Rockman Zero 4 (Mega Man Zero 4)

Don't worry spikes won't kill you this time.


The Lowdown

Pros: Solid level design and a good incorporation of RPG elements with the cyber elf system.

Cons: Slight changes to the formula don't hide the fact that it's another Rockman title.

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Capcom's intelligent mix of Mega Man gameplay with RPG infused elements led to the birth of the Rockman Zero series. Staring Capcom's other robotic hero, Rockman Zero games are that reminds gamers of the good old SNES days. Continuing in it's fourth game Zero escapes the clutches of Dr. Vile in a caravan with his operator Ciel. The dream of Neo Arcadia is no more, the city once a utopia to humans is now in Dr. Vile's hands. His first mission, protect his caravan from Vile's attack.

Zero controls just like he did in past games. You can jump by pressing A, dash by pressing L and attack with your equipped weapon by pressing by B. Zero has three different weapons to choose from where two can be used at any time. To quickly switch between your main weapon and your secondary one, just hold R while pressing B. A smart control scheme that lets Zero snipe enemies from a distance with his gun and lets him shred enemies with his Z-Saber. The Z-Saber has a three hit combo and if you hold down the B button you can unleash a heavy blow. The gun is Zero's other main weapon, which can unleash a strong charge shot or up to three shots on screen.

If you've played any of the Mega Man Zero games you may be asking what happened to past weapons like the spear or shield? They're in the game, but you don't have direct access to them. New to Mega Man Zero 4 is the Z-Knuckle. This interesting weapon allows you to steal enemy attacks at will. If Zero uses the Z-Knuckle to dispatch a flame throwing plant he'll gain a powerful flame blast. Or if he happens to use it to kill one a shield bearing enemy he'll gain a deflector shield. The Z-Knuckle system is a great idea to add into gameplay. Levels are cleverly designed to reward gamers that intelligently pick up enemy weapons. In one area there are a bunch of aerial turrets, that can't be hit by the gun. An astute player can pick up a near by turret that can fire in an upward direction to easily clear the area. If you're not into playing the Z-Knuckle you can avoid the whole system, but it will make some areas more difficult.

To keep the game interesting and delineate it from other Mega Man titles there is a weather system implemented. Levels can be sunny, cloudy, rainy or snow filled. The weather conditions can have a significant impact on some areas. If there is large set of spikes to clear, take on that level when it's snowing so the snow covers the spikes. A rainy day may lead to slippery platforms, which could spell bottomless pit disasters. The weather system is a good idea to increase replay value and when used correctly you can find hidden secrets. The game's EX skills are probably the ultimate secret to obtain from the weather system. If you're not in the right element bosses won't use EX skills, which means Zero won't get them. So if you want Zero to wield an Ice Lance or stop time pay close attention to what the weather is.

While not unique, the chip system allows you to customize Zero's armor. Chips aren't just found, but created from enemy parts. Here's where a language barrier can come in for early importers. You'll need to select the correct parts (in katakana) to build chips for your armor. If you want to get all of the chips you'll have to do a lot of part searching. The benefit of the chip system is an enhanced Zero, but it is far from necessary to get chips to beat the game. A simpler to use and more critical system is upgrading your cyber elf. By feeding the glowing energy ball e-crystals you can enhance Zero's abilities in three areas. Power up nurse skills to increase Zero's HP or increase animal skills to have your elf shoot elemental shots. You can equip up to three different cyber elf skills to give Zero added power.

As a sprite based action game Rockman Zero 4 looks amazing. Levels look completely different in each weather system. No matter which system you're in the levels look great. Sunny levels have rays of sunshine, while cloudy levels wash the palette grey. The game is fairly well animated too. Zero has a bunch of fluid animations. Watching him slice things in half with the Z-saber looks pretty cool too, especially for a GBA title. Something that all Mega Man fans dread is slowdown. Rockman Zero 4 is fairly fluid, but bouts of slowdown can exist. If you have too many things firing shots slowdown occurs. It's rare, but still there.

Rockman Zero 4 can be beat in a couple of hours even if you're not a Mega Man expert. While the hour count is deceivingly low there are a bunch of mini games hidden inside. To unlock Wood Chopping you need to achieve the hard to get S-rank for all levels. Hammer Harvest requires gamers to complete the entire game in under an hour. Plus the weather system can lead to different experiences, making the game worth a couple of playthroughs. Rockman Zero 4 isn't going to score huge on the originality scale or alter anyone's mind about the state of Mega Man games. Yet, it's probably the best portable action oriented Mega Man title to date.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 3

Missing out on the story due to language issues isn't much to fret about. What can pose a problem is the item creation system. Knowledge of katakana or a really good FAQ is required if you want to synthesize new armor pieces.

US Bound?

While not announced by Capcom, it should be coming over to the US.

Overall

There are enough differences to delineate from being just another Mega Man game, but it still follows the same formula. If you're into the Mega Man series pick it up, Rockman Zero 4 exemplifies the GBA series.