Welcome back to Save State where the squirrels and chipmunks seem to have finally gone into hibernation after completely ripping apart my car’s hood insulation. These things are an absolute menace whose reign of terror has not stopped, and only has been stymied for a short time. That being said, when not trying to humanely trap and release rodents elsewhere only for them to wind up in my shed, again, by the end of the day, I’ve been playing more Mega Man Battle Network in my down time. This time, it’s Mega Man Battle Network 4, an entry that revolutionized the appearance of the series going forward.
The primary impetus of the story in Battle Network 4 is an asteroid on imminent impact for the Earth. This cataclysmic event largely goes by the wayside so the game can regale you with a tale of a tournament to prove who is the best NetNavi operator because the assumption in Battle Network 4 is that whoever has the strongest Navi can divert the course of the asteroid. Of course, while everyone is engaging in clean sportsmanship, a new evil organization named Nebula shows up to cause everyone problems. Lan and MegaMan.exe wind up being the primary operator and Navi combo to stand up to Nebula, with much of the title also centered around the tournament arc where the two protagonists need to show off their skills. It’s a serviceable enough story, a bit of a step back from Battle Network 3, but still good enough that it can hold your interest for one playthrough.
The visual changes in Battle Network 4 can be a little jarring, especially after playing the first three Battle Network games in a row. The new art style has shorter and cuter characters, and many environments have become more minimalist in their diminutive size. There are some new benefits to the art style change, however, in that many new locations feature more vibrant colors than even the previous Battle Network titles boasted, especially in the net sections where you control MegaMan.exe.
The battle system of Battle Network 4 is by and large the same as the previous three entries, though there have been some notable tweaks that can be somewhat polarizing. The Style Change system from the last couple Battle Network games has been dropped entirely for a new Soul Unison system, though Soul Unison does keep some elements from Styles. After defeating particular Navis while progressing through the story, you can acquire their Soul Unison to earn a new form that yields an elemental strength and weakness by sacrificing a battle chip of that element.
A lot of Battle Network 4’s changes seem superfluous, at least on the surface, and while there’s plenty of interesting new battle chips to use, the Emotion Window added in this game will largely allow players to abuse counterattacks against enemy viruses to reach a state called Full Synchro, doubling the damage of their next battle chip. There’s also an angry state that triggers when MegaMan takes a large amount of damage in one hit, which gives players super armor to effectively launch a counteroffensive, as well.
Battle Network 4 was the first game in the series I didn’t try to fully complete; it simply seemed like it was going to take too much time to do so. If you’re aiming to fully complete Battle Network 4, you’ve got to play it a whopping three or four times to obtain all of the Navi Souls, and apparently item drops on the map can happen in New Game+ if they were picked up in the previous run, which means a lot of running around and replaying the same areas. I didn’t find Battle Network 4 to be a bad title by any means, but it seemed like an awful lot to replay it three times in just two weeks: I have a full-time job already, and I got enjoyment enough from one run of the story.
For the most part, there were very few overall changes to the combat system in the fourth entry. The new dark chips integrate with the story, often giving MegaMan extremely powerful attacks that also introduce harmful effects to MegaMan, like lowering his health or making his Buster non-functional. If MegaMan takes repeat attacks in battle without being able to retaliate, dark chips may appear on the Custom Screen, tempting you to use them to clear out a battle quickly. This is actually a fun bit of gameplay-story integration, and while they definitely do seem strong, permanently losing 1HP every single time you use one was too much of a drawback to warrant trying.
On top of this, Battle Network 4 seems to have a karma system where you can randomly burst into the Full Synchro state if you avoid using dark chips, which means you can occasionally get double damage on your chips for free. On top of this, rampant utilization of dark chips prevents you from using Soul Unison and powerful sp chips, which is a very impressive drawback on top of permanently losing 1HP every time you’re tempted by the dark side.
So, truth be told, though the most fascinating mechanic I found in Battle Network 4, the dark chips are things I actively avoided using throughout my entire run – aside from the one time it was required by the story. Each of the versions of Battle Network 4 still has some slight differences, such as how you can only battle Roll in the Red Sun version of the game, while Protoman is only available to fight in Blue Moon. This means each version has some exclusive battle chips, and there’s 6 exclusive Souls per version, though you’ll need to play the title multiple times in order to unlock all of the Souls, so… good luck with that.
That being said, I had an alright time with Battle Network 4. I didn’t dislike it, but it was very unremarkable in both the story department and the new additions to the combat system. While the Soul Unison system in Battle Network 4 is powerful, it mostly seems to still just be an extension of the Style system of the past two Battle Network titles. The Navi Customizer also makes a return, and you won’t have to spend time going in and out of that menu in order to traverse areas on the Net like you had to in Battle Network 3, so I spent a lot more time simply optimizing my setup rather than constantly slotting in that silly shrinking program to run along small paths.
That being said, I think it’s a fair time to bring this edition of Save State to a close. Also remember to drink some water. Yes, you, I know that you’re bordering on dehydration, and it’s not good for your kidneys. Until next time!