Mega Man Battle Network

Capcom was never really a household name when it came to roleplaying games, although they did have modest success with their Breath of Fire franchise, the first installment initially localized by Squaresoft. In 2001, they released the first of a series of RPGs featuring their mascot Mega Man / Rock Man, entitled outside Japan Mega Man Battle Network, marking the character’s RPG debut, similar to what Nintendo had done with Mario years before in Super Mario RPGs. Is the Blue Bomber’s first roleplaying outing a good one?

MMBN features random encounters in its internet portions, where MegaMan.EXE squares off against a number of opponent viruses, opening with the player able to choose one or more battle chips they can put into a folder outside combat. Only five chips are initially available, although the player can choose to add another set to their selection, which requires the player to wait for some seconds while an active time gauge similar to that in many Final Fantasies fills up. While the gauge is charging, the player can move Mega Man around a square nine-titled field while the enemy does the same in their own adjacent 3x3 battleground.

During this time, the player can have Mega Man blast away at the enemy with repeated shots or, when the player has at least one PowerUp point invested into his charge stat, charge his Mega Buster to fire a more powerful shot after a few seconds of charging. The player can purchase or occasionally find PowerUp points to improve Mega Man’s other battle aspects such as the power of singular bullets or the rate in which he fires his shots. Most of the time, however, players will most likely be relying upon his battle chips to get the job more easily done in battle.

Each battle chip has an assigned letter, with the player able to pick more than one chip of the same type or the same letter, but not both. During the following gauge-charge sequence, the player can execute a chip’s ability against the enemy, although they can interrupt and damage Mega Man as he does so, being able to do the same while he charges his Mega Buster. Victory comes when Mega Man has deleted all enemy viruses, although if he runs out of health (with some chips able to recover his HP), the Blue Bomber himself is eradicated, resulting in an unceremonious Game Over.

Depending upon how well the player performs in battle, they will receive either a chip of one of the deleted viruses or the game’s currency, Zenny, which players can use to purchase additional chips or upgrades for Mega Man, whether to his HP or Mega Buster. While the battle system has some good ideas, it quickly becomes tiresome, especially considering that players can’t affect the encounter rate at all, and can only flee battle with a specific chip, and given the randomization of which chips the player has at their disposal in battle, fighting can get old, and a few bosses, especially those at the end, can be walls preventing players from finishing the game without cheating.

Gameplay outside battle suffers just as badly. For one, dungeon design is among the worst ever featured in the roleplaying game genre, with narrow complex branching paths simulating the fictitious world’s internet, many paths overlapping, and the complete lack of in-game maps doesn’t help, inexcusable since even older titles such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past had such a feature even in previous handheld generations. Granted, players can save their progress anywhere outside battle except during the endgame sequence, which requires the player to beat a hard boss where randomization really makes things difficult, and then forces them in a stretch of random battles during dungeon navigation to face another tough boss. Furthermore, even though players can get a reminder of the current objective, finding out specifically how to advance the main storyline can be virtually impossible at times without referencing a guide. Ultimately, the game doesn’t interface well with players.

MMBN can’t find salvation with its story, either, which features the typical goal of Mega Man games to defeat Dr. Wily, although there is maybe one good twist late into the game. The first entry could have also been more creative with their Game Over sequences, given the lack of what happens exactly if MegaMan.EXE is deleted in the wilds of the internet. The translation is okay, but it contains many rough spots, including a use of apostrophes after the world “wanna.”

The music is okay, though, if fairly repetitive and of low quality, and sound effects are believable, though the near-death alarm in battle is a surefire insult to the player’s intelligence.

The visuals are probably the initial entry’s strongest suit, with decently-proportioned character sprites, although they don’t show much emotion, and the character portraits during cutscenes remain the same and don’t show alternate emotions, either. The environments look decent as well, though the internet scenery is fairly repetitive, and can contribute to the ease of getting lost.

Finally, completing the game can take a little less than a day’s worth of time, and while there is supposedly lasting appeal in completing the battle chip database (which requires partial completion at one point to advance the main storyline), odds are most players won’t want to spend any more time with the game after beating it.

Overall, the first of many Mega Man Battle Network does have some things going for it, such as the general good idea of combat, the save-anywhere feature preventing it from being a terrible on-the-go game, the okay music and graphics, and the theoretical replay value. However, the cons definitely outweigh the pros, given the artificial difficulty of the game in the form of annoying randomization regarding enemy encounters and a few boss battles, the complete lack of in-game maps that make internet navigation painful, the awful direction on how to advance the main storyline, and minimalist plot with mediocre translation. Even the most diehard Mega Man fans might just have a hard time enjoying this game, and while this reviewer believes its sequels could improve upon the series formula, he is more than reluctant to try another MMBN title.

The Good:
+General idea of combat is good.
+Save-anywhere (most of the time) feature.
+Music is decent.
+Graphics look okay.
+A little lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Bosses can be walls preventing the player from advancing.
-Too much randomization with battle chips.
-Dismal dungeon design with no in-game maps.
-Awful direction on how to advance.
-Minimalist plot with spotty localization.

The Bottom Line:
Not a great start to the series.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: GameBoy Advance
Game Mechanics: 4/10
Controls: 3/10
Story: 2/10
Localization: 4/10
Music/Sound: 5/10
Graphics: 6/10
Lasting Appeal: 2/10
Difficulty: Artificial
Playing Time: Less than a day

Overall: 3.5/10

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