Overview of Mega Man Battle Network

A while back, I wrote a piece on my excitement and hopes of Battle Network 3 coming to Virtual Console. However, it has come to my attention that many people may still consider the series the black sheep of the entire franchise. While not every entry is great (looking at you 4), they are still good and fun to play, even more so when you have a friend to play them with.

The Battle Network series (known in Japan as Rockman.EXE) consists mostly of GameBoy Advance games that make up the canon. Each game tells a story concerning Lan and his NetNavi, MegaMan.EXE, and their efforts to save the world. It’s pointed out in each game that MegaMan is Lan’s twin brother, Hub, who died but soul transferred to the cyber world thanks to their father, Dr. Hikari. This brotherly bond can lead to some touching moments in the series, especially the first time I saw it for the first time in Battle Network 3.

To be honest, I initially thought Lan turned into Megaman

To be honest, I initially thought Lan turned into MegaMan.EXE

As much as I enjoyed the story when I first played them, one of the great parts of the series is the gameplay. Unlike the other series in the franchise, the Battle Network games are not side-scrollers (except for Network Transmission). Instead, they are each an action-RPG with a unique twist. You still have random encounters, turns, HP, and story, but now you have free-yet-limited movement. Each battle typically begins on a 3×6 grid split in half. There are other factors including terrain, but for the most part, you have 9 spaces you can move around as you like. In the other series, the main weapon is the Mega Buster. Here, that’s your back up when you have nothing else. Instead, you mostly fight is Battle Chips. These collectible cards act as a one time power up which can result in a powerful sword, cannon, recovery, or even stealing space.

As it is, the battle chips alone are neat to collect and organize. However, if you devote the time, you can master what is called the “Program Advance.” If you organize the right battle chips correctly, they fuse together to become another special ability. For example, the sword, wide sword, and long sword become the Lifesword. It is interesting that the same combination can result in a different combo depending on the game. This helps make each game unique and grant you a different taste of mastering the system.

Plan wisely which battle chips to use

Plan wisely which battle chips to use

However, it would not be Mega Man without the bosses to obtain powers from. Since this series is more like an alternate reality where instead of robots, Dr. Wily and Dr. Light made computer programs, the robot masters of the classic series take new forms as NetNavis. To be honest, I think some of the designs are much better here than when they were robots as the idea of being in the cyber world grants more freedom to the designers in creativity.

Perhaps one of the coolest things about the games is introduced in the second game and that is Style Change. This neat feature modified your version of MegaMan to meet your playing style. For example, if you liked using program advances, there is a style to help you pull them off. If you like blasting with the mega buster, then there’s a style to accommodate that as well. Further customization was introduced in the form of the Navi Customizer in Battle Network 3, at the cost of a space to hold a Style Change unfortunately. This also took the place of skill points that upgraded the Power, Speed, and Charge of MegaMan as you then had to organize blocks together to gain those boosts. However, you also gained the ability to add special abilities to your MegaMan such as a barrier to start the battle. Things that were previously only for battle chips could now be skills built into your NetNavi.

While Style Change was my favorite of the transformations, Capcom decided to replace it with something closer to the original series, Double Soul. This took the ability of one of the bosses/allies and gave you a few turns to effectively play as them with their bonuses. However, being limited to three turns and sacrificing a chip was not one of my favorite things about it. So in the last game, the developers introduced Crosses (technically in 5 but that’s late one). Crosses was a nice mix of the good things about Style Change and Double Soul. You could use any without sacrifice and switch mid-battle. If you don’t get hit by the opposing element, you could stay in the form as long as you want.

100 points for coolness

100 points for coolness

However, one of the best things about the games is the connectivity. If a friend had the game too, then it was awesome to netbattle or trade battle chips. This feature increased the replayability by leaps and bounds. The only problem was the later games were not balanced nicely. Search Soul was a cheap transformation that could almost guarantee victory, or Tomohawk Soul combined with undershirt would keep someone alive for ages. It was fun to battle, but it could get old when it was less about skill and strategy. Since 3 was more fairly balanced with the Style Change system, it’s my favorite of the games (disclaimer: I never got to netbattle with 1 or 2). If you want to start playing, try 2 or 3. I liked 3 the best, but 2 is one where you can get everything by yourself, including Hub Style.

The games aren’t very difficult. 3 was the hardest for me but I don’t know if that’s because it was designed well or if it was because it was my first game. I do recall it took me about two weeks to beat it as opposed to two-three days for each of the others. 6 especially has an easy story mode.

Easy game but some pretty cool designs

Easy game but some pretty cool designs

4 is arguably the worst in the series, which is disappointing because it has one of the best features. It’s the only game where you can restart the story and keep all of your chips while fighting more difficult opponents. It’s horrible because you are forced to go through it 3 times at least to get everything in addition to someone having the opposite version to trade with you and netbattle (which means they have to beat it three times too). And if you missed something in one playthrough you have to cycle back to find it, if you know what you are looking for. It also has a tournament feature that allows you to battle the other version’s NetNavis, but that only happens after the other version has unlocked them (again, beat it three times for the full feature).

Battle Routine Set! Execute!

Battle Routine Set! Execute!

Battle Network 5 is an interesting title. The developers decided in implement more strategy into certain parts of the game. If you want variety, it’s a neat game to pick up. However, it’s also the only game with a DS version called Double Team. The original GBA games are split into teams which have a different set of allies. In the DS version, you pick which set and therefore your allies, but you have access to the other version’s NetNavis as well. In addition, you can play as any of the them throughout most of the game instead of just the strategy sessions. Not only that, but you can switch mid-battle.

The benefits of the DS version don’t stop there. You also get to use the touch screen for a map of the cyber world, organize your battle chips, and interact with the menu. Perhaps the best part is the rewards for actually beating the GBA version. If you made progress in the GBA game, you can import your folder of battle chips to use in Double Team. Even cooler is unlocking Bass X MegaMan by defeating Bass in the GBA game. And if you picked up Boktai 2 from Konomi, you can also play as Sol X MegaMan. Seriously, he looks way cooler than he plays, but it’s still awesome.



The GBA versions of Battle Network 5 were okay. Double Team made it great. It’s also the easiest to replay because you have two save files and having one of the versions beat, gives you access to the NetNavis in the other version. Yes, this means you technically have to beat the game twice to get the full benefits, but the benefits is that it’s easy to replay the game or you can go from scratch if you want (or borrow from someone who has beaten one of the GBA version and that will get you the same benefits).

I cannot talk about the Battle Network games without talking about the music. The theme song is one my favorite tunes in video games. It’s simple and addictive just like many of the great songs. If you go through the games, you might not notice it at first, but the theme is the same in every game. The difference tends to be a different instrument or edit of the secondary tune, but it’s the same song and it’s great every time. The theme for the 6th game is perfect for capitalizing the energy of Beasts. I could easily imagine rushing through a jungle with the energy of a powerful beast when I first heard the song. You can actually still hear it played on Capcom Japan’s Rockman EXE page where it’s on repeat as BGM 1. However, if someone preferred Battle Network 2 or 3‘s theme, I wouldn’t hold it against them.

Anyways, I found it interesting to note that one thing people complained about the Battle Network series was it’s lack of innovation. Considering the unique gameplay and the changes they made throughout the series, that is a big mistake. Yes, the yearly release was a bit of a problem, but since I looked forward to the story and new transformations back then, I was actually pumped for a yearly release. We do have to admit that Capcom was smart to acknowledge when the series was over and start again, but I think there is a great opportunity to revive this series on the Wii U.

That’s right. When I first heard about the Wii U, this game series was the first thing I thought of. Imagine if you could buy battle chips in real life and use the NFC feature of the GamePad to use them. It doesn’t have to be a core title. If it’s an MMO thing, that’d be perfect. They already do a good job with Monster Hunter, doing the same with the Battle Network series would be a blast.

Even if Capcom doesn’t take up my MMO idea, adding an online connectivity feature to the Virtual Console games would be a crucial selling point to these classics. And as I mentioned in my other article and hinted here, it’s essential to the later games. When they split the series into versions, netbattling and trading were the only ways to obtain certain battle chips and to complete the game. Besides, adding online matchmaking would make these classics even better than before. I really hope to be netbattling online some time soon.

Megaman BN 3 Promo

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About The Author

Feature Writer/Game Reviewer

Blogger in the IGN community and no longer for Always Nintendo. You can find him still blogging in the IGN community as FalconRise