Mega Man 4 is my least favorite in the series. BZ doesn’t mind it so much but I hate it with the fury of a thousand Solar Mans.
Loki: Starting with Toad Man the first thing we both notice is the “improved” graphics. They’re more detailed and have a level of grit to them.
BZ: Thus far in Toad Man’s stage, the dissonance present in 3 seems to be erased: the level takes place entirely in and around a storm drain, where all manner of snails, rats, and other applicable critters dwell. The color scheme is thematically consistent: rusty yellows, mossy greens, rainy blues. Even the music matches, whistling out with a sewery ery big-city swagger that sounds right at home.
The boss, Toad Man, breaks out a seductive pelvic thrust prior to using his Rain Flush attack. Loki comments that, starting in 4, the boss patterns have gotten much easier. As he says this, Toad Man lands on him, crushing him two within two yellow pellets of his life.
Bright Man’s stage is much less logical- giant grasshoppers and pee-shooting totem poles? With that said, the grasshoppers act as a sort of precursor to the Robot Ride armors in the X games, forcing you to perch on their backs as you cross over deadly pits of spikes. It’s an interesting bit of level design that gives the stage its own unique flavor.
This stage is also notable for having a branching path in the middle- by taking the bottom of two routes, you can snag an E Tank and an extra life before the game forces you to backtrack. It’s a fairly unique design choice, at least for this early in the series.
Pharaoh Man’s stage continues to be consistent in both music and visuals. We snag the Balloon hidden along the top half of the stage, and it teleports us forward in the level. Excellent.
Ring Man is less defensible in this regard, but the stage has some fun environmental gimmicks with a series of disappearing platforms in the beginning. This quickly turns into what Loki refers to as a mini-boss hell, with no less than four mini-bosses (giant hippo, slinky ring thingy, giant hippo, slinky ring thingy) in immediate proximity.
We also encounter Eddie here; a first for our marathon.
Loki: Playing through Ring Man’s stage BZ is really impressed by it’s level design. “I think I like 4’s level design better than three.” You’re crazy, I reply. “What levels in 3 had the same kind of environmental things like Ring Man’s disappearing or Toad Man’s water ways?” Um… tadpoles in Gemini and light and dark in Shadow Man.” He was not happy with my answer.
Ring Man proves to be tough. I still say that the boss patterns are more simple than in other games, including Ring Man. He shoots, jumps, shoots, lands. But thanks to the boomerang nature of his rings this creates a pattern that is nearly impossible to dodge. I guess if Mega Man was smart he should have put a ring on it.
BZ comments on how nice the level looks. The background of stars may be simple but it’s well designed with different colored stars, bands of Milky Way, distant planets. It gives the illusion of depth.
The rest of the game proceeded quickly. Dr. Kentucky’s Real Beer Jubilee started getting passed around and all of a sudden blogging as we played wasn’t as important. Other notes on 4:
BZ asked me if I still thought this was the worst game. I did but when he asked me to cite examples I couldn’t come up with any. I don’t like the game but hell if I can say why. One thing I did notice is that 4 is the first “modern” Mega Man. A lot of the stuff that defines classic Mega Man in my mind start here. There’s the first fake fortress, the first game to use a unified bright style, the first game with those reoccurring flying enemies with the shields that you have to wait until they turn away to shoot them, and more!
BZ really liked the fortress levels. He particularly liked the sliding room that you had to jump into to hit it’s weak-point near the top. He claims it reminded him of a vagina but I don’t see the resemblance. It’s more a square box that you climb around in and who ever heard of calling a hoo-haa a box!?
BZ: I understand Loki’s hesitation about this game, as I felt something similar the first few times I played it. Like Loki, I’m very hard-pressed to say WHY, exactly, after playing it again. The game has a much more cohesive feel than 3, and it has some of the best graphics of the NES series, along with several interesting bosses and setpieces throughout the levels. I’m at a genuine loss to describe what initially made it so repulsive to both myself and my ginger friend.