I’ve viewed this “drought” of Mega Man games the gaming world has been going through after 2010’s Mega Man 10 as a positive (even though in these six years we’ve had at least four games: Rockman Xover, Street FighterXMega Man, and the two Mega Man Legacy Collection games. Now don’t be thinking that I’m some die hard Capcom fan or anything; outside of Mega Man and Ace Attorney, I have basically zero interest in the games Capcom makes. During this time I’ve gone back and played many of the games from the Classic and X series and out of it, I came to two realizations: the first, as much as I enjoy most of these games on their own, when playing them all, quite a few of them felt lazy; like Capcom just made them for the sake of having one released each year. The second realization was that while I’d love to see a conclusion to the X series with an X9 or a new Legends game, I’m thankful for all the games we as a community got in this almost thirty year old franchise with 132 games in it. Plus there are plenty of fan-made games to play and games that play similarly to Mega Man like Mighty Gunvolt Burst by Inti Creates; also Mighty No.9/Red Ash if anyone still cares about them. Anyway, of these games I went back and played, one I was looking forward to was the fourth Game Boy entry in the Classic series, Mega Man IV.
I didn’t end up playing the Game Boy Mega Man games until later, after I had picked up Mega Mans 1-10 with Mega Man: Wily’s Revenge and Mega Man II being my introduction to the Blue Bomber’s monochromatic adventures. While I thought both games were okay, it wasn’t until my third go at the portable line with Mega Man IV (or for me, Rockman World 4) where I really started to love GB Mega Man. These games were outsourced to two companies: Minakuchi Engineering and Biox. All the games except for Mega Man II were handled by Minakuchi however after the poor job Biox did with said game. I’m happy with Capcom’s decision to stick with Minakuchi since their games felt like they had effort and, as corny as it may sound, love put into them. I even think Minakuchi Engineering understood how to make a Classic series Mega Man game more than Capcom themselves did, especially when it came to later Mega Man games.
Mega Man IV starts off with and intro showing the latter half of the unimportant story where Wily’s robots are scattering across the city and causing destruction. You can tell from this intro that Minakuchi actually cared about making a new Mega Man game with new custom sprites, artwork, and music. The overall presentation of the game, minus the color, looked better than what Capcom was doing on the NES with later Mega Man games. However, visuals aren’t everything in a video game; gameplay is the most important part. Minakuchi Engineering took the well-known Mega Man formula from Mega Man 5 and expanded upon it. P-Chips and a shop system in the form of Dr. Light’s lab was added where you can spend chips dropped by defeated enemies on various items like E-Tanks, 1 ups, and an Energy Balancer to name a few. Also each Robot Master stage has a letter hidden somewhere, typically in plain sight, which spells out one of two words: BEAT or WILY. Collecting B, E, A, and T gives you Beat the bird who functions the same way as in Mega Man 5 and 6. Getting all the letters to spell Wily opens up the second half of the Wily stages. While getting the Beat letters is optional, getting the Wily letters is mandatory, but as mentioned, they’re almost always in plain sight and easy to get. Passwords return in this game but unlike other Classic series games, you’ll want to either take a picture or write them down since they’re a little complicated.
Mega Man controls just as great as he does in the NES Mega Man games after Mega Man 2; I had no trouble moving around, jumping, sliding, or charging the buster. Speaking of the buster, the Mega Buster charging mechanic that’s been around since Mega Man 4 is still present; however it has been changed slightly. When you fire a fully charged buster shot there is a bit of push back. It’s nothing horrible; Mega just nudges back a few pixels and shouldn’t result in any accidental deaths unless you’re a pixel close to falling into a pit. I don’t recall losing a life due to this push back, so I don’t mind this change and don’t view it as a negative.
Like Mega Man 7, 8, and the previous Game Boy games, you’re open to four Robot Masters at a time rather than all eight. The Robot Masters you fight are: Ring Man, Toad Man, Pharaoh Man, Bright Man, from Mega Man 4 and Charge Man, Crystal Man, Napalm Man, and Stone Man from Mega Man 5. They behave the same as they did in their respective games and will give you the same weapons once defeated. Ring Man, Toad Man and Charge Man’s weapons received an upgrade in this game though. Ring Man’s Ring Boomerang can now grab items that are either out of reach or behind a wall. Toad Man’s Rain Flush can now douse fires which would normally be one-hit kills to Mega. Charge Man’s Charge Kick can now destroy certain blocks letting Mega Man get into hidden rooms that usually contain goodies like large P-Chips.
Unlike the Robot Masters, the stages they are found in have been redesigned and you can see everything on screen unlike games like Sonic 2 and Mega Man on the Game Gear where there are so many leaps of faith, you pray don’t jump into an enemy or pit of spikes that you can’t see below you. Some stages even have split paths you can take to get to the boss. The Wily stages are also unique. The game also has new bosses. Mega Man IV has you fighting the third Mega Man Killer: Ballade, new Wily stage bosses, and Dr. Wily’s giant Wily Golem. A handful of new enemies appear in this game as well that aren’t reused from Mega Man 4 or 5.
Overall, Mega Man IV provides a great challenge for new players and returning players. Enemies 99% of the time are placed in areas where they’re easy to see. The only exception are the Mizzile (pictured above) which jet out of pits when you get close and can lead to unfair deaths for first time players. Luckily, Mizziles only appear in two stages and even then, there are very few of them. Most of, if not all of the bosses can be taken out with the Mega Buster with a little practice; however, if you’re having trouble with a boss you can try various weapons you’ve gotten from Robot Masters since most bosses have a secondary weakness. Also Dr. Light’s lab has items you can buy using P-Chips you’ve collected which can help you. Progress through levels is smooth with very few long latter climbing sections which plagued levels like Elec Man and Crash Man. Stages have at the most, two mini-bosses to fight before the main boss, something I’m glad they did since Ring Man’s stage in MM4 had an unnecessary amount of mini-bosses. Unlike Mega Man III and Mega Man 9, Mega Man IV doesn’t overdo it on the spikes; the challenge comes from well-placed enemies, platforming challenges, and learning boss patterns.
As mentioned earlier, Minakuchi Engineering did an excellent job with the game’s intro sequence. They also redesigned the stage select screen, showing not only the Robot Master but an image of their stage underneath. Many parts of the background or platforms are animated. For example, Bright Man’s stage has many flashing lights and Crystal Man’s stage has large gears spinning in the background. Mega Man IV has a few cutscenes which, like the intro, use newly drawn sprites which look excellent for the Game Boy. The game runs smoothly although there are areas with slowdown that have too many enemies on screen. Graphical flicker is kept to a minimum though.
Like most of the enemies and bosses, most of the music is from Mega Man 4 and 5. The music still sounds great and I even prefer the Game Boy MM4 music used in this game to the NES versions since it doesn’t have a tinny sound to it. Mega Man IV’s original tracks sound great but can get repetitive if you’ve been listening to them for a while. The game has four boss themes and two stage select themes whereas most other Mega Man games have two boss themes and one stage select theme.
I find myself going back to this game or its sequel, Mega Man V the most when I’m in the mood to play Mega Man. Minakuchi Engineering managed to add new elements to the growing stale Mega Man formula with the inclusion of a shop system; which would reappear in future entries in the Classic series. Pile that on with near perfect level design, excellent presentation, and a great soundtrack and you have one of, if not the best Mega Man game; at least in the Classic series. While it may look and play like any other Mega Man game…and it does, I can feel the effort put into this game; the developers gave it their all with Mega Man IV. They wanted to make sure players had an enjoyable experience going through the game. Mega Man IV is tied with its sequel as my favorite game in the Classic line up and both games rank on my top 20 games. I highly recommend giving this game a try, especially now that it’s on the 3DS eShop.