My opinion on the Zero games have been somewhat contrarian. Zero 1 was my second favorite game in the Zero series, 2 was a (somewhat small) step back for me, and 3 is the only one in which I hold the majority opinion, in that it's the best Mega Man game. From what I can gather, I'm in the minority when I say that Zero 4 is the absolute worst of the Zero games. There's just so much wrong with Zero 4. Just, good god. This game is the definition of “If it isn't broken, don't fix it”, and its new and reworked mechanics leaves me frustrated, longing for the mechanics from Zero 3. First off, probably the least offensive change here. The Cyber Elves from Zero 3 are now just one Cyber Elf, and you level it up, which allows you to choose different cyber elves (although you get one at a time). As someone who barely used the cyber elves in all of the Zero games, due to ranking requirements (which I'll get to later with this game), this personally didn't phase me too much. It wasn't a big hassle to get used to, and I actually found it a little easier to follow than the Satellite Elves from Zero 3. Not to say that I necessarily prefer Zero 4’s system, but this is one of the few somewhat positive changes I found to Zero 4. Almost everything from here on out is downhill. Zero 4 introduces the crafting system, and is how you get your body parts in this game. By defeating enemies, you get a random part from them, which is used in the crafting. However, there's almost no indication on how to craft anything of use. 99% of the time, you'll just get a junk part, so I said “Fuck it” and went to the StrategyWiki. Just do this, it'll make your life so much easier. What Zero 4 also changed is how you get access to the elements, and on paper it's not a terrible idea. Zero 4 gives you 8 bosses to select at the start, so it wouldn't make sense to just have 3 randomly placed elements out of the 8 bosses. But at the same time, the way you use the elements is so impractical. The elements are now infused with the EX skills, which isn’t a great idea because the EX skills were to simply add to your overall moveset and combat capabilities, and relying on them for weaknesses is just a really, really terrible idea. Mega Man Zero 2 and 3 NEVER forced you to go for the EX skills if you didn’t want to, or couldn’t. You still had the charged Buster and Saber shots if you needed to use an element. Zero 4 however, essentially requires you to get it if you want to be taking down these bosses, lest it takes decades just to kill a single fucking boss. And somehow, someway, it gets even worse. First off, how you get the skills is dumb to begin with. One of the silliest gameplay mechanics I've seen in gaming is the FUCKING WEATHER SYSTEM. I AM NOT SHITTING YOU, the fucking Weather of a stage impacts if you can even go through the weakness chain to begin with. Each stage has 2 weather settings, one in which the weather is favorable, the other is better for the enemy. You have to play on the unfavorable stage to get the skill, but that’s not all. The weather changes the stage itself too. It's not just cosmetic. And 99% of the time, the level is just designed to piss you off. Doing an all EX Skills is a fucking nightmare and a half for this game. You’re practically forced into it either way, so I ended up suffering and doing every mission with unfavorable weather. It sucked, needless to say. It’s just so perplexing on why they chose weather of all things. I could imagine some people going in blind and finding an inconsistent difficulty curve thanks to the randomized weather. The weather system also means that your rank is essentially useless now, and lowers the skill ceiling from literally every other Zero game. A replacement wouldn’t been nice, but oh well. That also brings me to the stage design, which is absolutely garbage. I don’t know if the original level designers were affiliated with Zero 4 at all, but this is more irritating than fucking Mega Man 1. Compounded with the level design issues of the weather system, is the lact of a solid third weapon. For context, Zero 1 had the Triple Rod, which was a great addition to the combat. Zero 2 had the Chain Rod, a decently useful platforming that was a little bit finicky to use. Zero 3 had the Recoil Rod, which took the best parts of the Triple Rod and Chain Rod, being a great addition to combat and exploration. Zero 4 attempts to continue this tradition with the Zero Knuckle, rest in peace Shield Boomerang, which fails at both the things that the Recoil Rod exceeds at. It’s almost entirely optional, too. I only used it a grand total of two times in my entire playthrough; once to get an actually well hidden subtank, and once in the final set of levels. And it sucks in combat, as it allows you to steal the weapons of other enemies, but it’s pathetic. It does pitiful damage, and overall you’re just better off sticking with the Ol’ Reliable, the Z Saber and Buster combo. Back on the topic of level design, Zero 4’s levels are filled with gimmicks that don’t even enhance the quality of the stage, once again just to piss you off. The sun overheating you, dealing almost half your health bar? Sure! Insta-kill crushing blocks that are near pixel perfect to dodge over and over again? Why not? Long strands of vines which block your path that constantly respawn? Goddamn, they’re pulling out all the stops with this game! The level design in Zero 4 is a major downgrade from any Zero game preceding it, and it’s actually infuriating how hard this game drops the ball when it shouldn’t. Zero 3 was nearly PERFECT in gameplay, with few falters in game balance and challenge. Zero 4 just feels like scrapped mechanics from Zero 3, and I really want to love this game. I’ve loved (or at least respect) all of the games in the Zero series, but Zero 4 just doesn’t do anything right to be worth a playthrough. Zero 4 is a disappointing conclusion to the Red Bomber’s legacy, with poorly thought out mechanics holding it back constantly, and poor level design to boot. I would’ve personally suggested skipping it, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s the conclusion to Zero’s saga, so idk. Do whatever you want. I got all of the Steam achievements, and I will never touch Zero 4 for the foreseeable future. Have a good night.