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> Results: Mega Man Battle Network 4: Red Sun and Mega Man Battle Network 4: Blue Moon
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In the future (according to Capcom), just about every electronic device is connected to the Internet for speed and convenience. Everyone also carries around a Personal Terminal, or PET for short, which is like a mobile phone that lets you check e-mail, read the news, and ‘jack in' to electronic devices connected to the Internet. Each PET also as a ‘Net Navi' who acts like a personable, almost human-like guide for the PET user. Net crime runs rampant in this future world, so some people outfit their Net Navis with Battle Chips to fight viruses in the Internet world. Our heroes, 6th Grader Lan and his Net Navi Mega Man have saved the world three times already, and they'll be called to do it again in the latest title in the Mega Man Battle Network series.
Leave it to Capcom to churn out annual sequels of their most popular franchises. The Battle Network games on the Game Boy Advance mix elements of classic Mega Man action games, Pokemon RPGs, and even bits of the TRON movie. In the game, you control Lan in the real world, talking to people, buying items, and gathering clues. ‘Jack in' to any electronic device and Lan sends Mega Man into the Internet, where you'll control Mega Man as he explores the Net worlds, talks to other Net Navis and fights viruses in random enemy encounter battles.
The battles in the Network games are more unique than other RPG titles. And yet, they've changed very little in the series themselves. You and your opponents can move freely around a gridded area, dodging each other's attacks. You can shoot and charge up your arm cannon weapon at any time to whittle down the viruses' HP. At the top of the screen is a gauge that, when full, allows you to select five random Battle Chips from your folder. Equip them to use powerful special weapons like bombs or swords, or healing or shield items for protection. The Battle Chip folder is like a cleverly disguised card battle game like Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh. You'll want to fill your folder strategically with the best chips to beat the viruses. Returning from the third game is the Navi Customizer, which lets you fit Tetris-like blocks into a grid to boost Mega Man's stats.
Capcom has changed a few things to keep the series somewhat fresh after four installments. Battle Network 4 comes in two versions: Red Sun and Blue Moon. Each version has different Battle Chips and Net Navis to fight. You can link up with a friend's version to battle or trade chips. There are also different storylines in each version. During the course of the game, you'll compete in tournaments, and each version has different Net Navis you can fight. In a nod to more traditional Mega Man games, after defeating some Net Navis, you can perform a "Soul Unison" with them in battles. You have to sacrifice a Battle Chip to perform a Soul Unison, but when you do, you take on the appearance of the defeated Net Navi, and you can use their skills for a few turns in battle. The other major addition in this game are Dark Chips—extra powerful chips that you can use to turn the tide in battles, but they come at a price. Dark Chips can whittle down your overall HP, and make it hard for Lan to control Mega Man.
Capcom is notorious for re-using game graphics and sprites, and up until now, the Battle Network series was no exception. But for the fourth game, they redid all the graphics. Everything is smaller and more zoomed out, but surprisingly, everything also looks more colorful, shaded, and detailed. The music is still the same, though. Not quite as good as classic Mega Man music, but still catchy in its own right. Play control is pretty straightforward, and battles require a certain degree of "twitch" shooting skill. Multiple playthroughs of the game reveal different stories and tournaments, and with so many items and Battle Chips to discover, there's quite a bit of replay value in this game. Fans of the series, or anyone who likes action-RPGs, should look into this game (or the other games in the series if they haven't played them yet).
There's a Saturday morning cartoon on Kids' WB based on the Battle Network series of games, and with translated mangas and action figures on the way, Mega Man and Lan are certainly popular with the kids. One of my little brothers and his friends really like the games, so we try to follow everything Battle Network pretty close. I also like the Mega Man Battle Network games better than Pokemon, as they offer more action and strategy. However, very strong reading skills are required for story progression, gathering clues, and even in battles. Since this game was made in Japan and had to be translated, there are a lot of awkward, glaring grammatical and spelling errors (my favorite is "What a polite young man she was."). There's one scene in the story that lightly talks about alcohol and its effects on people, which I was surprised that got past the rating system. There are lots of battles, but it's only against cartoony viruses so no real people get hurt. The Battle Network games are deep and fun, but even so I'd only recommend them to older kids.
Reviewer Recommended Ages: 9+
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
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