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Mega Man Battle Network (Game Boy Advance) artwork

Mega Man Battle Network (Game Boy Advance) review

"Megaman has been in everything. His first games were platformers, but he eventually got himself a fighting game, a 3-D adventure game, and a freaking soccer game. But that wasn't enough for Capcom! In 2001, they created Megaman Battle Network, adding ''RPG'' to the blue bomber's repertoire of genres. What's next, a card battler? (What? They already did that?) Regardless of how many games this guy is in, MMBN is a solid game with a few flaws, but that shouldn't deter an RPG fan look..."

Megaman has been in everything. His first games were platformers, but he eventually got himself a fighting game, a 3-D adventure game, and a freaking soccer game. But that wasn't enough for Capcom! In 2001, they created Megaman Battle Network, adding ''RPG'' to the blue bomber's repertoire of genres. What's next, a card battler? (What? They already did that?) Regardless of how many games this guy is in, MMBN is a solid game with a few flaws, but that shouldn't deter an RPG fan looking for something new.

The game takes place in a not-so-distant future, where mankind has entered a cyber age. In order to survive in this age, it is necessary for everyone to have a computer program called a NetNavi. These little guys are used for navigating the internet (and any device with a ''jack in port''), talking to other Navis, and defeating the many viruses you'll encounter throughout the game. One such Navi is MegaMan.exe, who is the Navi of local schoolboy Lan. Soon, Lan discovers that an evil organization called the WWW is creating viruses and generally screwing everyone over. Lan, being the typical heroic kid that he is, tries desperately to stop the WWW and restore peace to his hometown. The story is pretty goofy, and the characters (who have many tech puns like Mayl or Dex) have some very annoying dialogue. I really don't want to hear ''Nothin' beats bein' GUTS!!'' again, thank you very much. Like so many RPGs of yore, MMBN puts storylines aside and focuses on the great gameplay.

How does one describe Megaman Battle Network's gameplay? Think of the lovechild of Megaman and Pokemon, and put it on a chessboard. Even then, you still haven't accurately described Mega Man Battle Network. MMBN features two different worlds, each of which houses either Lan or Megaman. You control Lan in the real world and Megaman in the cyber world, but you can chat with whoever you're not controlling to get some general tips. The real world is filled with cheery locals, while the cyber world hosts some special power up programs. And viruses. Lots and lots of viruses.

Like most traditional RPGs, Megaman will encounter viruses randomly, although it's possible to fight other people's Navis in the real world. However, MMBN has a battle system that sets it apart from most RPGs and focuses the game on skill rather than strategy. When you enter a battle, you and the viruses you fight will be placed on a 3-by-6 grid, which is divided in half by two colors. You can only move on the squares matching the color of the square you were originally on, and vice versa for your enemies. When attacking, you have the choice of using your Mega Buster (your standard weapon) or any battle chips you have. Essentially, battle chips are the games magic spells: they can be used as weapons like cannons or swords, heal you, place or remove an obstacle, or even summon another Navi to do the dirty work for you. At the start of the fight, the game randomly chooses five battle chips from your “folder”, which can hold up to thirty of these babies. If two or more chips have the same name, you can use them in the same turn. Also, chips have a certain code, indicated by a letter at the bottom of the chip picture. You can use multiple chips of the same code (for example, a Steal A and an AquaSword A) in the same turn as well. Once your battle chip meter fills up, you can select more battle chips.

Battle chips are a must in MMBN, as your Mega Buster is ridiculously slow and crappy at the start of the game. Yes, you can power it up, raise your HP, and equip armor by purchasing these things in one of the internet shops, but most of the time you’ll be fighting enemies for chips or money to buy chips. There are 175 chips in all, and you can trade these chips with your friends. Sound like another Gameboy game? You know, the one where you gotta catch ‘em all? It should: MMBN takes an obvious cue from Pokemon’s success. However, chip collecting is not as tedious as animal catching, mostly because you don’t need to buy any Pokeballs or anything like that.

Unlike the Megaman platformers, Battle Network isn’t ridiculously hard. The fact that you regain full health after every single battle usually makes fighting many battles in a row a cinch. In addition, most enemies give visual clues to their next attack, which is often not too hard to dodge (unless it's a bomb attack). The battles become even easier with the help of Navi chips, chips that summon other Navis to assist you in battle. Most of the time, these Navis do an extremely high amount of damage, are unblockable, and have some other positive side effect such as healing HP or cracking all the enemy panels (so if an enemy moves off a panel, it will disappear).

Even so, the boss fights are amazing. Often will a boss summon basic enemies, which makes the battle all the more hectic. Attacks can hit almost all the tiles you can stand on, and the enemy has hundreds of hit points. Even your Navi chips may not work here: bosses will sometimes evade the most powerful of attacks. While some boss fights are hard and some are easy, they all are very fun to fight. Best of all, you can fight any of the optional bosses at any time.

Battles are pretty fun, but the game also has a lot of puzzles to solve using both Lan and Megaman. In the ''dungeons'' of the game, you'll constantly find yourself switching between Lan and Megaman to solve any particular puzzle. For example, Lan might have to shut down a generator that's creating too much electricity or powering up an electric-based boss. The problem is that these puzzles are tediously easy and (except for a certain puzzle requiring batteries, which is based solely on trial and error) don't take much brain power to solve. When in the cyber world, Megaman usually has to receive an item with your friendly neighborhood Spiderman--er, program, and take it to point X. Still, they do pad out the gameplay a bit.

Another problem is the random battles. It's not that there are too many, but that you'll have a hard time escaping from unnecessary fights. In order to run from a random battle, you'll need a special escape chip in your folder. But, most of the time, you don't want that chip in your folder because you'll need to remove one of your other precious chips to make room for it. If you're in a boss fight, would you want to have no options except a chip that doesn't work in the first place? It would have been much easier and less stressful if there was an ''escape'' button that you could hold down to run away.

Finally, MMBN is far too short for RPG standards. My very first playthrough lasted a mere 14 hours, and that's including the cutscenes and many of the optional bosses. Luckily, chip collecting helps lengthen the game's value, but once you beat the game you probably won't need them. Still, there are a few optional bosses and sidequests, but there aren't nearly enough.

On the other hand, MMBN is a pleasure to look at, and it's pretty obvious Capcom knew how to make some great-looking and decent-sounding GBA games right from the start. Character sprites look somewhat like a 3-D version of Chrono Trigger, and they show a lot of detail and color. While the backgrounds are a bit lacking (read: really dull and boring to look at), they do their job. Unfortunately, the game is presented on an isometric scale. This makes buildings and people somewhat harder to discern and also messes up the controls a little bit, but it's not a big deal. Battle graphics look even better: you can clearly see the GBA's power when flames, ice and lightning strike across the battlefield. It's a shame most of the best-looking attacks are some of the least useful, though. Still, the fighting characters are smartly designed: you'll see sleeker versions of Ice Man, Protoman, Roll and the Blue Bomber himself. Compared to the great gameplay and graphics, however, Megaman Battle Network's sound feels really weak. Most of the music consists of the futuristic techno themes we've seen in, oh, about every single Megaman game on the planet. That's not as much of a problem as is the actual quality of the music. A few tunes, such as the boss battle theme, are catchy. However, most of them are just annoying to the point of frustration. The sheer repetition of the town tunes and house themes are enough to make you either turn off your GBA or vomit in disgust. But fear not! At least the sound effects sound decent. Your Mega Buster makes a nice laser sound, and it's easy to tell that the special effects like fire, ice and lightning sound excellent.

Considering all these strong points, it's easy to say that Megaman Battle Network gives the Megaman series new life and does so very well. Some may be put off by the goofy storyline, but all other RPG fans will find an innovative, fast-paced and worthwhile adventure. Now, if it weren't for the fact that Capcom ruined the series by creating five sequels in four years (not including Battle Chip Challenge and Network Transmission), people would actually care. That’s the Capcom difference!

eoib's avatar
Community review by eoib (August 19, 2004)

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