It’s strange, I never heard a great load of anything about the first MegaMan Battle Network unless it was coming from my own mouth. And besides Advance Wars, I’ve never seen a bigger sleeper hit. But apparently it was doing well enough in sales to make not only a sequel, but a TV series off of it. Maybe it did really well in Japan? Or here? I don’t know... I don’t tend to follow sales very carefully.
Well, either way, I’m glad they did. In all honesty, I didn’t even hear about it until E3, and then when I got back home, I randomly walk into a store in Bellevue, and see it on the shelves. Needless to say, within a couple hours, I had made the arduous journey home and back just to buy that on the complete, utter, and rather blind reliance of the first one’s sheer quality. And if you haven’t already scrolled to the bottom of this review, then I can say for certain that this is one rare time when a sequel is better than the original.
All of the worlds are very well detailed. In its little isometric way, you can see most anything from dirty alleys to residential areas, to a large castle. No matter where you look, you can see little bits of detail on the environments that you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking. For example, on a table on a campground, there’s a tablecloth, with plates, silverware, and even little bits of food left on it. And it’s not even something any of the characters interact with.
And then there’s the networks that you have to traverse. They’re basically this game’s form of dungeons. Since our hero Lan (and everyone else in existence) has a Personal Terminal, or PET for short, NetNavis were designed to be the personality for these PETs. MegaMan is Lan’s NetNavi, but every so often, he has to ‘jack in’ to a computer. The entire world is run by computers, so you can ‘jack in’ most anywhere. At this point, you switch to MegaMan and literally run through Networks looking for keys, or links, or viruses. Each network has it’s own separate types of walkways for higher and lower floors. And the network backgrounds are still little animated pictures raining diagonally from the sky. At least they gave everyone who was in the first a new background.
It’s not just environments though. The NPCs are identical to the original, but I do dare say MegaMan looks a little better than he did (without taking into account his various modes). Not to mention the new enemies he has to face look fantastic. From KnightMan’s eyes, to AirMan’s fans, to ProtoMan’s waving hair, the care Capcom took to make sure this game looks good is highly commendable.
But, like the first game, they still have the ability to convey the settings, and emotions, and whatnot. After being in one network for about an hour, you get pretty sick of a tune, but the game’s designed so that won’t happen… except at a few select points. But even then, you’re usually too focused on what you’re doing to notice that the same song has been playing for a long time. If I were to make one request it’d be a different theme for every boss battle since there are three battle themes. But realistically, that’s asking a bit much.
The following is a basic rundown of how battling works (trust me, it’s simple as pie when you actually do it). If you know how it works already, then skip the next couple paragraphs, cause I’ll probably confuse you.
When a battle begins, you’re taken to a screen with the same background as the network you’re in, but the view is now a side-scroller. The arena is made up of 18 blocks in three rows - half are red, half are blue. Together, they all form one wide line for you to fight on. You get to roam around freely on the red side, and the blue squares belong to your opponents (which still have the restriction of three per match, by the way).
When the battle begins, you start off in the middle of your section, and the enemies are randomly placed in theirs. A menu comes up displaying five ‘chips’ that let you do special moves. In the beginning, you get ones like, ‘Cannon D’ and ‘Steal F’. The second letters are codes, and I’ll let the game explain that. The most I need to tell you is that you can only use chips with similar codes, or similar types. For example, I can use ‘Cannon A’ and ‘Guard A’ together, or ‘Cannon A’ and ‘Cannon B’ together.
So anyway, you have five randomly selected chips from a folder where you can only hold a certain number (unused ones go elsewhere). If you dislike the chips you have, you can select some to get rid of, and hit Add instead of Select. Select lets you use the chips you chose, Add gets rid of them. The change from the first here is that you could just add five more for up to fifteen. Here, you can only have 10, and you must choose what you want to get rid of.
So the battle begins. A gauge at the top of the screen slowly fills. When it’s full, you can choose what chips you’d like to use with whatever changes you made. If you used some chips in battle, they’ll be replaced with more random ones, until you win or run out of chips. At this point, the menu comes up again, and the process begins anew. A is use a chip you selected (selecting them in the correct order is key), and B is your normal famous arm cannon which can do varying damage. Holding B lets you charge up that blaster.
So that’s battling in a nutshell. There’s a load more, but I won’t get into it here. There’s the same power-ups from the first, which let you increase the damage of your normal arm cannon, the power-up damage, and the speed at which you can fire it, since this battling is more real-time than turn based.
One little very welcome addition they made to the game is that they threw out the whole armor concept. Instead, in one of the early dungeons you get the option to add different forms of MegaMan to a menu so you can select from them, with various effects of course. Then there’s also presetting a chip so it appears at the beginning of every match.
Other differences include a new group of items called Subchips. These are like items you use outside of battle. These weren’t done as thoroughly as other RPGs though. There are two healing items: MiniEnrg, which recovers 50 HP, and FullEnrg, which recovers you fully. There are also things on the networks called ‘Mystery Data’ which are basically random items you can find, but some are locked; there’s a subchip for that, and one so you won’t get attacked (from the still random battles), and a couple others.
But the reason they put in healing Subchips is because of a file used in the first game for plot, MegaMan is unable to automatically heal after every battle. It did make the first one a might easy. Either way, it adds some strategery to the game, since you can only carry so many of each item.
I’d also like to mention one thing by itself. Since this entire game takes place on computers, you now have access to message boards (though you can’t post willingly). It actually looks like a message board, from people responding with sometimes false information they believed (though corrected promptly), to guesses, and all the while, you’ll see some posts that are from random one-timers, while it also has it’s normal visitors, who progress with new information throughout the game. And there’s more than one message board, something like six or seven, though I can’t remember solidly.
As you can easily see, this game has its differences from the first. It does feel like the original still, but in a good, ‘I’m having fun’ way. The only real resemblance between the two titles is the style, the characters, and ACDC town. With the extreme diversity of the buildings, cities, and networks, the feel of this game stays fresh and new from the original, even 19 hours in.
Oh, yeah, length, forgot about that. My file clocks in at 19 hours and 48 minutes. So about 25 hours for the average gamer (cuz IM 1337!!1!). And I’ve still yet to do a couple extra little bonuses, like get an SSS license, fill my library, and even defeat a few bosses. And that time doesn’t include getting lost, repeating the final battle (and long, unsaveable sequence before it) about six or seven times, and a few others. It does, however, include multiple attempts at some optional boss fights.
I hate you, ToadMan.
In the original game, there was a breed of scattered machines that would let you trade in 3 chips for one, if your collection was too large, or 10 for one if you wanted some rare ones. I was surprised to see a new machine join the herd - one that took chips from the first game and gave them to you in this incarnation. Pretty nice, but that’s about the extent of interactivity between the two. Hey, at least it’s something.
I also feel I should mention that while it includes battery save (yay!) it has only one file (boo!). That’s the one thing I could change if I had the option to. But I suppose it would’ve cut down on the size of the game, so really, it’s a trade-off. Well, here at least. In the Big Rock Candy Mountain however…
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