Review by CMoriarty

Reviewed: 05/30/02 | Updated: 05/30/02

You ARE the weakest link!

In a world of now-established video game series, it seems like each series has a weak game. Much like the Castlevania series with Castlevania64, or the Dragon Warrior series with Dragon Warrior II, Mega Man has a few weaker games in its lineup, the first being Mega Man 4. The funny thing about Mega Man 4 being considered ''weak'' is that it's not even that bad... it's actually quite good.

The fact of the matter is Mega Man fans were expecting so much from Mega Man 4 when Capcom delivered it to us in 1990. After three excellent Mega Man titles in a matter of three years, fans were getting a bit greedy. It seemed Capcom couldn't miss, and who could blame the people with this mentality? When a company repeatedly delivers, you expect them to keep delivering, don't you? It's not to say Capcom didn't deliver with Mega Man 4... as you'll find out below, it statistically stands out to the previous Mega Man games, but it was the first Mega Man game that felt so ''blah''... that really didn't stand out. I suppose what I'm trying convey is that, Mega Man 4 stands out nicely as a game on it's own. If you were to call it ''Game X'' instead of ''Mega Man 4,'' you'd certainly think highly of the game. However, when you stick a franchise name on a game, you expect it to be just as good as the previous games, if not better. Mega Man 4 was and felt like a Mega Man game, and perhaps that was the problem with this title.

Storyline/Plot - 10/10

The storyline of Mega Man 4 is extraordinary when you think of an NES game. It was an especially good idea on the part of Capcom planners/writers/et cetera to simply not use Dr. Wily as the [obvious] villain in this game. Although he appears in the game as the ultimate mastermind behind the game's events, he actually uses a Russian scientist named Dr. Cossack as a scapegoat. Dr. Cossack's daughter, Kalinka, is kidnapped by Dr. Wily, forcing Cossack to do as he wants, guaranteeing the safety of his daughter. This is why for the first 75% of the game, you think Dr. Cossack is actually behind the eight new Robot Masters, and a plan for world domination, when it's Dr. Wily behind the scenes who is controlling everything. It was Capcom's first true attempt at originality in the series, and while it certainly wouldn't be their last (see Mega Man 5 and 6, also on the NES), it's the title that stands out the most for its noble attempt to bring the Mega Man series out of trite storylines, and give the gamer the feeling that he's gaming for a cause other than to defeat Dr. Wily. And personally, I think it's a nice touch that Dr. Wily is kept in the game as the mastermind behind Dr. Cossack... you have to keep familiar faces in an established series, while expanding upon what you have. This is exactly what Capcom did, and it made the storyline surprisingly fresh.

Gameplay - 10/10

The gameplay of Mega Man is always really nicely executed. However, the gameplay is given an extra boost in Mega Man 4 by the addition of the enhanced arm cannon of Mega Man's, called the Mega Buster. No longer just able to shoot measly plasma bullets, Mega Man can now shoot ''super shots'' from his arm cannon, by simply holding down the B button to power up the Mega Buster, and then letting go of the button to release the super shot. This adds a lot to the Gameplay of Mega Man 4, because not only can you power up and shoot your regular old Mega Buster, but some special weapons, such as the Pharaoh Shot, also use this Mega Buster feature.

In addition to this added feature, the gameplay of Mega Man remains traditional, which is always a good thing. When you get the formula right, keep going with it, right? I think so, anyway. In anycase, for any of you who've never played a Mega Man game, the gameplay is unique. While in-game, it's a traditional platformer in the 2D sense; however, the real originality lies in your ability to go to any of the eight stages in the beginning of the game, and defeat them in any order you want. Not only does this add replayability to Mega Man 4, and any Mega Man game, but it also makes the game more interesting. Each stage is manned by a Robot Master, one of Wily's eight powerful robots. When you defeat a Robot Master, you assimilate his weapon into your arsenal for your own use. These weapons are called Master Weapons, and are vital to your success in the game. This is where the beauty of non-linear gameplay and many weapons comes into play. Each Robot Master has a weakness for another Robot Master's weapon. If you find that weapon, you can exploit it on that Robot Master in battle, making the fight virtually impossible to lose. The mix-and-match gameplay stylings of the Mega Man series remain all too consistent in Mega Man 4 - a redeeming quality when looking for familiarity.

Graphics - 8/10

The graphics haven't changed in the Mega Man series since the original Mega Man. With the exception of better backgrounds and more colors, Mega Man graphics are nearly indifferent by game. This game takes a hit in the graphics department, however, based on something I noticed, and which definitely adds to the drab and depressed look of the game - color. The colors are mostly very dark and undefined, taking the game a step back from the more upbeat colors of Mega Man 2 and 3. While the animations remain very smooth, the drawings of the enemies and stages nicely done, and backgrounds superb, added brightness would have gave the game a 10 in this category as well. Unfortunately, I don't think Capcom realized that by making this game darker, they took away from the feel of the game. While the game is familiar enough as a Mega Man game when you're playing it, it seems like a darker adventure than previous and subsequent games. It's not a feeling I totally like when playing the Mega Man series.

One other thing is the new animation of the Mega Buster. Very nicely done, well implemented into the game, and another superb sprite added to the Mega Man series. It doesn't make up for the lack of bright colors in the game, something that bothers me most about the game.

Sound - 7/10

It really surprised me when I first played the game as a young lad in 1990 is that the music in the game was just average. What happened to the classics of Elec Man's stage, Flash Man's stage, Crash Man's stage? Not one stage in Mega Man 4 has truly memorable music, and it's certainly a shame. The background music added such flair to the game in the previous three Mega Man titles that Mega Man 4 was really hurt and brought down by the lack of nothing but average MIDI tracks. Don't get me wrong, there are tracks that are still catchy, and you might start humming along to a few of them, but they won't stick in your brain like some excellent tracks from the previous Mega Man games did. Quite the opposite, you won't find that you even remember any tracks from the game until you go back and play it again. In terms of in-game sounds, the enemies in Mega Man 4 actually start making more noises as they ''operate,'' a nice touch by the programmers, which saves the sound category from a 6, and gives it a 7. But don't be fooled, nothing but mediocrity in the music and sound department.

Control - 10/10

The control, as in all NES Mega Man games, is superb. Mega Man 3 got a 9 in this category, and I was tempted to give control a 9 here as well, but then I took into consideration that the Capcom programmers added yet another command to the very limited-use NES controller, and did it successfully. As simple as holding down the B button is to make the Mega Buster charge up, it's something that was nicely done. That makes four basic commands over two buttons in the Mega Man series now (Fire, Jump, Charge and Slide), and none of these commands are difficult to execute or unresponsive when you do go to execute them. Nicely done in this department.

Replay Value - 5/10

In all honesty, Mega Man 4 is not a game you're going to want to play again once you beat it for a long while. Perhaps it's that I own basically every Mega Man game in existence, or perhaps it's pure objective observation, but out of all of the classic Mega Man games, it's the game I'd like least to play. I'd rather play the original, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 five times over before I ever play 4. And while I play through Mega Man 4 once a year or so, it's not something I look forward to. It's not that the game is bad, it's quite good if you take away ''Mega Man'' and view it as just a game, as I mentioned in the introduction to the review. However, for a Mega Man game, it lacks any real ''umph'' and remains the worst of the Mega Man series on the NES. Unless you're interested in mixing and matching the order in which you complete the stages, and which weapons you beat which Robot Master with, et cetera, you'll put this game down for awhile and forget about it. And this coming from a diehard Mega Man fan.

OVERALL - 8/10

Don't be fooled by the score, Mega Man 4 is a lackluster Mega Man game by most accounts. However, an 8 of 10 is more than just accurate for the title. It's a great videogame away from the context that it's also a Mega Man game. Perhaps it's the fact that it is a Mega Man game that hurts it the most. In anycase, it is worthy to be in your NES collection, if for any other reason, that it's a good play if you've never experienced it, and it's a Mega Man game, and all Mega Man games should be in your collection. However, if you're pondering over spending that $10 on any Mega Man game on the NES over at eBay, buy the other five games in the series before going for four. You won't regret that choice.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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