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Megaman Battle Network: The Best Series in the Franchise?
I’ve been playing Megaman since I was a child. In 1991, I got my NES and one of my first games after Mario was Megaman. I’ve followed the franchise from Classic to X to Legends and beyond. However, no series of Megaman grabbed me quite like Battle Network, or Rockman.EXE in Japan. I remember playing the first one on the GBA and thinking to myself, “man this could be something really good but I’m not feeling it.” It wasn’t a great first impression.
Thankfully, due to my tardiness back then (I was 14 at the time), I didn’t pick up the first game until just before the sequel came out. I had just beaten the first game and rushed to the store to pick up Battle Network 2. I had heard online through GameFAQs that the second game was leaps and bounds over the first. My excitement was overloading. Then it happened. My first Style Change. Heat Shield was my first combo and although not the best one by far, it was still a blast to play with. Battle Network 2 was a great game and an awesome experience. It got several of my friends into the series and before I knew it, I was having link battles almost daily.
So what is Megaman Battle Network? If you haven’t played the series before, it is a card-based strategy game with Megaman characters. When I say strategy I mean that you are given a 9 square area to move around and so is your opponent. You have to utilize both your 9 squares and the enemy’s to win battles. To do this, you create Folders of 30 Battlechips. Each Battlechip does something different and some come in series where they get stronger such as Cannon, Hi-Cannon, and then Mega Cannon. Each game had a few hundred chips to collect and master. To further the strategy-based gameplay, each chip had a code on it. These codes were made up of letters or a *. You could choose multiple Battlechips if the codes matched. You could even combine chips to create powerful Program Advance attacks.
The battle system was so sharp and easy to get used but hard to master. As you progressed in the games the enemies would get tougher and smarter. You could even find stronger versions of the bosses and fight them for better chips and challenges. With secret areas and even more hidden collectibles, the Megaman Battle Network series was a load of fun.
The story was intriguing, too. It takes place in an alternate world akin to the Classic series. You see mirror characters to Mega Man, Dr. Light, Dr. Wily, and the Robot Masters. The main character Lan Hikari (“Light” in Japanese), or Netto if you prefer the Japanese naming, is the grandson of what is supposed to be Dr. Light. People live in a futuristic society where programs called Net Navis help humans live their lives both physically and digitally. For example, Lan’s Net Navi is MegaMan.EXE, his friend Dex has GutsMan.EXE and so forth. It was very interesting to see how the old Robot Masters kept getting redone and given stories. Giving humans a big role in the series was also something new for a Megaman series.
Every game held a new roster of heroes, villains, and included gameplay changes. The series kept fresh although there was plenty of “milking” chants from some fans. Megaman Battle Network managed to keep pumping out games that just felt worth it. The evolution of systems like the Style Change, Soul Unisons, and story progression were fun to watch. As a fan, it was fun enough to keep going and buying.
Even the spin-off games like Network Transmission and Battlechip Challenge were good times. It was fun to take a concept like the N1 Gran Prix and make a game specifically for that while letting you control other Navis instead of just MegaMan.EXE. The sidescrolling adventure on the Gamecube was an interesting take on the series, as well. What really got me was the import-only EXE 4.5. At that time I was so engrossed with Megaman Battle Network that I had really got in the model kits from Bandai, the TV show and its sequels, and the fan community. I had imported more things from Japan dealing with Battle Network than everything else I’ve imported gaming wise combined.
I own so much memorabilia for Megaman Battle Network. I had a PET from the first game, Advance PET from number four, and finally the Progress PET from the fifth game and Rockman.EXE Stream anime. I have dozens of Battlechips from those and thankfully they came in handy. When I imported EXE 4.5 from Japan, it came with an adapter for my GBA called a Battle Chip Gate. The Gate allowed me to slot-in Battlechips manually to MegaMan.EXE and watch him use the chips in-game. It was really cool to see that as a fan.
Since I had a group of friends playing the series, I hosted monthly N1 Gran Prix tournaments. These got bigger and bigger until one time we actually had about 30 kids from the surrounding towns come and join in on the fun.
To be honest, these stopped after Megaman Battle Network 3. The third game was the peak of the series for us. Everything from the enemy roster, battle system refinements, chip selection, and secret areas was just amazing. During 3’s hay days my friends and I were obsessed with the game. Don’t get me wrong, we still went outside and did normal things but it was pretty tough to take us away from Megaman Battle Network 3. I had this killer strategy with the Prism chip and Zeta-Cannon 3 Program Advance. If you let me get the Prism down in your center square, you knew what was coming next and it was unavoidable.
It was experiences like this that got me so into the series. I could have been just a fan of the series but with that many friends taking part in it, it felt like the Pokemon craze all over again but in my teenage years. Everything is better when in a group, right?
What was upsetting to me was how huge EXE was over in the Japan and how Battle Network was just a passing fad here in America. Over in Japan there were huge tournaments and Capcom even held a yearly contest where a fan drawn Navi design would be placed in the game as a boss. I tried my best to enter one year until I realized I couldn’t get it sent in to the address given. I was really bummed. I think I still have my design somewhere in the attic for Chronos.EXE, the time traveling Net Navi.
We all have that game that gets us so engrossed. For many its the Final Fantasy games or Madden or StarCraft. For me, while I love Megaman as a whole, Battle Network meant something to me. It was something my friends did. It was as big as Pokemon, maybe even greater for me. I was sad to see it come to an end. It was even sadder to see it not come to full fruition over here like it did in Japan. Still, the times my friends and I had with Megaman Battle Network were really fun and I’ll never forget it.
I still have my carts somewhere around here and from time to time I’ll try and play through 2 or 3 again but I keep longing for another new title. Out of every Megaman game possible, including Legends 3, I’d most like to see Battle Network make a return on the 3DS. That would be something to get the old gang back together and play some battles.
(Featured graphic provided by Benjamin Sawyer. To see more of his work, visit benbrush.com or benbrush.deviantart.com)