The Game Boy Advance is the best handheld device ever released. Maybe a controversial statement considering there have been phenomenal handhelds over the years, but this is an era that defined the generation and brought to light some of the best journeys out there. One of the many series to be born from the handheld was Mega Man Battle Network, a spin-off to the highly popular Mega Man franchise. It took elements we’ve all loved from the originals and implemented it in an entirely different way. It’s essentially a card-based action-RPG, putting players in an active setting where your movements and commands are limited. It also featured a lighthearted adventure about a young boy in a futuristic setting, making Mega Man more of the trusty sidekick than the true protagonist. Being that the series is over two decades old, it’s surprising that we haven’t gotten any remasters of the Battle Network games, but Capcom is finally bringing the adventures to a whole new generation. Do the Mega Man Battle Network games hold up in 2023 or is it a relic of the past?
The Battle Network games take place sometime in the twenty-first century as players will take control of both Lan, an elementary school student, and his NetNavi PET. Instead of the world being this futuristic robot hellscape, Lan taps into the NET or electronics in his small town that can be jacked into and there’s a little mini world within each device filled with programs doing their thing and viruses. It’s a fascinating the fun concept that we wish the franchise continued forth into the current generation with as there’s so many possibilities that the series can take. The stories of each of the games are nothing to write home about as they are simple, child-friendly adventures of an elementary student. Granted, not many kids will get into situations where they’ll be battling terrorist organizations such as the WWW who are trying to control and take over the NET, but for the most part it’s light-hearted what goes on. It’s something players have become accustomed to with say the Pokémon series in that regard. The collection features all six of the Battle Network games, along with their alternative versions they started in the third iteration, again similar to the Pokémon series. Technically that means there are ten games to choose from in this package, although most of the differences are negligible. There’s an immense amount of content to get through, spanning hundreds of hours in this package alone.
Being these games are upwards of twenty-two years old, just how well do they hold up from a gameplay perspective? Relatively well it turns out. The combat remains surprisingly unique even by today’s standards, as it’s a mesh of strategic, tile-based active action, with a hint of card-based functionality in the form of waiting to equip one or two unique abilities. The biggest, most outdated gameplay component of the Battle Network games, though, are the random battle encounters. There’s nothing particularly wrong about having random encounters, but the big issue revolves around time management. Why these games took so long to beat back in the day was because most of the time players were forced to participate in these encounters with an RNG chance for an escape ability to show up in their deck. That unfortunately remains in the Battle Network games, but Capcom has recognized this and added a “Buster MAX Mode” which gives MegaMan’s buster 100x the power, essentially killing random enemies in a single hit and taking down bosses with ease. This is no doubt meant to ensure players have the option to go through the game at their own pace, although we recommend turning this off during boss battles or first encounters with enemies. Each enemy type has their own unique skill set that is more engaging to figure out. It’s the act of doing it over and over again that the Buster MAX Mode greatly helps removes some of the pain, something that can be turned on and off in the new menu.
Capcom has perfectly brought the Battle Network GBA games to the current generation with all their sprite-based visuals glory. If you’re not too fond of the sharp edges, there’s a filter which basically blurs everything to look more like a smeared painting. This is obviously a personal preference, but to us it takes away from the original experience and charm. On top of this, Capcom has reworked the text, be it dialogue or in the menus, that looks a lot cleaner. We would have liked to have the option of the original text as the new look stands out immensely as being overly clean versus the rest of the sprite-based visual aesthetic, but this is but a minor gripe. Outside of this, the Game Boy Advance had a 3:2 aspect ratio, which the remasters retain. Players are not only able to increase the size of the play area, but decrease it to what feels like closer to the original’s resolution. Even if it’s increased all the way, there’s still added screen real estate around the edges, so Capcom has added artwork from 1-3 and 4-6 (depending on the versions being played) that can be swapped in and out as you please. It gives playing a bit of flair but is something that will be quickly forgotten about.
Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection remains true to its original releases while adding a couple of appreciated additions to clean up some of its timewasters. We are of course talking about the Buster MAX Mode which makes getting through the random battles a lot more bearable. You can still play it as it was intended to be played, but having an escape feature be tied to RNG is not ideal. Outside of this and some accessibility options, not a whole lot has changed from the original games – there’s even its online functionality, allowing for multiplayer and trading. Each release is still as good as we remember them being, and considering you get upwards of ten games, it’s hard not to recommend this to new and old school players. Capcom is quickly running out of Mega Man games to remaster, with notable exclusions being Battle Network Transmission, Command Mission, Legends and Star Force, but they continue to release incredible value propositions that bring these classics to a brand new generation of players.