Sunday, May 15, 2016

Mega Man IV (Game Boy, 1993)

This game is RIDICULOUSLY GOOD. Capcom took everything that didn't work about the previous three games and fixed all of it, resulting in what may well be the perfect original series Mega Man game. The fact that it's on a portable system makes it even more of an achievement.

The game begins with Dr. Wily unleashing four robot masters (the four good ones from MM4 NES) on an unsuspecting, poorly-designed metropolis that looks like something out of an old SimCity

I like how these Game Boy iterations let you know right from the start that Wily is the villain. No fooling around with red herrings.

A very Japanese cutscene follows as Mega Man and Dr. Wily are shown to clearly be at odds, and... wait a minute, what the hell is with Mega Man's foot? It has a hole in it! It'd make sense if he could fire weapons with his feet, or if they had rocket boosters for him to hover. Since he has neither of those things, the unexplained foot-hole is just weird. Maybe Dr. Light has a secret fetish we don't know about... eww.

This game features the debut of P Chips, which you use to buy items at Dr. Light's shop. I suspect the P stands for Paint, which begs the question of why Dr. Light would need paint chips as currency.

"Cause they good eatin'!" says the scientific luminary when reached for comment.

Out of the first set of bosses, I think Pharaoh Man wins on style points. I like how this new-fangled stage select gives you a rough idea of what the theme of each stage is.

Toad Man is pretty much the requisite first boss in this game, just like MM4 on the NES. Also, since he's animal-themed, it seems like the influence of the X series was creeping in a bit here. Makes sense, this game came out right before Mega Man X did. 

Also new to this game: A large, visually pleasing charged shot. Unlike the charged shot in the previous game - which looked more like a half-charged shot - this one is more in line with the charged shot of later Mega Man games (and Mega Man X). However, this game does it one better by giving it a (very mild) kick. When you fire a fully charged shot, Mega Man bounces back slightly. This could be a detriment to the gameplay, but it's so minor that it ends up adding to the immersiveness.

There are lots of minibosses in this game, for miniboss-thusiasts like myself. For example, Toad Man's stage has this recurring snail. Also, any time you see stoned-looking eyeballs on an enemy in one of these games, that's the weak point.

Each stage has a letter. These letters tend to be in plain sight, and usually require you to go only slightly out of your way to get them. The first four spell "BEAT" which gets you the Beat weapon (more on that later) and the second four spell "WILY" which lets you enter the final levels. 

Toad Man spends most of the "battle" shaking his butt. That's because he's the-


His special weapon is unavoidable and does substantial damage, but if you hit him with a charged shot while he's preparing for it (shaking his butt), it'll cancel out. 


"You are now one with all living things, Highlanda!"

The next stage I take on is Bright Man. This one is... lightbulb themed. 

This means the lights go out a lot, but it's still a fairly basic stage. This and Toad Man's stages alike are both easy without seeming TOO easy (like, say, all of Mega Man II did). Good introductory stages to the game that fly by while still making you feel like you're achieving something.

Bright Man himself can freeze time. He's weak to Rain Flush (hee hee), Toad Man's weapon. Mega Man makes it rain, and we move on. the desert! These are some pretty stellar graphics for the Game Boy. 

Nintendo Power advises you to return to this stage once you have the Ring Boomerang in order to get the letter. It's "unreachable", but the boomerang can reel it in. Well, I discovered for the first time that you can actually reach it by jumping from the very, very edge of he platform on the right, so there was no need to repeat the stage. YOU LIE, NINTENDO POWER! 

Pharaoh Man is a conundrum. He's the coolest boss in the game and a heck of a fight, but his weakness is the Time Stopper. Using that basically one-shots him, depriving you of said fight. I fought him with the regular buster, switching to the Time Stopper only towards the end of the fight to ensure a win.

Ring Man's stage is by FAR the most difficult of the first four, ranking up there with some of MMIII's more difficult stages. The difference is that it's well-designed. The challenge comes from the formidable enemies and lack of sure footing, not from poor stage design. 

Ring Man is difficult, like his stage. Pharaoh Man's weapon makes short work of him, though. It can be charged up, making it a potent alternative to the buster in any situation. 

Finding all four letters means you get Beat. What is Beat, you ask? It's this metal bird that WRECKS everything that it touches. You can summon it temporarily to help get through difficult areas, and it's invaluable. It even works on some of the bosses. Substantially lowers the difficulty of the game when you use this ability effectively, but it's good to have. 

Here's the P-Chip shop. There are a lot of useful items here, but they don't come cheap. The good doctor needs a lot of paint chips to fill his hobo bindle.

I go for the Energy Balancer, which costs a cool 150 chips and should be the first thing purchased in any playthrough of this game. It's a passive upgrade that causes your weapon energy to be refilled by energy pellets even when the weapon isn't active.

Halfway through the game, it's time for Wily's Castle. Or a short bit of it, anyway. 

This time, the castle is more or less a giant tank. It rumbles through the wilderness, firing off missiles and bombs. 

The boss here is a satellite dish. This looks like a transplant from a different game. Mega Man can't fight the tank head-on, so he has to disable the communications array.

Get past that, and Mega Man has to contend with Wily's latest creation: Ballade. This guy is the successor to Enker, Quint, and Punk, and the coolest of them all. He looks like a refugee from the X series, and he's a true worthy opponent for Mega Man.

He's a formidable foe, but like many of the bosses in this game, he's weak against the Pharaoh Shot. He'll be back. 

The next set of four bosses are from Mega Man 5 on the NES. They're also the last set of NES bosses to ever appear in a Game Boy Mega Man. The other four bosses from Mega Man 5 are SOL.

Judging from the background, these four are residents of Wily's Castle, as is tradition. Back in the day I'd go for Crystal Man last, fighting Charge Man first. That's what Nintendo Power suggested. Well, turns out the best order is Crystal Man first, and Charge Man last. Matter of fact, Charge Man is really difficult without his weakness. Thanks again, Nintendo Power!

Crystal Man's stage reminds me of the Fortress of Solitude. Or something out of Final Fantasy IV

This is probably the longest and most difficult of the first eight stages, so it's good to get it out of the way early. I like the music here too, reminds me of the Energen Crystal stage in MMX2

Crystal Man is weak against the Ring Boomerang, which is why he's the best choice for first in this set. All of the others are weak against weapons from the second boss set. I think the Pharaoh Shot also does some good damage against this guy.

Protoman occasionally shows up in these stages, and he comes bearing gifts - specifically, a full restore, an E-Tank, and some P Chips. In this particular case, it was perhaps the most timely restore possible.

Rain Flush (hee hee) quells the roaring flames that pop up all over Napalm Man's stage. Now if only there were a weapon that made spikes disappear. 

Napalm Man fires explosive pellets. They're sorta like Bomb Man's weapon in the NES original, except improved to actually be useful. For instance, they explode on contact, and even if they don't make contact, they don't take ages to detonate.

Stone Man's stage is next up, complete with a frustrating hippo miniboss with a regenerating pedestal keeping him out of reach (Protip: Use Rain Flush). All of these stages have their own distinctive visual appeal, and Stone Man's stage is no different.

Stone Man is tricky because he frequently makes himself invincible and has a hard-to-dodge weapon, but Napalm Bombs make short work of him.

My win came via regular buster. It was a tough battle. I like how nearly all of the bosses in this game can be beaten with the standard buster without it being an insurmountable obstacle. It takes away a lot of the pressure of playing for the first time. No need to worry about choosing stages in the wrong order since victory is always possible.

Charge Man's stage is the last of the four for me. This one takes place on a train and has really good music. The music is imported from the NES version, and loses very little in the process. Check it out:

NES Version

Game Boy Version

Got all of the letters in all eight stages. The letters were automatically in the correct order as I played, which tells me that this is probably the order Capcom intended to be the "best order". The E-Tank limit here is once again four; the game is so well balanced that it's just the right number.

Charge Man is a real annoyance. He's invincible most of the time and for whatever reason it's really difficult to jump over him without bumping into him. Stone Man's weapon knocks off a huge amount of his energy if you can actually hit him while he isn't invincible.

Ballade returns at this point, and he's even got his own select screen portrait. He really does look like an X series character, or at least a Pre-Bass.

The four letters from the second set of stages open the gates here. I assume that if you missed one, you have to go back and get it. None of them are particularly hidden or hard to get, and they're honestly hard to miss.

The second fight with Ballade is a bit rougher, as he now goes all-out. I defeated him with the standard buster, but the Pharaoh Shot is even more effective. I've also heard that summoning Beat makes short work of this fight.

At this point you need to escape from Skull Castle, and it's a complete and total pain in the ass. You have to shoot your way out while the castle collapses behind you, and it's easy to get trapped.

With yet another Skull Castle destroyed, it's time for Wily's latest base, the Skull Spaceship. This thing is way cooler than his usual space fortress, what with all the armaments on display.

WHOA! It's the moon! Too bad none of Wily's minions are Saiyans, because they could go Super Oozaru here. Wily is a brilliant scientist, after all.

The recurring miniboss of Wily's Spaceship is this artillery battery manned by a Met-all. Aside from the pilot, doesn't this look like something from a different game? 

The trick to victory: Rush Coil onto the barrel and you can stand there firing away at the boss. You take some damage, sure, but the fight is over quickly. 

And speaking of things that look like they're from a different game, the first Wily stage boss is this... behemoth. Not sure what it is exactly, but it's huge. It's a fairly difficult fight, attacking with the weapons of all eight bosses and a giant, hard-to-dodge claw.  It's the Shang Tsung of Mega Man IV!

Second Wily stage boss is a swarm of metal eyeballs. Weirdness. Seems more like it belongs in a Zelda game (those games love them some eye bosses).

Protoman returns a couple of times in the final stages. He's usually hidden beyond a block that you have to break with Charge Kick. These instances mark the only times in the game where I even used Charge Kick. I wonder which boss(es?) are vulnerable to it. Going by the main order, either Toad Man or Crystal Man.

Unlike the previous three games, this one finally has a capsule room at the end. I'm glad the previous three games didn't have this since their bosses tended to be kind of tedious. This game, though, is the right time for it. Fighting all eight bosses again is a lot of fun here.

My God! A real cutscene! Would ya look at that! 

So much animation! This game really pushes the Game Boy hardware in ways the previous three didn't even begin to. 

Dr. Wily pops up, and he's piloting a massive battle body. This looks like one of Sigma's final forms in the X series. Android Wily probably designed those too.

Damn you, Android Wily!

As usual, there are multiple forms. For the first form, you attack a gem in his chest while contending with giant arms that swing onto the screen. I pretty much just Rush Coiled away on this fight, but I'm sure there's a better way to do it. (Editor's Note: Stone Man's weapon)

Next up: Wily's giant metal head. It opens its mouth intermittently to administer an Andross-like sucking attack, and during that time you can dish out some damage. This is the most interesting-looking final boss since Dr. Wily's Revenge, and seems like something from a less cartoonish game. This goes for a lot of the terrain and bosses in the Wily stages of this game, though.

Lastly, Wily attacks in Saucer form. In many ways, this game represents the Game Boy series finally catching up with all of the conventions of the NES games (capsule room, Saucer Wily, hadoken-like charged shot, etc). Thing is, it perfects them. This game is arguably better than any of the NES games, but it's close in some cases. It really should be, because it came along just after the NES series ended, but it's commendable regardless that they got around the hardware limitations.

For overall best Classic Mega Man game, I'd say it's nearly a four-way tie between this game, NES Mega Man 2, NES Mega Man 3, and the next Game Boy iteration: Mega Man V. More on that one soon. At this juncture I'd probably give the edge to this one over the others, if we're talking about "best original Mega Man series game". Well done, Capcom. It's even in contention for best Game Boy game, though the likes of Metroid 2, Link's Awakening, and Mega Man V could all dispute that.

As for Wily, the key to downing the saucer is Ballade Cracker. It's basically a Crash Bomb that fires in any direction. Very useful for downing an aerial foe.

Speaking of, Ballade shows up and saves our hero from the exploding station, saying that his defeat at the hands of Mega Man showed him that evil was the wrong path. Or something. This is a very Japanese storyline development: Defeating a bad guy "shows him the way" and converts him to good.

Though it does make sense, if a bad guy sees the conviction that a good guy possesses and decides that a foe with that much conviction must be onto something.

Unfortunately, Ballade sacrifices himself while saving his new ally Mega Man, which makes the ending poignant in a way.

Mega Man escapes via modified Rush Marine as Wily's battleship falls apart in the vastness of space. What I'd like to know is, how does Wily keep getting the money to build all of these fortresses and spaceships? He's like Lex Luthor.

And speaking of space, the fifth and final game in the Game Boy series would take things in a new and unexpected direction. Stay tuned.



  1. Whoa, I never made the Crystal Man/FF4 connection before, but you're right on.

    This game is fantastic, but some of those stages just go on and on, like Mega Man X3.

  2. Wily probably steals all the material he needs with his robots. At that point the only who can stop him is Megaman but he can't really strike before Wily actually makes his robots and go public about *gasp* surprisingly wanting to control the world. At that point the people are probably like "Oh look Dr Wily is back again, let's wait a couple days so Megaman takes care of it".