Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection Review
Update: I have added my thoughts on the multiplayer component and given the final score for the review!
Time to blow off the digital dust from my notes on program advances and virus-busting tricks, at long last, Capcom has released the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection. This marks the fourth massive collection of the blue bomber, following the classic, X, and Zero/ZX series’, and with it comes many of the additions found in those as well. But while those previous games featured action platformers, the Battle Network Legacy Collection brings together 10 RPGs, meaning you will spend much more time with this collection!
There was something special about Battle Network. The Battle Network games were arguably the starkest departure from the traditional Mega Man formula, especially back in 2001 when the first game was originally released. It was in an era where nearly every franchise wanted to hop aboard the collectathon train that Pokémon had started a few years prior, with later Battle Network entries leaning on the Pokémon trend further by offering two different versions with exclusives in both. While each game felt largely the same, each entry added new features and mechanics that made every new entry exciting to dive into.
Similar to the X Legacy Collection, Battle Network’s is also divided into two volumes, each containing half the series. In this case, the first volume contains Battle Networks 1 and 2 along with 3 White and 3 Blue, with the second volume letting players experience 4 Blue Moon / Red Sun, 5 Team Protoman/Team Colonel, and lastly, 6 Cybeast Falzar/Gregar. Digitally, you can purchase them together or separately, but the physical editions on PlayStation and Switch come as one complete package with the two volumes together.
Each game in the series follows the adventures of Lan Hikari and his net navi (a digital avatar), Mega Man.EXE, as they save the world from terrorist organizations, the mafia, and beyond. Many homages to classic Mega Man characters can be found everywhere you look, with BN redesigns of characters such as ProtoMan, GutsMan, CutMan, and more for longtime fans can enjoy. All of this made this series stand out and are just one of the many reasons why these spinoff titles of the blue bomber are so beloved, twenty years later.
The collection itself is littered with concept art music and other goodies for the diehard fan to peruse. I was especially surprised with the inclusion of art from the Japanese-only (and unfortunately omitted from this collection) DS remake of the first Battle Network title that sees a crossover with the Mega Man from Battle Network’s successor series found on the DS, Mega Man Star Force. The music is a lovely trip down nostalgia lane as I reminisced about my time with the games back when they were first released.
From a gameplay perspective, players can expect some new adjustments and features as well. As expected from any pixel-based collection nowadays, you will be able to toggle on-and-off a filter that aims to smooth out the chunky pixels if you are so inclined. It does an alright job, but as someone who loves nice blocky pixels, I opted to leave it off.
The main new feature that will aid players is the brand new “Buster Max” option that can be selected from the collection menu at any time. This option multiplies Mega Man’s default buster damage by 100, which will make quick work of any nefarious viruses you encounter. This also scales with your buster stat, so each point invested in it will further increase damage, making even end-game fights and secret bosses a cakewalk.
If you find that Buster Max makes the games too easy, but you still need some help, you can take advantage of special chips that were previously locked behind events or other physical means in the original releases. These battle chips are incredibly powerful and can be redeemed at any time. When added and used from your library, these can turn the tide of a tough fight in an instant and is a wonderful in-between when it comes to difficulty adjustment! This collection will be the first time that Western fans will have access to many of these chips, which makes their inclusion extra exciting!
The new features, nice as they are, still left me wishing that they had opted for something a little more useful, something like maps of the areas. These games are notorious for being easy to get lost in, having some obtuse puzzle solutions, and just generally poor-level layout designs. I would have sacrificed all the previously mentioned additions if it meant that I could pop up a map of the area at any given time. Even the Buster Max mode, while a great option for accessibility's sake, could have perhaps been better served with an option to toggle random encounters and an invincibility toggle.
An aspect that will be a letdown for returning players of the original are the questionable localizations ("There's so many electrical store!", anyone?) It appears that many of those same cringe-worthy lines are still present here. I can’t confirm whether the scripts are direct carryovers from the previous GBA versions, as there just wasn’t enough time to line-by-line compare 10 RPGs worth of dialogue, but if they aren’t, they certainly needed more editing passes regardless. The new giant typewriter font doesn’t really help things either, and it introduces a number of spacing and line-break ugliness, which further hurts the passing of the titles.
In the original releases on GBA, thanks to the game link cables, two players could trade battle chips between one another (this was the only way to get all the chips in the later games with multiple versions) and test each other's mettle in head-to-head fights. The biggest feature, and the most requested feature after the collection was announced, was the ability to do both of these things online with friends, and thankfully, those wishes were granted.
Update: The Multiplayer
After now having a few weeks with the collection and getting back into my virus-busting rhythm, I can say that the multiplayer and online aspects on display are fine, if not just a bit underwhelming. I am incredibly thrilled that it exists, and when I have played with friends with good internet, the matches have been tense and exciting, but the moment I step outside of playing against people I know, things become less than ideal.
At least on the Playstation side of things (I can't speak to the Switch or PC versions) it was incredibly rare for me to actually find anyone to play with, and even when I did, the match's connection ranged from fair to barely playable. When matches did work, due to the lack of extensive rule settings for most of the games (outside of the later games toggle of the patch cards), games felt very one-sided, with many encounters coming down to who drew the overpowered chips that everyone can download from the start first. I would have liked to see a bit more care taken or options provided to let hosts adjust more rules in battles, but playing with friends where you can mutually agree on the rules certainly leads to some great times and I look forward to more.
The original Mega Man Battle Network was one of the first Gameboy Advance games that I bought myself, using some birthday money way back in 2001, and I have been a fan of the games ever since. As a whole, I think I would place the Battle Network at the top of Mega Man series list, but even with that said, I can admit that this isn’t a perfect collection. However, I still find these games to be well worth revisiting or experiencing for the first time. I will reserve final judgment until I have put the online features through their paces but on the single-player content you get alone from these collection volumes, it is a very solid offering that will easily soak up a lot of your time.