A Critical Look at Mega Man 4 Stages: Dr. Cossack Stage 1

mm4DrC1_01mm4DrC1_02 Cossack Stage 1 map and Music

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Mega Man starts this one waist-deep in snow. The snow decreases his walking speed, but won't affect sliding. We'll soon come to a series of platforms covered in ice, which does exactly what you'd expect it to by now.

The contrast between the two surfaces makes movement awkward, but the only thing we have to worry about here is Tom Boy. It moves like a slinky, and will stretch to a lower platform if it can or turn around if it's too low. The second and fourth images show its limit for this. They take and deal six damage, so despite appearing alone here they can badly injure a player who isn't expecting the ice or their toughness. Any weapon aside from Skull and Toad will be helpful against them.

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We've seen Roaders before, but now we have to deal with them on platforms above us. They enter their attack state as soon as we enter the screen, leaving only a small window for weapon attacks. The first gives us a choice of sliding to the other side at the right time and killing it before it sees us again, or luring it to the bottom. The second is more difficult, as we need to lure it to the side and get up the ladder quickly. However, Toad wipes out the room in one shot.

I like this screen, as it encourages the player learn how their pattern works and find a way around their invulnerability, or figure out their weapon weakness.

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I was pretty harsh on Skeleton Joe in Skull Man's stage, but this area uses them very well. They're paired with Up'N'Down, and stopping by the holes gives Joe some time to toss a bone out. Also, most are positioned to hit the player near a hole or while they're jumping over one. I particularly like the setup in the third screenshot. The bone follows an arc that would give the player trouble if they jump, but the next ledge is low enough that we can slide under the Up'N'Down instead. Rush Jet and Bright can trivialize this area, and there's a convenient energy refill toward the end.

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There always seems to be a few screens in the Wily stages devoted to making the player use Rush or Items. That's all well and good when it makes the player think about them a bit, or do something new. This is not one of those areas. Togehero always appears at the bottom (or top, if you're falling down) so he'll never pose a threat, and this area just wastes your energy if you fall from the next area.

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This is neat. Ladder Press climbs around and stops now and then to close, knocking Mega Man off. Climbing the first ladder leads brings us to the next, while giving us some refills and a peek at what we'll have to fight at the top. This would be a great opportunity to put something really imposing up there, but Jumbig just doesn't fill that role despite how much the designers seemed to want him to.

After climbing down, players will need to drop from the top of the second ladder and catch the third, timing it so that they don't hit Ladder Press in the process. Repeat once more to proceed.

Ladders have been in need of new ideas, and this is a good attempt at making them more interesting. It can be bypassed with Rush Jet or some well-placed Balloons, but the player still has to time them well to avoid being knocked down by the last press, and they'll miss out on one of the refills (the first can be grabbed from the first ladder before doing this).

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Mothraya hovers slowly across the room, and has three attacks. It can break a section of the floor, move downward to crush us, or shoot a slow projectile from the blinking light in the middle. That light is also the weak point, and Mothraya's slight up and down movement brings it out of our jump range at times. The small target works well for it as the extra time gives it a chance to break through the floor, and the holes will make dodging much more difficult. Ring deals four damage to it.

This is a solid start to the endgame stages. Aside from a couple of screens at the end, everything here presents a new challenge or old enemies rearranged in unique ways, and we get opportunities to use our weapon collection intelligently. The difficulty also hasn't taken a dive compared to the main stages as it did in the previous two games. The graphics also have a nice momentum to them, taking us from forest to city to a high tower in a relatively small space. Overall, I'd call this one a success.

As an aside, though it's obvious after looking at it for a moment that Ladder Press is just two pieces of metal with spikes in it, I've always seen its open state as two little block guys with the spikes as eyes and the parts attaching it to the ladder as feet, like so:

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I also see that Mothraya is supposed to be an insect form, with a distinct head and body and the spike as a tail, but it's always looked like a face to me with the tube in front as a nose, the side tubes as ears, the weak point as a mouth, and the spike as some crazy Egyptian-like chin decoration (Same here-- at least until I learned it's name. Funny what a difference that can make. --Ed.).

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Misinterpreted sprites are always a fun topic for me.