(NES)

Mega Man 4 (NES)

Game Review

Mega Man 4 Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

The Blue Bomber vs The Red Menace

In 1991 the world got a fourth entry in what had quickly shaped up to be one of the NES's most popular series. This game was Mega Man 4, and expectations were high. After all, the first game laid down a solid — if static — template that resonated very well with gamers, the second game refined the formula substantially and gave us an enduring classic, and the third entry added fun gameplay wrinkles and important new characters to the mix.

Mega Man 4, therefore, was in a position that did its legacy no favours. With the bar having been raised so high by its predecessors, there really wasn't much it could do but disappoint.

However, upon revisiting it, we're happy to report that the disappointment isn't too overwhelming. It's still a very fun game which adds its own little flourishes to the tried-and-true formula of the previous games. While its reputation suggests a big step down from what came before, we'd argue that the decline in quality is at least somewhat exaggerated.

The game begins with eight Robot Master stages that you can play in any order. Clearing them and defeating their boss will give you a new weapon, which you can use to make other stages easier; each one is the weakness of another Robot Master somewhere on the board. So far, so similar. Mega Man 4, however, does innovate in its own way; most notably in the form of the chargeable Mega Buster.

In previous games, the buster was your starting weapon, and was weak by design. The idea was to get you excited about the special weapons you would earn by defeating bosses, because they'd allow you to carve a more effective path through the game. However the fact that you can charge up your shots this time around means you actually start the game with a quite powerful weapon, and that can throw off the balance somewhat. Holding down B allows you to fire a more powerful shot when the button is released, and that means you effectively have unlimited ammo for one of the game's strongest weapons.

However, it's important to note that charging is optional, and the entire game can be played through and finished without charging at all. In fact, for the purposes of this review we played through the game without charging even once, which definitely made the game harder and put it almost on par with the previous games in terms of difficulty, but was still possible. Of course, that doesn't excuse the fact that the game wasn't rebalanced to make the charged shots less overpowered, but it does at least leave the choice in your hands as a player.

Some other innovations include two hidden utility items, stashed away in the Robot Master stages. The first Mega Man game had a utility to pick up as well, but it was both clearly visible and mandatory for completing the game. Here it's up to you to find them, and we recommend that you do because the Wire Adapter especially is a great deal of fun to play with...and can even be used as a weapon if your timing is good enough!

Then there's the second set of stages before the final stretch, which was an idea present in Mega Man 3 that has been refined here to a complete fortress of its own, resulting in a more varied and interesting journey toward the end of the game.

So far we haven't had much to say about Mega Man 4 in a bad light, and that's because it's still very good. However there are a few items we should highlight. For starters, the soundtrack is a definite step down from what came before. While some tracks, such as Dive Man's, Skull Man's and Bright Man's are highlights, there are a lot of dull songs that simply don't feel as inspired as they did in the previous games.

The Robot Master weapons are also a bit of a mixed bag. The Ring Boomerang is a great, fast short-range weapon and the Pharaoh Shot is both chargeable and aimable, but the Dive Missile is a homing weapon that orbits frustratingly around its targets without hitting them and the Skull Barrier is a shield that hardly blocks anything.

The Robot Masters themselves fall into similar issues, with too many of them having simplistic patterns — only Drill Man, Pharaoh Man and Bright Man put up much of a fight — and Toad Man himself having no chance whatsoever to attack you as long as you keep shooting him, which we guess means his AI was designed exclusively to triumph over people who've never played video games before.

The new characters introduced to series lore also run the gamut from interesting to forgettable. Russian madman Dr. Cossack is easily the most complicated villain Mega Man has faced, but new ally Eddie just puts a face on those random item capsules from Mega Man 3, and doesn't make the same impact Rush did when he represented the utilities from previous games.

The whole game actually feels like two halves stitched together. On one side you have ideas and gameplay from earlier entries refined even further — such as Bright Man being a better implemented version of Flash Man, or the sprite limitations of Mega Man 3 being handled much more smoothly — and on the other you have programming that feels rushes or untested, such as the copious glitches that can be triggered in Cossack's auto-scrolling stage, or the long, dead stretches crying out for more inspired level design.

Mega Man 4 is a good game, but it's also where the seams start showing. Fortunately it's still worth a buy, even if it's only so you can play around with the Pharaoh Shot.

Conclusion

It's almost not worth saying at this point that Mega Man 4 marks what many would describe as the downward slide of the classic series. However it is worth saying that it's still a very good game. The soundtrack may not be a match for its predecessors but it's still pretty solid, and while the game seems to alternate between perfect refinement and total carelessness, most of Mega Man 4 does manage to stand beside the previous three games. It's absolutely worth a download for fans and anyone else looking for another great — if not particularly inventive — platformer to have on the go.

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User Comments (29)

Urbanhispanic

#2

Urbanhispanic said:

While it's not one of my favorites from the NES series, this one was still fun to play through several times.

@Philip J Reed Your review is spot on and, in my opinion, Mega Man 4 is miles better than Mega Man 6.

SwerdMurd

#3

SwerdMurd said:

if you play it without using the charge-up, it's actually one of the hardest in the series. Also the first NES series game I played... Rented this shortly after getting Megaman X on SNES (which was my intro to the entire series).

I agree Urban - much better than 6. Not that 6 is terrible.... But 7 and 8 both did unique, awesome things with the series, and 9 and 10 were infinitely more solid classic-style MM games. I still play 10 often.

KnightRider666

#5

KnightRider666 said:

Why does everybody feel this game was a let down? The soundtrack is awesome(how could you not love Bright Man's music?), and the game is challenging too. Let's not forget this game introduces the awesome mega-buster! I feel this game is just as good as 2 & 3.

Magrane

#6

Magrane said:

Spot-on review Phillip. This was my exact same impression of playing this game after downloading it - my memory served me as this game being a "step down", but replaying it made me re-think my opinion. It's a little more fun and colorful than what I remember it to be, but some of the level music probably needs work on the catchiness Mega Man 3 left us. Definitely still worth getting though based on the things you pointed out above. And on its own, it's a solid and enjoyable platformer.

This game also has one of my favorite Mega Man boss music tracks.......up there with Mega Man 2, 3, and X2.

Hunter-D

#7

Hunter-D said:

I love reading your reviews, Phillip! and this was another well written one.

SparkOfSpirit

#8

SparkOfSpirit said:

Fighting the bosses without the charge shot is not challenging, it's tedious. Doing anything in this game without the charge shot is tedious. It slows the pace down tremendously.

The charge shot is just as needless as I remembered it to be, the bosses are flat out dull, the music is pretty bad aside from like 3 tunes, and the level design is boring. Mega Man 6 might be worse, but this game is not that far ahead of it. Sorry, I just don't agree with you all.

Giygas_95

#9

Giygas_95 said:

Personally, I didn't think the first two games had a lot of great music. Some, but not a lot. I haven't played the third one enough to know about it though.

GeminiSaint

#10

GeminiSaint said:

This was my very first Mega Man game, and thus holds a very special spot in my gamer heart.
That said, I still think 4's soundtrack is the best in the series.

rosebud

#12

rosebud said:

I had Mega Man 3 and 4 as a kid. My friend had MM 1 & 2. I played all four and I've got to say, we actually liked the fact that this game was less frustrating than the others. I think it is all a matter of perspective. Older, more experienced gamers will naturally like the more difficult challenges.

GN0LAUM

#13

GN0LAUM said:

@SparkofSpirit
"Doing anything in this game without the charge shot is tedious. It slows the pace down tremendously."
Actually, playing the game without the charge shot speeds the game up tremendously. Most of the enemies in the game don't require more than one or two shots. This game can very much be played like the previous ones in that regard. It also means you don't have to keep stopping to charge up your Mega Buster before you get to the next enemy. You can just run, jump and shoot your way through every level. It also prevents you from hearing that terrible pulsating charge sound (which covers up the excellent music).

There are instances where the charge shot is useful, such as with boss battles and mini-bosses, but be assured that the regular shot is a far more elegant and enjoyable way to play through the game. At least, that's my feeling anyway. I feel very strongly about it too because I USED to play this game by charging up every few seconds. It got boring and tedious rather quickly (especially when you miss a shot this way -you end up having to wait to charge again before you make another shot- just terrible).

Peppy_Hare

#14

Peppy_Hare said:

If memory serves me correctly, I think the charge up sound effect also uses one sound channel, which impacts the soundtrack negatively as well.

Tasuki

#15

Tasuki said:

This one has always been in the middle of the road for me. It wasnt as good as 2 or 3 but it wasn't as bad as 5 and 6 either.

FOURSIDE_BOY

#18

FOURSIDE_BOY said:

@Pichuka97 In what universe is this abomination better than MM3?

MM4 was the only letdown in the series to me regarding both challenge and quality. I remember years ago when I got my hands on the MM ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION, I became obsessed with megaman to the point that I replayed the first three several times over and over again; then I played MM4, god, was it awful.

The mega buster killed almost everything with 1 shot, the bosses were all terribly designed and programmed (except the design of skullman, it was bad*ss and toadman was a joke) making pointless the weapon system since every wily creation was easily destroyed by the mm buster, the levels were predictable and badly designed to prove any challenge whatsoever unlike the mm3 or even mm9 stages where everything could kill you, and MY BIGGEST COMPLAIN: the wily stages; where the first three shined in this aspect by making those ones BRUTAL if you came unprepared, I didn't even die once when playing through them, where did the mm clones, the dragon, the impossible laser guns, frustrating clay man went? GOD ONLY KNOWS (or satan in this regard).

MM5 remained as an easy game but it was much more fun since capcom programmed a lot of the enemies to resist the mm buster even more, the design of the levels shined in some aspects, like the napalm man stage and the wily castle was ENORMOUS. It was a return to the old formula.

Bottom line: I give MM4 5/10. 'NUFF SAID.

MrL1193

#19

MrL1193 said:

Mega Man 4 may actually be my favorite in the series; it's right up there with 3, 9, and 10 for me. (Not 2, though--that's actually one of my least favorites.) The charge shot could have been handled a bit better, but it never bothered me all that much. I actually like the way it encourages pinpoint strikes against bosses instead of a constant hail of bullets. Also, MM4 feels to me like the first entry in which Capcom had really gotten the hang of making these games. It's much more polished than the first three games, in my opinion, and is free from the gameplay oddities and general staleness of 5 and 6. (Though I will admit that 5 and 6 have better music overall.)

GeminiSaint

#20

GeminiSaint said:

@Fourside Boy: Opinions, man. MM4 is awesome. About its difficulty level, I wouldn't say it's a cakewalk. I mean, it took me several months to beat it the first time (sure, this was like 20 years ago and it was my very first Mega Man game ever, but still).

WaveyChristmas

#21

WaveyChristmas said:

Mega Man 4's shining moment? That would be Dive man's stage.. :*
But then you look at some of those bland and poorly designed 'kitchen sink' stages like Skull man's(Pharo, Drill & Dusts were quite the stinkers as well)and you start to see the ugly side of MM4. It's a mixed bag of ho hum boss fight patterns(Toad man), Dr. Cossack and & Dr.Wily's castles were teribble, the soundtrack for the most part was dissapointing and the mega buster kind of defeated the purpose of using the robot master weapons, and it has the worst Box Art of the 6 NES MM games.lol Sure the original's is bad, but it's Awesome bad in all of it's radical cheesy glory, where as 4's is just ugly and boring..

I can understand why some people still say it's the low point in the Classic series. I'd personally nail MM4 with a reasonable 7/10. 2, 9 & 1 are still my favorites!

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#22

Philip_J_Reed said:

Pharo, Drill & Dusts were quite the stinkers as well

Aww, I love Pharaoh Man's stage! Starting outside...infiltrating the underground tomb...working your way through classic Hollywood-Egyptian traps to find the main baddie...I loved it. It has a nice early horror vibe, which is something the series never really explored again apart from Shade Man.

Giygas_95

#23

Giygas_95 said:

@Philip_J_Reed I just did it too and really liked the stage! I liked the music on it too. My 3DS is the first console I've owned any MM games on, and so far, I like this one a lot! MM 2 and 3 are good, but I can't seem to finish the first MM game because of that castle boss that's sort of like a robot you kill and then another faster one comes out then another faster one and so on. I'm close to finishing 3 though. I rather like the mega buster as well. Is it in 5 and 6?

FOURSIDE_BOY

#24

FOURSIDE_BOY said:

@WaveBoy That's what killed it for me too, even when you ignore the mega buster existence, the weapons aren't as good as in the other mega man games, they are just plain mediocre. I liked megaman 7 and megaman and bass because they programmed the mega buster like in the megaman x series, where yeah the megabuster is very powerful, but you can still have a long and difficult battle using it against the bosses, same goes for the proto buster in mm9 and mm10; and yeah, when you compare the cossack/wily stages to those found in mm1, they are VERY DISAPPOINTING.

ricklongo

#27

ricklongo said:

I really agree with this review. Most people's criticism of MM4 have always been badly exaggerated. It's kind of in a bad place in the series, since it's no match for predecessor MM3 (for me, the pinnacle of the series), and would be surpassed by the excellent Mega Man 5 in a year. But still, it's a mighty fun experience.

Pichuka97

#28

Pichuka97 said:

@FOURSIDE_BOY
Well, I can say MM3 is growing on me but I still like MM4. IDK why but its still pretty fun to me. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion though.

Geonjaha

#29

Geonjaha said:

I just have to say, starting to play all the Mega Man games (NES ones) for the first time on the 3DS VC I really cant agree with the review. Mega Man 4 is fun, and was far more enjoyable than Mega Man 2. Not as good as Mega Man 3, but its flaws aren't any greater than the other games. The soundtrack is (imo) the best of the NES series, the charge shot is no where near as bad as the unbalanced weapons such as Metal Blade, and by this point the graphics were much better.

There's a difference between Robot Masters having simple patterns and ones that can actually be easily understood without having to die a few times before being able to memorise them. Giving the player a chance to beat a boss without needing a certain weapon the first time round is pretty important in not wasting the players time.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to trying Mega Man 5 and 6 as well in the future. Sometimes it helps to see all the games in a series like this from a fresh perspective.

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