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If you Love It, Change It: Mega Man Battle Network - Destructoid

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Apparently I'm a gamer -- hence being here. I've had the Donkey Kong theme stuck in my head since about 1995. It's not as cool as it sounds. It's kind of like hiccuping for that many years.

I'm pretty much a deadbeat Liberal Arts graduate from U of Illinois -- uhm Springfield campus. Started off as a computer science major and switched to English Literature. Why? Because I'm an idiot and I'm still looking for the job that made the switch worth the time and money. I did take a year of Elementary Japanese, so maybe I can BS a translation job. But only if I'm talking to school children. How insulting -- "your understanding of the language is that of a retarded kid!" So I guess that skill only comes in handy for catching one out of four words in any anime I watch and a good laugh when people mispronounce words.

Just finally in August joined the high-falooting "next-gen" with a purchase of the 60gb 360. I always said if a Tales game came to the 360, I'd finally buy the damn thing. Had to eat my words but I'm enjoying it so far.

Systems own: N64, Dreamcast, DS (x2), PSP (x2), 360 (finally), Wii, PS2, and a TG-16 (unfortunately not working)

Apparently I'm a huge Tales of fan -- hence getting the 360 for Vesperia and my Klarth avatar when I signed up. But Repede's too awesome to pass up.

Currently playing: Tales of Vesperia, Viva Pinata, Soul Calibur 4, Final Fantasy IV DS, Mana Khemia, Out of the Park Baseball 9, Sam and Max Season 2 (yeah finally got around to that), Downstream Paniac


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I’m sure most of you are thinking that this is an easy one – just turn the games into a damn side scroller and ditch the kiddie show. Mega Man: Battle Network’s detractors are large and vocal in number, despite the fact that the majority of them haven’t touched the games. But I get where you guys are coming from. The majority seems to hate any sort of radical change to their franchises, and well think of one bigger change to the Mega Man franchise than Battle Network.

Yes, I’m that a-hole that buys the Battle Network games. The sole reason Capcom keeps pumping them out at the same rate as Miley Cyrus slips ‘shocking photos’ lately. I’m the person you curse under your breath each time you go by the handheld section at EB.

And yes, they’re not great titles. I’ll admit that in full. They won’t be confused with ‘game of the year’ titles. They won’t be up there with Bioshock and Ocarina of Time. But then again they’re handheld games. And solid handheld games at that, and solid gaming and RPGing value. I never realized that $30 for 30 hours of game was such a horrible deal. Hell, they drop in price fairly quickly. I think I’ve only paid full-price for one of them. Still I think people are expecting too much out of a handheld RPG franchise when the harshly grade Battle Network.

Do I recommend picking them all up? Probably not. If I hadn’t been so busy last month to write a blog, I probably would have done them as my guilty pleasure article. Hate to sound like everyone’s broken record but in tune with the other Mega Man series, the series kind of falls off and stagnates after the third or fourth entry. It doesn’t mean the ones following are bad games, but you can easily burn yourself out on Battle Network if you attempt the entire franchise.

BN4 through BN6 are still solid – much the same way MM4 through MM6 are still solid – but if you want to just get the gist of what the games are about just stick to the first three.
Capcom has recently attempted to ‘reboot’ and mix up the Battle Network formula by changing the perspective of battle and slapping the name Star Force on the front but Star Force is essentially BN7 in the end and is god awful.

So they’ve already tried to change the series and failed miserably. I love the series (as well as the Classic, X, Zero, and ZX series…and Legends) and I’m going to attempt to change it. Attempt to save it.

WHY I LIKE BATTLE NETWORK


I love you original Battle Network

I guess I should also add this as a caveat as so many people have either never touched the series or don’t understand why I enjoy it. But I grew up on Mega Man. Like many of you when we were growing up there wasn’t illegal downloads and Netflicks and shit. We had Beta and VHS and even the smallest of towns had some sort of place that rented out VHS tapes. And when Nintendo took off a lot of those places also stocked video games for rent.

Blockbuster would come later but we were extremely loyal to our local guy because it was just a short walk to the old train depot that served as his rental place. Sometimes I wonder what ever became of that mustached man that sat behind the counter almost every singled day. Is he even alive today? Does he know how much his little store changed my life?

Getting back on track – I took a chance on that ugly little box one day. Probably only because I’d rented everything else in the damn store, but whatever the reason I decided to rent it I remember taking it home one day…and probably not even beating a single stage. Hell, I don’t even remember beating any of the stages until I was in my teens.

I returned the game next week and eagerly picked up the second game for some reason.
I believe I equally sucked at that one too. But that still didn’t stop me from asking for Mega Man 3 that Christmas. By the end of the NES cycle I owned 2 through 6 in cart form. I could never find the original but I did at least subsequently get better at the others.
Then Mega Man X came (well, technically it came before MM6) and we were all blown away by the graphics and the soundtrack. Man, the raw power of 16-bit was amazing. The game was simply amazing. But where was Wiley? Where was our Blue Bomber? Where was Rush?

Things were vaguely the same but all so different. It was an amazing new reinterpretation of our hero. It was a new chapter to the mythos and story – a complete re-imagining of the games and I was excited to see where it was going to go and what sort of adventures this new Mega Man would have. If you weren't just flipping out in excitement after finishing Mega Man X, then you just have no soul.

Granted that excitement petered out by X5 but the same sort of excitement crept up when Battle Network came out. I bought it within the first month because it was a Mega Man title but the BN titles all take place in an entirely different (assumedly parallel) universe. It was yet another reinterpretation of the Blue Bomber and it didn’t take long for Gutsman to pop up. After that, I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to see which of our favorite Robot Masters would show up next and where they’d show up. And best of all, Dr. Wiley was back, er well that universe’s Dr. Wiley.

I even started watching the anime and amazingly gained some respect for the usually lame Pharoah Man. And when Bass and Zero showed up for the first time, I shrieked like a school girl. I believe I also ran around my house screaming without my shirt on ala Chad Concelmo.

As I mentioned before, they’re solid RPG titles especially for the GBA and you can’t go wrong with the value. The combat system was (at least when the first game came out) unique and actually kind of good for portable play. It didn’t seem deep at first, and to some degree it isn’t, but there was at least more strategy involved as you dove deeper into the Battle Chip system. The two worlds concept – the real one and the internet one – showed a lot of promise early and hey, I didn’t really mind the “kiddie” feel too much. Sometimes games do tend to take themselves too seriously afterall.

SLOW DOWN, SON!


Treat her right and she'll treat you.

The original BN game came out in 2001. Star Force hit stores late last year. I’m shitty with math but I believe that’s one every year. And you’re really updating fewer things than EA generally does with Madden and NHL Hockey each year. Gamers bitch and whine about EA Sports enough for it and some go as far to boycott the giant. So apparently releasing too many sequels in a short period of time with little in the way of updates is a good way to turn off certain people.

I know. I know. Mega Man from the start has always been somewhat of an annual update that doesn’t change much but builds on a strong foundation, but JESUS RAPTOR CHRIST Cacpcom – you CAN take 18 months or even two years in between releases. I’m not expecting a Kojima-esque plot or concept but I’d like you to take some time and try something new.

It’s like the virgin teenager. Slow down, son. You’ve got the girl there. You have your audience and you’re going to get the prize. Just take your time and build up the anticipation. No girl wants a wham-bam kind of night.

Well Capcom – this date at least wants dinner. And not at McDonald’s either, you cheap ass! Take your time and excite me a little. Don’t go – hey there’s a new Battle Network game next month and then just drop it on us like usual. I want to feel some anticipation and build up. Wet my appetite…to sort of continue the…metaphor…er…

Give us time to enjoy the previous title and speculate about what’s going to happen next. I mean half the fun is in the anticipation and foreplay. Lord knows Metal Gear Solid 4 isnt’ going to be anywhere near as good as all the discussion and message board theories and speculation we’ve enjoyed over the past couple of years. Once it’s out and over what do we immediately do? We start speculating and anticipating the next one. Kojima wined and dined us at a 5-star Paris restaurant on this date. The actual ‘product’ might disappoint but at least we’ve had fun up to this point.

True, the speculation and debate over a new BN title would never reach a sliver of the white hot hype of MGS4 but I’ll settle for a 3-star and maybe a handjob er…trailer.
Take your time Capcom and put some more effort into the games – which brings us to the next point, less creepy than the first.

ALL YOU PEOPLE LOOK THE SAME


God this looks so familiar...and bland.

Let me preface this again – the first Battle Network game came out in 2001. Put all six BN games and Star Force next to each other and try and pick out which game is which. I’ll sit here and wait while you try. Good luck.

Back? How’d you do? Yeah, they all look the same despite debuting on the GBA seven years ago. I know the art style has to stay similar but even King of Fighters has updated the sprites more than this!

Star Force claims to have changed up the look and granted, Mega Man DOES look different and the perspective in battle has changed but outside of using two screens, you could have easily done Star Force on the GBA.

Gamers have no trouble playing the same stuff over and over again. Just fool us by making it look new. Please? At least friggin try! Just a new coat of paint is all I ask. I’m not asking for an overhaul every title out but just a noticeable difference. Make us at least think the games are improving title to title.

Star Force was the prefect chance to break free. With a new, more powerful hardware in the DS and a new main character the chance was there. True, Mega Man looks different and I like the redesign more than most but it was the jump the series should have taken two or three years ago.

Do we really need to wait six or seven titles every time for a jump in quality? I know there are hardware limitations but there’s no excuse that a DS game in 2007 should be on par with the GBA’s late library.

WHAT WORKS FOR SOME, DOESN’T WORK FOR ALL


Do we really need 3 of these?

This will be the shortest section of this article and I almost debated making it one line – NO MORE MULTIPLE VERSIONS!

I think we can all agree on this one. It was especially annoying when BN3 (the first game they attempted multiple versions) you couldn’t trade the exclusive chips between the two versions. What the hell is the point? You’re right – there was none. That completely defeated the purpose of having multiple versions or being able to trade between them in the first place.

Yes, Pokemon has been very successful with this model. But you’re not Pokemon. As cool as some of the Battle Chips are, they’re not really cuddly, cutesy looking as Pokemon are. I have a chip collection and strategy that works pretty damn good already. Unless that chip looks like a damn Mudkip, I’m not interested in collecting it.

A long time ago I use to suffer from gotakatchemallistis and collecteveryfrigginthingallus where I felt the need to 100% every game I came in contact with. I don’t know if it was being put on academic probation my sophomore year of college or just the really strong antibiotics of having a girlfriend or just realizing I had to pay for shit now, but I beat the disease and I’m living healthy now.

Yes, occasionally I’ll have a rare outbreak *glares at Rogue Galaxy and Brawl* but for the most part if I reach an end where I’m comfortable with a game I’ll put it down. I don’t need to collect everything in the game.

But some of us still suffer from these debilitating diseases. They suffer greatly enough to seek out little kids on the playground in order to trade battle chips or form Brother Bands. And occasionally they’ll be escorted off the playground by three police officers.

Unless you’re Pokemon, people tend to groan and facepalm when you release two or three different versions of your game. And honestly Team Protoman or Team Colonel? Anyone who didn’t pick Protoman is stupid anyway.

ROCK ME, INAFUNE

I don’t remember the exact quote or interview but Inafune has talked about Mega Man’s close ties to music before. It’s painfully obvious and because of it the music of both the classic and X series are flat out amazing. A lot of us probably think of the music before anything else when someone mentions Mega Man.

So what happened? Why does the music in BN suck? Ok, maybe not suck but it’s hardly memorable to say the least.

A Mega Man game without amazing music is hardly a Mega Man game at all. What happened to all the creativity we saw when Capcom was limited by hardware?
God that reminds me – I so need to put Mega Man 3’s opening as my phone ringer. I would just let that thing ring and ring and never pick it up. Just stand there rocking out as my phone went off. Never answering any of my calls.

And the sound effects are blah, too. And you ever think to add in some voice samples from the cartoon? And not the annoying menu voice from Star Force please. Or that whole Mega Man 8 ending sequence.

Can’t stress this one enough – the sound has to get better in the series for it to ever be accepted as a Mega Man game by most fans.

GUESS WE HAVE TO SEE HAMLET ONE!

It’s always a delicate balance between accessibility and continuity. You don’t want the series to become too complicated that new fans can’t just pick up the next game and jump right in, but usually this seems to come at the expense of serious character development and strong plot lines that stretch from game to game.

Honestly you can pick up any BN game and not be lost. The plots are self-contained for the most part and the characters don’t really change drastically from title to title. The games, like all games, offer a short tutorial in the beginning that really only accomplishes one thing – making the main character (be it Lan or Geo Stellar now) look like he’s a retarded dipshit. How many times must we explain to you how to use your damn PET?

I tend to like my things more self-contained and I lament the near extinction of the single issue comic book, but there’s still no logical reason why we can’t have Lan and friends grow and develop as characters over the course of the series. If you’re still worried about self-containment and continuity, there’s always flashbacks, which don’t seem to be used enough in games. And I don’t get that because games like the BN series tend to come from Japan. So does anime, and anime has no trouble over-using flashbacks and recaps to the point where a 24 minute show only has about 8 minutes of new material. Yes, I’m looking at you Bleach and Naruto.

Again I’m not asking for a narrative on par with MGS or Hamlet, but is it too much to ask for characters we can get invested it? It’s bad enough to keep pumping out the same game with the same graphics with only minor changes but then give us characters that are essentially left unchanged from game to game too? That’s just going too far. Even the X series felt like there was some change and growth in the story. The whole reason I picked up the BN series was to see how the characters were reimagined. And all you did was continue to run them out there one after another. That kept me happy for a while but then nothing happened....

Harry Potter has been hugely successful as we’ve watched those kids grow up over the course of seven books. Kids may be annoying little shits but they’re not dumb. You don’t have to talk down to them for them to make the connection or realize what’s going on. Try just respecting their intelligence for once. This goes for just about everything in every medium lately. Have any of you ever sat down and watched a cartoon today like Yu-Gi-Oh? Jesus H. Christ. No wonder why kids are asshats. Treat them like they're stupid long enough, they actually believe it.

Mega Man has always been Capcom’s big money maker. Let’s use some of that money to pay someone to write a damn script and the localized dialog. It’s always been a bit campy with the internet theme but Star Force is painful. I really can only take Star Force in small five minute doses. Thank God for sleep mode.

Sure, the occasional line of dialog will go over a kid’s head from time to time but did that stop you or I from finishing books or games when we were young? I can’t tell you how many books I’ve re-read from my childhood where I’m just now making all the connections in them. It just encourages you to go back and experience it again when older. How I understood Final Fantasy IV's narrative as a kid and how I understand it now are vastly different in scope. Does that mean we should have dumb down FF4? Why are we so afraid to let children think?

And as a small note – GET RID OF THE DAMN TUTORIALS! Again it makes Lan look like a complete buffoon, but READ THE FUCKING MANUAL PEOPLE!!! Or better yet, don’t make obtuse controls in the first place. K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple stupid. None of the games have had complicated enough controls that they can’t be figured out with a small amount of testing. Most of the menus are self-explanatory and neat. Towards the end BN had been getting pretty good at shortening up the tutorials to what was absolutely necessary. Unfortunately they took a huge step back in Star Force.

If you absolutely need to put a tutorial in the game (any game) who says it has to be part of the narrative? You’re already breaking the fourth wall by telling the player what buttons to push to do what. How about you just have an option to watch/participate in the tutorial at the beginning of the game if you desire to and have the tutorial outside of the narrative structure. If you can’t figure out a clever way to integrate the tutorial into the structure, then don’t even bother. Star Ocean 3 with the Battle Simulator holo-decks while Fayt and Sophia are on vacation – that’s somewhat clever. Battle Network – not clever and a major detractor from the games after BN2.

WE DON’T NEED ROADS


It's not that bad

I enjoy my portables. As much as I work (13 hours just today) I need something for on the go and I love my DS and PSP. But still there is the stigma around portables. Maybe no one else has this problem but a lot of my friends just aren’t into portable gaming and really don’t think highly of it. I keep trying to sell them on the DS but they’re not buying. They enjoy their gaming while sitting on the couch or a bean bag chair.

Maybe staying away from the consoles is one reason why the series has never been taken too serious or noticed by gamers. True, there was the GameCube platformer Network Transmission, but it was the GameCube and came out to poor reviews. I’d say it’s vastly underrated and worth checking out, but the damage is already done.

Capcom probably won’t attempt to bring the series to the consoles again after the commercial failure of Transmission, but if done right I think a lot of us would kill for a new Mega Man game on the Wii or Playstation 3. You could always use some sort of connectivity between the DS and Wii or the PS3 and PSP to bridge the gap between the series.

But of course, if they don’t provide at least a somewhat strong narrative, a large bump in the production values, and a slight maturation in the series then a jump to the consoles is going to fail miserably. The current product just isn’t console material in the least, but with a small amount of work it really could be. And it should be.

IN THE YEAR 20XX


The next Overlooked Video Game Babe entry? You bet!

Look – I love the series despite its flaws. Maybe I’m a bit of an idiot for playing the exact same thing six straight times now. Seven times if you count the 3 hours I’ve put into Star Force over the past four months. But I’ve played a lot of games that were just the same crap as before. But I think if Capcom actually took some time to put some love and care into the series it could be something more than the bastard stepson, the joke of the Mega Man franchise.

People look at Battle Network, usually without touching it, and scoff at how Mega Man has fallen so far. I keep defending the lil’ Blue Bomber but if we’re playing Star Force X on our Nintendo Triple Screen or whatever in ten years, I’m not sure I can defend him anymore.
Yes, I’m part of the problem. I keep buying the damn things. They’re still a good product (sans Star Force) and I wouldn’t touch the battle system too much outside of some minor tweaks and telling random battles to take a hike, but give us something more. Make us feel special. Make us feel like you care about us and Mega Man. You really don't need to drastically change BN. People love Mega Man and they love RPGs and they love action. And robots. All you need to do is show you give a damn. It's that simple.

I keep ripping on Star Force because I really can’t get into it. I’ve had the game for about four months and I think my data’s only at three hours played but there’s some potential in the character designs. So I have a glimmer of hope that if I ever can get through the ridiculous beginnings and dialog to start the game that there’s some potential, but I don’t see them treating Geo and crew any differently than they treated Lan. Which is definitely a little sad, but I still hold out a faint .01% chance of hope that June’s Star Force 2 is at least partially what I’m looking for the series to do and evolve. But with Star Force 3 already announced for release in Japan at the end of this year, I think I can just about crush that sliver. Sorry Capcom but after seven years of this I’m just done. I love the Blue Bomber so much to the point that your lack of care hurts.

Now make me another Mega Man ZX and I might come out of my ball and stop crying enough to enjoy that.
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