Review: Mega Man Zero 4 (Game Boy Advance)

Genre: Action
Platform: GBA
Rating: E (Everyone)
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Inticreates
Release Date: 10/04/2005

Things just keeping getting worse for the legendary hero. His best friend’s dead, he discovered that he’s not really who he thinks he is, and the world’s going to hell in a handbasket. Oh, and that last part? It’s all Zero’s fault! Capcom treats action fans once again with the fourth entry in the Mega Man Zero series, continuing the hard-edged story of a future Zero in a world gone horribly wrong.


STORY

As before, Zero is fighting alongside the Resistance to save humans and Reploids alike from oppression. (Reploids are highly advanced robots, like Zero himself.) MMZ4 starts off with Zero rescuing a caravan of humans fleeing Neo Arcadia, which was once a utopian city. Well, ever since Zero defeated their corrupt leader (back in the first MMZ title), there’s been a power vacuum, and the insidious Dr. Weil (from MMZ3) has risen to power. He’s turned the former city into a fortress where his word is law, and any dissent is punishable by a swift death. This caravan of refugees, led by a former journalist named Neige, has had enough, and plans to settle in a new human colony at Area Zero, where the space station Eurasia crashed centuries ago. It was a hellhole for a long time, but nature’s come back over time and made the place habitable again. (For you Mega Man continuity freaks out there, Eurasia crashed into the Earth at the end of Mega Man X5.)

Of course, Dr. Weil knows about this place now, and he’s dispatched his Einherjar (Eight Warriors) to eradicate all traces of life there. Not just human life, either…everything organic down to the last blade of grass! So, once again, Zero steps up to stop the mad doctor’s plans and protect others.

The overwhelming theme in MMZ4 is how the Reploids were never given any choice in their lives. They didn’t ask to be created. They didn’t ask to be tools. They didn’t ask to fight in the humans’ wars. And now, humans hate them, even though humans themselves were responsible for the Reploids’ predicament! No matter what happens, it all comes back to a journey of self-discovery for the Reploids. Just like humans, they can think and feel. And just like humans, they’re driven to commit unspeakable acts. But was it their choice or not? Focusing on this aspect of the Reploids’ psyches rather than just making the whole thing another good-vs-evil tale enables MMZ4 to stand apart from its predecessors.

(Rating: 7/10)


GRAPHICS

Each MMZ game has used the same graphics engine. While this may seem dated, it’s actually the reverse; the MMZ games have always had incredibly detailed and fluid sprites, and MMZ4 is no different.

The design for Zero’s enemies this time around is most impressive, indeed. Often, giant sub-bosses will fill the screen, unleashing all manner of special attacks. The special effects look great here, making use of a ton of frames of animation. And the boss design? Fantastic! The art team deserves a massive raise. MMZ4 continues the series’ legacy of being some of the best looking games on the GBA, by far.

(Rating: 9/10)


SOUND

MMZ4‘s soundtrack has more of a “heavy metal” feel than past games. While the other games in the series certainly had the techno-rock theme going on, MMZ4 makes much more use of guitar samples. And they actually sound good, which is rare in a GBA game. Voice work is prevalent, too, with Zero yelling out certain attacks and grunting when he takes damage. Bosses announce themselves in Japanese, as well as speaking a few words here and there during battle. The voice samples are nice and clean, as are the sound effects.

(Rating: 8/10)


CONTROL & GAMEPLAY

The MMZ series has a well-deserved reputation for being challenging platformers. While MMZ3 was a bit easier than the first two, MMZ4 is a return to form. The levels are well-designed, and enemies will often surprise you. Luckily, it’s challenging, not cheap. The control is absolutely spot-on, too, so if you die a painful death, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself!

After fighting your way through a stage, you’ll face a boss at the end, and the eight primary ones are Dr. Weil’s personal guard, the Einherjar:

  • Heat Genblem (The Fiery Tortoise)
  • Pegasolta Eclair (The Winged Lance)
  • Fenri Lunaedge (The Arctic Wolf)
  • Noble Mandrago (The Mistress of the Forest)
  • Sol Titanion (The Seductive Butterfly)
  • Mino Magnus (The Horned Beast)
  • Tech Kraken (The Terror from the Deep)
  • Popla Cocapetri (The Rooster Mastermind)

The MMZ games differ from other Mega Man games in that you don’t earn a boss’ special weapon by defeating them. However, there’s various items and upgrades you can acquire in other stages that will making fighting the bosses easier. Plus, if you defeat a boss quickly and skillfully, you can earn their EX Skill, which is a special move that often has devastating effects.

Aside from special attacks like EX Skills, Zero’s armed with his trusty beam saber (the Z-Saber) and his pistol (the Z-Buster). In addition, he’s got a new weapon this time around known as the Zero Knuckle. With this, you can literally rip an enemy’s weapon away from them as you land a killing blow. Now you can use their power against other foes! Only one weapon at a time can be carried this way, and some of them have limited ammunition. Iff you don’t like a weapon you’ve acquired, tapping the Select button will toss it. The upshot is that not everything you grab in this manner is necessarily a weapon; you can also get shields, key cards, and other items. Using them effectively is key!

The Cyber-Elves are also back, but with a change. This time around, you only get one Elf! Her name’s Croire, and fortunately, she can copy the abilities of other Elves. So even though you’ve only got one, it’s like having many at the same time. As you beat bosses, her level will increase, giving Zero access to more powerful effects. The effects really run the gamut here; you can increase your lifebar, power up your Z-Saber, run faster, increase your defense…and that’s just to name a few!

Last but not least…chips. In past games, you’d find chips scattered throughout levels. In MMZ4, though, you’ll literally be building them from scratch using your enemies’ remains. When you destroy an enemy, they’ll often drop parts. Give these to the Resistance engineer Cerveau, and he can build new chips for you. Chips can be equipped to Zero’s head, body, and feet, and enable all sorts of cool effects, such as double-jumping, extra shots, and speed.

The gameplay in MMZ4 may be similar to what has come before, but that doesn’t stop it from ranking very highly on the scale. The challenge, multiple options, and platforming action really make MMZ4 shine.

(Rating: 9/10)


REPLAYABILITY

Any mission you complete can be replayed in order to get extra items, weapons, and energy crystals (which you feed to Croire to level her up). Thankfully, you also have the option of of immediately teleporting out of any level you’ve previously beaten in case things get too rough. In addition, you can alter the weather conditions before you start any mission; while this may make it easier the first time you go through a stage, you may want to alter the weather the second time through. This can enable you to reach areas you couldn’t get to before. This means more parts, more options to make chips, more special items…plenty of reasons to keep playing!

(Rating: 7/10)


BALANCE

MMZ4 is not a garden-variety game. In other words, it’s not easy. Fans of the series know this, and love it, as do hardcore gamers in general. Newbies to the franchise may be put off by the difficulty level. MMZ4 isn’t frustratingly hard, but it’s not meant for the casual gamer.

(Rating: 5/10)


ORIGINALITY

Zero fights baddies, gets weapons and items, repeat process, blah blah blah. Seems like more of the same, and to a point, it is…but the changes that the developers have made push MMZ4 into new territory (like ditching all of your subweapons except for the classic saber and pistol). The use of the Zero Knuckle alone really adds a new dimension to the gameplay, and the aforementioned story elements make the tale even more engrossing.

(Rating: 6/10)


ADDICTIVENESS

There’s something to be said about being a glutton for punishment. If you like challenging games, then MMZ4 is right up your alley. If not, MMZ4 may annoy you. Still, considering MMZ4‘s target audience, the high replayability and intriguing story make MMZ4 a game that’s tough to put down. Even after getting trounced by a boss, you’ll still want to try just one more time.

(Rating: 7/10)


APPEAL

MMZ4 is targeted at the hardcore Mega Man fan, make no mistake. And since it’s a sequel, passerby may worry about the “4” in the title, since they may not have played the previous games (which is actually important, in this case; see “Miscellaneous,” below). This significantly narrows the appeal factor of MMZ4, but since the series is rather popular, it’s not enough to sink it.

(Rating: 6/10)


MISCELLANEOUS

If there’s anything that really holds MMZ4 back, is that you really need to play the series in order. So if you haven’t played MMZ1-3, then MMZ4 is likely not for you. The story running through the series is critically important. Plus, if you’ve never played the Mega Man X games, you’ll be even more lost! Still, MMZ as a whole is intended as a fanservice, and it succeeds as such. Gamers owe it to themselves to check it out, even if they do have to start from the beginning.

(Rating: 7/10)


Final Scores:

Story: 7/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 8/10
Control & Gameplay: 9/10
Replayability: 7/10
Balance: 5/10
Originality: 6/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal: 6/10
Miscellaneous: 7/10

Overall Score: 71/100
FINAL SCORE: 7.0 (GOOD!)