Also available on 3DS via Virtual Console
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 07/26/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Mega Man III was definitely a disappointment after the two pretty decent previous Game Boy games, but fortunately, Mega Man IV more than makes up for that. Not only does IV fix the problems of III, but it honestly goes above what Dr. Wily’s Revenge and II managed to do; it’s definitely the best of the Game Boy entries yet.
Like the Game Boy games before it, Mega Man IV uses bosses and themes from the NES games – Mega Man 4 and Mega Man 5 this time – but it’s not just a carbon copy. The bosses and themes may be the same, but the levels are actually pretty different. It’s more accurate to say that these stages are inspired by NES levels rather than based on NES levels. I’m pretty sure some of these levels are actually longer than their NES counterparts – an odd choice for a handheld game but one that is not at all unwelcome given how well polished this game is. There are also a number of secrets to find here. For one, Proto Man makes an easy-to-miss cameo here. There’s also a hidden Mega Buster upgrade that Dr. Light gives you after you fail a stage a certain number of times.
The whole game is a massive elevation in quality from the previous three. Gone is the total BS feel that some of Mega Man III’s stages had. Pretty much every stage here feels fair, and there were only a couple of parts that I found myself getting particularly frustrated with. This game is challenging, not merciless; that’s an important distinction that the transition from Mega Man III to Mega Man IV really drives home. You can collect chips in the levels that act as currency that you can then spend in Dr. Light’s shop to do things like recharge your weapons or buy items. If you collect the four BEAT letters in the first four Robot Masters’ stages, you can unlock Mega Man’s pet bird, Beat, who acts as a really powerful weapon. The Mega Man Killer in this game, Ballade, is also probably the coolest one yet and drops a great weapon.
The game isn’t perfect – the large sprites still make it tougher than it needs to be, and there’s still some significant slowdown in places – but literally everything about this game is an improvement over the three previous Game Boy entries, and I honestly feel like it’s a better game than a couple of the NES entries, although there’s definitely some room for good debate on that point. Regardless, this is the first Mega Man game on Game Boy that I think is legitimately “great” rather than just “pretty good” or “good for Game Boy.” Na, this game is just plain good, no qualifier needed.