This review was originally published on 12.30.01; it was republished on 09.21.17.
Publisher: Capcom | Developer: Capcom
Genre: Tactical RPG | Players: 1-2 (with link cable)
Mega Man Battle Network offers a different style of gameplay than what fans of the Blue Bomber have come to expect. This may leave some miffed and others intrigued, but when viewed as a standalone title, it’s a fun and entertaining adventure that benefits from brand recognition.
- A futuristic cyber-adventure starring Mega Man
- Over 175 valuable Battle Chips to collect
- Link Cable support for battling or trading with friends
- Battles, battles, battles!
Mega Man Battle Network (hereafter written as MMBN) takes place in a future where the Internet has become a part of everyday life. Nearly everyone owns a Personal Exploration Terminal (PET), which is akin to an interactive web browser on steroids. These palm-sized gadgets primarily surf the net, but they can also receive email and converse intelligently with their owners.
Each PET has an executable program used to battle against online viruses with the aid of Battle Chips. In MMBN, you control a 5th grader named Lan and his PET Mega Man.EXE in an adventure to thwart the schemes of a nation-wide virus group. Named WWW, the group is bent on domination of the Internet, and eventually, the world.
The graphical style can be described as fresh, crisp, and clear. MMBN uses an isometric viewpoint that resembles a world built from Lego blocks. As for the characters and surroundings, the graphics present an environment that feels like a breath of fresh air compared to the likes of Pokémon. Characters are well animated and drawn with an art style that Americanizes traditional Japanese anime. A few portions of the overworld do lack detail, but everything is nicely done overall.
MMBN doesn’t strive to be more than average in the sound department. The opening theme is a highlight, however, and it expresses a cool, mechanical battle feel. Music in the virtual and real worlds is generic and repetitive, but I doubt you will ever loathe it. My one exception to that is the imminent danger theme. It changes too drastically and repeats to the point of annoyance, so I was inclined to turn off the sound temporarily. Nothing is truly bad, and sound effects get the job done. I simply found the audio experience to be a little underwhelming.
When you are not battling viruses, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the real world, walking or rollerblading to each destination. As Lan, your home is near the center of a nice little neighborhood, and your school is at the edge of the city. The D-pad makes Lan move in eight directions, and holding B makes him skate faster… his rollerblades are ever-present. Pressing L will allow you to converse with Mega Man, and sometimes he provides suggestions for where to go or what to do. The R button connects Mega Man to various electronic devices, such as TVs, ovens, computers, toys, etc.
The pause button isn’t used, but Start pulls up your menu for trading, viewing, organizing chips, and saving your progress. Moving Mega Man is a breeze; his control is tight and responsive. Due to the isometric perspective, however, it’s possible for Lan to get stuck when navigating around static foreground objects. At one point in the subway, I moved behind two police officers and became stuck in the gate. It was frustrating, but after madly bashing the controls, I escaped. This thankfully didn’t happen anywhere else.
Gameplay is where MMBN shines. Traversing the overworld is relatively uneventful and borders on dull, so the frequent battle sequences help to punch up the pace. Battles in the virtual world occur at random intervals as Mega Man wanders the environments. They take place on an 18-panel grid that serves as your playing field. Nine of those panels are yours, and you can move up, down, left, and right. Your primary attack comes from the blaster cannon on Mega Man’s arm, which does greater damage if you hold and charge it. Additional attacks are performed by using Battle Chips. These can be found, given as a gift, or awarded.
All your chips are kept in your Sack, and a total of 30 can be held in your Folder. When the battle screen pops up, five randomly chosen chips from the Folder will be available for use. Chips are categorized by type, and while you may only select one type per round, you can select multiples of the same type. If you don’t like the chips being offered, you can decline them for a turn, then choose from another five that are offered.
Some chips have elemental attributes, whether fire, water, or wood (earth). If you know your enemy’s weakness, you can use the corresponding chip to deliver a more powerful attack. After attacking, you have to wait for your power meter to recharge; once that’s done, hitting L or R brings up the selection screen. You can upgrade Mega Man’s stats in the following categories: Armor, Attack, Rapid, and Charge.
Reading the instruction manual, I felt a tad overwhelmed, but you get many opportunities to practice—it’s a lot easier than it sounds. Most importantly, however, it’s fun! The combination of strategy with real-time action feels rewarding. Considering how frequent battles are, this is a really good thing.
Battling is addictive, and the story is thankfully not just an afterthought, but I doubt gamers will play through everything a second time. On a positive note, Link Cable support is included for battling your friends or trading chips. The game boasts over 175 chips, which may prove alluring for the most dedicated virus busters. In my experience, the tactical RPG gameplay is such that one solid play-though will be enough.
While it’s not Mega Man as most people know it, MMBN is an entertaining adventure with an enjoyable battle system. Nothing will blow you away, but the graphics are competent and controls are solid. It’s got a nice story and all the smaller pieces form a satisfying whole; all in all, it’s an above-average game that only lacks a few memorable tunes.