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Title: Mega Man Network Transmission
Developer: Arika
Publisher: Capcom
Date Published: March 6, 2003 (Japan), June 17, 2003 (North America)
Platforms:Nintendo GameCube
Format: 1 GameCube mini-DVD
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone), Violence

Introduction

The Mega Man franchise debuted on the current generation of console hardware with this, a spin-off of the GBA's Mega Man Battle Network series. However, unlike the GBA games, which are isometric, Pokemon-style console RPGs, it is a side-scrolling 2D platform game with RPG elements. It imports the usual Battle Network features with both positive and negative effects. Unfortunately, Network Transmission comes off as somewhat sloppily made and badly tested, with a number of annoying gameplay features.

The Good

Mega Man Network Transmission does have some positive features. Like the Battle Network games it extends the classic Mega Man concept of acquiring your enemies' weapons with the 'battle chip' system. In this system, most if not all of the enemy abilities are available as selectable 'battle chips' for player use. These chips are often won from enemies as they are defeated, or they can be bought at shops and found in the game world. As with the GBA games the spectrum of battle chips adds a welcome diversity to the gameplay.

Network Transmission faithfully reproduces much of the run-and-jump gameplay of the classic Mega Man games. Mega Man runs around numerous side-scrolling levels blasting enemies and collecting the items that they drop, just like the old NES/SNES games, but with one notable exception. Due to the inclusion of the battle chip system, giving Mega Man a large variety of special attacks, the Mega Buster of old has been replaced with a very weak weapon designed only to be a stopgap when waiting for more battle chips. The result is true to both the classic Mega Man style and the style of the Battle Network games.

The graphics in Network Transmission are generally fairly good; the cel-shading used faithfully replicates the look of the GBA games on the big screen. Game levels are given significant depth with multiple parallax-scrolling layers, and all of the animation in the game is a fluid 60fps. Overall the graphics are not as impressive as Viewtiful Joe's, but are not entirely unimpressive.

Gamers who enjoy the traditional difficulty of Mega Man games will not be too disappointed with Network Transmission. The game offers a decent challenge, although some of the challenge comes from features that seem to be specifically designed to annoy the player rather than inherent challenge in the gameplay itself.

The control system of the game is fairly good. The controls are a little looser than they probably should be, and the interface for switching chips is a little clumsy. Although it is possible to pause the game, switch chips, and return, it is more usual to switch chips on the fly using the GC controller's shoulder buttons.

The Bad

There are a number of Battle Network features, however, that either backfire in their new setting, or are absent for no seemingly good reason. Foremost among these is the implementation of the battle chip system. In the GBA Battle Network games, battle chips are selected from a random selection of five chips during battle, and once used do not return for the duration of the battle. A new selection of battle chips is available approximately once every 15 seconds. In Network Transmission, the battle chips are again selected from a random set of five, but are only replaceable every 75 seconds.

This system would not be a problem, except that the standard weapon in Network Transmission, as in Battle Network, is extremely weak, and not all battle chips are attack-oriented or useful in a given situation. Thus, if the random selection of chips is bad, then you are stuck and essentially powerless for a significant period of gameplay. This is further complicated if a certain chip is needed, say for a boss battle. The player may have to spend quite a while waiting around for the correct battle chip to come up. This effect is slightly mitigated by the 'regular chip' ability, which sets a particular battle chip to always come up, but chip stocks are limited, so you may run out of your 'regular' chip.

One of the more interesting components of the Battle Network games is the interplay between two worlds: the 'real world' of Lan Hikaru and the online world of MegaMan.EXE. The player switches between these worlds by 'jacking in' at points scattered around the real world, and then 'jacking out' at any time outside battle, restoring Mega Man's health and battle chips in the process. In Network Transmission, the 'real world' has been reduced to a simple map of Lan's hometown, where all locations are reduced to either jack-in points or shops.

Also, as if the above problems with the battle chip system weren't enough, there is another major constraint in their use. You have a fixed number of uses of a given chip, renewable by jacking out, but the enemies on the map, which you can only practically defeat using battle chips, regenerate when far enough offscreen. Some enemies drop chips when they are defeated, but this is not enough for anything but replacement of the chip used to defeat them.

The game audio in Network Transmission is relatively generic and unpolished. The music is not as catchy as in previous Mega Man titles, despite being fairly high-quality. Sound effects are limited to a fairly basic set of thuds and booms, plus some slightly over-loud voice samples. The Mega Man Death Sound is also, disappointingly, missing.

The Sloppy

Network Transmission's localisation leaves much to be desired. The text translation is functional, if a little awkward, but the voice localisation is shoddy at best. Cut scenes are played out in spoken Japanese and subtitled in English. The game also has many incidental voice samples, and all of them are in completely untranslated Japanese. This just seems sloppy and does not give the impression that Capcom cares much about the North American market.

Network Transmission also suffers from a poor difficulty curve. The first few levels of the game are the most difficult, and the learning curve is rather steep. This suggests a lack of playtesting or implementation of testing feedback.

Conclusions

Mega Man Network Transmission is a game that seems to have been rushed, both in its initial release and in its localisation for the North American market. Its significant gameplay annoyances and sloppy presentation make it less of a game than it should have been. It is inferior to the GBA Battle Network games and lacks their fluidity. If you are a fan of 2D platform games it is probably worth a rental, but purchase is recommended only to Mega Man completeists.


(CC)
This writeup is copyright 2004 by me and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial licence. Details can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd-nc/2.5/ .

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