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Mega Man 4

Released: 1992
Company: Capcom
Genre: Action

It's common knowledge that once any form of media reaches a certain sequel - either 3 or 4 - the quality of the product diminishes. This is true for everything from movies to books to video games. Because of that, I'm not fully surprised with the fact that this is the least entertaining installment of the NES Mega Man series, but it doesn't mean it's forgivable. Unlike many other cases of sequel burnout, this game suffers in the least expected of places.

This time around, Dr. Wily isn't the man behind the overthrow of the world; or at least, not at the beginning. Now a new scientist named Dr. Cossack has manufactured eight new robots to challenge the blue bomber. After all eight of them are defeated and Dr. Cossack is reached, we find that there was a motive behind all this - Dr. C's daughter was kidnapped by the ubiquitous Dr. Wily, who forced Dr. C to attack. So, once again, it's back to Dr. W's hideout to destroy his machinery - at least, for another year. Surprisingly, the plot works. It isn't the same thing rehashed like the SMB or Castlevania series - this time there are actually characters besides MM, Dr. Light and Dr. Wily. Another big plus goes to including the origin of Mega Man at the beginning of the game. In fact, I'd say that this plot is the best part of this game.

As for the best technical aspect, it would have to be the graphics. The sprites are very colorful, although they use red a little too much for my taste in this game. The animation is superb, especially in the Dr. Cossack stages. The snow falling in trhe background is probably the most attention paid to detail the programmers had. The enemies have dropped some of their cutesy look, but there are still a number of foes that still look a bit too bubbly. The soundtrack, however, is where this game really takes a beating. The first, second, and third installments have been praised for some excellent music. Mega Man 4's music is just plain banal. I wouldn't be surprised one bit if the music programmers had under a week to compose every theme in the game, because virtually all of it is horribly generic. There was absolutely no inspiration in any of this music, with the exception of the Dr. Cossack's 3rd and 4th stage music. And the pieces to Dust Man and Drill Man are terrible. I mean, these are the same people who created the music in MM1, 2, and 3! Put some heart into it!

Play Control isn't that bad - MM still has tight response. The Mega Buster is a welcome addition, and I'm very thankful that you don't lose your charge when you take a hit like you do in MM5 or MM6. Alas, some of the weapons don't work very well. The Skull Barrier has no use whatsoever (why they ever deviated from the Leaf Shield concept is beyond me), and the Ring Boomerang is too short-range, and the Drill Bomb has to be timed perfectly. However, these are somewhat forgiveable flaws, largely because I don't use the special weapons much outside of the bosses.

The series does recover quite a bit of challenge from the elementary second and third games. It's probably the hardest MM game on the NES. In fact, it might be too hard - many of the later bosses require dead-eye accuracy to beat. And if you run out of weapon energy, you're sunk. Another problem is that the password fails to record how many Energy Tanks you've collected along the way. With the length of this game making it more of a two-sitting campaign for some, this could pose a serious problem. Moreover, the most progress the password will allow is through the eight robots - roughly one half of the game. I understand they don't want you to start too close, but what's the deal with only being able to save halfway?

Is the game fun? Well, compared to other games in the series, MM4 couldn't be fun if it tried - and that's the problem; it doesn't. The whole game seems to be one boring level to the next. This not only makes it less fun when you play it, it also helps keep you from sticking the game in your NES in the first place. After all, if you know it isn't that fun, would you rather plug in MM4 or MM2? On the other hand, it certainly has more worth than a few other games out there. If you're playing a marathon of MM games, for example, you probably will have enough momentum playing MM3 to continue with this game.

The lack of a real worthwhile password, combined with high challenge, along with the soulless music makes this game the worst of the MM series, but that doesn't mean it's terrible. You just have to have the right stomach for it.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 11
Challenge: (Hard)
Thrill: (Boring)
Aesthetic Score: 18
Overall Score: 69%

You are now listening to the Skull Man's Stage music in Mega Man 4. Generic, ain't it?

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