A major change for the main series is this new select screen. While there are still eight Robot Masters to fight, we can only access four of them until the first group is defeated.
Our introduction to the main stages is a smack in the face from Peterforth. What used to be a filler enemy is now an aggressive trap, coming into view as we make our first jump, and moving fast enough to hit us before we've completed it. It can also reach over a platform edge before turning around, and the ice makes it easy to get stuck in its range if we don't jump right away.
Shirokumachine GTV has a simple pattern of roaring at us, then throwing an ice block forward. This would fill the role of a standard large enemy, except this one takes a whopping 32 hits, putting it above even mini-boss territory. This also underscores a change to our charge shot from previous games, which now does only 2 damage, and would require 16 hits to kill this thing.
A neat oddity of the next room is that we can reach the upper platform by scrolling the screen at the top of our jump, which would be a fun way to skip something dangerous if the place wasn't empty. The next Shirokumachine trades danger for visual impressiveness, seemingly trapping us in the area below, but really just giving us a safe place to attack from.
True Shield Attacker is roughly the same as they've always been, taking four hits and moving back and forth over an area. Their use here is familiar, asking us to dodge around one, and slide under or kill the other. As the shield is a separate hit box, these also allow us to pull the trick of damaging them by firing a shot close enough for it to appear inside them.
Icicle Teck gives us the only major gimmick to the stage by dropping icicles that we can stand on. The floors here also fall apart once we've walked over them, initially giving us access to items, then appearing over a spike pit to catch players who hesitate at the next Teck. We can slide or simply run under these to avoid everything, which is a shame, since much could have been done with the timing of these over staggered terrain.
We only need to jump on the icicles twice, but this is a good use of it. This first will fall in the middle of the pit to show us how it works, and the next Teck has more room to move, so its up to us to trigger it where we want. We will also want to shoot it afterward to get it out of the way, without destroying the icicle, but it's possible to make the jump anyway if we do.
The following Shield Attackers offer no new challenges, but the second is very easy to slide into before we've seen it if we're following the first to the other side.
Rush Coil is back, giving us access to a small side area. Jumping up these collapsing platforms nets us a new collectible, but in a rather mean design decision, we only get one shot at it. Leaving and coming back won't reset the room, and we can't reach it with Rush alone.
Just a Sniper Joe 01 here. This one only takes four hits, fires a single slow shot, and jumps often to give us free hits, making it one of the easiest in the series.
Jumping across these platforms successfully gives us a new item we can try later, but let's take a closer look at that bottom path.
Spiral Gabyoall can be stunned for the same amount of time by a normal or charged shot, which is just long enough to hop over it and leave its platform. Look at what the game is asking us to do though. We need to stun it in the middle, land two jumps on either side of it, then land on another small platform guarded by a Driver Cannon, which alternates firing horizontally or diagonally, all on icy platforms.
Following that, we need to avoid another Gabyoall with reduced headroom, jump to another platform where the Gabyoall starts in our way, then fight another Driver Cannon while keeping the Gabyoall stunned, or make an awkward jump around it. As one last kick in the pants, if we go for the item above and miss the last jump, we're almost certain to fall in this pit.
This guy gains a new attack, roaring upward to summon falling icicles. He guards an Energy Tank, and can be skipped by jumping straight to the ladder. This ladder is just short enough to be tough to grab, possibly deliberate given the situation, but Rush Coil can get us out of here easily.
Our last new enemy is Bomb Sleigh. This thing is fast, and is almost certain to hit players the first time, since it appears just as we'd be trying to jump here. We have room to hide as it passes above, but it fires bombs backward that roll around and generally get in the way if we don't keep moving.
We can move under the second one and jump the last, or destroy them in three hits to make the bombs fly forward and out of our path.
For a game that split its bosses into two groups, this has some brutal moments. Petaforth, Bomb Sleigh, and in some cases the Shield Attackers move too quickly for the reduced visibility in this game, Shirokumachine GTV takes far too many hits, the Gabyoall segment is tougher than any use of them I can recall from the last few games, and it includes a collectible that we only have one chance to get.
Despite that, much of its enemy use is very simple. There are no interesting pairings aside from the Gabyoall/Cannon, just a series of enemies attacking us one at a time. The Icicle Teck is a good idea and was introduced well, but some of these enemies could have been dropped to run with that idea more. Also, the only use for our charge shot here is to destroy Driver Cannon, as Teck is the only other enemy that dies outright to it, but blasting it would destroy the icicles as well.