Did anyone ever see that Friends episode where they took a look at what every one would be doing had they/had they not done certain things? Rachel didnít leave Barry at the altar, Ross kept up karate, Chandler was a writer, Monica was still fat, and so on. Believe it or not, this game is a great deal like that. Except, suppose all this was placed in Norway, or somewhere they had never been, and through these episodes they were all meeting for the first time.
Yes, I know there are a million computer references, but you should be able to spot them without my help.
The world has everything run by miniature, albeit complex computers, right down to the oven. We begin the game as Lan, the hero, wakes up. He gets two e-mails on some very small device he has, called a PET, which acts like a Tamagotchi, cell phone, calendar, news channel, and a couple other things. The two messages he gets are that a crime group called the WWW has taken something or other over, and the second says your dad wonít be able to make it somewhere, but he wants to make it up to you by giving you a file called MEGAMAN.EXE for his PET, which becomes known as a Net Navi(gator). Hereís where the fun begins.
As you can see, the sprites are well drawn, and are easy to distinguish from the environment, and each other. All the important characters have highly detailed and completely separate models. The unimportant people tend to look the same, though. For example, look at the two guys in the picture above off to either side. They both are the same sprite.
You can see the game takes an isometric view point when in the overworld, and a side-scrolling one appears in battle-- but Iíll get to that later. The dungeons you go into are well done, as well, with excellent foregrounds. Youíll be running through a maze, and only a couple times do I wish they would pull the camera back a little. But thatís only cause of the difficulty of some puzzles. No problems with the view.
Some of the animations they added are clearly above expectations. For example, when Roll, someone you meet early on, runs, her hair flutters around behind her very smoothly. The same goes with Protoman, and a great deal of other characters youíll meet. And itís not just the overworld thatís well animated, battles are too. Each of the 180 or so moves Megaman has are done very fluidly. For example, shooting some spears: he could just fire them from his arm cannon, but his right arm transforms into a crossbow to pull it off. Then we have cannons, spread shots, bombs, and a whole mess of other stuff.
Finally, the framerate. There really is no excuse for slowdown when you put in extra stuff you donít need, like the animations I just mentioned, so itís good that this game doesnít have any. Yup, even with the most hectic of battles going on (and believe me, youíll see some impossible ones), the game keeps a steady 30 frames a second through it all. Itís definitely safe to say this game is great, graphically.
As Lan, this is going to annoy you when you start exploring somewhere you just gained access to, because usually exploring takes multiple minutes. That means hearing the same tune seven or eight times over, at least.
Megaman, though, is another story. His battling and dungeon melodies are different. Considering the average length of a song is twenty seconds, and you donít go twenty seconds without battling (again, on average), youíll listen to the same track a maximum of one and a half times if you keep running. The battle music is the best of the bunch; even in long battles it still wonít annoy you. Granted, this is perhaps because youíre concentrating more on what youíre doing, and your strategy to delete everything in front of you.
So after all that, Lan goes on to school, and lives out his happy little life with his Ďgirlfriendí Mayl. Then, the WWW attacks our hero. Not personal mind you, but a wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time sort of thing. So, he has to get inside a network to defeat the Net Navi of the WWW agent.
Anyway, thatís where Megaman.exe comes in. He gets transmitted into the attacked network thatís conveniently nearby, and goes Virus hunting.
The game tells you bad programs can come out of nowhere and attack Megaman. Yeah, you guessed it. Random battles. I suppose the greater portion of the environments couldnít look as good they do with enemies programmed to roam certain places, but still, I hate random battles. I really do.
At least this battling system is unique. When you enter a battle, youíre set on 18 squares, each in 6 columns of 3. The left 9 are yours to roam around on, and the right nine are for the enemy. Itís also possible to take three squares of an enemyís space.
Moving on, you both are set up in your spaces, and the battle begins. You start off by choosing your chips. These are the special attacks you get to use. Some will be things like cannons, others small bombs you can throw. Each has their own damage they do. So letís explain it as they do in the game. You start off by fighting a little Metguard, whom some hardcore Megaman fans will recognize from the TV show of years ago, and probably a few other places-- except theyíre attacking now, rather then helping. So, you choose the bomb chip, which would cause 50 damage, while the Metguard 40 HP.
There are also elemental weapons to this game, but they're pretty basic, with the rock-paper-scissors setup for Fire, Water, Earth, and Electricity. In this case, the bomb and the Metguard are both elementally neutral. You throw the bomb with A, it flies for three spaces, and lands, covering the space in flame and smoke. If the Metguard is occupying that space, he is destroyed. If he isn't hit, you can shoot at him with B. B is the regular singular shot from Megamanís arm cannon. It does one damage.
As a side note, you can hold B, and Megaman will charge his arm cannon. They donít tell you this, and itís pretty effective when you have nothing to do but wait. Another note, each chip has a letter. You can only choose chips to use in the same turn if they have the same letter, or are the same thing. For example, I can use three cannons in one turn, or a shotgun and a recovery chip, both labeled "L."
So letís say you miss with the bomb. And youíre too inept, or slow, or lazy, to kill him with B. Well, it looks like someone needs some more help. A small bar at the top of the screen will slowly regenerate during battle. When it regenerates fully, you can hit L or R and get the chip selection screen back up (at which point the game pauses for you to choose). The first turn is now over. As all times when the screen comes up, five chips you have with you are randomly generated from your chip folder, which you can remove/add/change chips from/to/with at any time. With five random chips, your choices are to use the ones youíve got, or wait a turn for the gauge to fill up again, at which point Lan will have added five more chips. You can do this twice, for a maximum of fifteen chips to choose from. The problem is, though, that once you select some chips to use, it goes back down to the original five. So, there is a risk involved. You can always choose as many chips as you can from the original five, use them (effective or not), and some others will go in their place.
Itís not that simple, though. A lot of enemies will have special ways for you to defeat them. One guy can only be attacked when heís attacking, and another holds a shield in front of him, that you have to hit pretty hard for him to move it, and only for a limited time, till you repeat the process. A great deal of strategy is involved.
Almost done. This game retains the power-stealing-ness of Megaman in that, if you defeat an enemy, not only will you get a time, and a grade of 1-10 or S, but also you'll get money or a new chip. When you beat the Metguard, for example, you may or may not get a Metguard ĎAí chip, or you may get one that can steal the three closest panels to your space, confining your enemy's movable area to a mere 6 panels. This chip actually is pretty useful, since you can use more than one in battle, and get your enemy trapped on whatever square heís standing on at the time.
You almost always get powers from bosses, too. For example, Gutsman will smash the enemyís panels, and make them all crack, causing 40 damage to all enemies at the same time. When panels crack, you can walk on them, but when you vacate it, it disappears for a little while.
Finally, you are able to upgrade your Megaman.exe. The three categories are Attack, which boosts your arm cannon from 2 to 5, depending on how many you use, Rapid, how fast you move, and Charge, how fast you charge your arm cannon. You can also buy different types of armor, but this and leveling up are more of an afterthought. With armor, I only saw two kinds that would protect me from two different elements, but neither seemed terribly necessary. There are four to be had (aqua, fire, wood, and the normal stuff), but they aren't essential to beating the game. Also, with leveling up, it doesnít affect you in the slightest. Itís more of a thing to gauge how much you aquired power-up wise in your run through the game. I actually had to check my stats under a menu to see what level I was at, due to the lack on notification and effect. Not that this hinders gameplay, but Iím a little hesitant to put it under the RPG category.
(Thanks Mike for pointing out a couple maistakes)
Unlike Advance Wars, Iím not about to give this game a perfect ten, but it really deserves a high score. I think for the thwarting of a world-wide deletion, the elimination of Dr. Wily (once again), and a solid gameplay experience, I shall give a...
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