Mega Man X4 (PlayStation) review
"If there's one thing gamers know about Capcom, it's that they like to reap the rewards of a successful title. I mean, come on. Six Mega Man games on one console, countless Street Fighter rehashes and a remake of about every single Resident Evil game to exist? Out of those franchises, though, Mega Man has been the most popular. Most gamers have loved to play as the short blue robot, shooting bad guys and fighting for everlasting peace. And its most famous spin-off, the X series, has been j..."
If there's one thing gamers know about Capcom, it's that they like to reap the rewards of a successful title. I mean, come on. Six Mega Man games on one console, countless Street Fighter rehashes and a remake of about every single Resident Evil game to exist? Out of those franchises, though, Mega Man has been the most popular. Most gamers have loved to play as the short blue robot, shooting bad guys and fighting for everlasting peace. And its most famous spin-off, the X series, has been just as popular (although not as revered as the original games). Yet even though there have been countless Mega Man and Mega Man X games, the formula has not changed much. Good thing, too, because X4 packs the same kick-ass feeling the previous X games have, even with its (numerous) flaws.
One of the first things you'll notice about MMX4 is that it feels much more like anime than other Mega Man games. As soon as you turn on the game, you're treated to an anime FMV featuring Mega Man (known as X in this game), his girly buddy Zero, and members of a high-tech army known as the Repliforce. The Repliforce has been shunned for no reason, and they want revenge. While X and Zero try to stop them, someone familiar lurks in the darkness...dun dun dun!
In addition to the anime sequences found in the game, there graphics have been turned up a notch since the SNES games. X and Zero look more realistic now, and the explosions look slightly better. Also, the game is more colorful than its prequels, but it seems slightly darker as well. The only problem is that it still looks like a SNES game: there's nothing that would wow anyone in the graphics department. With the exception of the anime FMVs, games on the SNES have looked just as good as this, including other Mega Man games.
And what would anime be without some mortifyingly awful voice acting? It would be better, but Capcom wanted to stick with tradition. Still, the sound effects have been improved, such as the explosion that occurs when you defeat a maverick. It still sounds mostly like a SNES game, but the voice acting makes it really sound like a PS1 game. Music, like most Mega Man games, is very catchy, with a few memorable songs such as the introduction stage and Cyber Peacock's stage. Others, like Web Spider's stage, are very forgettable. It's all MIDI, but it still isn't awful and helps contribute to the Mega Man feel.
You see, all Mega Man sidescrollers have the same formula. You pick from one of eight bosses (called Mavericks in the X series), and then you play a stage which has something to do with the boss you'll fight at the end. For example, Frost Walrus' stage is in an icy cave, filled with deadly icicles and even some ice-skating robots. On the other hand, Magma Dragoon's stage is a trip through a volcano, where you'll have to dodge rolling boulders and red-hot lava. Once you beat a boss, you'll get its weapon, which is helpful to defeat another boss. If you defeat Cyber Peacock (what was Capcom thinking with that one?), you'll get a laser weapon that's strong against Storm Owl. It's been used since the NES days, but it works like a charm. In the X series, in addition to shooting and jumping, you also have the ability to dash and hop up walls.
Anyway, the main hook of MMX4 is that you get to play as one of two characters: X and Zero. While X controls much like his previous games, Zero has an entirely different game. See, he has this kick-ass lightsaber (normally called a Z-saber...how original), and instead of acquiring new weapons like X does, he learns new techniques. If he defeats Split Mushroom, for example, he can double jump and do a somersault slash by pressing the square button. Also, he doesn't need any weapon energy like X does to use his techniques, so you'll probably use them a lot more often. Unfortunately, his sword has crappy reach compared to the X-buster, so he's always in danger of getting hit when he closes in to attack. Needless to say, the game is a lot harder when playing as Zero, but some consider it a refreshing break from the norm. Wait, if it's needless to say, then why did I just say that? I'm confused.
But there's a problem, and it's not the similarity to previous titles. Actually, Mega Man X4 is a game that manages to add to the franchise without completely ruining it. In terms of level design, the game just isn't consistent enough. There are a few awesome levels, such as Cyber Peacock's. In that stage, you actually have to pass each section in a certain amount of time, and you're rewarded for beating it quickly. After that, you can step on blocks that turn the stage upside down! While it is gimmicky, it's really fun here. Another level worth noting is Slash Beast's stage, where you're stuck on a runaway train and you'll have to stop it while jumping from one train car to the next. However, these levels aren't always present, and their excellence is sometimes unnoticed when you take a look at some of the other levels in the game. For example, Web Spider's stage has almost no enemies and features platform jumping that is as tedious as it is easy. On the other hand, Jet Stingray's stage plops you on this bike called a Land Chaser, but you move so fast that most of your jumping, dashing and shooting has to be done beforehand, when you've already died three freaking times. Oh, so that's why there's a huge dent in the wall!
Of course, the real challenge in any self-respecting Mega Man game is at the end of the level: the boss fights. As I mentioned before, using the right weapon on a certain boss will result in the boss taking extra damage, and possibly being stunned. Unfortunately, MMX4 takes this too far. If you have the right weapon, you need only fire as soon as the boss gets close to prevent it from even hitting you. It will just take damage, get knocked back or stunned, and attack to repeat the process. On the other hand, fighting a boss without the right weapon means you'll have to use your normal weapon, which is somewhere between intentionally whacking yourself in the head and suicide. You pick. Since most bosses only have a few attacks and use them over and over, you'll usually have to use the same attack strategies as well. Unfortunately, it will take a little bit of time before you memorize a maverick's attack patterns, and your lives will drop like flies in the middle of winter. Once you finally get the pattern down, you'll have to usually use a counterattack strategy that some find mind-numbingly boring and others find amazingly challenging. Personally, I loved the challenge, but not everyone who plays MMX4 will agree. This process can become even more difficult when you're playing as Zero, who can't pick off a boss with some charged shots.
Still, the game certainly is one PS1 sidescrolling fans should pick up. It carries the torch that was lit with the original Mega Man, and the difficulty adds to the fun rather than detracting from it. Not only that, but the inclusion of Zero gives MMX4 replay value that other platformers lack, even though the game itself is fairly short. While there aren't many unlockable items, they all are difficult to find and well worth the trouble. Plus, he's Zero. Zero as in the red reploid with the girly hair that all Mega Man fangirls dream about. Don't forget the lightsaber.
Community review by eoib (September 04, 2004)
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