Mega Man X4
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Capcom
  • Publishers:
    • JP Capcom
    • US Capcom
    • UK Virgin
  • Released:
    SAT
    • JP 08/01/1997
    • US September 1997
    PS1
    • JP 08/01/1997
    • US 09/25/1997
    • UK 10/13/1997
    PC
    • JP 12/03/1998
    • US 1998
    • UK 1998
Score: 90%

This review was published on 07/02/2013.

Mega Man X4 is a 2-D, side-scrolling platform game originally released for the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn in 1997. It's the fourth game in the Mega Man X series, the spiritual successor to the original Mega Man games, and the first game to be specifically tailored for 32-bit consoles. Well, the Saturn touted itself as being way more than 32-bits, but that's neither here nor there. Mega Man X3 was originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, but it actually got an updated version for the PlayStation and Saturn a little later, so technically, X3 was the first X game to make it to 32-bit consoles. That's a lot of technicalities. Anyway, Mega Man X4 gives the X series a massive upgrade, improving the graphics and sound to meet the standards of the 32-bit era. The visuals remain 2-D, but the sprites are much bigger and more detailed, not to mention the richer color palette. All the music and sound effects are way better, too. It's pretty much what you'd expect out of 32-bit hardware and the CD-ROM format. Besides having amazing graphics and music, Mega Man X4 is also a really good game that breathes new life into the X series.

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The story to Mega Man X4 is seen in full motion video cutscenes done in an anime art style. They all look pretty good, especially for the time, but the voice acting isn't too hot. The Mega Man X series takes place in the year 21XX, whenever that is, a fictional era in which humans live together with a bunch of robots called Reploids. These Reploids have the ability to make their own decision, so they are capable of doing good or bad deeds. Any Reploid that does a bad deed is labeled as a Maverick and then hunted down by the Maverick Hunters. X and Zero are the two main Maverick Hunters that get things done. A powerful Maverick named Sigma, who is the antagonist of the X series, terrorized humanity three times before, and X was there to thwart him every time. Shortly after Sigma's third defeat, an army of Reploids, known as the Repliforce, show up and assist in the never ending efforts against the Mavericks. Things go swimmingly for a time, until a large, floating city is destroyed and its remains crashes down below, killing tons of civilians. X and Zero encounter the Colonel of the Repliforce army at the destroyed remains, which is kind of suspicious, so they ask the Repliforce to disarm themselves for an investigation. The negotiations go sour and the Repliforce army starts a coup against their human leaders. Now it's all out war between the Maverick Hunters and Repliforce. To further add to the drama, Zero starts having dreams of a wily old man who claims to have created him. I wonder what that could mean. All things considered, Mega Man X4 actually has an excellent plot. It won't rival the likes of Final Fantasy, but it's pretty in depth for a side-scrolling action game.

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Mega Man X4 allows you to play as either X or Zero. This isn't the first time in the series that you could play as Zero. That honor lies with Mega Man X3. However, in X3, Zero was more or less a beefed up clone of X, and you could only play as him during specific circumstances. In Mega Man X4, Zero can be used for the entire game, and he has his own move set. At the beginning of the game, you're presented with a choice to play as either of these robotic bombshells. After that, you'll be forced to use the same character for the rest of the game. That means you'll have to start a new game on a separate file if you want to play as a different character. It's kind of inconvenient, but understandable, as the experience changes drastically depending on which character you picked. X primarily specializes in long range attacks with his buster, which he can charge up to release a more powerful blast. On the other hand, Zero specializes in close range attacks with his lightsaber. Zero tends to inflict much greater damage than X in a much shorter period of time, but he does so at the expense of his safety, since he has to get up close and personal. The idea is that X is for novice players and Zero is for people who are already adept at the game. Another strength X has over Zero is that he's much better at taking out bosses, whereas Zero usually has trouble in that department. In that same vein, Zero is way better at handling the regular stages. The two characters are balanced fairly well, in that they both have strengths and weaknesses. In addition to all of that, X and Zero both experience the story of the game slightly differently, with different cutscenes playing out for each of them. If you want to get the full experience of the game, then it's recommended to play as both characters. Mega Man X4 revitalizes the X series with two playable characters that are awesome to play as.

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The Maverick Hunters must once again go after eight Mavericks in eight new locations. After completing the incredibly awesome intro stage, you're taken to the stage select screen where you can select your stage. Mavericks act as the main boss that appears at the end of the stage. The Mavericks are all modeled after various animals, as is usually the case with the X series. Our Mavericks this time are Web Spider, Magma Dragoon, Storm Owl, Frost Walrus, Slash Beast, Jet Stingray, Cyber Peacock, and Split Mushroom. I know that some of these aren't animals, but cut me some slack. Most of them are animals, and that's good enough. You could tell that Mega Man X4 takes some inspiration from the first X game, as Storm Owl is clearly a reference to Storm Eagle from X1. Some of these Mavericks might sound goofy, but they're all well designed. As stupid as Cyber Peacock sounds, he actually looks super cool. Thanks to the CD-ROM format, you'll be hearing lots of annoying voice clips whenever you fight one of these Mavericks. It's not a big problem, but it can be a bit much at times. One nice touch I particularly liked is that Magma Dragoon was seen in the intro stage; he's the Reploid that betrayed you and destroyed the flying city. If you fight Magma Dragoon in the normal game, you'll get an extra bit of dialogue from him. It's a nice way to tie in the story with the Mavericks you fight. I'd say Mega Man X4 has some of the best Mavericks in the series, up there with X1.

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Whether you're X or Zero, defeating a Maverick will earn you its weapon, and Mavericks are weak to certain weapons. The way special weapons work differs between X and Zero, however. X will get new types of projectile attacks that have limited ammo. These weapons usually aren't too good on their own, but they do massive damage to any Maverick or boss that's weak to them. X can switch to any weapon he has at any time by going into the menu screen and selecting it, or by using the quick change buttons. Zero gets a new move from the Mavericks he defeats, and most of these moves have unlimited ammo. The moves are things like a fiery uppercut attack, an icy downward thrust, an electrical forward stab, etc. Not all of them are offensive moves. For instance, one of the moves Zero gets is an awesome double jump. I really like that one. Zero performs his moves via simple button combinations. It's sort of like in a fighting game, but you rarely need to press more than two things at once, so it should be simple enough for anyone to perform. I really enjoy playing as Zero, because it feels like his character gets upgraded whenever he takes down a Maverick, as if he's getting progressively stronger. With X, it's more like you have a bag of toys that gets bigger each time you beat a boss. This further adds to the differences between the characters, allowing for two unique play styles in the same game. Mega Man X4 puts a new spin on an old formula with Zero's unique moves.

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Stage design is imperative for any Mega Man X game, and that's no different in Mega Man X4. Ever since X1, the stage design kept getting more and more uninspired from game to game. That is, until Mega Man X4. All the stages in this game are brilliantly designed, and rarely do they resort to the use of lame gimmicks. There are a few gimmicks here and there, but they're usually pretty good. With so many awesome stages, where do I begin? The intro stage starts off with a bang, having one of the biggest bosses in Mega Man history. It's an enormous, spectacularly drawn, robotic dragon. I think this could be a reference to the robotic dragon from Mega Man 2, but who knows. The dragon chases you throughout the entire stage, eventually revealing itself for a final assault at the end. Storm Owl's stage has these giant ships reminiscent of Independence Day that fire astronomically large beams and you have to quickly dodge out of the way before you become toast. Slash Beast stage's takes place entirely on a moving train that you destroy little by little, one cart at a time. Cyber Peacock's stage is set in a cyber world that rates your efficiency and changes its layout depending on how well you do. Split Mushroom's stage is all about ascending a spiraling tower. The only stage that might rub you the wrong way is Jet Stingray's stage, which is one big bike ride level. All you do in this one is ride a bike in a fast paced section that requires quick reflexes and a little bit of memorization. It's not a bad stage by any means, but it's kind of annoying. With only one bad stage, Mega Man X4 has some of the best stages in Mega Man history.

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Mega Man X is famous for bringing the concept of optional upgrades to the Mega Man franchise, and X4 continues that trend. X and Zero can both find Heart Tanks hidden throughout the stages to permanently increase their life energy, and Sub Tanks that allow them to store additional life energy in case of an emergency. This game also has a Weapon Tank, which performs the same function as a Sub Tank, except it can refill X's weapon energy. In addition to that, there are a series of upgrades that are exclusive to X. Dr. Light, X's deceased creator, has hidden a bunch of capsules in the environment with armor upgrades for his beloved creation. These upgrades will increase X's mobility, defense, and offensive power. The leg armor give X the ability to hover in mid-air for a brief period of time, and the body armor increases X's defense. You can actually choose between two different buster upgrades in this game; one that fires a big blast that does more damage or another one that stores several charged shots and then allows you to fire them whenever you please. The second buster upgrade sucks, so go with the first. My favorite upgrade in this game is the helmet one, though. This one gives X unlimited weapon energy, which means you can use any weapon as many times as you want. The only limitation to this is that charging the special weapons still depletes energy, but other than that, you're good. It's a little overpowered, but I like it. And in case you're wondering, no, Zero doesn't get any armor upgrades in this game. There is a cheat code to give him a black armor, but that's not part of normal game play. Mega Man X4 keeps the upgrade system sweet and simple, just the way it ought to be.

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Mega Man X4 was a fantastic way to start the X series on a new generation of consoles. Whereas X3 was merely an enhanced port, X4 truly took advantage of the hardware it was on. This was the generation that marked the rise of 3-D gaming, so it's admirable that X4 decided to stick with 2-D visuals. Looking back on it now, it's easy to see that was the ideal choice to make. The powerful hardware was not at all wasted, as X4 sports some of the best looking 2-D graphics ever. It's also got one of the best soundtracks in the series. The more complex plot and FMV scenes help add a more grandiose feel to the game. All of the Mavericks are cool, the stage design is top notch, and being able to rip robots to shreds with Zero's Z-Saber is the epitome of awesome. Mega Man X4 is one of the best in the X series, almost as good as the original Mega Man X.

Word Count: 2,201

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