When Mega Man Battle Network debuted on the GBA in 2001, it was greeted warmly; after all, it was a deep, unique experience that was friendly to all ages. Sadly, six years later, Capcom continues to release the same game with slight variations.
So how does the gameplay hold up? In a word, badly.
The main battle element of the game has seen the biggest change: the move to a 3-D perspective. All the characters are now simple cel-shaded polygons instead of detailed sprites, and the action is viewed from behind the protagonist. This doesn’t change the gameplay, though, and it sadly seems to make it harder to know what’s going on. Sometimes the enemies will be blocked from view because Mega Man’s back is in the way, and it’s also harder to judge how close the enemies’ shots are to hitting.
The series is still suffering from a lack of polish. The text screens still use the spaced-out letters, leaving room for only three or four words at a time, and the unnecessary talking gets obnoxious because it can’t be skipped.
The game’s three versions (Pegasus, Leo and Dragon) have very little to differentiate them other than a few branded elements. Capcom is still trying to cash in on the Pokemon-like different version trend, even though most other developers seem to have come to their senses.
The title isn’t completely without some redeeming qualities. The ability to connect with friends and have meaningful results is nice, and fits in with the idea of multiple versions. Also, the gameplay itself isn’t that bad, so for those that managed to avoid all the previous titles, there’s still some enjoyment to be had here.
It seems that Capcom itself is even realizing how stale the experience is, since it renamed the series from Battle Network to Star Force. However, it would have been a much better idea to change the actual gameplay too. The real problems of the game, namely the clunky system and lack of variety, are still here. I’d say that I hope these problems are fixed in the next sequel, but there doesn’t need to be a follow-up to this one.