Review by dtm666

Reviewed: 02/02/10

The best of the bunch... Period. Oh yeah, I've said it.

In my mind, Mega Man 4 is the best of the hexalogy of NES Mega Man games. Period.

Yeah, I can hear some of you going "BLASPHEMY!" in response to that opening state. "How DARE you place this game above Mega Man 2 or 3?"

Yeah, while some people will consider Mega Man 2 to be the pinnacle of the Mega Man series, I just never felt that way. Sure, it was still a good game, but it always felt like I was playing a game that 50% Mega Man 1.5 and 50% Mega Man Lite; it never felt like I was playing a truly innovative product so much that I was playing an enhanced version of the original Mega Man. And while Mega Man 3 is a much better game than 2, there were something nagging me about that felt like it was an incomplete game... that something was missing.

Mega Man 4, on the other hand? I never felt like I was playing a rehash nor had I felt like the game was incomplete. The fourth addition in the series took what came before, added a couple new perks, and put it all together in a way that makes the whole thing seem like something refined and fresh.

STORY: The first thing that set Mega Man 4 apart from the rest was the framing story. No longer were you fighting the forces of Dr. Wily, but the forces of the supposedly evil Dr. Cossack, a Russian scientist who conveniently built his own robots. While longtime fans probably all know better, having played the game and all, this was actually a big deal back in the day... and it was actually something different from the previous efforts... at least for the most part. 9/10

GRAPHICS: People complain that the robots are goofy and not the least bit intimidating. I'll agree that there are some strange decisions made when it comes to some of these robot designs, but they're not terrible and they seem to put up a good fight. You mean to tell me that a guy with a lightbulb on his head who freezes time, does body splashes, and shoots isn't intimidating, but a tree trunk shooting LEAVES is?

With that out of the way, I'll admit that there is nothing exceptional about Mega Man 4 in regards to the visuals. After all, the art style hasn't really changed all that much over the course of four games (and beyond). Then again, if it isn't broken, don't fix it. All of the MMs have crisp, clean-looking graphics and this one's no exception. Everything in the game just looks bright, colorful, and fairly detailed given the art style. No complaints at all, really... okay, I'll mention that there is some flicker and lag issues at times, but in honesty, I've never really experienced lag during my playthroughs and flicker is a constant in pretty much every Mega Man game when too much stuff is going... and yes, that includes your beloved Mega Man 2.

One thing that I should probably mention is the Weapons Menu. Realizing that pop-up boxes and sliding menus were not the way to go in previous entries, Capcom decided to create a screen showing off all your toys. That's right; the Weapons Screen, where you would pick and choose your various weapons, items, and energy tanks from, made its debut in Mega Man 4... although some would argue it started on the Game Boy titles, but that was still technically just a sliding menu that conveniently fit the entire screen. 10/10

SOUND: The one notable improvement here is the soundtrack. People will probably consider this to be blasphemy, but the music in Mega Man 4 is some of the best in the series. No, THE best in the series, in my opinion. No one Mega Man game has more appropriately-composed music or iterations of classic tunes than this one. The instrumentation of the various music pieces is some of the best implemented on the NES. There is not one bad piece of music here in the entire game. The sound, on the other hand, is your usual Mega Man soundclips, which are classic and good enough. The only real complaint I have is that whenever you charge your Buster, it brings up this annoying ringing noise that plays constantly and ruins the beautiful soundtrack as a result. Fortunately, they fixed this (somewhat) in the later games. Other than that, solid work all-around. 10/10

GAMEPLAY: The gameplay is your standard Megafare; pick from any of eight robot masters, fight through their stages, defeat the boss, claim their weapon, and repeat the whole. It's a simple formula that works and doesn't require much tinkering. Much like Mega Man 3 introduced the slide as a new ability, Mega Man 4 grants you the ability to charge your Mega Buster and unleash a more powerful shot against your foes. This ends up being a helpful tool in Mega Man's arsenal, especially since the bosses are much tougher and your basic shot only takes one point off their meter. Fortunately, your robotic canine Rush is back to aid you with the Rush Coil and two other adaptors you have to earn.

In addition, there are two additional accessories that you must actively seek out in the stages, where they are hidden in places you would not normally look. While not necessary additions to your arsenal, they are useful ones and are needed to reach places you otherwise couldn't get to through normal means. This kind of extra meat adds to the play experience in Mega Man 4 and is something that is also applied in later titles.

Another feature in Mega Man 4 is the occasional appearance of Eddie (Flip-Top) who will drop a random item to help you out, whether it'd be energy capsules, lives, or energy tanks.

The variety of weapons you acquire in the game are fairly decent, with a couple being altered retreads of previous weapons. While I can agree that Bright Man's Flash Stopper is a rip of Flash Man's Time Stopper (the name says so, after all), I'll argue that Bright's variant is better than the original, due to the fact that it doesn't drain your entire bar and you can also shoot. Even so, the few unique weapons like the chargeable Pharaoh Shot, Dive Missile seeker weapon, and screen-filling Rain Flush are also fairly useful weapons in their own right.

And unlike in 2 and 3, you can re-visit stages you've already beaten before in case you want to recover any adaptors you missed or to stock up on energy tanks and lives if you so desire. Most people find this useless, but it's nice to have. 10/10

CHALLENGE: The levels that you'll be fighting through are typical Mega fare, but they are nicely designed. Toad Man's stage starts you off in the rain and the wind actually impedes or enhances your jumping ability. Shoot a lightbulb enemy in Bright Man's stage and the whole place goes dark for a short time. Carefully make your way past Dust Man's trash compactors, all the while destroying barricades and avoid being flattened. None of it is nearly as intense as dodging super lasers in Quick Man's stage in Mega Man 2, but they are all equally challenging in their own right.

Regardless, Mega Man 4 seemed to be the last game in the NES run to present some degree of difficulty that came close to HARD. Yes, the Mega Buster does make things somewhat easier along the way, but the game itself is fairly tricky in certain aspects. Navigating portions of Bright Man's stage in the dark after you've shot down a light-bulb enemy while avoiding the pitfalls is not exactly a walk in the park, but it's doable. Likewise, the last leg of Dive Man's stage has you timing your movements to avoid the mines and spikes that float up and down along with the wave; a daunting feat at first, but nonetheless beatable. There's a later level that has you hopping along platforms while the stage scrolls on its own. Each level has its share of challenges and some of it might actually be considered difficult, but it's still fairly winnable. 10/10

REPLAY VALUE: Replay value is the same for all titles and is no exception here. You can challenge yourself by getting through all the bosses with just the Mega Buster - or not using E-Tanks - or this - or that. I'm just going to repeat myself, aren't I? 9/10

OVERALL: People will point to 2 or 3 as the best in the classic run and it's somewhat of a shame that people trash this game needlessly because they believe the game ripped certain aspects from MM2, but I prefer to see it as a refinement of a successful formula, just as 2 was a refinement of 1. Personally, this one has it all minus the totally unnecessary Difficulty Select present in 2 and the broken Password system present in 3. While 2 introduced the standard by which all games in the series follows, Mega Man 4 refined the formula to perhaps its finest form. It looks good, sounds great, and plays exceptionally well. Outside of the lackluster ending, there is not one thing I could find wrong with Mega Man 4. It is absolutely excellent in every single way possible. The very peak of the 8-bit era if you ask me. This one gets the full 10/10.

Maybe Mega Man 10 will get the other 10 as well. We'll see.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Product Release: Mega Man 4 (US, 01/31/92)

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