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LONG BLOG

Torchman Talks About: Megaman Battle Network Operate Shooting Star

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Ignoring the countless compilation titles and mobile titles that Megaman has received, the last three Megaman games that saw release outside of Japan were Megaman 10 in 2010, Megaman Starforce 3 in North America in 2009, and Megaman 9 in 2008.

However, what if I told you Japan had recieved an exclusive DS title in 2009? A 'remake', a word I use very lightly, of an older title, but also turning it into a crossover at the same time? A game that, for those that followed it, was showing signs that Capcom had no clue what it was doing with the franchise and was actively hurting it?

Believe me? Don't believe me? Well then, I present to you that game.

Behold! Megaman Battle Network Operate Shooting Star, called OSS in the Battle Network community, a 'remake' of the first Battle Network game for the Nintendo DS while also crossing over with the Megaman Starforce series. Here's the thing though. It's an utter fraud of a remake. It's not a remake despite what Capcom representatives would say, and it's not a remaster. It's a glorified port.

However, before we start digging into the problems of OSS, let's talk about the original game first, along with it's legacy and impact. Unlike most Megaman spinoffs/sequels like X or Legends, Battle Network takes place in its own universe, known as the year 20XX AD, a 'what if?' scenario where networking technology research had been prioritized over robotics. As a result, the internet, or 'the Net' as it is called in game, becomes the primary means of communication and commerce for humanity, along with crime. The Net itself, computers, systems, appliances, and even toys, are displayed as a virtual world, where it is possible to interact with computer programs personified in a humanoid form. This is achieved with a "PET (PErsonal information Terminal)" device, which houses a "NetNavi (Network Navigator)".

The star of the Battle Network series is Lan Hikari, a fifth grader in the town of ACDC (get used to electrical and network puns), and his Net Navi Megaman.EXE. They become caught up in the acivities of the criminal organization WWW(World Three), and take a stand against it. Throughout the series, players will encounter alternate takes on bosses and characters from the original Megaman series, ranging from Roll to Duo to various robot masters. Glyde from Megaman Legends and Zero from X even pop up as navis.

Meet Your New Megaman!

The core gameplay of Battle Network is an interesting concept. Players have a folder of 30 'Battle Chips', essentially programs that can be sent by Lan to Megaman.EXE when in battle. They can customize the folder to their hearts content with a couple of restrictions, almost like a collectible card game in a sense. Every battle chip is tied to a 'code', which is a letter of the alphabet ranging from A-Z. Later games would include * which would act as a wild card code. Battle Chips can be acquired as a reward, purchased, obtained via plot, or through defeating enemies, the last method being the only way to acquire battle chips that are exclusively drops from bosses.

Not Battle Network 1 But Close Enough

Battle takes place on a 3x6 grid, with each side getting a 3x3 area. At the start of battle, a window called 'The Custom window' appears, with 5 chips to select from. The player can choose what battle chip data to send to Megaman, following the rules that all chips sent to Megaman must have the same letter code or must be the same chip. The player can also choose to flee at this time as well. During battle, Megaman can use the battle chips sent to him with A, or fire off his weaker Mega Buster with B. The closer Megaman is to his enemy, the faster he can fire. If upgraded, he can also choose to hold B to charge it up. As the battle progresses, the custom bar at the top will fill up. Once full, the player can press L or R to open the custom window again, temporarily stopping the battle. At which point they have a full set of 5 chips to choose from again. The cycle repeats until the battle is over, with either the enemy or Megaman being deleted. Upon a successful battle, the player will receive a rank based on their performance, which will affect what reward they will receive.

The overworld itself is split into two parts: The Net and the Real World. In the Real World you control Lan, who can wander around, talk to NPCs, make plot advancements, etc. If Lan finds a spot to 'Jack-In', he can then send Megaman onto the Net from there. Megaman will either end up in an isolated area, which contains an NPC or two and some rewards, a dungeon, usually dictated by plot, or the main Net itself. Where Lan jacks into will determine where on the Net Megaman shows up. Megaman can explore the Net, encounter NPCs, and engage in random battles. Interestingly enough, due to the Jack-In mechanic, Lan an essentially warp Megaman out of the Net at any time if it becomes too dangerous unless specified. This will also fully recover Megaman's life in all games.

Battle Network left behind quite the legacy, and during it's time was a money making machine for Capcom, and still is if the recently announced figures are anything to go by. Merchandise flew off shelves, it was one of the highest rated cartoon series on Kids WB!, although only two of the five seasons made it out of Japan. It had a manga series running for 6 years. It was the first Megaman incarnation, and so far the only, Megaman incarnation to have a theatrical film and did fairly well. It was also the second Megaman series, after Megaman Zero, to have a definitive conclusion. In the Japanese Marvel vs Capcom 3 character polls, the EXE characters consistently were breaking top 10. To say it was a success is an understatement, it reached a level that many other games never achieve regardless of sales.

Capcom, being filled with infinite wisdom, tried to make it happen a second time with Megaman Starforce, which would happen long after Battle Network in the year 220X. An anime happened, a manga happened, merch happened, but by the time the third game happened, literally two years after the first had been released thanks to an annual development cycle and both Starforce games being mediocre, it had all fallen apart. It's arguably the taste of Battle Networks success that drove Keiji Inafune to try and make Mighty No 9 a multi-media franchise without realizing why it worked in the first place.

After Starforce 3, Capcom started hyping up Operating Shooting Star which would release, surprise surprise, within a year. Talking up how it would be a remake of Battle Network 1, how it would be a crossover, to celebrate the Network timeline. What was the end result you ask?

Like I said earlier, it's not a remake, it's not a remaster. It's a glorified port of the original game. Capcom and the dev team lied, and I will full on call them out over it because this nonsense hurt both the Battle Network series as well as the main series. You know what the problem with the first game is? Like with the original Megaman series and every Megaman spinoff except for maybe Megaman X, Battle Network's first game is extremely rough. Like, if you have played a Battle Network game that came after the first, I would not recommend it to you because of how poorly it has aged, especially in comparison to its sequels.

Let's start off with what the port did. First, like the excellent DS port of Battle Network 5 and Starforce 3, voice acting was included for certain bits. A map was added to the bottom screen for the overworld. The * chip code was added to the game to help improve folder possibilities. Megamans health no longer recovers after a battle, a mechanic only relevant in the first game. Subchips, another mechanic from later games, which was an inventory system with one use items that provided healing on the Net overworld, alter enemy encounter rates, etc, was implemented. Some, but not all, portrait sprites were redone, which also resulted in some clashing artstyles. Some of them like Megaman's looked worse.

Which is all fine and dandy. However it doesn't fix the problems that still afflicted the original game. Chip codes were still poorly distributed, resulting in poor folder flow where players can often struggle to get 3 or more chips out at once which is a major problem when gunning for rarer drop rewards. This also results in an endgame where only a select few chip codes are actually viable. Combat also has the problem of many chips being unsafe to use due to poor start-up/end frames and not enough damage, making many redundant. The Net itself is still a dull, linear, monotone area with nothing to break it up. There's 16 areas that make up the net, and all of them have nothing to distinguish them outside of a new number. The music for the overworld, which you can listen to here, easily gets old after the first hour or two, let alone eight. At times it feels like Megaman's world was an afterthought despite the emphasis on this world.

Good Luck Finding Me!

 You would also think there'd be a post game right? Some type of secret dungeon or superboss or a new game plus right? Wrong, that's still missing and still has the same problems as before! The entire 'post-game' content of the first Battle Network is located in the last few areas on the internet. That post game content is fights with Pharoahman, Shadowman, and Bass. However, they are all random encounters, meaning god knows when you'll actually fight them, and Bass himself requires having own every battle chip except one in the game. The game does not tell you this information at all. There were fans, including myself that had no idea they were there until years after it came out, that's how poorly handled they were.

I'm the Guy That Made It All Happen

Also the crossover content? Laughable. Here's the entirety of it. At the start you get a little cutscene from Starforce explaining what happened. The new boss seen about called Clockman.exe, the winner of CoroCoro Comic boss design contest and admittedly a decent design, kidnaps Harp Note, a supporting character from Star Force 3, and flees back in time. Shooting Star Rockman, which is the Starforce incarnations name in Japan, follows him back in time. You don't see or hear anything else about this until after the Elecman.exe scenario. At which point, Mayl, Lan's friend, says that her navi, Roll.exe, has gone missing. Megaman.exe goes to find her, encounters Shooting Star Rockman. A misunderstanding happens, standard fight then team up occurs, and then they go to the new dungeon, which is a linear line with some mandatory virus fights, fight Clockman.exe, and save the two. Shooting Star Rockman and Harp Note then return to their own time. Not before SSR leaves Lan some data that will allow Lan to operate a NetNavi version of him.

Yup. That's it. That's the entire crossover. The thing they hyped up so much. Not even enough content to last a proper chapter. Occuring literally just before the final scenario. Just a 'I'm here to get someone and leave' plot. It's a crossover done in the worst way possible. It's pathetic. You're probably sitting there thinking, "Well if it's that barebones, surely Starforce Megaman is just a skin right?'

Don't Mind Me I'm Just Here To Break The Game

Nope. Starforce Megaman is a game breaker. You see, in his own series which has a different battle layout, he has a shield he can bring out at anytime, a lock-on and warp capability for battle chips, and a mega buster that operates slightly differently. You know what someone on the development team decided? Let's give him all of those abilities with no drawbacks and nothing to bring the main character of the story up to his level. Meaning Starforce Megaman doesn't need to have as many defensive chips in his folder, he doesn't need any type of area control, and short range chips are no problem to setup since he can just warp in front of an enemy to use them. Oh and his buster? It charges automatically instead of requiring the player to hold the button. When the player holds it, the buster will rapdily fire at full clip faster than EXE's. There is literally no point to the main character afterwards, as Starforce Megaman can even be used for the final boss and is just better in everyway.

You know what Capcom received as a result? Roughly 44000 sales by the end of 2009. For a crossover RPG on the Nintendo DS in Japan. In other words, it bombed. It was easily the worst selling title for both Battle Network and Starforce, because shocker, half-assing a port of a 9 year old game for full price and lying that it's a remake doesn't help your sales. When asked about a Battle Network collection for 3DS, something that would have all 6 games, you know what fans were told? No plans for that happening at the time. Denying a collection for a series... which has the second highest selling title on a single console for any Megaman iteration, only outsold by Megaman 2? That's when you know things have gone horribly wrong.

If anything caused the breakdown of Megaman as a whole and got Capcom to have cold feet with the franchise for the longest time, including when it came to Legends 3, it was this mess of a port/crossover right there along with their own lies. The game that finally showed them that that 1 year dev cycle abuse that the Battle Network and Starforce games had gone through would no longer be tolerated and were no longer realistic. This is the type of game that you should be watching out for, because they are the clear indicators that something is wrong with the series and the company behind it. Sadly for many, the warning signs that OSS gave were missed, as many didn't report on the game after it's announcement due to Capcom confirming it would not be localized before its launch in Japan. Clearly Capcom is still interested in Battle Network given the recent merchandising and promotions happening, but it's unclear if the damage from OSS still lingers.

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About Mike Soundersone of us since 3:05 PM on 10.27.2013

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For disclosure purposes, I have backed the following kickstarter campaigns:

Mega Man The Board Game
Exploding Kittens
Scythe
Bears VS Babies
Bloodborne: The Board Game