Mega Man 4
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Capcom
  • Publisher:
    • Capcom
  • Released:
    • JP 12/06/1991
    • US January 1992
    • UK 01/21/1993
Score: 80%

This review was published on 06/23/2013.

Mega Man 4 is a 2-D, side-scrolling platform game released by Capcom for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It's the fourth game in the classic series, as you can easily guess from its name. Not too many games back then would get this far in iterations, except for stuff like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. For an action game like Mega Man, this was quite a feat. A special contest was held in Japan for Mega Man 4, in which children would submit artwork of Robot Masters to Capcom. 8 of the submissions would then be picked and placed into the games as real boss characters. The winners also got a special gold cartridge copy of Mega Man 4. What a dream come true. Those gold carts now go for ridiculously high prices on eBay. The game was critically acclaimed when it was first released, with many reviewers praising the cinematic introduction cutscene that was fairly advanced for the NES. These days, fan reaction is mixed. Despite the cool promotional contest, the game itself wasn't quite as good as the last 3 Mega Man games. Mega Man 4 was a turning point for the series, because it was here that Mega Man started to slip into mediocrity.

Image

Mega Man, created by the good scientist Dr. Light, is a blue robot that fights for justice in the everlasting battle against evil. An evil scientist by the name of Dr. Wily tried to take over the world three times over with his army of bad robots, but Mega Man was there to stop him every time. That must get annoying. Wily was presumed dead after his third defeat, so all should be well, right? Wrong. A whole year after the events of Mega Man 3, a new troubling threat arose out of nowhere. The twist is that it's supposedly not the doing of Wily this time. Instead, a mysterious Russian scientist named Dr. Cossack is behind the malicious deeds. Dr. Light receives a letter from the newly nefarious Cossack claiming that he is the best robotics engineer in the world, and that no one can beat a Russian scientist like him. Cossack intends to prove his claims by building a robot army that he will send to terrorize civilization in the hopes that Light's greatest creation, Mega Man, will show up. The idea is that the best robotic creations of both scientists will fight a duel to the death to see who the better roboticist is. For whatever reason, Cossack follows Wily's modus operandi to a tee by creating 8 boss robots referred to as Robot Masters that are the main threats Mega Man will have to take down. I don't want to spoil anything, but it's a little too obvious what's going on here. Mega Man stories aren't meant to be taken seriously, and you can seriously see that in Mega Man 4's tale. I will give them props on coming up with a new villain, though.

Image

Just like before, Mega Man has 8 stages to choose from with 8 Robot Masters waiting at the end of each stage. The motley crew now consists of Skull Man, Dive Man, Drill Man, Toad Man, Bright Man, Pharaoh Man, Ring Man, and Dust Man. None of these guys are as cool as the Robot Masters from previous games, except for maybe Skull Man. Even that guy is kind of lame, though. The blue bomber can absorb the weapon of whatever Robot Master he defeats, allowing him to make use of it for the entire duration of his adventure. Special weapons have limited ammunition, as always, but they can be refilled via pickups. Each Robot Master is weak to a weapon from one of its friends, so Mega Man has to figure out what the ideal order is to take them down. The stages are all themed after their masters, adding the nice variety you come to expect from the Mega Man series. And the stages are still pretty well designed, which is another hallmark of the series. The music kind of takes a nosedive, though. It's still above average, but it's far less memorable than previous entries in the series. Unlike the last few games, there are some special items hidden in the stages that Mega Man can add to his arsenal, in addition to the weapons he gets from bosses. These items are totally optional, but they are helpful later in the game if you decide to pick them up. It's a nice feature that adds a tiny bit of replay value to the game. Mega Man 4 still provides the solid game design you'd want out of a Mega Man game, even if the bosses and music are a bit on the underwhelming side.

Image

Rush returns in this game to help Mega Man with a few support capabilities. Mega Man's canine companion can use a spring to boost jumps, transform into a submarine for underwater action, and become a jet to soar through the skies. These functions all use up energy that needs to be replenished with the same items that refill weapon energy. Sadly, Rush did receive a downgrade: his jet ability is far less useful than it was in Mega Man 3. You can no longer use it to fly in all directions; it only flies horizontally while slowly moving upwards or downwards. That's a real bummer. Mega Man does have one new companion in this game. Well, he barely counts as a companion, but I'll mention him anyway. His name is Eddie. Eddie can be found in a few stages, and all he really does is act as a random item dispenser. He's basically a lottery. You'll either get something extraordinarily good from him, like an extra life, or something disappointing, like weapon energy when all your weapons are full. The guy's kind of a jerk, but he can sometimes be a lifesaver when he literally saves your life by giving you health. Mega Man 4 downgrades Rush and adds a near-useless companion, so this is a step down from Mega Man 3.

Image

The biggest change in Mega Man 4 is the addition of the Mega Buster. Mega Man 3 introduced the slide that allows Mega Man to stylishly avoid attacks, and now this game introduces the famous charged shot. Mega Man's normal gun normally shoots a bunch of normal pellets, but now the button can be held down for a few seconds to charge up a more powerful blast. This blast, as you can probably guess, does a lot more damage than Mega Man's regular shots. The charged shot is primarily meant for bosses, because it does nearly as much damage as a boss' weakness. On the one hand, this makes the special weapons a lot less useful, as exploiting weaknesses is no longer as necessary as it used to be, but on the other hand, the Mega Buster is awesome. It's a great mechanic that adds a lot of depth to the game. Some hardcore fans don't approve of the Mega Buster, since they feel that it makes the game too easy, but none can deny that this adds a considerable amount of sophistication to the series. There is still reason to use special weapons for exploiting weaknesses, as the Mega Buster takes a long time to fully charge up, and getting hit will neutralize the charge. You can fire more shots more quickly if you use a special weapon, which means that your damage output is ultimately higher if you exploit a weakness. Skilled players can easily avoid resorting to weaknesses if they know how to make good use of the Mega Buster, though. I'd say Mega Man 4 greatly benefits from the addition of the Mega Buster. If there's anything this game did right, it's the Mega Buster.

Image

Defeating all 8 Robot Masters reveals Cossack's Castle, opening up a new set of treacherous stages for Mega Man to take on. These are four stages in a row that will put Mega Man's abilities to the test with tough enemies and bosses, and he can't refill his weapons between these stages, either. Functionally, these stages are exactly the same as Wily's various castles and fortresses from past games. There is a twist, though. After blasting through Cossack's icy fortress, Mega Man discovers that Cossack wasn't the true villain. In actuality, Dr. Wily is the mastermind behind everything. I bet you didn't see that coming. Wily kidnapped Cossack's daughter, Kalinka, and threatened to do unspeakable things to her if the demands were not met. I'm not exactly sure what the point of this plan was, considering Wily made Cossack do the same thing he always does. In any case, this revelation means that Mega Man actually has an additional castle to go through. Yep, you get two castles in one game. This is sort of like the Doc Robot from Mega Man 3, only not as long and hard. Each castle has 4 levels, so with two castles, that's 8 levels in a row. That almost doubles the game's content, though not quite. Mega Man 4 is a lot longer than the first two Mega Man games due to this, but still not longer than Mega Man 3. As for Dr. Wily's Castle in Mega Man 4, it's pretty much what you'd expect. The problem with the double layer of castles is that it feels like you're doing the same strenuous task twice. By the time you finish Cossack's frozen fort, exhaustion starts to set in. You get a longer game, sure, but size isn't everything. What should have been a selling point for Mega Man 4 actually acts as a detriment.

Image

Mega Man 4 is kind of a disappointment if you came off the greats that are Mega Man 2 and 3. It polishes a lot of things while also improving the graphics, and the addition of the awesome Mega Buster adds a tremendous amount of depth to the Mega Man experience. However, the music, boss designs, and stage designs aren't quite as good or memorable as they were in the last two games. This game gets rid of the annoying Doc Robot stages from Mega Man 3, but in its place, it has way too many castle levels. You could tell that by this point, the development team was starting to get burned out. Mega Man 4 is still one of the better games on the NES, but it lacks the flair of its predecessors.

Word Count: 1,735

Tweet