Let us take a trip back two decades to a much different gaming landscape. While consoles were still commonplace (and steadily rising in popularity) in the early 00’s, gamers of the time won’t forget the prominence of Nintendo’s era-defining handheld system: the Gameboy. Specifically, the Gameboy Advance saw Capcom release a very different spin-off of its beloved Mega Man franchise. Enter the Mega Man Battle Network series.
In its heyday, the Gameboy Advance was home to countless classics, one of which is the aforementioned Mega Man spin-off. The tactical action shake-up of the tried and true platform shooter formula associated with The Blue Bomber resonated with fans. Now those same people have a chance to dive headfirst into this blast from the past on modern platforms, thanks to the extensive RPG compilation that is Mega Man Network Legacy Collection.
The 10-game collection spans two volumes, giving players plenty to chew on as they navigate a physical manifestation of a virus-ridden cyberspace. Unlike other Mega Man entries, the Battle Network series doesn’t actually star the titular hero, instead sidelining the iconic character in favor of Lan Hikari. Lan is embedded in a futuristic alternate timeline wherein individuals utilize the Net for every action ranging from communication to crime. Mega Man himself enters the scene as Lan’s NetNavi, a self-aware AI (denoted by the executable file extension, EXE) tied to their owner’s Personal Terminal (PET). The duo set out on a digitally delightful adventure intent on stopping various nefarious syndicates from achieving their goals of domination.
As you might expect, thwarting bad guys involves plenty of combat. The Mega Man Network Legacy Collection spruces up the presentation slightly, but mostly leaves the original mechanics as is. Players will have to contend with limited movement and an ever-growing collection of Battle Chips, which must be used strategically in the tactical encounters. There are a wide array of chips on offer, with options ranging from straightforward damage to debuffs to recovery. Despite it’s simplistic retro presentation, there is a fair bit of strategy tucked inside this repackaged classic. The games included in this collection largely play the same, with incremental changes made in successive entries, such as being able to run from battle without playing a corresponding chip.
In terms of what is new, the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection sports a customizable background border, a hi-res filter, a togglable Buster MAX mode and a music player standing by to serenade your ears with the catchy tunes of a bygone 16-bit era. Let’s not forget that online connectivity has come a long way since the days of highly-limiting Game Boy Advance cables restricting us to in-person competitions side-by-side. Now, that some friend-battling fun can be had at distances much greater than that of the aforementioned GBA cable, courtesy of the included online features.
It’s hard to find much to dislike about Capcom’s latest collection re-release. The core of the Mega Man Battle Network spin-off is faithfully maintained, only deviating from its original version for certain optional quality of life additions. The entire collection can easily extend beyond 100 hours, which may point to a potential problem for some (if I’m really digging). As mentioned, the combat is largely the same throughout all ten titles, especially since several are variants of the same entry, meaning that plowing through the entries in the collection back-to-back begins to highlight the sameness between titles. For this reason, it is recommended to pace yourself through each RPG included to avoid burning out well before reaching that finish line.
Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection Review Verdict
The Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection is a packed compilation of a long-sidelined spin-off teeming with value and nostalgia. And for those looking to grab the game on the Nintendo Switch or PC, the original’s portable home can be experienced once again by undocking the Switch or using a Steam Deck (sorry, PS4 owners). There may not be vast gameplay evolutions between the ten games included, but there is much to love as you stroll down memory lane with Lan and Mega Man, rose-tinted glasses and all.
[Editor’s Note: Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided for review purposes.]