Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mega Man X4 (PS1, SAT, PSN) Retro Review

Cap off your Saturday night with some more Mega Man action! This time around we're going to take a look at one of my favorite entries in the franchise, Mega Man X4! How much do you guys and gals think I like this one? I've never written about my love of Mega Man X4 in such depth as tonight.

Your knowledge on what you are
fighting for may vary.

In Mega Man X4, humans and sentient robots known as Reploids live together. Of course, it's never really in harmony, as that would make for a boring premise. A strong militant army known as the Repliforce wishes to create their own colony after being deemed Mavericks, out of control robots, by their human counterparts. Little does everyone know that a sinister figure lurking in the shadows casts a wide smile, seeing that his plan is coming to fruition. It's X and Zero's desired duty to not just prevent this tense situation from blowing up and out of control, but also to save the world in the process. 

Mega Man X4 comes packed with much more power thanks to the wonders of the compact disc the game is printed on. Not only does this allow for traditional text-based story progression, but it also opts for full motion video cutscenes to display important scenes in all of their still impressive animated glory. The voice acting is a definite step-up from what was available in Mega Man 8, but there's still some chintzy lines and delivery. I'm looking at you,  Zero's "what am I fighting foooooor". 

Outside of cutscenes, Mega Man X4 delivers amazing 2D artistry. It's not at the level of 2D art available today, obviously, but it still pleases the eyes. Sprites animate wonderfully with plenty of different animations to them, levels have an intricate and detailed design to them visually, offering breathtaking vistas and areas, and special effects like explosions delight. 

A definite upgrade in visuals from
what the SNES offered.
On the music side, Mega Man X4 has extremely memorable and catchy themes. Even the worst sounding tracks would be considered the best on other video game scores. 

As for how Mega Man X4 plays, if you've played a game in the series in the past, then you know what to expect. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing depends upon if you've had your fill of Mega Man action. That's because the basic structure of the Mega Man series featuring you tackling eight stages in any order, running through trials and traps, overcoming obstacles, defeating enemies, making your way to the stage's boss, defeating him, receiving their special weapon as a reward, and then moving onto the next remains uncharged. The only difference is an interlude level thrown in midway through that is purely a fight against a story-related character.

Beware the scariest-named Maverick
ever devised-- Split Mushroom!
The bosses in Mega Man X4 take the shape of many animals, such as the always aerial Storm Owl, the brawn over brain Frost Walrus, and the lover of transportation Cyber Peacock. Sure, they don't always have the coolest names to them-- hello, Split Mushroom-- but getting down their patterns, learning when to go on the offensive and when to evade attacks, as well as mastering each fight takes a fair amount of practice. This is especially so if you're just using your standard weapon like X's buster or Zero's saber. 

Hey. Some of my best friends
are Mavericks.
When not wanting to go the path of most resistance, you can take solace in the fact that every boss has a weakness to a specific special weapon. Split Mushroom's Soul Body can easily take out Cyber Peacock, which in turn, Cyber Peacock's Aiming Laser does a number on Storm Owl. The biggest challenge to overcome in this regard is finding out which boss has what weakness. Thankfully, you have the Internet at your fingertips for this information.

While their levels are the same,
their stories differ.
In Mega Man X3, Zero was playable but was extremely limited in where and how he could be utilized. Mega Man X4 ups his usefulness completely by having him as a separate character from X with his own special moves, abilities, dialogue, and cutscenes. The levels that he goes through are designed the exact same way as X's, but this doesn't actually come across as a negative. Instead, it just made me marvel at the level design even more. There's certain sections of levels that Zero can get through more easily than X can, and that makes you appreciate how each level was constructed and tailor-made for both characters.

For the first time in series history,
Zero is 100% playable.
With a new generation came a new leap in technology, and Mega Man X4 held little back in taking advantage of the PlayStation and Sega Saturn's beefier tech. Level concepts and features that would have been impossible on the Super Nintendo flourish on the new hardware, such as Slash Beast's level that takes place on a moving train, Jet Stingray's stage which has X or Zero on a speeder bike, roaring through tunnels and onto the sea, and Split Mushroom's level that has two segments of it that have you running up a spiral staircase. 

The chase is on!
Don't get your circuits wet, X!
Like the Mega Man X games before it, Mega Man X4 comes with its staple of optional collectible items and rewards for thorough explorers. Most levels house one of Dr. Light's hidden capsules, allowing X to equip a new piece of upgraded armor. These can give X more mobility options like a mid-air dash, the ability to charge up his X-Buster, or the benefit of having special weapons not use up energy. Mighty handy, no? Since Zero cannot acquire Dr. Light's upgrades, his campaign can be viewed as a hard mode for Mega Man X4.

The look of a fully upgraded X.
In addition to those helpful finds, each stage possesses one health-increasing Heart Tank. Unlike past Mega Man X games, however, only two Sub Tanks are available in X4. As usual, these serve as a health reserve for you to fill up X's life gauge when the going gets tough. Finally, there's two new tanks to acquire, a Weapon Tank that stores weapon energy, and a special life tank that adds more lives to X or Zero's starting supply of lives when a continue is used. 

X can shoot, dash, wall jump,
and speak 12 foreign languages.
Mega Man X4 isn't a long game, and for those who are familiar with the franchise, you probably already knew that. Mega Man games in general from the classic and X line of titles aren't overly long experiences. However, these games encourage multiple play-throughs, not to unlock anything new, but just because they're so rewarding to play. These are masterful games in their design and gameplay mechanics that multiple plays are a must. Of course, with Mega Man X4 you have the luxury of having two stories to play through, X and Zero's, to help with longevity anyway. 

I don't know. Do you think this ride
armor makes X's butt look fat?
From a purely presentation standpoint, Mega Man X4 impresses. That's no doubt a factor in me liking this game over many others in the franchise. However, X4 also nails the level design, the tightness of the controls, the boss encounters, the story, the localization, and so much more. It's one of the top titles in the Mega Man series as a whole, and it definitely deserves your attention whether you're a newcomer to the game or have already beaten it dozens of times.

[SPC Says: 9.5/10]

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