Are you a masochist? Do you enjoy dying many times just to get some necessary parts and then leaving a stage? If so, then try playing X6 on Xtreme difficulty. While there are some minor improvements over X5, the bulk of X6 will leave all but the staunchest, most hardcore X fans on their knees in frustration.
Starting off, even the story is a little convoluted. Three weeks after the Eurasia colony incident, most humans had to go underground after pieces of the colony destroyed much of Earth. Zero was destroyed while saving X once again, and now the nightmare virus is ravaging the planet. To make matters worse, there are a few more annoying characters to contend with. There’s Isoc the scientist and his team of investigators (Mavericks) who research the nightmare, then the genius, yet psychotic reploid Gate who discovers Zero’s DNA at a crash site, and some powerful reploid named High Max. Returning characters are Alia, Signas, and Douglas for the good guys and cocky Dynamo for the bad guys.
After the typical intro stage and generic big reploid, you can get Zero back by visiting the secret teleport section of any of the eight stages. I recommend doing this right away, as this is the one X game in which I enjoy using Zero more than X. After that, there are six possible ways to advance to Sigma’s fortress: defeat all eight Mavericks as X or Zero, defeat High Max as X or Zero, collect 3000 nightmare souls(dropped from nightmares and bosses) as X or Zero. Each of these six possible outcomes will show different story scenes, so at least that adds replay value, but you won’t ever truly understand what is going on, either, as Capcom only included Japanese voices with English subtitles.
The things I’ve mentioned so far have only scratched the surface, so now onto the gameplay. The control seems a little loose at times, but is otherwise fine. What almost completely breaks this game, however, is the unbalanced difficulty; stages and some bosses can be nearly impossible, while some bosses are laughably easy. For example, take my least favorite stage in the entire X series, the Recycle Lab (Metal Shark Player’s stage). This stage goes on and on with a massive trash compacter almost constantly going up and down while the music drones on. Once you reach him, however, he is a pushover. At least he resurrects previous Mavericks from the SNES X games, like Magna Centipede, and that’s his saving grace. Also, visiting certain stages will affect others, and this is called the nightmare effect. This rarely does anything good, like having steel blocks go up and down in the Weapon Center after visiting the Recycle lab. And don’t even bother trying to take on High Max in any of the teleport rooms until you have powered up and gotten the right weapon, or you will die. Having to take him on in the fortress levels, followed by Gate, is punishment enough.
To get extra parts in this game, you must save reploids scattered throughout the levels. Unless you have memorized which ones are which, you don’t know who has a part and who doesn’t, and if a nightmare infects them before you get there, they are gone for good, and so is that part. This is very frustrating, but at least there is a reward for saving them, unlike in X5, and collecting more nightmare souls enables your hunter rank to go up and be able to equip more parts. Dynamo actually serves a purpose in this game, as once you open up the fortress stages, you can visit any teleport section of a normal stage and hit him with his weakness for up to 600 nightmare souls, greatly helping you get up to 9999 souls quicker.
There are some good things about X6, though, and I must touch on them a little bit. Once fully powered up, Zero is devastating and can mow through enemies with great speed and precision. X gets some interesting armor power-ups and upgrades, too, and ultimate armor code helps out a lot. The soundtrack is still awesome, and I like the hauntingly cool Ground Scaravich theme and metal Blaze Heatnix theme. Most of the Mavericks are still fun to fight. Sigma’s two forms, though incomplete (much like this game), are still decent, and a remix of his theme from X1 plays during the final confrontation.
I can only recommend Mega Man X6 to hardcore fans of the series and/or those looking for a major challenge. Otherwise, don’t even bother. It’s a shame, too, as it had lots of potential to be an outstanding game, if only those issues had been addressed properly during development.