Welcome back to Save State, where chipmunks have taken over my domicile. That’s not a segue into a Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers game or something, there’s a ton of rodents around my house and it’s becoming a massive problem. That being said, I guess having a bunch of chipmunks take over my yard is better than having a plague of bugs infest it. I mean, who actually enjoys bugs, especially in your video games? While the last Save State was about Pokemon Scarlet and Violet’s DLC, this week I feel the urge to talk about a title all about busting bugs and viruses: Mega Man Battle Network. That’s right: I fooled you, while there are enough chipmunks in my yard to gang up on my dog, this was actually a segue into this week’s game.
Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection Vol. 1 is not just a victim of unfortunately verbose nomenclature, it’s also a collection of some of the finest card battler RPGs featuring Mega Man. While there have been other Mega Man RPGs like Mega Man X Command Mission which featured more standard console RPG gameplay, Mega Man Battle Network features combat on a 3×6 grid and the player utilizes a deck of cards, or folder of battle chips in this instance, to defeat enemies. There are some mechanics that differ on a game-to-game basis, but your folder of chips and movement on a grid to avoid enemy attacks and put enemies in range of your own weaponry is paramount to all of the titles in this series.
When I was younger, I only got to experience one of the Mega Man Battle Network games- the port of the fifth one, Double Team DS. Meaning that this is actually my first time playing through the first title in this series, as I jumped in with the fifth entry and was quite a fan from that one to the extent I both purchased and enjoyed Mega Man Network Transmission, which is looked upon less than favorably by the respective fanbase. Hopefully everyone who peruses this column is comfortable with me recounting my experiences with the Mega Man Battle Network franchise for a few weeks.
Mega Man Battle Network starts off on a pretty good note. You start off with Lan Hikari and his online Navi, MegaMan.exe, and you get to see Lan, his town, and friends. Shortly after, you’re given a brief tutorial on how to control Mega Man in combat and how to select your battle chips. Your first battle chip folder isn’t great, but that’s by design: You’re supposed to collect chips to make a more efficient folder as you progress through Mega Man Battle Network, which will naturally increase your Busting Rank to get S-ranks the further you go. To explain how combat works, you and your enemies move around on your own 3×3 grids, and periodically the player is allowed to select from a menu of 5 battle chips. These chips form your attacks, comprising of cannons that shoot all the way across the screen, swords that require you be up close but deal significant damage, or bombs that hit a certain number of panels away from you.
Every single chip in Mega Man Battle Network has a letter code attached to it, and you can select multiple chips to attack with only if they’ve all got the same letter code, or if they’re all the same type of chip. So, for example, if your options are 3 Cannons with the codes A, B, and C, you can select all three of those. You could also select Bomb A, Cannon A, and Sword A, because the letter code matches. To add on top of this, using multiples of specific chips can create a Program Advance, such as the three Cannon chips aforementioned, which will create a Zeta Cannon chip that allows you to fire rapidly and be invincible for five seconds.
What all of this means is that customizing your folder will vastly improve your experience in Mega Man Battle Network. Having lots of chips with similar codes, or chips that can perform powerful Program Advances, will help you take down dangerous bosses or random battle enemies with ease. There are a whopping 175 battle chips for you to collect, and there’s a good number of viable folders using a lot of these chips, and not all of them are simply attacks either- some recover health, steal away panels from the enemy’s side of the grid, or break panels on their side to limit their movement. It’s great how creative Capcom got with strategies in a 2001 GBA title.
While outside of the virtual world, there are no battles. Once Lan jacks MegaMan.exe into the network, however, you’ll have to exercise your virus busting chops regularly. The virtual world consists of a lot of thin, maze-like paths that take quite a bit of getting used to, and Battle Network 1 has quite the high encounter rate so you’ll get to experiment with your battle chip folder a lot. The labyrinthine level design didn’t initially bother me at first, but later dungeons leaned into this concept more than I felt was necessary. There was a power plant dungeon in particular that not only used multitudinous invisible pathways, but also a trial-and-error battery puzzle to unlock new visible paths. While the power plant was a clear low point for me, personally, I felt like a lot of it stemmed from the fact that you can’t escape from random encounters in this game without using a battle chip (which means running from encounters is random), something later titles in this series let you do without dedicating folder space for it.
Outside of combat, most of Battle Network’s progression is exactly what you’d expect from a JRPG around 2001. You control Lan as he wanders all over ACDC Town, and you can talk to townspeople, snoop through their dresser drawers for battle chips, and so on. The story itself is pretty standard as well, but it’s standard in the way old Pokemon titles used to present their plots: you’re a fifth grader going against a terrorist organization, stopping their plots which consist of burning people’s houses down by infecting people’s ovens with viruses, but quickly escalates to launching missiles to destroy civilization. It’s a really cute story, and the unrelenting optimism of Lan and MegaMan.exe is aged but charming.
One hundred percenting the first Battle Network game takes quite a lot of effort, as well, as S-ranking battles doesn’t necessarily guarantee you the battle chip you may want, as you can earn a slightly higher amount of zenny instead. Before you ask, earning 400 zenny instead of 350 isn’t worth needing to do 25 more battles for 1 single battle chip (on top of drop rate RNG, it can sometimes be a challenge to get the enemy to spawn who drops the chip you need), but if memory serves, later iterations of Battle Network improved battle chip collection by guaranteeing drops on S-ranks. The first Battle Network’s super boss will finally be available to challenge if you collect every single other battle chip in the game, and he’s quite the handful, to boot.
All in all, Mega Man Battle Network was a great starting point for the series that only improved in its later iterations. Many of the mechanics established in the first Battle Network stay true throughout the franchise, making this an important foundation for what was to come later. I wasn’t a big fan of some of the first game’s dungeon designs like the previously mentioned power plant stage, but those issues were improved upon in Battle Network 2, which I can already see enhancements despite only being a couple of hours into that so far.
That being said, I think it’s safe to bring this entry of Save State to a close. No trees were destroyed in the creation of this article. However, a significant number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.