Now that we have the last four weapons,lets see how they compare to our current inventory.
The Slash Claw is our best standard attack from this group, hitting hard and fast. It can take out most small enemies instantly, does decent damage to larger ones, and hits through Shield Attackers. Like Slash Man himself, it has surprisingly good reach for a melee weapon. This competes well with Thunder Bolt as our go-to Mega Buster replacement.
Like Shade Man, we have to bounce Noise Crush off the wall and catch it to charge it up. This can be done quickly, and it can serve well as a faster Thunder Bolt. Firing rapidly also destroys Stegorus faster than most weapons, and having that option gives it a nice edge over Bolt.
Truck Joe is particularly vulnerable to this, stopping and shaking his head for a bit when hit. Four shots is enough to take him out, or two if we use the wall against the second one. It's decent against Sisi Truck too, as we can bounce it off the part in front of us and shoot through to the eyes with the charged version.
I... honestly can't find a use for Wild Coil. It can be thrown over a Joe's shield, and bounces along the ground to hit lower enemies. Charging it produces a stronger spring with a higher bounce, but anything we'd want to attack with it is more easily handled with something else.
It works well against flying enemies surrounding us since it can also hit backward, but Junk Shield completely overshadows it for that purpose.
Similarly, Scorch Wheel is already overshadowed by the first group when we pick it up. It can take out some enemies in one shot, but since Mega Man creates it around himself before throwing it, it's slow to fire. At least here we have a stage use for it, as it can light the candles on the lower path of Shade Man's stage to brighten the room for a limited time.
Forcing us to play four of the stages first could have led to giving us better weapons in the second half to make players feel like they were getting stronger. Unfortunately, the opposite happened here. Slash Claw and Noise Crush are both a little better than Thunder Bolt in some situations, but Flame Wheel and Wild Coil are comparatively useless against most enemies, and Junk Shield overshadows everything as strongly as the Metal Blade did in Mega Man 2.
We also have a new set of hidden items to find.
Scorch Wheel can also destroy the trees here per Proto Man's advice, leading to a room with Beat caught in a cage. Breaking this with a charged shot gives us four Beat Whistles and makes them available in the shop. With these, Beat will pick Mega Man up after falling in a pit at the cost of one whistle. We can move around freely for a time, giving us a chance to pick a safe spot to land.
Rush has new items to find, the Hyper Rocket Buster and the Energy Balancer. The former allows the Super Adapter's charged punch to travel farther and home in on enemies, while the latter works the same as in Mega Man 6, automatically filling any weapon that's low when we pick up an energy refill that our current weapon doesn't need.
There's also a few large bolts scattered around, as well as a huge energy refill. This is the only one I'm aware of, and this is an odd place to put it, given that there are a lot of other stages where a full refill would be more useful near the halfway point.
By turning the box to face this odd wall section, we can break through it to find Auto's bolt. This allows him to make items at half price, and lets us buy any of the upgrades we didn't find. The S capsule is also new. We can only carry one, and it refills everything we have.
After finding Proto Man in the two spots he was hiding earlier, we're given a chance to fight him by walking through the wall to the right just below the pumpkin in Shade Man's stage. Proto Man performs his usual jump and shoot pattern, but adds a variety of new tricks. He finishes his jumps with a spread of bullets, can fire three in a row from the ground, and occasionally dashes across the room.
He'll also stop to charge a huge shot, giving us a chance to charge our own. Hitting him with a charged shot forces him to follow with a dash, then with three shots or a charge, making it easy to lock him into a manageable pattern. With no particular weapon weakness, this is our best option for taking him out. After defeat, he gives up his Proto Shield.
Equipping this is situationally useful, but has some serious drawbacks. We can block projectiles when standing still, but taking any action moves the shield, making it useless against half the enemies we might want it for. Shooting on the ground also has a slightly different animation that keeps us from moving for a frame or two while firing. We'll have to see how well this helps us in the rest of the game, as blocking King Gojulus's fire is the only particularly good use for it I've found in this set of stages.
Lastly, I need to cover a couple weapon uses I missed earlier. These flames in Turbo Man's stage can be frozen, though unless you're a speedrunner with a specific plan in mind, this will only throw off the pattern and make them even more difficult to avoid.
There's also a neat shortcut in Junk Man's stage. After activating the magnets, we can ride a piece of junk up through the ceiling here and walk across the top, Super Mario Bros.-style. This leads out at a visibly broken piece of the ceiling in the next room.