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Mega Man 4 (NES) artwork

Mega Man 4 (NES) review

"More care has been given than ever before to keep true to the Robot themes. This is especially noticeable in the stages like Toad Man where you progress through several environments, but it is also evident in the incredible variety of enemies that inhabit every stage, most of them relevant to the particular theme. It is especially commendable in Ring Manís stage, who could have easily been the odd Robot out this time around. Mega Man 4 leaves no man behind!"

In my mind, the original Mega Man series is a trilogy ending with the defeat of Gamma in Mega Man 3. Mega Man 4 feels like a different game than its predecessors. Not entirely different--this is still recognizably Mega Man--but there has been a change in the approach to the design.

Or I suppose you could just call 4, 5, and 6 the ďMega Buster Trilogy.Ē

The Mega Buster is Mega Manís newest ability. It lets him charge his normal shots, if he wants, into one BIG shot that looks cool and does more damage. The downside is that it takes a while to charge, so you have to choose carefully when itís worth it to use or if it makes more sense to just fire a bunch of little shots. Also, it makes a really annoying sound the whole time youíre charging it.

The inclusion of the Mega Buster changes more about the game than you might think. Knowing Mega Man is now armed with the ability to take out smaller enemies with one charged hit, the developers focused less on running him through a gauntlet of enemies. Or rather, they now put these gauntlets in intentionally inconvenient spots, usually over pits and right after tough jumps (so you get knocked back into those pits). In Mega Man 4 we see a return to some of the deadly platforming sensibilities of the first game. Iím talking the kind of timing where you have to leap right at the edge of a ledge to make the distance over the gap while also shooting an enemy out of the air before you smack into it. The Rush powers were made less easy to use, as well. Capcom really wants you to platform in this title.

Dr. Wily also seems to be aware of Mega Manís new power. Heís built giant mid-bosses for many of the stages that seem designed purely to test the Blue Bomberís skill with the charged shot. These mid-bosses are one of my favorite parts of Mega Man 4. Each one is intended to match their Robot Masterís theme and their supersized forms makes fighting them seem all the more epic.

The Robot Masters also come well equipped to deal with the new danger, for the most part (weíll talk about Toad Man later). I never realized, until I looked it up on Wikipedia, that Mega Man 4ís Robot Masters were all designs submitted by fans. If I were Keiji Inafune, I would be somewhat uncomfortable with this, because I believe that Mega Man 4 has the best designed Robots in the series up to this point. Letís take a look at them.

Bright Man 4/5
His stage doesnít feature a mid-boss, but it uses the theme well. Thereís a cool interplay between two of the enemies. One is a giant lightbulb that tries to float into you. Shoot it and the stage goes dark. But following close behind is a ďDompan,Ē a walking firework dispenser that, when killed, puts the lights back on in a quick fireworks display. They are at their best late in the stage when you are trying to make a series of precise jumps over swinging platforms. The switching ďonĒ and ďoffĒ of the lights can be a fatal distraction.

The part with the crickets and totem poles is, uh, a little less themed, but we'll let it slide this time.

I see Bright Man as the BluRay release of Flash Man. He has a very similar weapon that stops time but, hey, you can actually shoot while this one is active! His fight is very similar, too, and he even stops and shoots at you in the same angled pattern that Flash Man used. Heís a bit brighter (no pun intended) than Flash Man, too, because sometimes, after freezing time, heíll do away with the shooting and just jump on you. Thereís no way to avoid taking this hit, which makes Bright Man infamous among no-damage runners. It is entirely up to luck whether he decides to use this move.

Addendum: it turns out someone looked at the code for Bright Man and figured out how to keep him from doing this freeze shot, but since you'd have to be insane or psychic to figure this out without being straight up told about it, Bright Man still counts in my mind as a bit of a dick.

Toad Man 4/5
In past Mega Man games, it was common for enemies to have nothing to do with the stages they were a part of. Mega Man 4 strives to change that (crickets aside). Toad Manís stage takes you through a full progression of an environment, starting you on a windswept terrace and moving you into the sewers to eventually face the Robot Master. Outside, you are bombarded by the weather, which tries to blow you off of ledges and which obscures your screen with pounding rain. In the sewers, you face rats, amoebas, fish, and a giant snail that serves as the mid boss. Everything fits well with the dťcor and so you stay immersed in the level and in the action. At least until you get to Toad Man.

Toad Man is a Robot Master to be pitied. What other Robot Master has this as their program: ďIF shot THEN stop attacking. GOTO hell.Ē Toad Man cannot attack if you shoot him. When you shoot him, heíll slowly try to jump on you. Sometimes he hesitates before this, giving you a frustrated look like, ďReally? Youíre not going to let me get off a single shot?Ē Itís pitiful. Iíd even say heart wrenching. But I donít care that much.

Ring Man 5/5
I want to make fun of Ring Man, I really do. I want to put him in the same junk heap as Top Man and Quick Man, pointing and laughing as I see the three of them trying to bust their way back to prominence with the use of toy tops, tiny boomerangs, and plastic pool rings; the kind you throw in the deep end of the pool to try and incite children to accidental deaths.

But I canít, because Ring Man chucks those same rings at me with such force that they knock my hair out. He was supposedly built specifically to assassinate Mega Man. Thatís a pretty awkward destiny to be handed, considering how that turned out for the last twenty or so Robot Masters. To his credit, while I eventually got down Ring Manís pattern and beat him, the little bugger was quick enough to kill me something like seven or eight times.

The stage is what really wins me over, though. Itís fun to run through, because each piece of it was set up to mess with your head and test your reaction speed. First youíre tested by ledges which get sucked towards or away from you as you run over them. You learn that jumping over these ledges is best. Then these floating Saturn enemies (because Saturn has rings, you see) show up to block your jumps. So you learn to shoot them from a distance before making the runs. Just as youíre learning to deal with them, youíre put up against a, uh, Hungry Hungry Hippo on a giant platter. Now you have to shoot out the rings of the platter to bring the Hippo down to your level so you can fire at it. And so it goes, with the stage continuing to mess with your ideas of what the rules areÖ and occasionally throwing in a Hippo to straight-up confuse you.

Drill Man 4/5
Drill Man seems a little forgettable to me. It might be that his whole stage takes place underground, whereas most of his robot buddies have levels that feel more environment spanning, or at least explore their environment a little more. Even Bright Man and Dust Manís stages make you feel like youíre wandering further into some horrible factory. There is one very intense part of the stage where you are being pelted by boulders and, while youíre trying to dodge them, you have to take leaps of faith into nothingness. Youíre really aiming to hit switches mid-air. If you hit the switch, youíll make the next section of the stage appear just before you land on it. If you miss the switchÖ well, thatís that. Itís a hectic and chaotic part of the game which instantly makes you forget that the level itself is kind of boring.

Drill Man puts up a similarly hectic fight. This is especially surprising as he spends a lot of the fight underground, digging his way invincibly around beneath you. This could have made the fight really drag on, but because he gives you no clues as to where he is, it ends up feeling a little bit like youíre fighting the shark from Jaws, waiting for him to pop up right underneath you. Then he chases you around, shooting drills up your rear, and Iíll be damned if I wasnít running away for all I was worth. Rarely has the boss room felt like more of a cage than in this fight.

Pharoah Man 5/5
Pharoah Manís stage is actually kind of stale, even though it has a nice progression from sandy wastes to pyramids, and then to the depths of the catacombs. The enemies are nicely themed, from mummy robots to scorpions, and have varied patterns that you have to learn to take care of them effectively. Other than this, everything feels almost too straightforward. Thereís a long string of spike sections, but slow moving rides are provided to safely carry you over them and it doesnít require a lot of finesse to stay on. Thereís also no mid-boss, which feels like a lost opportunity in a stage with such an obvious theme. In fact, I do happen to know there was a cancelled Sphinx boss; itís not surprising, because the level feels like itís lacking something.

All of that is moot, though, because Pharoah Man is hands-down the coolest of the Robot Masters in this and any other Mega Man game. As a child, I always thought he radiated some kind of special power that set him apart from the other Robots. He seemed mystical and mysterious, as ancient as the tombs he was built to explore. As an adult, I respect him because heís fast, vicious, and durable. Like Bright Man, he seems to be an update of a Mega Man 2 boss; in this case, Quick Man--even sharing his weakness for time stopping weapons. Fight him without that, though, and heís an extremely fun challenge that you have to lure into using his slower attacks so you have a chance to hit him. He also gained notoriety for being the only Robot in the cartoon series who didnít act like an idiot. Every other Robot (especially Cutman) rushed into the show with an ineffective pizazz that only served to make them look especially ridiculous when Mega Man stole their power and shot them into a wall. When Mega Man steals Pharoah Manís power, Pharoah Man socks him across the jaw. Heís like an adult that wandered into a childís playground on recess and decided to rock everyone at dodge ball.

Dust Man 4/5
No amount of Mega Buster charge will save you from being crushed beneath a heavy mechanical press. At least, I figure that was Dust Manís sentiment when he choose this level as his base. I think itís also why there are enemies called ďUp and DownsĒ which leap up unexpectedly from the pits to knock you off course and cause instant death. The whole level is very slow paced, what with having to stop by pits to shoot the Up and Downs, and having to proceed through the mechanical press only when itís raised. Thereís also a long spike section that you cross by jumping on blocks which slowly rise into place and then never move or disappear. So, again, a lot of waiting around.

Thereís no level near as slow as this in the rest of the game, which ends up actually making this stage very difficult. Youíll be so used to going fast by this point that being forced to slow down becomes a legitimate challenge. The same can be said of Dust Man, who has a projectile attack that is easily dodged if you just keep your cool. But heís also slow to fight, since when heís not shooting he likes to stand still and sucks you towards himÖ during which time heís invincible. Itís easy to lose your cool and just start trying to wail on him while he shoots at you--at which point youíll inevitably mess up the timing and get killed. I like that thereís only one stage this slow and I appreciate that it seems to have been a conscious decision which really does make the game harder; especially as heís one of the later Robots in the weakness cycle.

Skull Man 4/5
Mega Man 4 is the first game since the original where you can go back to levels after youíve beaten the Robot Master. This is a nice return for the series, because it lets you decide how prepared you want to be for the Castle stages and thus removes any right I have to complain about cheap end games. If you donít want to spend the time to build up your stock of lives and energy tanks, then you have brazenly accepted the full-on challenge of the Castle and shouldnít pretend like the developers didnít give you an out. And if you do want to spend the time to gather your resources, then you want to do it here, in Skull Manís stage. Itís littered with powerups. Itís easily possible to pick up three Energy Tanks and an extra life on each run of the stage, and that doesnít count anything that enemies might drop for you.

While the design of a robot who is basically a skeleton seems half cool and half lazy (after all, heís pretty much a white Mega Man with a skull for a head), the real fun comes from a stage made of rib cages and spines and populated by Skeleton Joes who fall into a pile of bones when you shoot them. It is also good to see a shield power back from a Robot Master and this time you can actually move while using it. Yay for innovation.

Dive Man 5/5
I love this guyís stage. It marks the triumphant return of the water level and with much more going on than in Bubble Manís stage. The water level rises and drops with the tides, the mini-boss is a gigantic whale, thereís a hidden area down what looks like a deadly pit, and underwater mines block the final approach to Dive Man, who finishes up the level with a good low-gravity fight. I donít miss the spikes from Bubble Manís ceiling; thereís something fun about bouncing to the top of the room and floating all over the place while trying to dodge homing missiles and what looks suspiciously like M. Bisonís ďPsycho DriverĒ attack.

One note: in my last review, I mentioned that Hard Man looks like a submarine. Does anyone else think that Dive Man looks almost exactly like him? Am I right? Anybody?

The Cossackís Citadel 5/5
Grrrah! Big scary Russian! It does seem a bit odd to me that Mega Man got involved in the Cold War sometime in the mid-90ís as opposed to doing it back in the 50ís and 60ís when it was really in vogue. Nonetheless, there you have it. A snow-covered castle houses the final stages. The snow is actually put to great use in the first level. It covers up a hidden energy tank, it blocks you from seeing smaller enemies, and the ice mechanics are surprisingly immersive for an 8-bit game. Your first few moves on the ice just leave Mega Man running in place while he builds up traction and then he slides madly forward with little ability to stop. Watching him pump his legs to no avail really does draw up memories of trying to walk on a frozen pond or across an ice rink. Thereís one painfully tense sequence where he has to do this while jumping over a series of pits and the pits are filled, of course, with Up and Downs.

All of the stages of Cossackís Citadel are very tough and the challenge is almost entirely a platforming one. Itís snow and ice in the first level, but later levels feature traps to match it; like spikes that need the Rush Jet to cross (much harder now that you canít fully control it and can get knocked off). My favorite is stage three, which is an all-out mad jump across tiny moving platforms set over a bottomless pit, and the screen scrolls to one side the whole time--reminiscent of Super Mario Brothers 3. This is where you know that youíre playing a classic NES game.

Wilyís Castle 4/5
But wait, whatís this? The Citadel isnít the end of the game? The Russian and his crazy snatcher machine arenít the final boss? You mean Dr. Wily is back?! How dastardly and unpredictable!

Remember back in my Mega Man 2 review when I asked the rhetorical question ďwhat boss can only be damaged by a single weapon?Ē Well, it turns out thereís another one. And itís the final boss of the game. He can only be hurt by the Pharoah Shot and the Ring Toss (or whatever itís called). Chances are, youíve used up these weapons fighting the eight Robot Masters and the first two Wily forms. The final boss gets his own stage, so when I warped in I was shocked to see that there werenít any recovery power ups in sight.

I mean, doesnít that look like a good place for some powerups?

Granted, this time around there are at least some very easily killed enemies to help you recharge your weapons. This is stymied a bit by the fact that they have the most abysmal drop rate of any enemy in the game. I killed myself and just let the game restore me to full power, as much as it irked me. That was the only time the final boss killed me. He is otherwise incredibly simple to fight, despite the fact that heís invisible 96% of the time. That should tell you how truly easy he is. A boss that is invisible, and I beat him without taking damage on my first try.

Itís a disappointing final fight, but I found it hard to be upset. After two castles and six bosses, not counting the eight Robot Masters, and a very tough fight against Wilyís earlier forms, I must admit I was kindíve gamed out. This is why you shouldnít force players to play through eight stages without any kind of break. But thatís a new-school sentiment, so Iíll shut up about it.

Besides, the Wily Castle this time around is very short, with only two full-length stages. The first stage is the only themed Wily Stage Iíve yet seen, built entirely around the concept of Metalls (those little hard hat guys Iíve been calling ďHelmet HeadsĒ in my other reviews). The only enemies are Metalls; Metalls of every kind--spinning Metalls, underwater Metalls, and the boss is a giant Metall. Thereís also lots of death spikes and a long and terrifying underwater death spike sequence where the Metalls are perfectly placed to knock you backwards into a spike or ruin a jump with deadly consequences. This stage is frantic, but the theme makes it fun and is a reminder to me of one reason why I donít usually enjoy Wily Stages nearly as much as the Robot Master stages. Theme is everythingÖ

* * *

Ö which brings me to the main reason I loved Mega Man 4. More care has been given than ever before to keep true to the Robot themes. This is especially noticeable in the stages like Toad Man where you progress through several environments, but it is also evident in the incredible variety of enemies that inhabit every stage, most of them relevant to the particular theme. It is especially commendable in Ring Manís stage, who could have easily been the odd Robot out this time around. Mega Man 4 leaves no man behind!

This attention to detail is what really makes the experience fun for me and delivers on the promise of the premise, something I donít feel had yet been done consistently in the series. On a more visceral level, Mega Man 4 has an excellent level of challenge and is easily the most balanced of the Mega Man games Iíve yet to play. Like Mega Man 3, the levels arenít stingy about powerups, including extra lives and energy tanks, but here youíll need them. Complex enemy patterns have been mixed with precise platforming sections to provide continuous action. Dying is fun in Mega Man 4 because it usually comes at the end of a long string of near-hits by enemies and near-misses over jumps. The one that finally gets you always feels like a crescendo of a finale.

My only complaint about the game is that the final boss isnít very fun to fight. But thatís a very tiny complaint amongst a world of praise. If you are going to begin with a Mega Man game, I would say make it this one. It was something I was fortunate enough to do by accident and look where it finally led me. When you start with Mega Man 4, you canít help but want to play the others.


zippdementia's avatar
Featured community review by zippdementia (August 01, 2012)

Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.

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dagoss posted August 01, 2012:

I once had the crazy idea to fight Bright Man using rush coil. I would hope Rush was standing there right before Bright Man did his flash thing, then I'd spring to safety! I don't recommend this insane strategy...

I actually think this is one of the easiest Mega Man games. I played through it this morning before work and ended with 9 lives and a crap-ton of unused E-tanks. Everything has a predictable pattern and, aside from a few rare instances (Bright Man), there are no unavoidable attacks or enemies. It's like the enemies are lined up in a row for me to shoot, so long as I memorized where they appear...

That said, I've played this game too many times to know what it's like to play it without having it memorized. There are some enemies that you have to know where they are going to appear and have perfect timing to have a shot already in the air before they appear to not get hit. It also seems like there are a lot of enemies that appear when you are over pits and things like that. I was surprised this wasn't more of a sore spot with you given your complaints of the exact same thing in other titles.

I'm thoughly enjoying these reviews though; the fresh perspective and meticuously detail is great. May I ask if you are playing these games on an actual system or emulation? (Not that playing on an emulator is a bad thing--just curious)
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zippdementia posted August 01, 2012:

Ha, the rush coil against Bright Man! Wow, that is inventive! One of the Wily forms in Mega Man 4 makes use of the rush coil, though you can also use the wire shot (which I didn't even talk about, bad me!) and the mega buster, charged to full (because it has a wider spread).

I don't know that I've complained about those things in any of the reviews (I'm not calling you out, I'd be happy to be quoted and discussóyou've changed my mind in the past!). Mega Man 1, my big complaint was boring design. Mega Man 2 my big complaint was Wily's Castle. I didn't even complain all that much about the instant deaths, I just pointed them out as design that would later hamper the castle. I also complained about long sections without enemies. Mega Man 3 I complained about the game suddenly becoming too easy at random times and some of the bosses being stupid. I think there may have been some confusion when I called Mega Man 2 "cheap" as to what I was exactly calling cheap.

Actually, I praise it in Mega Man 2: "There are plenty of pits, a few tricky jumps, and enemies you have to shoot mid-air or be knocked out of the sky by. Playing it definitely gives you that adrenaline rush that we associate with the best of Mega Man."

One of the things I talk about in this review is that Mega Man 4 fixes the problems I had with that game by letting you decide how prepared you want to be for the castle. If you want to stock up on E-Tanks and lives, or you can just go for it.

I'm playing the anniversary collection, normal mode for all games (which is hard mode on some of the games, like 2). The only crutch I'm giving myself is I start with five lives rather than three. There's spots in each level where I could spam kill enemies for the lives, but I detest grinding, so I'm just removing that element of it. Even so, I've collected enough lives just randomly dropped that I often hit nine and would go past it if not for the cap. I don't usually die a lot until the Castle stages.
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joseph_valencia posted August 01, 2012:

and, aside from a few rare instances (Bright Man), there are no unavoidable attacks or enemies.

You can actually defeat Bright Man without taking any damage. The key to his time stopping attack is that he activates it whenever his health falls down to a certain number of sticks. If you make clever use of your normal and charged shots, you can get through the battle without Bright Man ever activating his time stopper attack.
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dagoss posted August 01, 2012:

You can actually defeat Bright Man without taking any damage. The key to his time stopping attack is that he activates it whenever his health falls down to a certain number of sticks. If you make clever use of your normal and charged shots, you can get through the battle without Bright Man ever activating his time stopper attack.

What? Please do tell. It always seemed that he randomly chose between shooting and stopping time, with shooting being favoured. I've never noticed a difference between his health and freezing frequency...

I think there may have been some confusion when I called Mega Man 2 "cheap" as to what I was exactly calling cheap.

I'm probably getting what you wrote confused with the discussion topic that sprang out of it. The word cheap was getting thrown around more than my wife yelling at me at the mall.
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joseph_valencia posted August 01, 2012:

This video goes into detail about Bright Man and the trigger for his time stopper attack:

Pretty mind-blowing, isn't it? :)
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dagoss posted August 01, 2012:

Holy crap--I never knew that!

That guy also had a video on an Elec Man trick that I didn't know.

<rainbow status="fabulous">The more you know!</rainbow>
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zippdementia posted August 01, 2012:

I'm probably getting what you wrote confused with the discussion topic that sprang out of it. The word cheap was getting thrown around more than my wife yelling at me at the mall.

Well said and very true.

Joseph, what a find! I'm not going to change the sentiment in the review for it because, I mean, who knows that going into the game?! Even Roahim, who is the best perfect runner I've seen, didn't know that. Really interesting information, though. Does he have anything about Quick Man?
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zippdementia posted August 01, 2012:

Okay, so I did end up adding something about it in the end.

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