"To get employed at Capcom, apparently one thing you have to be able to do is reinvent the Mega Man franchise at a moment’s notice. While most of the different series in that robotic world were based around an action/platforming style of play, the Game Boy Advance got something a bit different. "
To get employed at Capcom, apparently one thing you have to be able to do is reinvent the Mega Man franchise at a moment’s notice. While most of the different series in that robotic world were based around an action/platforming style of play, the Game Boy Advance got something a bit different.
Mega Man Battle Network uses all the traditional Mega Man characters, but in the completely different setting of a role-playing game. A number of elementary school students (of which you’re one) spend their time learning how to fight viruses. Lan (that’s you) and his friends take control of devices called Navis, send them into afflicted machines and wage battle with the devious little critters infesting the device. Lan’s Navi is (drum roll, please) Mega Man!
At first, things are nice and peaceful, with Mega Man’s toughest opposition being Guts Man, the Navi of oafish classmate Dex. But, since this is an RPG, you can bet someone will be up to no good. And, sure enough, things start to go wrong. In Lan’s house, a repairman sabotages the family oven. The school computers start to malfunction. A neighboring town’s traffic lights go haywire, creating chaos. The culprit is (another drum roll, please) Dr. Wily.
In this world, Wily’s not a mad scientist looking to conquer the world -- he’s a mad scientist with computer skills looking to create a virus so powerful it will destroy the world. He and his henchmen (not-so-creatively named the “WWW” group) skulk around town looking for ways to create havoc. Which is where Lan, Mega Man and friends come into play.
In the overworld (which consists of a couple of towns and a number of buildings), Lan gets the oh-so-appealing job of walking around and talking to people. Mega Man, on the other hand, gets to have all the fun. By approaching any computerized gizmo, Lan can jack Mega Man into the device for some good old-fashioned virus busting.
Most of these battles use the standard RPG random battle system, although the fights are a lot more “hands-on” than most games bother to give the player. Mega Man appears on a three-by-three grid, while his opponents pop up on a bordering grid. You’ll get to freely move around your grid, dodging attacks while spraying foes with bullets from your basic gun, making the fights much more action-oriented than the average role-player.
That blaster attack won’t cause too much damage, though. To really put a hurting on enemies, you have to use chips on them. These chips, which can be bought, traded for, found or won in battle, give you special offensive, support or defensive abilities that can make any battle a lot easier to win. When fighting a tough boss, being able to heal a couple hundred hit points can be a godsend -- as can the ability to unleash an attack powerful enough to decimate their life bar in a hurry.
And, you’ll want to kill everything quickly. Mega Man Battle Network keeps track of how quickly you win and how much damage you take in doing so and gives you a ranking for every single fight. Do poorly in a battle and you’ll get stuck with a piddly amount of money. However, a quick, efficient victory can give you a useful chip as a reward.
While you apparently can hold an infinite amount of these chips, you only may have 30 in your active folder at any time. For every turn you take in battle, five chips are randomly selected of that group. After picking which ones you want to use, keeping in mind certain in-game rules (you only can pick chips of the same type OR with the same letter coded onto them), you start battle. After a bar on the top of the screen fills up, you may go back to the chip selection screen to pick again for the next turn.
So, it quickly becomes obvious that your primary objective should be to get as many powerful chips into your inventory as possible. Fortunately, the game has a number of little “mini-dungeons” designed just for that purpose. While jacking into Lan’s doghouse or a soda machine won’t advance the plot, doing so is a great way to bide time, find a couple of items and possibly get some chips from fallen viruses.
But, unfortunately, too much of this game seems to revolve solely around the battling and chip collection systems, which takes the focus away from your actual quest objective at times. Don’t get me wrong, your actual quest to stop Dr. Wily is quite fun -- I just wish there was more to it.
You have to clear a mere five storyline dungeons before getting access to Wily’s lair, which is nothing more than a sequence of small dungeons using the theme of those original five. To supplement that, you can bust viruses on the internet, which is a huge 16-region dungeon. You have to make a couple of trips here to access various parts of the plot, but for the most part, this is just another place to go in order to gain chips and money -- a soda machine on an infinitely larger scale.
The problem with the game’s shortness is that it’s not likely you’ll be able to do EVERYTHING in this game without spending hours just running in circles fighting random battles. In beating the game, I finished with just over half of the game’s total of more than 150 different chips. By collecting virtually all these chips, you can access a couple of extra features after beating the game -- something that will be forever beyond my grasp unless I feel like dedicating another 20 hours or so to either efficiently beating every monster in every region AND collecting enough money (a tedious process in itself) to buy many of these high-priced items from various merchants scattered through the game.
While I understand that earning extras like this should be an achievement, as opposed to a given, I just think the gap between “beating” the game and truly “conquering” it may be too big. To make matters worse, it didn’t take me long to decide that wandering around the internet regions randomly in search of money and chips was B-O-R-I-N-G. While this game’s battles are involving and fun, constantly going from one to the next with no objective in mind other than attempting to earn a new chip or gain enough money to upgrade Mega Man’s hit points or blaster power got old fast. It also isn’t always a thrill to control Lan when he steps back from whatever computer he just dumped Mega Man into. For the most part, your human protagonist gets to partake in such fun actions as walking around looking for a specific person as part of a fetch quest -- which is enough to make you want to fight another 100 battles for chips and money.
But I honestly can’t condemn Mega Man Battle Network for these flaws. By flashing back to my experiences with the original NES series of Mega Man action games, I recall thinking the first game in that series had its fair share of flaws -- but playing it didn’t quench my desire to sample its sequels. And I feel the same way about MMBN. It probably needed to either have a couple more storyline dungeons or (at the very least) reduce the cost of chips to make it easier to nab some of those hard-to-find ones. But when I’d finished off the main quest, I was already looking forward to seeing if Capcom addressed those issues in Mega Man Battle Network 2. This game simply had so much promise that its flaws only enhanced my desire to continue playing the series to see how good things could be with some tinkering.
Community review by overdrive (February 10, 2005)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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