Mega Man X4
|Mega Man X4|
English version cover art
Mega Man X4, originally released in Japan as Rockman X4 (ロックマンX4?), is a video game developed by Capcom. It is the fourth game in the Mega Man X series and the second game in the series to be released on the Sega Saturn and PlayStation. The two versions were released simultaneously in Japan on August 1, 1997. A North America release followed sometime thereafter, while Europe received only the PlayStation version on October 13, 1997.
Taking place in the 22nd century, the Mega Man X series is set in a society populated by humans and intelligent robots called "Reploids". A military taskforce called the "Maverick Hunters" is implemented to suppress the uprising of "Mavericks", Reploids that begin to exhibit dangerous and destructive behavior. Mega Man X4 follows two such hunters, Mega Man X and Zero, as they become involved in a conflict between the Hunters and a Reploid army called the "Repliforce". Mega Man X4 is an action-platform game in the same vein as other installments in the series. The player completes a set of eight stages in any order while fighting enemies, gaining power-ups, and winning the special weapon of each stage's boss. Unlike previous games in the series, Mega Man X4 allows the player to choose between the two protagonists at the beginning of the game: X, who uses traditional, long-range attacks; or Zero, who wields a short-range sword.
Critical reception for Mega Man X4 has been generally positive. Critics praised the ability to play as either X or Zero, a concept many found to expand upon the already tired gameplay formula of the Mega Man X sub-franchise. In addition to its console versions, the game was released on Windows worldwide in 1998 and 1999 and on Japanese mobile phones in 2011 and 2012. It was also included on the Mega Man X Collection, a compilation released in North America on the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube in 2006.
The plot for Mega Man X4 is presented by both fully animated full motion video (FMV) cutscenes and in-game text. The storyline differs slightly depending on whether the player chooses Mega Man X or Zero. Mega Man X4 takes place in an ambiguous year in the 22nd century (21XX), in which humans coexist with intelligent androids called "Reploids". Following the third defeat of the powerful, "Maverick" Reploid Sigma, A second Maverick Hunting group has arisen, The army, called the "Repliforce", is a strict military regime led by the giant Reploid named General and his second-in-command, Colonel. Some time later, behind the scenes, General has been meeting with a mysterious figure who plots the Hunters' demise, trying to convince General that the Hunters are dangerous, and would turn on him in an instant, and that his best course of action would be to destroy them. General dismisses the figure, unwilling to betray the Humans. Mayhem breaks out however, when the Sky Lagoon, a massive floating city, is sent crashing down onto the city below it, killing millions of civilians, humans and Reploids alike. The game begins here where either X or Zero is dispatched to investigate possible causes of the disaster only to become entangled in a struggle to save the world.
At the crash site, X and Zero encounter Colonel, and attempt to bring him back to base unarmed for investigation. Colonel denies Repliforce's involvement in the Sky Lagoon destruction, and refuses to disarm out of pride, retreating. The Repliforce thus begins a movement to claim independence from the Human government and create a nation for Reploids only. Back at Maverick Hunter headquarters, X is greeted by a rookie Hunter named Double, while Zero rendezvous with Colonel's kind-hearted sister Iris. Double and Iris outline the locations of eight Reploid leaders who have sworn their loyalty to Repliforce's coup. The two characters act as X and Zero's mission operators respectively. Once the eight Mavericks are beaten, X and Zero are sent to a space port where Colonel guards Repliforce's launch into outer space. Colonel dies after the battle, and the two protagonists infiltrate the Repliforce's space station, a weapon capable of destroying all human life on Earth. X must fight Double, who was acting as a double agent to gain information from the Hunters. Zero is forced to battle Iris, who is torn between the ideals of her brother and justice Zero attempts to uphold. Once Double, Iris, and General are defeated, Sigma reveals himself as the mastermind of creating the conflict between the Maverick Hunters and Repliforce and announces his intention to once again wipe out humanity. Additionally, in Zero's scenario, Sigma reminds Zero of the time that Sigma led the Maverick Hunters, and of a vicious battle between the two that ended with Sigma becoming the Maverick that he is today. In the end, Sigma is beaten, General sacrifices his body to destroy the space station, and X and Zero escape safely from the station and head off to Earth.
The final scene depends on who was used to complete the game. As X speeds away from the Final Weapon in a shuttle craft, he thinks back to the battles he had endured: a misunderstanding Colonel, Double's betrayal, and Sigma himself. Zero contacts X and tells him to come back to Earth to rest. X, with his thoughts weighing heavily on him, begs Zero to promise to take care of him, should he himself go Maverick. Zero hesitates, then tells him not to be ridiculous. In Zero's final scene, he is wrought with pain and guilt for being unable to save any of the Repliforce members, and laments the death of Iris. He then wonders to himself if all Reploid-kind is fated to become Mavericks in the end.
The gameplay in Mega Man X4 is similar to the previous installments of the Mega Man X series. The player is presented with a series of action-platforming stages that can be cleared in any order desired. In these stages, the player must avoid obstacles like falling debris and spikes, and destroy enemy robots to reach the end of the stages. The player character retains the capabilities from previous entries in the Mega Man X series like dashing and scaling walls. Some levels contain ridable vehicles such as hover bikes and armored-mecha. Each of the eight initial stages contains one Maverick boss, and defeating this boss gives the player a new ability. Every boss is weak to a particular ability, adding an element of strategy to the order in which the player completes the stages.
At the beginning of Mega Man X4, the player chooses to play through the game either as X or Zero. The two characters cannot be switched during a playthrough. Though both of them go through the same stages, they operate differently and are challenged differently from the terrain. X wields the "X-Buster", a plasma cannon on his arm that he uses to attack foes from a distance. It can be charged to fire stronger shots. A new weapon is given to the player with each boss defeated while playing as X. These weapons have limited ammunition, displayed by a meter next to one's health, both of which can be refilled by picking up power-ups dropped by destroyed enemies. In some stages, the player can find hidden capsules that contain armor upgrades that greatly enhance X's capabilities. Zero is more melee-oriented than X by using a "Z-Saber" sword. The Z-Saber's power and accuracy compensate for its lack of range; this offers the player a different form of challenge against bosses. Rather than acquiring weapons from the bosses, Zero learns special techniques such as the "Hienkyaku" air-dash and "Kuuenbu" double-jump. However, Zero cannot upgrade any of his body parts in this game.
The player character's maximum health can be extended by obtaining a "Heart Tank" in each of the eight stages. Two "Sub Tanks" can also be found, which can be filled with life energy and then be used to replenish the player's health at any time. Two new Tanks have been added: a "Weapon Tank (W-Tank)", which will fill up all of X's special weapons; and an "EX Tank", which increases the character's default lives from two to four whenever the player continues from a save point.
Development and release
Mega Man X4 was developed by Capcom. Instead of designing the game's various pieces of artwork as he had done in the past, Keiji Inafune focused his attention on being a producer. He was also involved in creating the game's storyline, a role he described as "only slightly less than it was for X1". Instead of presenting Repliforce as blatantly evil villains like Sigma, the writing staff decided to leave them some "moral leeway". They did not want the ideals of Repliforce and the Maverick Hunters to be so black-and-white. Inafune left his former design responsibilities up to other artists that had previously worked on the Mega Man X series. Artist Haruki Suetsugu did not design its characters as he would do for later games in the series, but was given drafts in order to draw illustrations for promotional purposes. Hitoshi Ariga was responsible for designing X's secret "Ultimate Armor" featured in both the game and as a Japanese Bandai action figure. He spent four days coming up with the initial blueprint, but was told by his supervisor to go back and try again. After tinkering with the Mega Man X3 armor parts, he noticed that attaching them in specific ways made it look like an airplane. Ariga recounted creating the armor as an extremely difficult yet fun task. He also revealed that Zero was intended to have his own Ultimate Armor, but the development team chose to not finalize it.
The FMV cutscenes in Mega Man X4 were produced by the studio Xebec. The game's musical score was composed by Toshihiko Horiyama. The score also features the opening theme Makenai Ai ga Kitto aru (負けない愛がきっとある?, lit. "Unbeatable Love I Surely Have") and the closing theme One More Chance, both sung by Yukie Nakama. All of the game's instrumental and vocal music was compiled on the Capcom Music Generation: Rockman X1 ~ X6 soundtrack released by Suleputer in 2003. The theme songs were also included on the Rockman Theme Song Collection, published by Suleputer in 2002.
Both console versions of Mega Man X4 were released in Japan on August 1, 1997. The cover art for the Japanese Saturn version depicts Zero standing alone in a dark setting. "Usually, not having the main character on the package would be unheard of," Inafune stated. "But we had a lot of hardcore fans on the Saturn, so I figured it would be all right." A "Special Limited Pack" edition of the game included the Ultimate Armor X action figure. The American localization of the Mega Man X4 PlayStation version was originally put on hold after Sony Computer Entertainment America denied Capcom permission to release it in the United States. However, after persistent talks with the company, Capcom finally convinced Sony to allow the game a release. According to a Capcom spokesperson, the reasoning behind the delay was that Mega Man X4 "had just gotten lost in Sony's back log of games waiting for approval". The PlayStation version was released on September 25, 1997, while the Saturn version came out in the early part of the following week. Customers who preordered either version of the game through Capcom's online store were given a Mega Man X4-themed t-shirt.
Reception and legacy
Reviews for the PlayStation and Saturn console versions of Mega Man X4 have been generally positive. Critics praised the added option to play through the game as either X or Zero, noting that the drastic differences in the way the characters played the same levels added to the game's replay value. However, the same critics concurred that Mega Man X4's 2D side-scrolling gameplay was tired and overdone well before the game was released. GameSpot concluded that "All in all, a few more 3D effects would have been nice, but the decision to stick with a true 2D environment is bold, if somewhat outmoded. Aesthetically, Mega Man X4 is a sizeable improvement over its predecessors, but you must remember that it's only a side scroller." Electronic Gaming Monthly listed the game at number 78 on its "100 Best Games of All Time" in the 100th issue of the magazine in 1997.
The Windows version of the game was met with much lower review scores. Tom Price of Computer Gaming World felt appeal of the game itself is limited to Mega Man and platformer fans, who likely already own the console version of Mega Man X4. Computer Games Magazine summarized, "It's simple. If you're a Mega Man fanatic you'll love this game. If you're not, you won't. Yes, Mega Man X4 is better than Mega Man X3, but that's like saying Beach Babes from Beyond is a better movie than Redneck Zombies: it's all drek anyway, so why bother?"
Capcom expressed satisfaction with the commercial performance of Mega Man X4, which it attributed to the company's marketing campaign for the franchise's 10th anniversary. According to Famitsu sales information, the PlayStation version of the game sold 197,385 copies in Japan alone in 1997, making it the 61st best-selling game in the region for that year. In 2002, Capcom re-released the PlayStation version of the game as part of the North American Greatest Hits range, confirming that it had sold at least 350,000 units. Mega Man X4 has also been re-released in multiple budget versions in Japan including PlayStation the Best, PSone Books, and Sega Saturn Collection.
Despite derision for retaining the same gameplay formula that the Mega Man franchise had been using for a full decade, Capcom continued to use 2D side-scrolling for another two installments of the series, Mega Man X5 and Mega Man X6. These three games, as well as the three installments that precede them, were included on the North American Mega Man X Collection for the Nintendo GameCube and PlayStation 2 in 2006. A mobile edition of Mega Man X4 for au and DoCoMo customers was made available for purchase in Japan. A version featuring X as a playable character was released on December 25, 2011; a version with Zero on January 1, 2012.
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