix

After that, you finally face Blaze Heatnix. Compared to other X6 bosses, Heatnix is actually fairly well-designed. The arena is divided into two halves that Heatnix periodically covers with fire. The boss’s attack patterns change based on which half is filled that can be reacted to like any good X series boss should. Heatnix is not the best boss ever, but it’s a step above foes like Infinity Mijinion who are barely animated and rely on almost-inescapable projectile spam.

Former Mega Man producer Keji Inafune had little involvement in X6, as he believed that the series should have ended with Mega Man X5. He said he feels he owes fans an “apology” for the situation. X6 also came out just a year after X5, which contributes to the feeling that Capcom rushed the game’s development. Under these conditions, it’s no wonder that repetitive, unpolished levels like the Blaze Heatnix stage are the result.


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