It’s hard to believe that we’ve gone about nearly 7 years without a proper new Megaman game. Sure, there are some Japanese phone games and some fan games that became officially licensed, but that’s about it. Megaman was a series that really stuck out among the pile of other platforming games, mostly due to its large amount of sub-series. You had the spiritual sequel series Megaman X, the metroidvania-styled Megaman Zero games, as well as the third-person action RPG series known as Megaman Legends. One sub-series that seemed to garner the most popularity and attention was Megaman Battle Network.
Sadly, these games seem to be mostly forgotten by the more hardcore Megaman fans. I know a lot of people have fond memories of this series, as do I. I thought I’d talk about a game I picked up at a recent comic book convention. This game is the Nintendo DS version of Megaman Battle Network 5. Honestly, I love this game and I think it’s a game that needs more attention. Sure, it’s got a fair bit of problems, but I think it’s worth at least trying out.
After the colossal financial failure that was Megaman Battle Network 4, Capcom wanted to go back to the drawing board and create a better experience for fans of the series. It doesn’t help that at this point in the series, the Battle Network anime was slowly losing interest in Japan. In response, Capcom created Megaman Battle Network 5. The game was released as two versions with the subtitles “Team Protoman” and “Team Colonel”.
The version I have is the DS version, which contains both versions of the game. The game was first advertised in the magazine “Corocoro Comic”. The videogame was released in 2004, while the DS port was released in 2005. Much like the other games in the Megaman Battle Network, the game was made available for download on Nintendo’s E-Shop.
After the events of Megaman Battle Network 4, Lan and Megaman.exe are back to their normal life in the city. However, after visiting his father one day, a group of terrorists attack. Lead by the somehow still alive Dr. Regal, the terrorists kidnap Lan’s father Yuichiro. Not only that, but they also steal the Net-Navis of all of Lan’s friends. Shortly thereafter, Lan is approached by either Baryl (a new character) or Chaud (Lan’s arch-rival) in order to get him to join a team.
Afterwards, it becomes Lan and Megaman’s mission to work together with their new constructed team of Net-Navis in an attempt to liberate the internet and save their kidnapped friends. Despite having a pretty good setup for a plot, the story sadly devolves into a series of somewhat-episodic misadventures. A fair amount of what you do doesn’t actually feel like your advancing the plot, it’s more just adding new people to your team. Despite it’s simple premise, I still found the plot to be somewhat enjoyable. It’s just nothing to write home about. Still, I enjoy a goofy little “Saturday Morning Cartoon” plot with my videogames every once and a while.
For those unfamiliar with the series, allow me to explain you give an explanation on how the game usually plays. You usually play as either Lan in the real or Megaman in the cyber world. By “jacking in” to your computer, you can send Megaman into the internet. As either Lan or Megaman, you adventure around looking for items and things or NPCs you can interact with. When you play as Megaman though, you are able to engage in combat with viruses, Net Navis, or any manner of cyber creature.
Combat is probably the best part of this series, to the point where it’s simple and fun, yet tactical and demanding. Combat takes place on 18 grids, 9 are allotted to you and the other 9 are given to your opponent(s). You can move around on these grids all you want, but it’s not always as simple as that. You see, the game has something called “Battle-Chips”. You can use these to do various things such as heal yourself, summon an ally, attack an enemy, or even mess with the grid itself. You can steal grid pieces, destroy ones on your enemy’s side of the field, or even place down hazards that can damage your enemy if they were to touch it. However, the enemies in the game can also do the same to you!
In order to excel at the game, you need to keep a good eye on your terrain while also using your battle-chips to the best of your ability. Obtaining items called “HP Memories” you can gain more health for Megaman in combat. You can also use the “NaviCust” program to boost Megaman’s stats even higher or give him special abilities! Honestly, the NaviCust program is probably one of the best things about the series. Not only can you beef up Megaman, you can also use NaviCust to make Megaman more “buggy”. That’s right, if you fiddle with the program incorrectly, Megaman will glitch out and start doing weird stuff. Glitches could include Megaman moving two spaces at once with a single button-press, or your charged shot shooting out Rock Cubes instead of laser blasts.
Honestly, these bugs are fun to toy around with and let you actually manipulate the game in ways that weren’t intended. For example, you can use the bug to create Rock Cubes, and then use a battle-chip to punch them at your enemies for insane amounts of damage! The whole glitch system is fun, using intentional bugs as a way to liven up gameplay is immensely fun.
Another game mechanic is “Double-Soul”. You see, during the game you’ll befriend various Navis, and this will allow you to call upon their power in battle. Using Double-Soul, you can fuse that Navi’s data with Megaman, creating a sort-of fusion between the two called a “Soul Unison”. Megaman takes on attributes of other Navi’s in this form, causing the Blue Bomber to gain new and unique abilities. One of my favorite has to be Gyro Soul, due to it allowing Megaman to float and move across empty or hazard panels on the grid without negative repercussions.
Speaking of negative repercussions, the game also offers the ability to use “Dark Chips”. Now, even though they changed how Dark Chips worked in this game, I barely found myself using them. The chips come with a price, every time you use one you permanently suffer a decrease to your health points. So, every time you use one you lose 1 hit point, unless you do a “Chaos Unison”, which I will get more into in a bit. Back to the subject of Dark Chips, not only do you suffer an HP decrease, but you also lose the ability to use Soul Unison for the rest of the fight. While you do receive a surplus in power, I feel the cost is a bit too great. Especially when other powerful Battle-Chips can do the job just as well.
Now, most of those are features from previous games. What does this new game add? Sadly, not a whole lot. The game brings back a lot of Net Navis from older games, without introducing that many new ones. The lack of new characters is noticeable, and kind of disappointing. Aside from most of them being good guys now, the Navis haven’t changed that much at all. Then there’s the Liberation Missions.
If you’ve played this game, then you’ve experienced this feature. Most fans hate this feature, I have mixed opinions on it myself. These missions boil down to being things that help break up the gameplay. It takes the strategic RPG gameplay and makes it more of a tactical RTS. You are given a team of Navis that you must move across an area while liberating panels. This will culminate in a boss fight against what is usually just another Navi from previous games. You will most likely never encounter a new or unique Navi to fight during these segments. It’s always old Navis or evil versions of preexisting Navis.
If that wasn’t bad enough, each battle in these missions is under a strict time limit. You have to beat your opponent in three rounds or less, or you lose a turn. The turn limit is only here so the game makes sure you aren’t constantly using the same Navi. However, I just find it annoying, especially in later missions where the enemies are way more overpowered and you need to waste multiple turns trying to beat them. Thankfully, if you beat these missions within a certain amount of turns you get rewarded with a special Mega-Chip. That’s about the only thing I appreciate about these Liberation Missions. These forced RTS segments just go on way too long, and they take away from the fun of the game itself.
On top of this, you can also acquire the data of other Net Navis, who you can summon to use temporarily in combat. This allows you to play as all kinds of Navis including Numberman, Shadowman, and Protoman. I honestly really like this feature, as it allows for a lot of added strategy in combat. Even Capcom thought this was a good feature, as it was brought back for the next game.
Another added feature is the addition of the previously mentioned Chaos Unison. Using Chaos Unison, you are given a supreme boost of power without the usual side-effects of using a Dark Chip. All you need do is sacrifice a Dark Chip while in a Soul Unison and this will grant you immense power… Probably. I say probably, because there’s a 50% chance of it screwing up and summoning an invincible Dark Megaman who will ruin your day. While the added power is great, much like the Dark Chips I found myself rare using them. Regular Soul Unisons granted me enough power, plus I got some insanely strong chips from the Battle-Chip Shop. So, I saw no point in really using them. They are there if you want ’em, I was just never a fan of using powers that come at too great a cost.
I honestly really like the gameplay. Sure, it doesn’t add a whole lot, it lacks new characters to fill out its cast, and some of the puzzles can be pretty annoying, but it has a lot of heart. Despite some dungeons being painfully long or hard to navigate, being able to use Soul Unison or customize Megaman to my heart’s content made it less of a slog. I just wish there was more new content on offer here. I feel less like I’m playing a fifth entry in the series, and more like I’m playing some sort of expansion pack for the last game.
The in-game graphics are a bit lack-luster. They look great on the Gameboy Advance, due to its limited graphical capabilities. However, I was playing on the DS version and felt like the graphics could’ve use more of an overhaul. Character designs are nice and unique, but lack some punch due to the fact that there are so few new characters. The music is probably the best part of this game, as a lot of it was remixed just for the DS version. Tracks sound a whole lot better than they ever did on the Gameboy Advance versions!
The DS version also has a pretty flashy intro which help adds some flare to the title screen. Despite the in-game graphics looking a bit bland, you’ll normally see 3D models of whichever Navi you have at the moment on the bottom screen. The 3D characters look a bit primitive, but are done well enough so that they properly represent the characters. Even though there are a few hiccups with the presentation, I still found the production values of this game to be pretty darn good!
I can admit that this game isn’t super pretty, can be fairly repetitive, and feels like a desperate and failed attempt to save a floundering series. Sure, it’s tedious puzzles and lack of new characters are a detriment to the game, but it’s still fairly enjoyable! It’s got fun battles and some great additions to its combat system. While the Liberation Missions are fairly lame, it does have a lot of heart to it.
It was nice seeing these characters again, as well as being able to explore a world for a series I haven’t played in years! Despite this being an older port, it’s still something I can reccomend. It’s much larger length than previous games also makes it a tremendous value! That’s why I can easily say that this game is as Sweet As Syrup! I definitely reccomend playing it, if you are a fan of this series. This game is old, but I think it’s something fun and worth experiencing again or for the first time after all these years.