Truth be told, up until Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection, I’ve had zero experience with the Battle Network series part of the Mega Man franchise. Outside of quick glimpses of the cartoon show, the only thing I knew about it was that it was a far trek from the usual platforming goodness Mega Man is known for, even though it featured familiar characters in the form of the beloved Robot Masters.
As with previous Legacy Collections, Capcom has compiled all of Mega Man Battle Network into two volumes, and in these they put along with the games a whole lot of extra content in form of art slides and music tracks. For preservation purposes, both of these Legacy Collections do the job of offering an alternative way of enjoying older games that are otherwise locked to their respective consoles which could be hard to get ahold of nowadays, with the growing and increasingly getting out of hand of the retro gaming market.
Volume 1 compiles the first half of the Mega Man Battle Network series that was originally released on GameBoy Advance, namely Mega Man Battle Network 1, 2 and 3, the latter of which was split into two versions Pokémon-style, with Blue and White. With Volume 2, Capcom packed the rest, that is, Mega Man Battle Network 4 to 6, each with their own split versions: for 4, it’s Red Sun and Blue Moon, 5 throws Team Protoman and Colonel your way, and to close it off, Cybeast Gregar and Falza. Phew, that’s a lot of Mega Man!
But for as much Mega Man as there is in both of these compilations, you’re getting basically the gist of the very first game in each and every iteration that are included. As Lan, a kid living in a futuristic world where all social interactions are basically and intrinsically tied to technology, once he gets ahold of the Mega Man.EXE program, it’s a no-holds barred battle with all manner of viruses and other threats to the wellbeing of the digital world.
Combat plays out quite differently from the usual flavor of Mega Man in these games. Instead of jumping and dodging your way through waves of enemies in level-based platforming gameplay, you’re instead put on a type of grid board facing off whatever enemy you happen to be squaring off against. As for attacks and other actions, they’re all tied to the many chips you collect during your adventures, and as long as they hold the same type letter, you can pick as many as you want to use in these encounters.
Then again, you can also pop out your trusty Mega Buster and ping your foes to your heart’s content, but that’s usually not nearly as good of a tactic as the smart use of your chip arsenal. They tend to do a whole lot more damage and frankly, they’re the whole point of these games in the first place, so obviously they’re the main focus of the combat gameplay. Differently from your usual RPG, the fights happen real-time… ish. As long as you have chips going, you can keep using them while the opposition does the same.
During fights, you can shift lanes in order to avoid incoming attacks, and some chips will even increase the fighting field so you can close the gap and execute close range attacks of your own, or the opposite, keeping you safe from deadly abilities certain characters have, especially bosses. It’s a clever mix of action and menu-based battling that is fun to continuously get ever more variety in terms of chips, and helps keep things fresh.
When I say that all games follow that same gist, I mean it. Sure, with each new entry new gameplay elements get introduced to try and spice things up, such as Mega Man Battle Network 4‘s Dark Ships, which add negative effects to our hero’s actions in exchange for extra power, and the counter-hit effect that 6 had going for it exclusively. However, mostly all changes, be them additions or exclusions from version to version, do little to shake the overall dynamic of play, making all six games feel very similar.
And that’s perhaps the major drawback to taking the plunge and getting all both volumes at once. You’re better served playing through the Battle Network games at a slow pace, and even then, you will be better off knowing that improvements are incremental at best. That’s not to say that any of the games are bad, but there’s a definite falloff the further you get along the series, clearly showing that Capcom found a safe formula and kept up with it until the very end of the series with both versions of Mega Man Battle Network 6.
Back to the presentation side of both volumes of Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection, they are the very standard when it comes to actually remastering the games included. There’s a very basic filter that’s applied out of the box that smears the pixelated sprites, making them look more blob-ish, which to me looks fairly bad. Text is definitely sharper to the eyes and is legible, but no attention has been paid to improving text boxes in order to fit in more words. Worst yet, there are typos and spacing mistakes that could’ve at least been ironed out before release.
When it comes to the bonuses, there are plenty to speak of if you enjoyed the museum-type features from previous Capcom collections. Numerous pieces of art can be unlocked as you play the many games included in the two collections, as well as music that you can plop into a special jukebox accessible from the menus. There is little to no content when it comes to design docs, commercials, or even box arts, a shame all considering the wealth of materials that are available in that vein in something like last year’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection, for instance.
For returning fans of Mega Man Battle Network, both volumes of the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection are sure to feed their nostalgia. On the flipside, they might be a harder sell on those who had no prior or little experience playing them due to how close they all stick to the formula and don’t do much to set themselves apart from each other. When put side-by-side with previous collections by Capcom, these sit at the lower end, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re bad. It’s just worth coming in with your expectations in check.