Review by discoinferno84

Reviewed: 09/16/05 | Updated: 01/06/08

Keep your windows shut...

Being a good guy has its perks. You get to smite evil bringing justice and peace back to the land. You get to save a damsel in distress, and maybe take her home with you. You go on epic quests that can span across the planet, with living happily ever after as the only possibility. Unfortunately, fighting evil isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You have to face a never-ending flood of bad guys whose sole purpose is your utter destruction. Some people cast their wary eyes as they watch you work, calling you a sanctimonious killer despite your good intentions. Crime doesn’t pay, but neither does crime fighting. All you have is the faith that what you’re doing is indeed morally correct, no matter how many foes you leave bleeding and broken in your wake. And no matter how many times you save the day, the next evil will be waiting to take you on.

Case in point: Mega Man. The Blue Bomber has been fighting evil for years, defending humanity against any and all oppressors. He’s vanquished flame-throwing maniacs, frozen speedsters in their tracks, momentarily stopped time, blasted countless foes asunder, and jumped carefully over massive pits of boiling lava. He has dodged bullets, blades, laser beams, and anything else that could possibly rip him to shreds. He’s taken down Dr. Wily, his most dangerous arch nemesis three times in a row. How many video games heroes can boast to doing that? Not many. Yet despite all of his accomplishments, Mega Man can’t seem to restore peace and tranquility for very long. A year after Dr. Wily was taken down again, a mysterious note appeared in Mega Man’s home in Dr. Light’s lab. A scientist named Dr. Cossack has declared his desire to be the most celebrated robotics engineer in the world. In order to do so, he’s sent out a team of eight robots to kill Mega Man, thus ensuring his dominance and fame.

Okay, so maybe it’s not the most inventive plot that the minds behind the Mega Man series have conceived. Thankfully, the tried and true Mega Man gaming formula remains intact in this fourth installment. Our hero will traverse completely new levels, each one with its own unique theme. He’ll have to lurk down long hallways mad of massive bones, blast his way across a desert of quicksand, and explore the dank sewers under an unnamed city to take on his foes. All of these areas require a fair amount of platforming skill, but unlike some of the levels of old, none are horribly difficult to past. However, the game makes up for it with a new batch of enemies that wiled enough power to take the Blue Bomber down for good. You’ll have to deal with massive turtles, reinforced missile cannons, and plenty of annoying flying robots that will harass you if you don’t shoot them down. All of these new enemies are tough, and they require more than the usual amount of shots to get rid of them. Thankfully, Mega Man now comes equipped with the Mega Buster, an upgrade to his traditional weapon. This arm-mounted weapon of mass destruction can be charged up for a few seconds, allowing you to unleash some energy attacks of unrivaled power.

However, he’ll need all the tricks in the book to get him through this adventure in one piece. While Dr. Cassock may not be the same caliber of evil genius as the great Dr. Wily, his designs and ideas are remarkably effective. What I don’t get is that if the mad doctor sent out this incredibly lethal task force, why should Mega Man go through the trouble of hunting them down? If they’re supposed to seek him out and destroy him, what’s the point of trekking through the levels? Nevertheless, your fearsome foes will await you at the end of every level. You’ll have to dodge Drill Man’s whirring bit bombs, get through Skull Man’s thick armor, get around Ring Man’s boomerangs, and somehow stop Bright Man from stopping time. All of these battles are tough, a test of your combat prowess. There’s just one, tiny little problem: none of these boss battles feel like original nor innovative. Somewhere between this game and Mega Man 3, the folks behind the boss ideas finally threw in the towel. Though some of these characters may seem new and have their own attacks, they’re nothing more than clones and wannabes of the previous games. Sure, the battle strategies may have changed somewhat, but that doesn’t hide the evidence of a sudden decline in fresh ideas.

Though Mega Man’s fourth quest may lack a little substance, at least it lacks in style. This rendition of the Blue Bomber’s quest is portrayed with great detail and coloring. You can see the sand shifting under your feet in Pharaoh Man’s level, or the garbled mess of metal that is supposed to look like a trash heap in Dust Man’s area. All of the enemies, from the fireworks-spouting frog things to the massive garbage compactors to the giant mechanical tortoise look excellent. Though their cartoonish designs may put off some gamers, their sharp animations are nothing to scoff at. Mega Man still looks exactly like his predecessors, donning the classic blue armor in style. At least he glows when he charges his weapon. Despite the lack of originality, the new eight Robot Masters look more fiendish than ever. Pharaoh Man wears the headgear befitting of stereotypical ancient Egyptian royalty, and Frog Man looks like the bloated corpse of some poor cartoon reptile. And if all else fails, Bright Man has a giant light bulb sticking out of his head. You can’t top that kind corny design, no sir. It’s a shame that the horrible new music tracks bring the presentation down even lower.

Mega Man 4 is the mark of a profound shift in the series. It signifies the point where the popularity of the game has created the need for yet another sequel. However, there are only so many ideas and concepts you can apply to a game like Mega Man. Sure, it follows the traditional gaming formula that gamers have recognized from the start. It has the levels, the bosses, and the weapons, just like any other game in the series. The problem is that this latest adventure seems stale and unoriginal; we’ve been through this all before. Sure, the names and level design have been changed, but the feeling of deja vu is strong with this game. A shame, too. Mega Man 4 could have been the pinnacle of the series, but it lacked that extra bit of quality that its predecessors enjoyed. This is a bad omen for future Mega Man games to come, but we can still hope for a better game the next time around.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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

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