No matter how loyal an RPG fan you might be, or how much time you spend on puzzle games, there is one undeniable fact to gaming: Sometimes, you just need some action! That being said, few series can as dependably deliver platforming action like Mega Man. Despite the endless number of sequels and spin-offs, Mega Man is always an intense and challenging experience. And with tougher enemies, cooler weapons and a slew of new abilities, Mega Man Zero 4 is no different.
But don?t expect to see any action from the old ?Blue Bomber? in this title. In this game you play as Zero, the red reploid with long hair and a shredding laser sword. With the adorable Dr. Ciel to guide him, Zero defends humanity?s last bastion of peace and nature from Dr. Weil and his ?Eight Einjariar.?
Of course, nobody plays a Mega Man title for the plot; they play it to blast stuff! Each of the game?s 14 stages are full of robots, pit traps, bosses and frustration. Zero functions in fairly the same manner as Mega Man. He can dash, jump, shoot and steal powers from bosses. However, Zero has just enough unique characteristics to warrant his own series. As I mentioned before, Zero not only can attack with the standard buster shot, but he also possess the Z-Saber for up close attacks and combos. The player can switch weapons with a single button, so you can slash an enemy up close and an instant later shoot another one down from afar. Either weapon can be charged up to unleash extra damage or a special effect.
The newest addition to Zero?s arsenal is by far the most versatile. Using the Zero Knuckle the player can not only beat enemies into scrap, but also rip out and use their weapons. This works on most minor enemies and offers the player many innovative tools to accomplish missions.
Another of Zero?s tools is the cyber elf: a customizable support program that provides numerous benefits. Floating like a sprite over Zero?s head, the cyber elf can extend the life bar, provide support fire or unlock attacks for Zero. Greater powers are unlocked by collecting E-crystals from stages and feeding them to the cyber-elf.
In case there weren?t enough ways to customize your play style, there is also a chip creation system. By picking up scrap parts dropped by enemies, the player can combine them into computer chips that give Zero new abilities such as regeneration or resistance to wind. The problem is how hard it is to figure out which of the 50 different parts can be combined into a useful chip. Occasionally, a character will give you a chip recipe, but these only produce the weakest chips. Of course, you can get through the entire game without making a single chip. But, if you want to get more out of the game, hunting for parts and trying to figure out how to make chips can add longevity to what is otherwise a short game (I beat normal mode in less than 10 hours).
It just wouldn?t be a Mega Man title if you couldn?t take on stages in any order, but there are some new elements this time. Most of the stages have missions that add a different kind of challenge to them. For example, on one stage the player has to shut down an artificial sun. Until you do, Zero takes damage while standing in direct sunlight. It forces you to move quickly between areas of shade and not get bogged down with the enemies.
The weather itself is also selectable when choosing a stage. It?s the same as choosing the hard or easy version of a stage. For example, clouds can make platforms harder to see or snow will fill in pit traps. While choosing unfavorable weather will even make boss battles tougher, you can only obtain their special powers by doing so.
Unlike in traditional Mega Man titles, powers acquired by bosses are not limited by ammunition. Half of them are sword techniques that the player can use at any time by hitting a combination of buttons. The other half are variations of the buster shot that need to be charged up. Each attack has one of three elemental attributes: lightning, fire or ice. Each boss is weak against a specific attribute, not a specific weapon as in previous games. In fact, some of the most effective weapons to use on bosses can be ripped off of minor enemies using the Zero Knuckle. This way the player is rewarded for ingenuity rather than being forced to use the right special weapon, or no special weapon.
While I appreciate all of these changes to the series, I?m also glad to see many things have not changed, namely the quality of music. Mega Man has always been about rockin? beats that draw the player into the action. The graphics also keep the action interesting with a variety of detailed characters and stages. Zero?s movements are particularly ninja-like and cool to watch. Each enemy even has a different animation for being blown up, slashed in two or ripped apart, depending on the weapon used. Each level of the game is complimented by both the music and the graphics.
Staying true to the saying, ?If it aint broke, don?t fix it,? the basic Mega Man formula hasn?t changed in nearly 20 years; fast action, great challenge, cool characters. That?s why it?s Capcom?s longest running franchise, and it will probably continue to crank out sequels well into the future. I really shouldn?t have to say anything else about it. Despite any changes or additions, everybody knows what Mega Man is all about, and if you liked any of the previous games you?ll probably like this one too.