|Title||Mega Man Zero 4|
|Release Date||October 4, 2005|
|Age Rating||E (ESRB)|
SPOILER ALERT FOR MEGA MAN ZERO 3
Here we are, at the end of the series, staring down Mega Man Zero 4. It went by so quickly, didn’t it? We find ourselves, once again, facing the fallout of the previous game—this time with much more dire consequences. Defeating Copy X (again) allowed Dr. Weil to essentially take over the remains of human society—and he, too, escaped after the ending. That leaves him free to do whatever he wants, and even humans are no longer safe. It is a caravan of these humans, running away from his regime, that is the focus of the game’s plot.
As we’ve come to expect from this series, Zero makes his entrance by saving this group from a large swarm of enemies. His reception, however, is oddly negative. Neige, a former reporter who apparently holds some importance in the human refuge camp, explains that Zero’s role in accidentally helping Weil take over is common knowledge. Besides, since Weil’s forces are primarily Reploids, the runaway humans have a fear of them, including those that are most of the resistance members.
Even this heavy stuff won’t stop Zero from fighting at his full form, as usual. Surprisingly, though, only the Z Saber and Buster Shot make a return. There’s no sign of the (admittedly useless) Shield Boomerang or a new reincarnation of the old Rod weapons. Instead, you’ll only find the Zero Knuckle. This versatile weapon can rip enemies apart, sometimes taking their own weapons for your own use. There’s a variety of effects, though each is usually only useful for a few good pops before disappearing. The Knuckle itself can also rip away vines, and actually tears out the wiring of an early boss, leaving it almost defenseless.
If you thought that was different, check out the chip system. They have many of the same effects as the ones in Mega Man Zero 3, but instead of finding them, you build them. See, enemies often drop parts. You can then combine them however you’d like. Sure, most combinations result in junk, but you might get lucky and make something good. There are actually recipes for a few chips, but good ones involve more experimentation (or a guide).
It gets weirder, though: you only get one Cyber Elf. Now while you all gasp in horror, let me explain. As you give your Elf energy crystals, it levels up. Each level, you unlock abilities for each of the three original types: Nurse, Animal and Hacker. From each type you get to pick any of the abilities you’ve unlocked, meaning one of each can be active. Of course, the higher the combined level of all your Elf abilities (past a certain, increasing number), the bigger a penalty you’ll receive on your ranking.
Not that that’s as bad as it used to be. Remember how you needed a good rank to get EX Skills in Mega Man Zero 2 and 3? Well, now the system is totally different. This time, the availability of an EX Skill is dependent on… the weather. As silly as it sounds, you get the option to switch between two artificial weather conditions before each stage. One condition makes the stage easier, but hurts your rank and prevents you from getting the EX Skill at the end. For example, a desert is a lot more formidable when it’s sunny, whereas an area covered in spike traps gets de-clawed when they’re covered in snow.
If you’ve been having trouble with the series so far, I have good news for you. Mega Man Zero 4 actually has the option for an Easy Mode right off the bat, unlike the other games. Besides being slightly stronger, Zero starts with nine continues, two Subtanks and his Cyber Elf at Level 5 (though it can’t be upgraded any further). All stages automatically go to the easier weather setting, and even things like spikes and bottomless pits won’t kill you. While this does limit Zero slightly, it also means you don’t have to think about all the little aspects. You can just plow through the game.
Whichever route you take, it’ll lead you into… Area Zero. (Yeah, I know.) The resistance is using a mobile base this time around in order to be closer to this place, where the space colony Eurasia (Mega Man X5, anyone?) crashed in the past. Its environmental support systems apparently still work somehow, making Area Zero the only place left in the world that has real nature. The Einherjar—the eight main bosses of the game—are each playing a role in trying to destroy that nature, so that those who flee Neo Arcadia have nowhere to run.
So, Zero fights against Weil’s forces one last time, and, in doing so, unveils the last few truths behind this epic saga. To say the least about the plot here—for the first and only time in the Mega Man Zero series, there are really not any loose ends.
Since I’ve made a point to mention my favorite track in each of the other three games, I’d like to do the same here. This, time, though, it’s impossible to pick between two. First, the theme of Area Zero, which is varied upon often throughout the game. The mix that plays in one of the earliest stages, though, is the most brilliant. Later, in one of the normal levels, Zero enters the workings of a giant laser cannon. This adrenaline rush of a song pretty much tells you how that goes.
In summary, Mega Man Zero 4 is pretty removed from the other three games. Reinventing the Cyber Elf, offering all eight main stages in any order you choose, and even finding a way to have a plot that doesn’t involve the old Four Guardians (though they’re referenced). For the first time you can just completely forget that clunky old Shield Boomerang and have something useful. And there’s really nothing to collect in the levels, so it makes perfect sense to keep going on to new ones.
I have to say, that’s a good thing. Mega Man Zero 3 was great, but it was stretching the limits of a system that, from its start in Mega Man Zero, didn’t fully have its act together. All the details that held it back are gone, and the good ones are here to stay. So, in my opinion, Mega Man Zero 4 is the proud finale to a series that only got better as it went on.
Which is not to say you shouldn’t play the others. Because it’s still worth it to get the Mega Man Zero Collection, which gains another 4 or 5 hours of awesomeness by including this last title. What, did you think I wouldn’t mention it this time? If you do want the original cartridge, though, it seems to go for around $13.
Well, it’s been fun, but Mega May is about over now, and so is this series that, although great, sometimes feels just a little too short. Sure, there’s Mega Man ZX, but it’s truly not the same. These games simply could not be matched.
(P.S. If you’re still not convinced–make sure you check out the trailer below. It is truly awesome.)
Game was provided by the author.
Mega Man Zero 4 and the Mega Man Zero Collection are available on Amazon: