Mega Man: Network Transmission – Second Opinion

The main review opens pondering the inevitability of change. Alternative culture becomes the norm and aging hipsters must appropriate from the new avant-garde. In the context of the growing videogame industry, 2D sprites and tiles give way to 3D modeled objects as disparate pixels evolve into cohesive masses of polygons. Change isn't always met with open arms, however. Revolution can be a difficult thing to accept, and a new order is not necessarily better than its predecessor.

Mega Man has been reinvented for the hyperactive information age with the Battle Network series. No longer a platform-hopping lil' guy in blue, Mega Man is now a muscular online avatar of sorts, an extension of his offline counterpart Lan. I'm reminded of the anthropomorphic logos that were common in the 1950's but were retired in modern times, because a walking stack of tires (Michelin) just wasn't "cool." Perhaps this MegaMan.EXE avatar was brought to the console by Capcom in order to prove that their gaming icon can stay relevant. I applaud the creative efforts made by the developers, but I don't think this new Mega Man improves upon its past.

A mix of 2D platforming and trading-card-game styled elements (the battle chip system), Mega Man Network Transmission is certainly an interesting hybrid. The problem is that the game never seems to achieve a full cohesion of these two elements. Outside of the network, the game takes place in Lan's room. This feels silly, as a decorative Lan just walks around his room aimlessly while in the real world. The meat of the game is intended to take place as Mega Man progresses through the WWW network.

In game terms Mega Man is a Net Navi, or artificial intelligence program that does its human's bidding in the network. Dan accurately describes Battle Chip basics, but omits that there is an element of strategy available to the player. Although the player's five chips are random, one can choose to not actually "slot" (i.e., use) all those chips, so those same unused chips will then be available for the next weapon request. It's also possible to mark one chip to be available whenever requesting weapons, and if that chip isn't slotted it will always show up. So a favorite or specific weapon—perhaps a water weapon to oppose an upcoming fire boss—will be available. By discovering specific triple-chip combinations slotted in a specific order, powerful special attacks can be discovered. Unfortunately, the difficulty of getting the right chips in a timely fashion makes these attacks less than useful.

Despite the strategic elements, there is a lot of randomness to chip availability. This is frustrating, especially at the beginning of the game when the player doesn't have many chips. The player can earn chips by quickly killing enemies without taking damage, and can "jack-out" of a level at any time without losing data. This meant that I would often play a level up to the boss, then jack-out and replay it in order to bolster my chip collection. The side effect is that such repetitive play becomes a chore, which explains why Dan "blazed through" instead. The cel-shaded look of the WWW areas is slick but not outstanding, which did not make me any more interested in exploring the levels.

I didn't care about the lack of an online component, although I do think Capcom (and Nintendo) missed out on a good opportunity for some Game Boy Advance connectivity options. At minimum, scanning cards to get battle chips would have been a great use of the eCard Reader, which for owners of this peripheral would have alleviated some of the tedium.

Mega Man Network Transmission has some good ideas and the battle chip strategies have potential, but the combination of chips with platforming doesn't work as well as it might have. The randomness of chip gathering in this context is the worst flaw of the game. There was an aspect of "Gotta Catch 'Em All" for me when I started to play Transmission, but repeating levels to earn more chips soon lost its appeal. I appreciate the effort Capcom made to bring out something a little different, but overall the Blue Bomber's hip new game left me yearning for something more traditional. My inner treasure hunter enjoyed chip collecting, and I'm certainly not adverse to some platforming to spice things up. Mega Man Network Transmission was fun for a bit, but ultimately I prefer the gaming icon of yesteryear. Rating is 5.5 out of 10.