Review by Anoremix
Strong, but overshadowed by its predecessors
The fourth installment in the Megaman series is sort of in the middle of the road. I enjoyed it much more than Megaman 6 and 7, but the trilogy before it set a standard for this game that it was unable to live up to in the end.
Graphics 6/10: Is it just me, or does this game look a little worse than the earlier Megaman games? Maybe it's because visually it's the darkest in the series. To me, anyway, graphics don't make a difference if a game is strong enough to hold its own (Tetris is one of my all-time favorites). The game is more than ten years old now anyway, so if you're going for retro gaming you should expect the graphics to be shoddy. But this game doesn't need great graphics; it's good enough to play, nothing is difficult to discern, if it's a sprite shoot the hell out of it, etcetera. The only thing that bothers me is that the designers did not change anything about the graphics and the ho-hum level designs and backgrounds seem rushed. Thankfully, the enemy sprites are fresh and inventive.
Sound 3/10: Nothing has changed with the sound effects, save for the implementation of the Mega Buster (I'll get to that in a minute). What really got me angered about this game was the music, more so than anything else. The original Megaman had a bright and happy soundtrack that made me smile, and just thinking about Elecman's music brings a goofy nostalgic grin to my face. Megaman 2 had a more intense soundtrack, making the situation seem urgent, and the music had a great feel to it that was improved over the first soundtrack. Megaman 3 is where the series shone the most, to this day even, with robotic eighties-esque music that was brilliantly calculated and also quite artful. But Megaman 4 doesn't have ANY of these qualities. It sounds like Bun Bun was wasted all through the production. Seriously, this music is so confusing and overtly non-musical (could those intervals be any more random!?) that nothing, literally NOTHING will stick around in your head when you're done, save for the interstellar b-movie-sounding stage select music, which tends to irritate me more than bring me nostalgia.
Gameplay 8/10: Not much has changed. In fact, the only differences are two new vehicles hidden in the main stages that don't really add much to the game if found, and the Mega Buster, which allows you to hold the B button down to charge your standard plasma shot into something much deadlier. But I particularly didn't want much to change in the gameplay department. The Megaman series has had a nice trend of adding one additional move for the blue bomber on each installment, and this game doesn't break that tradition, though the charged shot is the weakest addition of the first four games. But what really saves the gameplay here is the challenge. The first eight selectable stages are relatively difficult to muscle through, especially if you're used to Megaman 3, which was a bit of a breeze. Then you go through Dr. Cossack's castle (a nice new villain for variety), and then through yet another castle, and both of these endeavors are among the most difficult in the series.
About the bosses, some of them are nice and inventive, but at other times it seems like the developers had begun to run short on ideas (eg, Bright Man, Ring Man, Pharoh Man). For instance, Bright Man is just a really beefed up version of Flash Man from Megaman 2, and the weapon he drops is virtually identical to what Flash Man dropped, only now you can fire your plasma while the time is frozen and it doesn't use up your whole meter this time around. Some of the bosses are really unique though, like Drill Man, Gyro Man, and Dust Man, and some of them are obscenely difficult, like Dive Man and Skull Man. The weapons left behind are moderately creative. Some of them we've seen before. Drill Man's weapon is a fast-acting version of the Crash Bomb from Megaman 2. Skull Man has the same weapon as Wood Man from Megaman 2, only you can shoot it across the screen this time (but you can run with it). But then there are weapons like Gyro Man's that are interactive, which you can control after they are shot, and Pharoh Man's, which you can charge while it hovers over your head growing larger and larger and protecting you from an aerial attack.
Replayability 5/10: I find this game to be the least appealing to muck through again, mostly because it's so difficult and time consuming. It was great the first time around for its unmatched challenge factor, but after getting through all that, I really don't feel up to doing it again. Maybe I'll replay the eight selectable stages, but I'm not going to deal with those tormentous castles again for a long time.
Overall 7/10: With a production that is leagues below Mega Man 3, I can't possibly give this a higher score. Mega Man 3 is possibly my favorite game ever made, and this one comes waltzing out here right behind it like its looking for a cash-in. It's not horrible, believe me, and in fact it is all kinds of fun and very much worth playing through--but only if you're already a fan of the series. I wouldn't recommend anyone to start with this chapter in the series because they'd miss all the great music and innovative challenges that paved the way for this product.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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