Lan and Mega Man are back for another adventure in the cyberworld. Is the return trip worth it? Read our review to find out.
Lan and his pal Mega Man have returned yet again in Mega Man Battle Network 3. This time, the game is available in two versions, Blue and White. While the stories are the same, the two versions have some different supporting characters and the battle chips and styles vary between each version. This gives the game a Pokemon-like “Gotta catch ‘em all” element. Our story, once again, sees Lan and Mega Man taking up arms against the evil WWW organization, which is trying to unleash an extraordinary power upon the cyber world.
The game takes place in two environments. In the real world, you control Lan as he goes to school, hangs out with friends, and tries to solve huge conspiracies. Lan does so with the help of Mega Man, his Navi (a cyber-pet) and closest confidant. Lan can “jack into” the cyber world, where control shifts to Mega Man. As the Blue Bomber, you will encounter viruses and all sorts of data. When viruses and enemy Navis are encountered, a battle takes place on a battle plane. The plane is divided into a 3 by 6 grid, with half belonging to each player. Lan can send Mega Man up to five battle chips each turn. All chips have a code, and only chips with matching names or codes may be sent together. These chips, in addition to the standard Mega Buster, are used to destroy your enemies. A gauge at the top of the screen indicates how long it will be until the next set of battle chips may be sent. Battles are an excellent mix of skill and strategy. In later, more difficult areas of the game, getting and using the right chips is crucial.
The difficulty ramps up at a very nice pace. After a small amount of struggle in each new area, there should be no problem deleting viruses. Bosses are quite a challenge, and will often require multiple tries to defeat. The bosses are all reminiscent of the various robot bosses from the classic Mega Man games. For example, the first boss encountered is Flash Man. After wrecking a challenging boss, there is an excellent sense of accomplishment.
Instead of leveling up like many other RPG characters, Mega Man advances in various other ways. HPmemory upgrades are gained at certain points in the game, and they increase Mega Man’s overall hit point total. Mega Man can also develop “styles” by fighting in certain ways. As he advances more and more with an individual style, he becomes more powerful. Finally, there is a brand new Navi Customization feature in Battle Network 3. At one point in the game, Lan will acquire the Navi Customizer. This feature is best described as a jigsaw puzzle of upgrades. Lan can install program parts of varying shapes and colors, which will enhance Mega Man’s various stats, onto a puzzle grid. There is a row of blocks on the grid called the Command Line. Certain parts must touch this line, and other parts are not allowed to touch it. Furthermore, program parts of the same color may not touch each other. If these rules are broken, glitches will occur. One example would be the controls not responding correctly and acting as if you were holding the up direction during battle. The Customizer adds a nice little puzzle game into the overall title and is a lot of fun.
The story in Battle Network 3 is also quite interesting. The conspiracy plotline is great, and the game has a good mix of serious and light-hearted moments. It can be quite engaging at times, and it’s easy to find yourself playing just to find out what happens next. The gameplay benefits greatly from the story, which becomes clear later in the game. The story begins to falter, and you start to feel like you are on a giant, endless scavenger hunt.
Graphically, nothing has changed from the first and second Battle Network titles. The world is presented in an isometric view, which gives it more depth than a top-down view would allow. Neither the normal nor cyber worlds are particularly amazing looking. The character design is nice, particularly the boss Navis, which are all styled after various Mega Man bosses from yesteryear. Still, there’s nothing fantastic going on here. The sound falls right in line with the graphics. It’s solid, and it gets the job done. Only a couple tunes really stand out above the rest (the title theme rocks). The sound effects are what you’d come to expect from a Mega Man game. There are lots of bleeps and bloops that mesh extremely well with the game’s universe.
Battle Network 3 controls crisply. For those new to the series, moving on the isometric plane will take a short amount of time to get used to. It’s not a problem though, because quick reflexes are not required here. The battle controls are great, and won’t take much time to get used to. It should be noted that playing this game on the Game Boy Player is excellent. The analog stick on the GC controller makes walking around in the isometric view a total breeze.
Unlike Mega Man games of the past, Battle Network isn’t short. Expect to be spending a good 15 to 30 hours to beat it, depending on your skill level. Even more time can be invested into this title by going after all the battle chips and advancing all of Mega Man’s different styles to their max.
Mega Man Battle Network 3 continues the story line of the series and offers more of the same great gameplay. Fans of the first two will no doubt love this one. This game is a marked improvement on the existing formula, especially with the addition of the Navi Customizer. If you haven’t played a Battle Network title yet, this is the best of the bunch so far and would make a great addition to any RPG or action fan’s library. Newcomers may be a bit lost regarding the relationships between all the characters though. Lan may only be a school child, but his life is full of excitement.