== Nixon Computer ==

GAME CLEAR No. 167 -- Mega Man Battle Network

video games game clear mega man battle network capcom nintendo gba switch

Mega Man Battle Network (2001, Game Boy Advance)

Developer: Capcom Production Studio 2
Publisher: Capcom
Clear Version: Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection release (2023, Multiplatform)
Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection Developer: Capcom, NeoBards Entertainment
Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection Publisher: Capcom
Clear Platform: Switch
Clear Date: 4/9/24


Why should I care?
Although the debut of this spinoff series suffers from some questionable dungeon design, its exciting battle system elevates the experience – and it has seldom been replicated.

Bustin’ makes me feel good

For reasons I can’t really explain, I’ve always had a slight aversion to the Mega Man spinoffs. I adore the classic series and have played through and loved all of Mega Man 1-11, but the only spinoff I’ve managed to get through is the first Mega Man X. I even really enjoyed that game! But for whatever reason, I haven’t found myself called back to the X series.

A good friend of mine loves the Battle Network games, though, so when Capcom announced the Legacy Collection, I decided to give another spinoff a try. But a tactical RPG deckbuilding game? It seemed like a longshot that I’d like it. Nevertheless, I was determined to try.

So glad I did. Mega Man Battle Network owns. Or perhaps I should say “pwns.” It’s one of the most Y2K products I’ve ever seen. You play as a boy named Lan who, like seemingly everyone, spends most of his time thinking about the Net and NetBattling and things of that nature. See, Lan and his peers all carry around Personal Information Terminals (PETs), which they can use to “jack in” (lol) to various Net-connected electronic devices. They interact with the physical cyberspace therein by way of NetNavis contained in their PETs. Lan’s, of course, is MegaMan.EXE (usually just called MegaMan).

It may not surprise you to hear that Lan and MegaMan quickly butt heads with a guy named Wily, who runs an organization called WWW (World Three). He’s trying to take over the Net, and we can’t have that! When one of his lackeys locks down Lan’s school to begin a re-education program, Lan jumps into action and jacks into the school’s network to put a stop to the madness.

This is where the dungeon crawling takes place. Each network in the game is physically represented as a themed labyrinth that MegaMan must traverse to delete viruses (random encounters) and find and beat the NetNavi controlled by the bad guy that’s causing all the chaos. Along the way, he may encounter trouble that must then be attended to by Lan, who can physically manipulate network devices in the real world. It’s a fun setup, but it is a bit let down by some rather unfortunate dungeon design choices. Dead ends abound, encounters are super frequent, and the bad puzzles outnumber the good. Some of these issues can be mitigated by looking up maps or guides, but it’s a shame that they’re not just more fun to traverse in the first place.

The not-insignificant saving grace is that the battle system simply rules. Battles take place on a six-by-three grid. MegaMan can move around the left half, and enemies take the right (owned and/or usable tiles can change if certain skills are used). At the start of the battle, 5 battle chips are randomly selected from the 30 Lan can have in his active pool, and he can pick which ones to send to MegaMan to start with. Multiple can be sent if and only if they are the same kind of chip (eg a “Cannon”) or are filed under the same letter A-Z (chips of any given type can generally be found with any number of attached letters). Then, MegaMan must battle his enemies in real time using his basic buster attack or the chips he was sent until the Custom Gauge refills and Lan can send him more. Chips are, of course, where the magic happens, and they are also the reward for beating enemies efficiently. At the end of each encounter, you’re giving a (Virus) Busting Score from 1-S, and higher ranks will generally award a chip in the form of one of the enemies’ attacks. In this way, MegaMan.EXE defeats the bad guys with their own weapons like the original Mega Man before him.

It’s all so fun to execute. Dodging enemy attacks while trying to line up your precious, damage-dealing chip moves is a thrill. So is hanging on by a few HP while you pray you’ll draw a healing chip soon. It’s exciting to see what new chips you find will do and how they interact with the little battlefield. I thought I’d be annoyed by managing the 30 chips I’m allowed to have in my battle folder at any given time, but unfortunately I have to admit the option scarcity does occasionally force some fun ingenuity.

And chips are also where the game gets its Pokémonesque collectible component. Chips can be traded with other players (now on the real life Net thanks to the Legacy Collection!), combined to form more powerful versions of the skills they provide, or crammed into a gacha machine to roll for a rare one.

And also like Pok√©mon, the rest of the game’s plot post-school fiasco follows familiar beats. Child prodigy at [battle activity everyone is obsessed with] somehow beats a bunch of seasoned adults at this thing he just started doing because of the power of his bond with his [battle friend] and is somehow trusted/allowed by allied adults to put a stop to an insanely high-stakes world domination plot. It’s a silly little story for kids, but it’s fun to beat Wily at a new game, and the goofy internet futurism stuff is so charming – probably more now than it was in 2001.

From what I hear, Mega Man Battle Network 2 cleans up a lot of the flaws found in the original. If that includes sharper and more pleasant dungeons, I’m sure to enjoy it even more than this one. Can’t wait to find out. I’m finally bought into a Mega Man spinoff.