Part 4: Violen describes Xtreme modeYou know, I did have an extended summary of the differences present in Ground Scaravich's stage on Xtreme, but instead I'm just going to post this and let your imagination fill in the blanks (with Nightmares).
If you can find the will or time, look into or try Xtreme mode for yourself. The disparities are becoming greater and greater as we move along the game in this LP, and a lot of it really isn't done justice by writing about. It needs to be seen or played to know real disgust.
You can switch the difficulty mid-save file, and I hope you do for the refights. Ground Scaravich gets funnier the more he has to do. He'll start flinging his rocks backwards, kicking them along a linear line in an amazing act of physics, bringing in special indestructible variations, making trap rocks, stopping in place to shoot projectiles less threatening than the D-1000's, and going fucking bonkers with an army of rocks summoned from bedlam all to the summary effect of flinging shit. It's such an antithetical climax to the most grueling slog in the game. You could spend 4 minutes waiting to demonstrate every option and move your character twice tops to call it a no damage run.
One thing that's become noticeable now that we're four stages in is how tacked-on the physical upgrades are in X6. Hearts, armor capsules and tanks look like they were placed by throwing a dart at a map of the stage. The one that was sitting on spikes is technically procurable without icing yourself, but it's remote. You can do an obscenely well-timed double jump with Zero or Mach Dash (I'll admit, this is a pretty badass tool to have) with the Blade Armor. You could also technically come back with the second armor if you really wanted to be convoluted. You can even grab it with unarmored X, but that involves some really fucked up physics tampering with a weapon you don't have yet. The best option is just damage tanking and using the invulnerability to swipe it.
There's basically nothing to add to Shield Sheldon's stage that hasn't been covered. It's either shorter than the Intro or a lengthy but rudimentary puzzle who's biggest challenges are staying awake and trying to maneuver Zero's awkward saber around. The rest harkens back to the same formless layout all secondary areas suffer. Note the remarkably generous hitbox on the lasers in this level. That's going to become an important grace much later.
Those Ground Scaravich blocks become a real piece of work if you want their optional help in Metal Shark Player's stage. I wonder if you plan to show that off. It's like a puzzle game!
Shield Sheldon's kind of a bore so who I really want to talk about is High Max. The asininity of his defense has already been discussed, but it's insultingly easy and dull besides. Ephraim remarked you could duck his slow saunter to and fro, but it's more than that. You can duck his punch, his barrier, and reach his sprite from that position with a charged shot. You could quite feasibly handle 75% of this battle from a corner. Maybe he magically grows six inches if you fight him at level 4, but like with Nightmare Zero, it's not possible. You can actually destroy his large orbs with the right tool, though all it does is spawn six smaller ones that tail your position.
The real meat of the fight is that desperation attack we only got a brief glimpse of. This is so baffling to me because the rest of the fight is a mockery, yet this is one of the strictest attacks to avoid in the game. It becomes a rising climb in chaos, as he spawns sets of four orbs that fire to your last position, in alternating sets, from different starting points, and layered on top of one another. The sheer size of High Max and the circumference of his orb sets makes the starting points extremely robust, which means you absolutely need to be tracking each orb as it will fire. The complications come from the lazy graphics and sheer overload of orbs obscuring your ability to differentiate and sending one your way every quarter-second or so. The congested nature of the space you're left only compounds to make this just short of undodgeable for any extended period of time. It's really worth looking up or trying for yourself. It's insanely unbalanced.
The biggest kick in the ass is, and I don't think anyone's gonna shed tears over this spoiler, you do fight High Max a second time... and his desperation attack during this rematch is about five times easier than the original and way more obscure to trigger. What's the deal?
There's not much new to mention or remark on. The only meaty thing we got other than two forgettable bosses and one forgettable stage was the Blade Armor, and that thing's sole claim to fame is its air dash. It's invincible, lengthy, and can be held in place for considerable amounts of time. One of these days I'd like to see a PSX-era romhack that takes these two armors and puts them in something worth playing.