Megaman Battle Network - Review

All Your Base Are Belong To Us!

By: Zachary Lewis

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 4
   Music/Sound 6
   Originality 7
   Plot 2
   Localization 3
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Very Easy
   Time to Complete

5-15 hours


Title Screen

   Wherever games go, so invariably will Capcom. And, so too must their mascot follow them. Mega Man has seen a good number of incarnations, from platform to adventure, and now into the realm of RPGs. But, the little blue boy with the determination to thwart the forces of evil, when and where he comes across them, is sorely put to the test in his latest, greatest adventure; can the elements from so many various genres of gaming come together to form a cohesive whole? The answer is invariably, maybe.

   Megaman Battle Network, beyond being the first RPG the blue bomber has appeared in, is also the first fully color hand-held title in the saga. That, and considering that it's one of the first action RPGs on the GameBoy Advance, gives it a high leading edge over the majority of other titles graphically. Nigh on to every background and walkway is animated in some fashion, and - in line with the prior Mega Man decor - each level has a specific elemental property designed into all the maze-like areas, e.g. the frozen area has falling snow moving across the backdrop, the endangered power plant has flashing sparks of energy arching from place to place, etc. Capcom placed a lot of effort into making the characters interesting to behold, even if only fleetingly seen. Walking around the city or chatting with the local network programs can teach you a lot about what's next and gain you the opportunity to gain some powerful items, but it also shows you the surprisingly well detailed mug-shots for each character. Although the three-quarter overhead view of this mostly 2D game won't win the developer any awards for graphical creativity, what's there is very well done and pleasing to the eye.

It Would Seem Logical That The Chubby Kid Would Own Gutsman.EXE, ne?
It Would Seem Logical That The Chubby Kid Would Own Gutsman.EXE, ne? 

   Although the graphics are one of the largest pulls in the game, the battle system is also quite the thing to behold. The battle screen is composed of a 6x3 grid that you can move Megaman.EXE around to face the various virus opponents, dodge their attacks, or just waste time until your next turn comes around. The term 'turn' is very loose in Battle Network, in that Megaman.EXE can constantly fire his basic blaster, regardless of what his situation might be. Instead, it refers to the temporary pause you get the chance to use every so often, that allows you to select from your battle chip menu. Battle chips are items that can either be bought, found, or gained at the end of combat, and are much akin to magic or a kind of special attack system. For example, at the beginning of combat, 5 of the 30 battle chips in your main folder are randomly selected for you to choose from. You can either choose a chain of chips based on their alphabetical code, a group of chips of an identical type, or skip your current turn and choose from 10 in the next round, rather than 5. Obviously, with 175 different chips available in the course of the game, there are a pretty wide variety of effects available. Learning how to use new chips is very helpful, as it will let you defeat your enemies far more easily.

   Unfortunately, the games' significantly high marks end there. The music, although catchy at first, can get very monotonous after hearing the same 20 tracks throughout the entire game. Likewise, the sound effects are nothing spectacular, being little more than space fillers to make it seems as though the game has a larger amount of substance than it actually does. As if that weren't enough, the title of this review is a line taken directly from the game. When you combine that with the wide variety of off-the-wall capitalization, double-take sentences, and generally useless dialogue, the localization leaves much to be desired. Although it is passable, and makes the game easy enough to progress through, it can be highly irritating if you become lost, or forget what your next mission is, because the townsfolk and the L-button help can be very cryptic.

Tactical(?) Combat
Tactical(?) Combat 

   In much the same manner as both localization and music, the interface menu is nothing spectacular. It's a simple text based menu system, that you scroll your cursor through and select the desired objects. Unfortunately, the way that each object is labelled is far from obvious, and even a thorough reading of the guidebook, and attentive use of the opening 'practice mission' can leave you wondering what's where. Above and beyond the tangible side of Battle Network, areas such as replay and difficulty are affected in much the same manner as a sidescrolling game. With enough practice and a healthy heap of guessing, it would be a fairly easy matter to defeat the final boss with a single attack. For that reason, there is virtually no reason to replay the game, or give a second thought to the challenge, unless you simply can't help but collect every battle chip.

   And lastly, there's the games' plot. In the end, it boils down to the same thing all the Mega Man titles do; protect the world from the insidious Dr. Wily, and return peace where it has been disrupted. In much the same vein as Zelda, the plot serves as only a reason to play the game, not the wherewithal of the experience. And, though this could generally be attributed to a lack of creativity, some games are better off with a weak story and a well upheld tradition than an all out transition over the handle-bars.

   While Megaman Battle Network isn't the greatest action RPG ever made, it's Capcom's first attempt at mixing their mascot with RPGs. All-in-all, it turned out for the better, as long as you don't own a lot of NetNavi bases...

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