A Critical Look at Mega Man 6 Stages: Yamato Man

Yamato Man's stage starts off with a rather nice view and a new enemy called Shigaraky, which launches bouncing balls at two different speeds. The balls are destroyable, making these guys pretty easy to kill by just walking forward and shooting. They are capable of turning around though, which this area's design uses to surprise anyone trying for the easy upper route.

Here we see another major change to the formula: Split paths. Other games in the series have toyed with the idea, but this game uses them more often, and requires choosing the correct path in the remaining stages to find the parts for Beat. Taking an alternate route usually requires an armor, so we'll try the route available to normal Mega Man first.

The cryptically named Ben K throws spinning spears at us, and mostly acts as a time waster. His spears are easy to avoid at a distance, but there isn't much time to get shots in. Luckily, we can skip this one.

Katonbyon is the new bomber enemy, dropping its payload a little in front of Mega Man. With no other enemies to support it, the area is simple enough.

The lower ones make this area a little more dangerous for a flying Mega Man, but the strategy of stopping and waiting for them to fly overhead works every time from the ground. It would have been nice if even one of them was at eye level to shake things up.

The new Dachone actually aims at Mega Man, but can be hit anywhere on the sprite. With only five health, even a player randomly firing can just breeze through it, making it one of the saddest enemies of this size, yet it gets two screens to itself. We've caught up with the other path now, so let's see where that one went.

Unfortunately, the Power Armor can't break through the spinning spear, so it'll have to wait like the others. This path leads to a large mid-boss called Gamarn and Gamadayu, which can throw two bombs in an arc or fire a laser straight ahead. While both are easy to avoid from a distance, the gap between the bombs is always just in front of Mega Man, encouraging the player to step forward. It's not enough to make the fight difficult, but it's a good design choice regardless.

Not much to see here. The paths converge, with a one-block gap preventing a player from going down the ladder for the E-Tank from the top path. The holes around the Shigaraky could have been dangerous, but Mega Man will be safely at the center of the second purple platform by the time Shigaraky appears and fires.

Here we have the second split, but before we explore these let's look at that last Shigaraky. Normal Mega Man can't jump over it, and would need to jump into that small hole to attack it. Due to their speed, half the balls will occupy that space until the next is fired, and half will bounce away to leave the enemy open. It's a somewhat creative situation, but it all amounts to waiting for a favorable coin toss, so I can't praise it much. It's at least possible to take it out quickly in the short moment between shots.

The bottom path leads to what looks like a simple shootout with some Tadahous, until Gabgyo leaps from the water. These are as dirty a trick as they've always been to any player who hasn't learned from the rest of the series to be wary of this particular type of hole, but at least the water can act as a clue that there's something odd here.

The Propeller Eyes in this room are well-placed, with one just out of reach and the other close enough to barely kill on our way up the stairs, allowing a quick player to take it out and run through just before the other attacks. The next corridor combines spikes, a moving floor, and Teck. This place also works well with the floor pushing Mega Man backwards to make Tecks shots count for more, and just enough space on top for the Jet Armor to get through. The only thing notable about the final screen is that the extra stuff in front of Ben K shortens our window to hit him, making him even more boring by taking away the option to get close and squeeze more shots in.

Since we needed the Jet Armor to reach the upper path, the designers were free to include challenges that required it. What we got is a spike pit slightly too wide for Mega Man to jump and a low ceiling with a Gabyoall patrolling it. This is almost a good idea, if it weren't for the fact that touching the ceiling doesn't bring Mega Man high enough to trigger Gabyoall's boost, which might have forced players to time their jump well or avoid flying too high. As it is, the enemy is trivial to avoid.

After another Ben K, we reach the last new enemy. Spring Face Bomb jumps forward until shot twice, after which it throws its exploding face at you. The floor is moving in different directions here, in an attempt to make this threatening.

This level does a fine job of showing the downside to split paths. With more area to cover, the designers would have had to put in extra effort to make any path result in a quality stage. As it is, much of this one is made of the kind of stuff that used to act as filler between more interesting parts of better stages. There's just enough total content here for one barely average stage at best, but even that has been cut in half by the layout. The result is forgettable, with the highlights being a couple ideas that could have gone somewhere if given more room, and a neat-looking but otherwise standard hidden mid-boss.

A potential advantage to split paths is that the designers can have areas where Mega Man is known to have one or both armors and design challenges tailored to them before the Wily stages, but there was only one weak attempt at that here, and it didn't even work right. The good stages we've seen so far have done a much better job of giving the armors fun things to do without them being required.