Part 7: Meteor Rain stinks.Rainy Turtloid
RT's stage is one of the very few examples of X not being an irredeemable pile of butts. In my ongoing quest of trying to squeeze every bit of enjoyment possibly able to get harvested from this turd, I tried to shake up things a little once and started my Xtreme mode playthrough with this stage. And you know what? For most of it, that was actually pretty...fun. It definitely is a stage that feels far more complete than others, and I strongly suspect it was one of the first ones made. It has a reasonable and concisely presented gimmick, it is of a fairly...well, standard, length (just compare Mijinion's and Sheldon's which are nothing), the enemy placement makes actual sense and to top it off, the presentation is of the usual quality so unindicative of what the game actually delivers.
The acid rain is incredibly unintrusive, but I like it that way. Yes, it doesn't offer much in the way of challenge, but just imagine how much of an ass it would be if you were in constant danger of dying just from HP loss through the environment...a frustrating experience. Unavoidable damage is most of the time pretty damn shitty, but as it's really low here, it's more of a constant reminder that this is not a friendly place to be, you have to keep moving, but there's no real pressure; it's mostly psychological, aka subtle, aka something that X6 sorely lacks in almost every other aspect of it. And lo and behold, the way to get rid of the rain also makes sense, with the "transmitters" powering the shield on the generator, every one you destroy makes the shield colour change, you have a clear sense of progress, it's instinctively clear what you have to do, don't need Alia's advice, what I'm saying is it makes sense. This is a good example for how to make a stage that's not an absolute pain to play from start to finish, is it really that hard? The only thing that's unreasonably annoying in the first part is Sheldon's Nightmare effect, a tremendous irritation with all those clones spawning in at regular intervals, which are pretty hard to avoid and practically require you to keep the tedious-to-use Guard Shell out at all times. Funnily enough, the other Nightmare effect is worse, making the stage in all the parts where you have to search for the transmitters nigh pitch-black, very high up with the least fun parts of X6, so I very deliberately chose to get Rainy Turtloid out of the way asap.
I really like the middle part with the green water and all those enemies that come flying at you and the other guys who shoot. It's incredibly intense, filled to the brim with difficult-to-avoid projectiles and foes, but you know what? That's a way to design challenge which I consider very legit. All of those enemies have a very specific and pretty easy to understand way in which they act; and it's a nice dichotomy even, with the shots being fired upwards then changing when they're at your vertical height, and the flying enemies launching themselves horizontally at you, yet changing pitch when at your lateral position.
Nothing is really up to chance, it's a pure test of your skill. Compared to just flooding a room with Nightmare and telling you to suck it, that's an incredible step upwards, and one of the few parts I instantly think of when asked "but can you have FUN in X6?". The moving pole section afterwards is also incredibly tricky to pull off, especially without an airdash, but: key point! It's entirely possible, and, again, completely skill-dependent. Someone DID put thought into designing the movement paths of those things, making the bats spawn at the right moment to demand you take them out in time, so it's intense and actiony and, well, again, fun.
Too bad the stage shits all over that with the last part. Getting all the items without committing seppuku all the fucking time by accident or tanking hits all over the place is quite obviously bad enough and a very, very moronic design decision, but searching for all the transmitters in the huge room while being hassled by constantly and pretty much randomly respawning bomb bats, trying to work your way around the again stupidly overdesigned pink asshole robots, finding the transmitters blocked by Reploids so you run into them through no fault of your own is pure unfun. You'll be making multiple trips to the beginning of the room to refill your health, because that's definitely an option, so it's not even incredibly hard, just tedious to the max. Oh, and running into one of the randomly placed spike pits means doing it all over again. It's a forceful reminder that yes, X6 is still a horrible, horrible game, sorry to get your hopes up.
The boss is great. Finally he has enough health to really be able to show off his moves, a little too much, maybe, but eh. I like his fight design, I like that you have to put actual thought into approaching it, a mini-tactic required for each round, just shooting will make you always destroy just one crystal and hate yourself. There are a few issues, but I'll take them. Rainy Turtloid is fun. Most of the stage and the boss, too. You have to take what you can.
EDIT: Meteor Rain is pretty cool, heathen!