If you wanted to buy physical copies of the games included in Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection these days, you’d have to be rather rich.
Originally released on the Nintendo Game Boy Advance between 2001 and 2006, all six mainline Mega Man Battle Network games are present in Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection, as well as their variants. Some would argue that it’s ten games, then, but like the Pokémon series, the differences between, let’s say, Mega Man Battle Network 4 Red Sun and Blue Moon aren’t particularly impactful. Still, for Mega Man fans, it’s a bit of a bargain.
For those unfamiliar with the Battle Network series, these aren’t your typical Mega Man games. Out is the tough-as-nails platforming and shooter action, replaced with something that’s mostly more laid back. This is Mega Man in a tactical role-playing setting. In the real world, players take control of a young boy called Lan, who can Jack In to various devices to explore Cyberspace as Mega Man. And while he’s there, there’s the important task of destroying viruses to be done. This dual character setup remains in place for all six games, and there are many other familiar elements, too.
While each game has its own story, for example, many of them have you standing up against the same net-crime organisation, WWW. You’ll also find yourself wandering around some familiar environments, and hanging around with your small group of friends. Even the battle system is largely unchanged between one game and another, and that’s the biggest complaint you can air at the series as a whole: they’re all just bit samey, especially if you move straight from one to another.
But what a battle system it is. Get into a skirmish in any one of these Mega Man Battle Network games – and thanks to random battles you will, on a regular basis – and you’ll find that there’s nothing else quite like it. You’re essentially transported to a 3×6 grid, split into two so both you and your enemies have a 3×3 square to freely move around in. To emerge victorious, you need to avoid enemy attacks while successfully launching your own. And that’s where the tactics come into play.
At the start of battle, a number of chips will be offered to you. Each one has an effect, be it providing you with a powerful weapon or helping you in some way, but the catch is they can only be used once. The key to success is matching chip types and the codes attached to them. Generally speaking you can only choose one chip per turn, but if there are two canon chips you’re able to select them both. You’re also able to select multiple chips with the same code. And if there are any chips marked with an asterisk, they can be played alongside others, too.
While there’s a clear progression to the battle system as you move through the games sequentially, it remains the same at its core. Things like being able to counter attacks and a powered-up state called Full Synchro do add to its depth though, and keep subsequent entries feeling at least a little fresh. It’s just a shame that while you have the option to dramatically power up your standard blaster in this collection, which can be used at any time in battle regardless of your chips, making encounters trivial, you can’t disable random battles altogether.
As retro collections go, this has many of the usual features you’d expect, including being able to change the button mapping. It also packs in a bucketload of patch cards for you to use, allowing you to add new content to each of the games on offer and more. On top of that, you can listen to the soundtrack of each game included, as well as peruse a tonne of lovely artwork and more. What you can’t do, though, is play fullscreen. There are multiple screen options available, but even at the largest there are some borders. Many won’t mind, but some might.
Rounding out Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection is the ability to play against others online, in either casual or ranked battles. There are even a number of parameters to tweak. We unfortunately haven’t been able to find any competitors prior to the collection’s launch, but these online multiplayer offerings should prove to be an entertaining diversion from the lengthy single-player campaigns offered by each of the titles included.
If you’re familiar with the Mega Man Battle Network series and have a favourite title or two, or are new and want to dip your toes in at a reduced cost, you might be happy to hear that Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection is split into two volumes. The first volume has the first three games, with volume two having the following three. You save a packet buying both volumes together, however, and it’s perhaps the best option for Mega Man fans seeking to play these Game Boy Advance classics without spending a fortune.
While it’s missing some quality of life features that would have been appreciated, and the games included are a bit samey on the whole, Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection is easy to recommend to Mega Man fans, and also those keen to see what the Battle Network series is all about. The combat system at the core of these titles is still engaging and original, and while you might tire of the random battles, chances are you’ll battle on to see Lan save the day time and time again. Throw in some welcome extras, and you can’t really lose.