We will Rock You
When you’ve got a story that’s in need of an evil villain, its good (and a bit racist) to know that you can always turn to the Russians. Whether it’s evil athletes, evil soldiers, evil terrorists or just evil women in leather, it seems like the former is the epicenter for all that is antagonistic. Or at least as long as the film was not made in . Forget about Ronald Reagan, it was Rocky Balboa that won the Cold War for when he fended off the threat of the mountainous Ivan Drago. While the Soviet Union may have collapsed in 1991, Capcom foresaw that tensions between the and the would continue to mount all the way to the year 200X with Mega Man 4.
While Dr Wily may have been defeated, Mega Man must now defend from a new, Red threat in this Japanese-developed title. The vile Dr Cossack has arisen from the rubble of the Iron Curtain with 8 new robots (obviously) to challenge to mettle of the former Rock Man. Of course, anyone that knows anything about Mega Man knows that this can only be a ruse. After thwarting the evil Communist robots, Mega Man invades the Kremlin-like fortress of Dr Cossack to stop his evil plans. But just as Rock(y) Man has Cossack down for the count, that trivial ancillary character Protoman appears, bearing Cossack’s daughter Kalinka (what a name!) It turns out that Dr Wily had kidnapped the little munchkin and forced Cossack into doing his bidding. Well gosh darnnit it, Mega Man will just have to make things right and take a trip to Wily’s Skull Fortress Brothel and slap all of Wily’s robotic escorts before pimpsmacking the mack daddy scientist himself.
Mega Man 4 is certainly the continuation of one of my greatest pet peeves in the series; the revelation that Dr Wily was the mastermind behind all the chaos. Having “traditions” in a game series is fine, but the Mega Man games have so many traditions that separating one game from another becomes a matter of which pair of robot masters has the most interesting tights. The final battle in too many of these games is often some variation of Wily’s giant skull spaceship and/or his annoying teleporting UFO. Both of which have gotten as tired as the Password system (if you’ve been playing these games on the NES anyways.)
That said, Mega Man 4 does have many redeeming qualities. One can tell that by this point, the developers at Capcom have really grasped the mechanics of the 2D platformer and have made these last couple games tighter than Roll. Many of the jumps require expert timing and bravery to clear. The enemies continue to get stranger and stranger, such as the motorcycle wheels with eyes, the evil caterpillars, the evil jellybean dispensers, giant slugs that hurl their eyes at you (the same eyes that are also their weakness) and giant hippos that sleep on a massive, gold platforms which vomiting missiles in your direction. It’s like Dr Cossack was trying to design the most harmless war machines humanly possible.
There are a few small tweaks. There’s the introduction of Eddie, a midget-bot who runs in one direction, dispenses a random power-up that may or may not be useless, and runs away. The Rush Jet has been reprogrammed without air brakes; yes, the filthy mutt has gotten more dim-witted over the one year since Mega Man 3 and will only fly in one direction. At the least, it means that the Jet is no longer a be-all solution to every tricky platforming sequence.
But most notably of all, Mega Man 4 replaces Mega Man’s Urinary Tract Attack laser beam with the “Mega Buster”. Now players can hold the attack button to arouse Mega Man, and release to ejaculate a mighty blast of energy. This whole Mega Buster business won’t be for everyone; I know one person too many that struggles with the concept of holding one button to run and another to jump in Super Mario Bros. If your brain can’t handle the concept of holding one button while pressing another button, then stop reading and get back to Wii Sports.
Mastery of the Mega Buster is key to your enjoyment of Mega Man 4. You’ll quickly learn to always hold a charged shot ready for the next enemy who dares spawn in your path. Many of the enemies and mini bosses only make their weak spots vulnerable for short lengths of time and thus timing your charged shots are crucial. Even against the 8 robot masters, some quick reflexes and charged shot skill will allow you to defeat those charismatic spandex machines with even your standard buster.
And how about those 8 robot masters! Dr Cossack has developed some of the finest machines designed with the sole intent of ensuring the rise of Mother Russia.
Dive Man: Dive Man is a combination of the tactical bathtime assault of Bubble Man and the phallic form of This human submarine aids the Russian naval force and is more than capable of stopping any blockade that stands in his way. Cuban Missile Crisis? More like Cuban Missile Cleared. That his weapon of choice is actual torpedoes makes him the Mega Man series’ first ever tactical military robot.
Drill Man: Wikipedia tells me that is one of the world’s leaders in the mining industry. As you know, to make proper guns involves metals to forge them, and that’s where Drill Man comes in. Best of all is that in spite of his incredible efficiency (he’s got drill hands), he’ll work for the same wages as any slackjaw miner. That’s devotion to the sickle and hammer.
Dust Man: The “cleaner” of the , if you will. He doesn’t just remove dirt from the Kremlin, he cleans out filthy Democrat spies with a vacuum that sucks away both democrats and their free will. He challenges Mega Man by reversing the vacuum’s pull to hurl chunks of the Iron Curtain as projectiles.
Skull Man: One thing that I noticed about Cossack’s designs is that he aims to intimidate. A robot whose name is DUST MAN and whom fights enemies by throwing DUST looks like a heavily armoured musclebound SWAT team member in comparison to twigs like Case in point is Skull Man, whom I’m sure most people playing Mega Man 4 for the first time will challenge first for the sheer novelty and shock factor of an enemy named “Skull Man”. While one of the cooler-designed Mega Man bosses in history, Skull Man doesn’t quite live up to his image, as his weapon is but a mere shield. I guess it’s cooler to have a shield made of skulls than leaves.
Bright Man: If you’re thinking to yourself “okay, Capcom is running out of ideas” then my response is “when have the robot masters been anything but bizarre? If Wily was ever trying to create military-ready machines, we wouldn’t see Bubble Man or Wood Man. We’d see Tank Man, AK-47 Man, or ” Anyway, Bright Man has a light bulb and as Flash Man proved in the past, Mega Man has a vampiric-like weakness to bright lights, as they seem to freeze his programming. Bright Man also illuminates the Motherland in their darkest winters or when the oppression of Reagan dims their spirits.
Pharaoh Man: As you can see, this game was released at a time when people were starting to think that Egyptian history was cool. Fixated with this new trend, Cossack studied ancient Egyptian magic and programmed a robot capable of unleashing mystical curses on his adversaries. For you see, his “Pharaoh Beam” is a beam of concentrated Angel of Death Energy and Mega Man is kind of like Dr Light’s firstborn child. You figure out the rest.
Toad Man: Toad Man presents the gravest threat to the Earth yet. Returning to the topic of fads, Toad Man comes to us at a time when Acid Rain was a popular buzz term amongst environmentalists. He is capable of sending a weather balloon filled with concentrated pollution into the air, unleashing a torrential downpour of death. What you don’t see is his ability to rapidly multiply like a toad and offset any region’s ecosystem.
Ring Man: Finally, we have the obligatory “Ninja character” of any Mega Man game. But don’t let the hokey gimmick fool you, Ring Man’s circular gold projectiles present quite the threat. Perhaps Ring Man is meant to be symbolism, as he represents the dangers of the newfound peace treaty, or “marriage” between and the fallen .
The stages themselves are definitely colourful and unique, representing the wonderful strangeness that embodies the NES era. Skull Man’s stage has paths made of giant femors held together with screws. Ring Man’s stage has platforms made of what I presume to be rings that vanish horizontally when stepped on. Pharaoh Man’s stage is set in an Egyptian tomb…laced with wiring for some reason. Then you get to the Castle stages and the game is throwing at you some bosses that are definitely more unique than, say, a room filled with orbs that shoot lasers at you. Giant evil butterfly, giant evil elephant, giant evil…teleporting room, that kind of menace.
Generally speaking, Mega Man 4’s greatest adversary is lethargy. While some visual aspects stick out as creative or wonderfully strange, others, like the final battle with Wily, are nothing short of groan-inducing. Is there some reason why we can’t establish a new, original villain? The Mega Man X games have this exact same problem with the blasted Sigma.
If you’ve been playing previous games, than this game’s lack of change will be somewhat off-putting. After all, it’s that same damned Mega Man sprite we’ve been playing as for what may as well be twenty years now. But placed in a bubble, Mega Man 4 is great. Even if it’s not the most difficult game of the series, it feels the least annoying. Your progress will depend entirely on your skill level and not how many Crash bombs or Rush Jet fuel you have in reserve. So if you’ve just finished Mega Man 2 or 3, give yourself a few days rest and approach Mega Man 4 with an open heart.
Sadly, there have yet to be any recent, noteworthy re-releases of Mega Man 4 yet. You’re either digging for a copy of the NES original or, if you’re smart, you’re buying Mega Man Anniversary Collection. I’m feeling like a broken record here.