Rescue penguins! Fight a cyborg tree! Play as a cigarette lighter!
The long awaited sixth installment of the epic Mega Man Battle Network saga has finally arrived, and we see our hero, Lan, transported to a new town. Sadly, he must leave his friends in AC/DC Town and face not graduating with his class (despite not knowing such difficult words as "occupation" and "pavilion"). But just as soon as he starts making friends with the aesthetically challenged children of Cyber Town, there is treachery afoot. Can Mega Man and Lan save the town from certain destruction? Could Dr. Wiley possibly be involved in the shenanigans? Is this game even worth playing?
In the interest of full disclosure I must admit I have never played a Battle Network game and, consequently, have no prior knowledge of the series' characters and history. I am not familiar enough with the previous installments to recognize or comment on this entry's changes to the gameplay—I can only judge MMBN6 on its own terms and, well…it is an interesting specimen.
Allow me to qualify that statement. For many RPGs, plot (or presentation) takes precedence, arguably leaving gameplay as a secondary concern. However, in MMBN6 the gameplay easily trumps the story. Lan, and almost everyone else in his world, has a digital, sentient sidekick called a Navi. Mega Man is Lan's Navi and best friend, and much of the game's action—including its battles—takes place in the digital world. The game's collectable chips, which serve as Mega Man’s weapons, and its highly customizable upgrade system keep the battles from quickly becoming boring. Of course, MMBN6's frequent, random battles will wear players down, but there are some odd mini-games before each boss battle to help bolster the variety. In one of the saner mini-games, Mega Man rides a cloud to trap cyclones in a ring of rainbows.
The story, on the other hand, is exceedingly idiotic. Games aren’t expected to weave tales on par with Hemingway or Tolstoy, but if I hadn’t been so busy laughing at the contrived situations or silly dialogue, I would have taken offense at how dense Capcom believes children to be. In the interest of being educational, the game often attempts to teach something (e.g. at the aquarium you’re required to read about the fish—all ten of them). However, these moments are futile in a game where the hero must also retrieve an inflated beach ball that has sunk to the bottom of a water tank. In fact, the mere concept of a town fully integrated and run by a consistently corrupted internet is amazingly stupid. The only benefit of continuing with MMBN6’s plotline is to see what lunatic scenario the so-called-writers pull out next. The only truly valuable lesson in this game is “Don’t move to a town full of morons."
In fact, Battle Network's above-average battle system is the only aspect of the game worth praising. The graphics are colorful, but the game's overall look is nothing worth writing home about and its horrendous character art insults eyes. The controls (outside of menus) are responsive, though that is no great feat for an RPG with one action button. This game fails to impress on any technical level—it's just another 16-bit era wannabe with generic action-anime music.
At least the game provides gamers with the incentive to explore. As Lan progresses through his adventure he gains control over other characters such as HeatMan and ElecMan, who can open up previously inaccessible areas and add variety to the battles. If you don't mind Lan's lame fetch-quests, the game will last for a while, and (as with previous Battle Network games) you can link GBA systems to battle against friends.
Mega Man Battle Network 6 is slightly better than your average game that comes with an unintentionally comedic story. It’s no shock that MMBN6 isn’t trying to win over new fans, and on a system all but dead there isn’t much need to innovate. It is what it is and fans of the series who aren’t sick of the formula yet will love it.