Lan and Mega Man are back. Does this new adventure measure up with their past outings? Read this review to find out.
Mega Man and Lan have returned for another Internet adventure, this time in Mega Man Battle Network 4. The game comes in two versions, Red Sun and Blue Moon, and while both are basically the same they do have some differences in plot and items.
If you’ve never played a Mega Man Battle Network game before, here’s a basic rundown on how they work. You control 6th grader Lan in the real world, and his cyber-pet, also called a “navi,” Mega Man in the cyber world. Lan and Mega Man work together to fight bad guys and compete in tournaments. All the real action takes place in the cyber world. While Lan simply walks around talking to people and occasionally collecting things, Mega Man fights enemies on the Internet and in tournaments.
Battle is set up on a six by three grid, with each side controlling nine squares of the battle field. Combat is in real time, and players can move Mega Man around the grid to dodge and attack enemies. Mega Man has a folder of attack chips at his disposal which are used to dish out the pain. He’s also got his trusty Mega Buster cannon to use at any time. Mega Man can only hold so many chips at a certain time, and all the chips he’s currently using must share either the same name or chip code letter. This keeps players from using an absurd amount of powerful chips at the same time. Mixing certain combinations of chips (such as Cannon A, Cannon B, and Cannon C) together will sometimes yield an Advance chip, which can deal out some major damage.
The combat system remains basically unchanged since the last Mega Man Battle Network game. There are a couple alterations though. Battle Network 4 focuses on Dark Chips. These chips will be offered to Mega Man at difficult moments in the game. They deal out ridiculous amounts of damage, but will permanently decrease Mega Man’s health. Also, style changes from Battle Network 3 have been replaced with a new Soul Unison system. With this system Mega Man can permanently give up a chip of a certain element to switch into that element mid-battle, and take on all its characteristics. The Soul Unison system is a step up from style changes because it offers more versatility. Players can switch Mega Man through multiple forms in the same battle, if they are so inclined.
Unfortunately, while the battle system has been improved upon slightly, Mega Man Battle Network 4 remains basically the same as its three previous incarnations. It’s not such a bad thing, because the battle system is still remarkably fun. The style of mixing an RPG battle system into a real-time duel works very well. Random battles are ok, but the battle system really shines in the tournament fights. Squaring off against a tough opponent (I’m looking at you, Videoman) is a real challenge and some fights will take multiple tries to win. Finally besting a tough opponent rewards you with a real sense of accomplishment.
However, while the battle system remains fun, the plot has taken a turn of the worse. Too much of the story revolves around tournaments and interacting with your various opponents in the real world. The game likes to follow a formula wherein Lan meets his opponent and discovers they have a problem that will prevent them from competing in the tournament. He then goes about solving this problem. After the problem is resolved, Mega Man beats the ever-loving crap out of his opponent and proceeds to the next round of the tournament. The whole format is highly repetitive and gets old real fast. It would be better if Lan both competed in tournaments and went out solving problems that weren’t related to the tournaments. The tournament-plot system feels very forced unlike the plots of the previous games.
It’s worth noting that the Mega Man Battle Network series has finally received a minor graphical update this time around. The overworld characters have all been shrunk down somewhat, but also sport more detail. The over all look is more anime-styled and is an improvement over the previous ones. The design of the characters in battle has remained unchanged.
Also changed this time is the layout of the Internet. The map always varied from game to game, but this time the overall design philosophy has been greatly improved. The ‘net now supports a “main street” that can be easily followed from section to section. Thanks to the new main street, the web has become much easier to navigate.
To keep it simple, fans of the previous three Mega Man Battle Network games are going to enjoy this title. The combat is just as good as ever, even if the plot has been mucked up a bit. It’s not like these games ever had the best plots to begin with anyway. For first timers, it would probably be better to start off with the second or third incarnation of the series as opposed to this fourth one. Of course, if you’ve never liked the Mega Man Battle Network games, you aren’t going to enjoy this one.