Welcome back to Save State where the squirrels and chipmunks have now seemingly banded together to cause headaches. They have begun to feast on everything that’s on the front porch of the house, and they’ve proved that apes together are strong because they try to mess with my dog while she’s outside now. They’re attempting to unionize, and they won’t stop even after I’ve offered them pizza! The good news is that on the inside of the house, the Mega Man Battle Network marathon continues, this time with the completion of Mega Man Battle Network 3.
Battle Network 3 starts with Lan and MegaMan.exe attempting to join the N1 Grand Prix, a net battling tournament where skilled operators can show off their skills and wits. It’s a simple yet interesting premise that’s used to facilitate Lan getting involved in the events going forward, because the evil organization from the first Battle Network game, WWW, is back with a vengeance. There are more than a few heartfelt moments in the third title of this series, plus some high stakes incidents such as a terrorist attack on a hospital that shuts off the power throughout while Lan’s friend is in the operating room. Battle Network 3 probably has the most well-rounded story of the series thus far, which is great since Capcom firmly established the worldbuilding in the first two games.
Battle Network 3’s visuals are a bit more detailed than what you’d see in the second game, though the advancement isn’t as obvious as going from Battle Network 1 to 2. The environments of the Net, which were labyrinthine and difficult to navigate in the first title, were fine-tuned with signposting and visual markers to identify your location in Battle Network 2, and the third improves upon this even further by color-coding your friend’s homepages for quick shortcut access. The music in Battle Network 3 is also extremely good, which is surprising to say about a GBA game since those all had tinny sounding tracks, but leave it to Capcom to do a lot with very little!
The combat mechanics of Battle Network 3 are very similar to those of 1 and 2. You still operate using your 3×3 grid and attempt to deny enemy movement by interacting with their grid, but a lot of the changes in Battle Network 3 come from how folder design has been changed. In Battle Network 1, you could use up to 10 copies of the same battle chip, in Battle Network 2 that was reduced to 5, and now in Battle Network 3, that’s been reduced to 4. In folder building, you still have to streamline how many codes are available, as you can only select chips of the same type or that share the same code when battling, but the maximum chip copy limitation will prevent players from lucking into powerful Program Advances repeatedly across multiple rounds of combat.
Due to the changes Battle Network 3 made to the battle system, I found myself strategically selecting chips in the first round of combat so I could stand a higher chance to have the chips I needed by the second round. Furthermore, many chips had changes made to them to limit the number of those you could use. Many chips that allowed exploits were changed to Mega Chips, which allow you to only use 1 copy of that chip to prevent abuse. Giga Chips, on the other hand, allow you to use only 1 of the 20 chips because they’re that powerful (and I played the Blue version, so I got access to the FolderBack chip).
The memory mechanic from Battle Network 2 makes a comeback, and as you explore through the game you can expand MegaMan’s memory so you can set more powerful chips as your default, so that specific chip is always available at the start of a battle. Battle Network 3 also introduces Navi Customizer, which allows you to place programs you find on a grid to expand MegaMan’s capabilities. These changes can be as simple as powering up MegaMan’s buster damage or charge shot levels, to activating a repel-like effect from Pokemon at all times where weaker viruses won’t cause random battles with you. Do note, however, there’s a number of progress-specific Navi Customizer programs, such as one that lets you shrink MegaMan to move over small wires, and you’ll likely be going in and out of that menu to progress through the game.
The job request board from Battle Network 2 returns, albeit in a different location, and you now have plenty of tasks to fetch specific items, give certain chips, or beat some viruses. The Style Change system returns, as well, but in Battle Network 3 you can only store one style at a time, and three new styles were added with their own benefits. The method of obtaining styles is largely the same, too: By performing certain actions in battle, like using a lot of Program Advances, you’ll eventually earn a different form, such as the Custom style, which gives you an additional battle chip per round of combat.
Battle Network 3 seems to have significantly more content than either previous Battle Network title, and one hundred percenting it took considerably more time than Battle Network 2 (well, as much as I could do without scheduling online battles to play against other people). There are more chips to collect, more side quests, and loads of secret bosses hidden throughout for you to experience and enjoy. The story and its pacing are far more enjoyable than the first two games, and while there are a couple of moments where the backtracking seems disproportionate (looking at you, BubbleMan), it’s impressive how much Battle Network 3’s developers were able to improve upon storytelling and dungeon design in just 2-3 years.
All in all, Mega Man Battle Network 3 is probably my favorite in the series so far. The more balanced combat (which I thought was already great in Battle Network 2) and better story with some heartfelt moments with a kid in a wheelchair really helped cement this as an enjoyable experience. The overall amount of content, including post-game, gives the player a ton to do, and I’m looking forward to trying out the fourth title in the series once I review some other games.
With that said and done, it’s time to ctrl+S another edition of Save State. It’s been swell, but thankfully the swelling’s going down.