Mega Man 4 (NES) review
"Another thing I like here is that the robots fit their stages so much better. By the time you reach the end of the sewers that make up Toad Man's home, the confrontation with the robot master will seem perfectly natural. Though the same could be said of some of the stages in Mega Man 3, the techniques this time around don't make me think Capcom got lazy."
I've often said that the problem with Mega Man 3 was its lack of personality. Capcom put in more levels, more challenges, and more space. They added new elements, too. Yet somehow, everything came together to form what I felt was a sub par experience. And Capcom, ever one to learn from its mistakes, countered complaints about Mega Man 3 with one of the best comebacks ever crafted: Mega Man 4.
If Mega Man 3 was a huge romp through a lifeless playground, Mega Man 4 is just the opposite. Sterile, metallic corridors have changed to shifting sands. A winding cave has become an underground construction site with falling boulders and disappearing walls of rock. Best of all, this terrific personality is present at every turn and the game isn't any shorter than its predecessor. Remember how Mega Man 3 re-used parts of some stages just to lengthen the amount of time it would take to clear the game? You'll find none of that here.
Though I would be lying if I said there's much here that's shockingly new or different from the previous three titles in the series, it all feels fresh just the same. Yes, there's an underwater stage and a cavern level and some fairly generic regions. It's easy to look at Skull Man's stage, set inside the skeleton of a giant dinosaur, and compare it to the Snake Man stage from Mega Man 3. But such comparisons miss the point. Capcom wasn't trying to make radical changes to the Mega Man formula, after all. That would have been stupid. Instead, it was trying to polish. And so it has.
The robots here are just too cool. Instead of Top Man or Hard Man, we get to experience the likes of Toad Man and Drill Man. The coolness factor is much higher, in my book. Only Shadow Man and Gemini Man trumped anything you'll find here. Another thing I like here is that the robots fit their stages so much better. By the time you reach the end of the sewers that make up Toad Man's home, the confrontation with the robot master will seem perfectly natural. Though the same could be said of some of the stages in Mega Man 3, the techniques this time around don't make me think Capcom got lazy. I was so glad to see that the developers went with the elements this time around, rather than cheap theatrics like an endless assortment of bottomless pits.
Speaking of bottomless pits, there are still plenty of those. But they're not so overused here. It's quite possible to make your way through a whole stage without seeing a gaping hole, and I quite like that. Capcom got wise and didn't overuse such hazards. Instead, the (admittedly diminished) challenge here comes from a wide variety of threats. Sinking sands, driving rain, scrolling screens and more make for a nice change of pace for the series.
Of course, there are other changes, as well. Some of those are negative. For example, Capcom seems to have developed an inappropriate love affair with large enemies. Most stages have several such monsters. The whale-shaped robots of Dive Man's stage are one example, and the bulldozers of Drill Man's domain another. While no such encounter is terribly difficult (and though a few of these can actually be quite enjoyable), it seems to me that the 'mid-boss' is an overused effect this time around. Still, I'll take such encounters over a bushel of bottomless pits any day.
Another more negative element was Fliptop. When Capcom produced Rush, your robotic canine companion for Mega Man 3, I cheered. It added a lot of personality to the franchise. But Capcom took a good thing and, in this case, took it one step further. Fliptop is just a walking item canister. Where Rush (and later, Beat) had personality, this little contraption is dull. He accomplishes nothing that an item sitting at the center of a room wouldn't have. It's a minor flaw, though.
There's something else, too. The story here is once again told with elegance, as it was during the opening moments of Mega Man 2. Though in general I do prefer the story in Mega Man 3, Capcom went through some extra effort and created an opening cinema that arguably is the best in the series. You'll get the best glimpse we've ever seen of Mega Man's roots. The cinemas aren't particularly amazing, consisting mostly of still frames with small bits of animation here and there, but they still impressed back in the day and even now.
I could discuss other details, too, but I won't. If you're reading this review, you probably know what Mega Man games mostly tend to be about. They're about fighting eight robot masters to gain their weapons, then going to the source. That's the case again here. So no, it's not radical changes that make the difference here. Instead, it's more dedicated adherence to those elements that made us love the series in the first place. Capcom fixed the holes and produced what I consider the last of the great ones. Give it a shot.
Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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