A Critical Look at Mega Man 4 Stages: Weapons & Items

Once again we've collected all the weapons and items the game has to offer, so let's try them out. Flash Stopper

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This is a much more powerful upgrade to Flash Man's weapon, allowing seven uses instead of draining the meter and giving Mega Man the ability to shoot while it's active. It's useful for just about anything, particularly the falling dirt in Drill Man's stage and the mini-bosses with protected weak points. The one downside is that, surprisingly, it does not work on stage gimmicks such as the pistons in Dust Man's stage or Ring Man's platforms. While this type of weapon is normally something to be used sparingly, one could easily freeze every dangerous enemy group in a given stage. Freezing Skeleton Joe also makes it possible to destroy him with three normal hits instead of a charge shot.

Rain Flush

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If that wasn't enough, Rain Flush also gets seven uses, damages or outright kills everything on the screen, and will even destroy Metalls, Battontons, and Pakatto 24 in their defending state. It's also useful against the hippo as it destroys the missiles as well as damaging him, though it takes six shots to kill it. The only downside is that there's a delay while Mega Man fires a missile into the sky. The missile itself does not interact with anything, and scrolling it offscreen by sliding will stop the rain from appearing.

Drill Bomb & Dust Crusher

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I lumped these together because there is very little difference between them, and not much worth showing off. Both fire forward, deal more damage than the Mega Buster to most enemies, explode on contact, and only one can be on screen at a time. Drill Bombs cause a small explosion and can be set off early, while Dust Crusher breaks into four pieces that fly outward at the diagonals. Neither effect is of much use in practice, though Drill Bombs can at least be set off early on a missed shot to get the next one out faster. Dust is the better option against Mummira, Sasoreenu, Mono Roader, and Gachappon, while Drill is a little stronger against Jumbig. All special weapons except the Flash Stopper and Skull Barrier can also destroy Garyoby, with these and the Ring Boomerang being the best for it.

Ring Boomerang

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Speaking of which, Ring Boomerang is another stronger and slower buster replacement, and returns to Mega Man after moving a short distance forward. It can hit through Shield Attacker and Skullmet, making the former much easier and letting us destroy one of the latter early for a tiny shortcut. Its short range isn't usually much of a drawback, as it reaches about 2/3 of the way to the edge of the screen when Mega Man is in the middle, and most enemies will be within that by the time the player fires at them. It's unremarkable aside from killing Shield Attackers and destroying the various 2HP enemies in the game with one shot. It also destroys multiple blocks in the moving piston section like a charge shot would.

Pharaoh Shot

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This one is impressive, both in usefulness and design. It can be fired in six directions, and while the normal shot isn't very strong, it can be charged into a large ball that hovers over Mega Man's head and deals roughly six damage. Any enemy that can be killed by it will die when touching the ball. Touching a larger enemy with it will deal damage while destroying the ball (using no weapon energy), but Mega Man can still fire the shot by releasing the button, getting two charge shots for the price of one. A charged shot only uses two energy, so it's both plentiful and helpful just about anywhere, particularly for enemies above Mega Man.

Dive Missile

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The Dive Missile homes in on enemies, but its path is awkward and the missile will often miss and have to loop around. This makes it unreliable when multiple moving targets are nearby, which is exactly what something like this should be helpful for. It's still a reasonable tactic against Taketento, but the only place it really stands out is against Mummira, which it kills in one shot.

Skull Barrier

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Skull Barrier is both awful and surprisingly helpful. Anything that touches it will destroy it and it can't be fired at enemies, making it look like the worst shield in the series at first glance. It does fulfill the usual role of shields by destroying incoming shots and small enemies, but that's all, and shots from Metalls go right through it for whatever reason. However, this game has a lot of areas where a small enemy can be a major hazard, and at only two energy per use, it can get the player through all of these easily. Its many situational uses overcome its drawbacks, making it one of the better weapons in practice.

Rush Jet/Marine

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This time, Rush Jet cannot be moved around at will, nor can it be used in water. Instead it constantly moves forward, though the player can direct it up or down and slow it by pressing back. Despite its downgrade, it can still skip nearly every major platforming challenge we've seen so far, so it's still a fantastic item to get. Rush Marine also gets a downgrade, being unable to jump out of the water, but it also gets much more water to be used in this time. It's not nearly as helpful as Rush Jet, but it can at least help the player navigate the spikes toward the end of Dive Man's stage.

Balloon/Wire Adapter

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These are the secret items we picked up in Pharaoh Man and Dive Man's stages, respectively. Balloon works just like Item 1 from Mega Man 2, while the Wire lets us grab the ceiling and pull ourselves up to it. Balloon can help us in a few areas where Rush Coil would be awkward, while Wire is... mostly useless. It's fun though, and can let us avoid a couple troublesome enemies. It can also deal damage equal to the buster, but there are very few practical applications for this.

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Though this mix feels less interesting than the previous games, it's not a bad one. Drill, Dust, and Ring are all helpful in a mundane sort of way and each has at least one thing it works best against. Dive also has its uses, while Pharaoh may be the best balance point we've seen yet for a weapon that's powerful but not terribly broken. Skull could have been terrible, but is saved by the game's design. Toad is strong but the delay means that it requires a little planning, as it can't save a player who's already about to get hit.

Bright is too strong in the right hands, but a player has to know where to use it and slide constantly to take full advantage of it, while the less experienced will likely move slower and get tripped up on enemies like Mets and Shield Attackers that still get in the way when not moving. It works well as a crutch (and reward, given Bright Man's difficulty) for new players. While the similarity between Drill, Ring, and Dust along with two full-screen attacks hurts the variety compared to previous games, the Pharaoh Shot, improved balance on Rush's forms, and lack of an outright worthless weapon make this selection a decent one. The secret items could have been better, but they're at least fun to mess with, and the Wily stages may yet offer them a chance to shine.