Mega Man 4 (NES) Review

Click here to view the Mega Man 4 description page for screenshots, guides, passwords, and more information.

Review by tankMage (November 2016)

Score: B+

   To some people Mega Man IV is a one of the high points of the series, while to others it was the point at which Capcom ran the franchise into the ground. Personally, I found this game to be fun yet flawed. Mega Man 4 moved away from some of the gameplay mechanics that made Mega Man 3 feel stilted and returned to the fast paced action of the first two titles. Unfortunately it failed to incorporate any of the ideas that made Mega Man 3 more balanced and finely tuned than its predecessors. The end result is a game that is conceptually stagnant and doesn’t bring anything to the table aside from the rather gimmicky ability to charge the Mega Buster up (admittedly, I like this feature). I’ll warn my readers that I reviewed this game rather harshly, but this was in comparison to previous Mega Man titles and as a game MM4 merits a B+, which means it is far from being a terrible game.

Graphics

   Mega Man 4 has a few nice details, like the rain in Toad Man’s stage and huge mini bosses/bosses, but it falls short of the bar set by earlier games in the franchise. Animated backgrounds aren’t as common in Mega Man IV as they were in 2 & 3 and those that are present aren’t terribly imaginative. Many of the stages (especially those in the fortresses) looked totally uninspired as if the development team had run out of ideas. To Capcom’s credit, the levels were more consistent thematically than those of MM3 and effects like the charged Mega Buster shots were nicely done.

   The sprite designs for the Robot Masters were a bit disappointing aside from a few exceptions. You can tell team Rockman was really strapped for ideas when you encounter enemies like Toad Man and Pharaoh Man. What’s worse is some of them seemed really slapped together. Ring Man is a good example of the drop in quality of boss design since he looks suspiciously like Metal Man with a ring glued on the top of his head and a slightly different color scheme. Ironically, some of the goofier boss concepts turned out to be among the better looking bosses. Skull Man looks like the sort of menacing Robot Master you’d expect Wiley to create and while the very idea of Pharaoh Man is absurd, they somehow managed to pull off his sprite, plus his energy blast attack is also really cool looking. The fortress stage bosses are also really unimpressive (and not just visually). Two of them were modeled after insects, roaches and moths to be specific, but hardly resembled the creatures they were based on; in fact I would not have been able to guess what they were supposed to be if not for the help of the internet. Others were just larger versions of regular enemies like Metools. By far the lamest looking boss was the square machine, which as you may have guessed, was just a big box that broke apart and flew around the room.

mm4-1
mm4-5

   The regular mobs were actually a bit better looking than the bosses. There was an amusing variety of Metools, bone chucking skeleton robots that reminded me of Castlevania enemies, and some cool mini bosses. Sure, all of these mobs were silly looking, but they were creatively designed and imparted MM4 with some much needed flare. There were also some cool close ups of Mega Man and Rush, but unfortunately, they looked a bit awkward since both portraits were cross eyed. Well, at least they tried….

So, yeah Mega Man 4 just didn’t live up to the series’ own visual standards even though Capcom attempted to make improvements. Keep in mind that this isn’t a bad looking NES title by any means and blows a lot of NES titles out of the water, it’s just not a great looking Mega Man game.

User Interface

   As usual, the controls and menus for this game are great. They even improved on the password system by simplifying it. The only real issue was the implementation of the new charge feature for the Mega Buster, which was done competently enough, but can be difficult to use if you need to perform a series of complicated maneuvers while holding the B button to keep the Buster charged.

Music and Sound Effects

   The Mega Man series was already well known for its excellent music by the time MM4 was rolled out. The original Mega Man set the stage with its awesome classic rock inspired themes, Mega Man 2 improved upon the first game with its bigger library of more original songs, Mega Man 3 brought with it a darker, more moody soundtrack, and Mega Man 4…well…uh…actually MM4’s soundtrack is really weak compared to the aforementioned titles. The music for this game is for the most part forgettable, aside from the fortress themes, which were overused and don’t measure up to the best the series has to offer. Rather than returning to the style of the first two games, MM4’s music is modeled after that of MM3, except it’s not as good and doesn’t mesh well with the bright colors and whimsical sprite designs of Mega Man 4.

  At least they got the sound effects right, but that’s hard to mess up when you are reusing the effects from previous titles for the most part.

Story

   Mega Man IV may be a bit lackluster, but it managed to surpass it’s predecessors in one category: Storytelling. This title had a strong, coherent narrative as Mega Man games go and even managed to establish a sense of mystery. The game opens with a cutscene that explains the story clearly and the player is treated to some fairly well done dialogue near the end of the game. I can’t say much more without spoiling the plot. Sadly, MM4’was also the second series to use a plot device that would become played out by MM6.

Gameplay

  Despite Capcom’s efforts to spice Mega Man 4 up by adding the Mega Buster charge mechanic, the series really started to stagnate in terms of gameplay by this point. First of all, I want to point out that Team Rockman had its hands tied to a certain extent when making these games, because the entire series is reliant on a few core concepts, which are it’s “Rock, Paper, Scissors” style boss weaknesses, selectable stage orders, and Run & Gun gameplay. Alter any of those core concepts too much and the result is something that isn’t quite a Mega Man Game (Eight Eyes anyone?). With that in mind, by the time MM4 hit the shelves, the series had already gotten a bit stale. The Robot Masters were becoming increasingly absurd **cough** Pharaoh Man **cough** as the devs clamored for ideas; in fact Capcom had been running promotions that rewarded fans who submitted their own robot master concepts since Mega Man 2 and it’s safe to assume this was done not only for marketing reasons, but in an attempt inject some new ideas into the series. Even the special weapons were becoming redundant and many of the weapons found in MM4 are essentially just re-sprites of special weapons from previous titles.

mm4-9
Nothing new here folks…

   As repetitive as the series became by the advent of Mega Man 4, there was at least a certain consistency in terms of quality in each title’s overall design. Stages and enemies were laid out well enough. There were even a few scenarios where I had to react to enemies carefully and use some strategy to stay alive. Some stages have rather dangerous side paths that award the player with E-Tanks and I was pleased to see this sort of risk/reward system implemented into a Mega Man game, since earlier titles usually just rewarded the player for having the appropriate item and a bit of initiative.

  The bosses in this game are very inconsistent in terms of challenge and quality. While it makes sense for a game that is somewhat open ended to have some bosses that are easier than others (after all players need to get some kind of foothold in the game), the final stage bosses were generally push overs. The end game should present a challenge to players that tests the skills and strategies they developed throughout the course of the game, but Mega Man 4 fails to deliver such a challenge and the result is a final set of stages and bosses that are generally easy to overcome. In fact many of the end stages are easier than some of the Robot Masters and their respective domains. The final set of bosses have very predictable movesets and are almost universally weak against the same two weapons. To make matters even worse, there were three bosses that had rather obvious blind spots that were safe to stand in for long periods of time, making the battles against them significantly easier.

   The Robot Masters, which are a considerable part of the series’ draw, are for the most part rehashed from other games, with a few somewhat original ones thrown in the mix. Bright Man is basically a modified Flash Man, Ring Man is highly reminiscent of Shadow Man, and while enemies like Dive Man tend be more original, it’s clear that aspects of their design were pillaged from their predecessors. The upshot is that many of the Robot Masters are still somewhat fun and challenging to fight thanks to some interesting AI design and the chargeable Mega Buster. For the most part, the Robot Master’s respective weaknesses were fairly balanced and special weapons neither killed most of them too quickly or did too little damage. With that said there, were two bosses that were ridiculously weak to certain weapons, so much so that most players should be able to defeat them without much trouble on their first try, which further spoiled the game’s balance.

   Mega Man 4 has a great lineup of special weapons, even if they tend to be derivative of weapons from earlier titles in the series. Many of the weapons are quite effective against normal enemies and the game encourages the player to use them frequently. One weapon homes in on enemies, which is a great way to eliminate threats, another acts as a shield that can make clearing certain obstacles safer, and one weapon can even stop time for a few seconds. Having a fun arsenal of weapons to choose from really helped this game along in the end.

  Unfortunately, not all of the items available in MM4 are as useful as the weapons. Along with Rush the Robot Dog, there are the Wire and Balloon utilities which are redundant since Rush was introduced in Mega Man 3 to replace generic items like the Magnet Beam and Rocket Sled. While the Balloon and Wire come in handy at times, they really do not offer any utility beyond those already provided by Rush coil or Jet modes. I was rather baffled as to why Capcom chose to include the Wire and Balloon; the only real conclusion I could draw was that it was in response to the fact that it was fairly easy to use up all the energy for utility items and become stuck until you run out of lives. Speaking of Rush and redundant items, Rush Marine is nearly as useless in this title as it was in MM3, thanks to the scarcity of water levels.

  Finally, the new Mega Buster charge mechanic bears some mentioning. Until MM4 the Mega Buster fired a simple pellet that traveled in a straight line and did a low amount of damage. Mega Man 4 introduced the charge feature, which allowed the player to store power in the Mega Buster by holding the B button and firing a much more powerful shot upon releasing it. Like any new mechanic, it met with derision from some and was loved by others. In my opinion it was a modest success despite the fact that it made Mega Man 4 slightly more cumbersome to play than its forebearers. Much of the Mega Buster’s value comes from the visceral experience of charging it and smashing enemies with a powerful energy blast, which makes it a bit gimmicky. The devs did get creative at times when implementing the charge mechanic, since some enemies can only be truly destroyed with a charged shot. The charged up Mega Buster also causes certain bosses to react differently, which added some strategy to boss fights and made beating that first Robot Master more manageable.

Final Thoughts

   On a personal level I really enjoyed Mega Man IV, but I try to be objective by setting my feelings aside as much as possible and looking at facts. Plus, Mega Man 4 is part of a series and that means some comparison must be made to its predecessors. In this context it’s clear that MM4 doesn’t really bring anything fresh to the table aside from a new mechanic and made the same mistakes that plagued the series throughout its run, such as inconsistent difficulty balance. At least the special weapons were fun to use and the story was laid out clearly. Consequently, I had to give this one a B+ even though I had a great time playing it.

Recommendations

While I scored this title a bit lower than 2&3, I still feel it’s a good game in general and most fans of old school action games will find value in it. Mega Man 4 sits in the middle of the original NES series, which is a good place for it, so give it a try if you enjoy the franchise.

Leave a Comment