Although part of a very respected series, Mega Man IV is not a very popular game. It is generally maligned for basically having no soul behind it. I can’t agree. While it would be certainly the weakest of the NES series and lots of series installments in the years since that system were also superior, I really can’t hate it like others do.
The reason this game is worse than the others is because with the arrival of the SNES, Capcom had other things on their minds. In many ways, it looks like they didn’t give it their all. Yet there is one redeeming feature that enables me to recommend it, but only after you’ve played all the others.
Plot: 7 out of 10
There’s a new mad scientist in town. Dr. Cossack is jealous of the fame Dr. Light has achieved for building Mega Man. So he takes it upon himself to build robots capable of destroying Mega Man so he can become the greatest scientist on the face of the Earth.
No bullshit, that’s the entire story. It’s just about a guy wanting to destroy Mega Man and become famous. We seriously don’t know anything else about this villain. At least Bowser from Super Mario Bros. had his koopa kids, kingship, and lust for Peach to flesh him out a little.
Thankfully, they eventually pivot to a new direction for Cossack that saves the plot, although I can’t reveal that without spoiling the game. Suffice to say that it’s a pleasant surprise.
Graphics: 9 out of 10
As usual the graphics are quite good. The flooring and sprites are especially well done. Capcom was very good at improving with practice. Mega Man himself is not particularly improved compared to the prequels, but that is probably just not taking a chance with fans who are hostile to this sort of change.
Sound: 4 out of 10
There are a few good songs (Skull Man’s stage has without a doubt my favorite song in the game), but the music is mostly uninspired. Even the best songs aren’t quite up to the series’ standards. The worst are downright lousy.
Gameplay: 6 out of 10
Familiar ground. Too familiar, actually. You go through eight stages in the order of your choosing and then go through Cossack’s castle. You gain weapons and miscellaneous abilities, the latter courtesy of Rush the robo-dog, by destroying the first eight bosses. Basically, it’s the same thing all over again. I’m not quick to jump on a sequel for being a rehash but this is taking the exact same formula four times in a row. Level design isn’t really creative enough to make up for this, though it’s far from awful. While a number of companies have faced ridicule for making the same game over and over, Capcom has long been a bigger offender than possibly even EA.
Not helping matters is the fact that in this game (and far too many later MMs), the passwords stop only halfway through. As a kid, I liked doing quick plays with the most advanced passwords in MM2 and MM3. I’m afraid that’s not possible in this game.
At least they add a couple of good features. You can now redo any of the first eight stages after completing them. Also, the new Mega Buster allows you to charge up your arm cannon and unleash a powerful blast.
Challenge: 9 out of 10
In my review of MM3, my biggest criticism was its inconsistent difficulty. That’s one thing that is done better in MM4, not worse. Because the series became a success originally because of MM2, it’s possible that most had forgotten that with the exception of an exploitable glitch, the original was quite a challenge. Yet Capcom remembered. First of all, you can forget about the bosses who are demolished by three or four hits with the right weapon. Seven is the magic number. And it’s a lot harder to avoid taking damage.
The path to them isn’t much easier. There’s lots of small enemies about and mini-bosses tend to last awhile.
The later areas only increase in difficulty. The final boss is actually invisible much of the time.
You’ll have to be prepared to sweat, but it’s very fun try to play through this game. If nothing else, it will test your capabilities.
Overall: 7 out of 10
Sometimes a game has one redeeming quality that saves it. If weren’t challenging, MM4 would have slumped into mediocrity. With challenge, though, I can recommend it. Just don’t expect it to measure up to the others.