The addition of Street Fighter moves saved him
You don’t have to read much of my work to know that I’m extremely interested in game preservation. Part of that involves keeping older hard copies of games alive, but another aspect is strictly historical. This 1997 unearthed interview regarding Mega Man X4 definitely ticks all of the right boxes.
Discovered by Shmuplations as part of the Sega Saturn Magazine, the interview speaks to various members of the X4 development team — Yoshinori Takenaka (producer), Koji Okohara (planner), Ikki Tazaki (designer) — to get to the heart of what makes X4 different from the pack, and why a fully playable Zero (who had only been a side character in the past) was given the green light.
Mega Man X4 exists as a sort of answer to a challenge, it seems, as “people wanted to try to do a Mega Man game on new hardware,” Takenaka muses. But they really wanted to hammer on the difference between X and Zero, so they decided to only give the latter his sword to start and take away any form of a charged ranged shot.. According to Takenaka, the “vast majority of developers” were against the decision because it would “make the game too difficult.” To allow Zero to be part of the game they “raised his attack power and added Street Fighter-style moves.”
The whole interview is worth a read if you played X4 in any fashion, including in the most recent X Legacy Collection — Zero’s hair is actually a completely different sprite, and Okohara came up with the head-canon explanation that X only likes to fight when necessary, so he throws away his upgrades at the end of each game. Okohara also claims that the development team parties so hard that he “once saw someone put a shaved ice dessert in their pocket.”
Mega Man X4 – 1997 Developer Interview [Shmuplations] Thanks Richard!