A Critical Look at Mega Man 6 Stages: Flame Man

Mets haven't changed, but the oil here is new. At this point, all we need to worry about is that it cuts Mega Man's jump height a bit. There's not much going on here, providing us with a good spot to play around with the Jet armor.

Holding jump allows Mega Man to fly upward, and the button can be pressed repeatedly to drop slowly and otherwise finely control movement. The energy bar drains quickly and only allows for a couple seconds of use, but is restored every time Mega Man touches the ground. There are some physics involved, with more energy and time needed to rise after falling for a while. Oddly, there's also a maximum height that Mega Man can rise to, which can be reached with a little over half of the energy meter.

This is quite a powerful upgrade given the overall danger of pits in this series, with the lack of a slide and charge shot as the only downsides. However, the short meter at least forces players to make careful use of it and have a landing plan in mind when moving over enemies. There's also a cracked wall here with an extra life hidden in it, which we can't break without finishing the stage and would have little reason to come back for.

Fire Telly flies forward and occasionally at a slight angle, can shoot flames downward that linger on the ground for a moment, and shows us the purpose for the oil by lighting it on fire. The flaming oil is as deadly as spikes, and at two hits, it can occasionally be difficult to prevent Telly from doing this. However, we're not given much reason to care about doing so. There's no reason to be in the oil in the first place, and avoiding it isn't any more difficult than the average pit in the series. Of course, the mechanic has just been introduced, so let's see where they go with it.

Besides this, Flame Telly isn't a serious threat by itself and there's nothing else here, but one thing I like is the gap between platforms in the second image. That could easily have just been one uneven platform, but since the gap can be slid through, and since having fire dropped on your head is a good reason to slide, it had the potential to act as a neat trap. Unfortunately, the enemies simply aren't positioned in a way that could possibly encourage a slide at the right time to cause a death like that.

The split path isn't bad though, offering a choice between jumping over a small platform for an easier path to the ladder, or a health refill and a slightly harder jump at the end.

Wall Blaster II takes three hits and can somewhat lazily fire shots at a few different angles. Pretty standard as transitional filler rooms go. Pooker is more interesting, in that it can only be destroyed with a charge shot, which flips it over. The Jet armor can avoid these instead, but would need to be more careful of the arcing shots.

When Pooker is flipped into the oil it creates a new type of platform, which must be jumped on repeatedly to move it forward. Our introduction to this is pointlessly tame, and while I can understand why we're not doing this over fire yet, they could at least put a Met on the other side or something. Anything.

Now we need to use a series of Pookys ("Pookies?" --Ed.) to cross a larger pit, though there's enough solid ground in between that we barely need to touch the last two, and with Fire Telly as our only other enemy, there's nothing here to make the forced jumping difficult. The area ends with a gauntlet of five Fire Tellys in a row, which is at least complemented by the spikes and uneven ground.

The next screen gives Wall Blaster a slightly better setup, with a choice between taking them out carefully or jumping straight to the middle and running through. Cyber Gabyoall can be stunned with a charge shot like usual, and Fire Boy tosses arcing fire at us. This still isn't challenging, but the first Gabyoall at least limits our space to dodge the incoming fire. Of course, as is becoming a very common complaint, Fire Boy is just too slow to take advantage of the situation.

He at least has a reason for the slowness, since in his new role as the oil lighter, we need time to take him out before he does so. This is the only area where preventing the oil from being lit and stepping into it gives us an advantage, as we can snag the E-Tank with much less hassle by using it. There's also a nice reward for using Jet, and the Gabyoall/Fire Boy combo works even better here.

The final area uses Fire Boy as well as it can, with two out of reach that can hassle us when we approach the third, or can be killed with Jet to give us an alternate path. The last jump has to be timed carefully, as we'll have no room to dodge once we land.

This stage tried some new ideas, and while they're not necessarily bad, they both needed more care and attention than it was able to give. Without more reason for the player to be in the oil, there wasn't enough consequence to it being lit on fire, and the danger posed by the fire was no more than the pits any other stage would have.

Meanwhile, the only purpose the Pooker platforms serve is to make the player do a lot of extra jumping, but without some incoming horizontal shots or similar hazards to make the player do so carefully, there's no point to it. Aside from these gimmicks, the stage feels empty with the last Fire Telly screen, the area around the E-Tank, and the last few Fire Boys as the only moments where the enemies feel threatening.

That said, the entire stage works well with the Jet armor, giving us multiple rewards for reaching higher ground, both in items and alternate solutions to its hazards. In fact, I find the stage a great deal more fun when played all the way through with it, as the player can enjoy the novelty of flying over the Mets and Pookers, carefully navigate the Pooker area while only dipping their toes in the oil once, take on the last Fire Tellys from the air, and sneak around the final Fire Boy.