Review: Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge (Game Boy Advance)

Genre: Strategy
Platform: GBA
Rating: E
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Inticreates
Release Date: 03/02/2004

Capcom’s Mega Man Battle Network series seems to know no limits. With four RPGs, two platform games, two anime series, and numerous action figures and other toys under their belt, they’ve got no intention of stopping anytime soon. While we wait for the hotly anticipated Mega Man Battle Network 4 to come out this summer, we’ve got Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge to keep us busy in the interim. Unlike previous MMBN titles, this game is a card-battle/strategy title, with some rather different gameplay elements.

STORY

MMBCC takes place right in the middle of Mega Man Battle Network 3; specifically, during the N1 Tournament. The tournament hosts NetBattlers from around the world, who compete in a virtual arena using their Navis (short for Net Navigators). These little AI programs duke it out using their own powers, plus the abilities given to them by their operators in the form of Battle Chips. These chips run the gamut from weapons (like cannons, swords, bombs, etc.) to recovery items to terrain-altering effects.

Naturally, it wouldn’t be a Mega Man game without our blue hero as the main character. However, in addition to MegaMan.EXE, you can also choose from five other characters to use. Favorites like Roll.EXE, ProtoMan.EXE, and GutsMan.EXE are all ready to go, as well as two brand-new MMBN characters, Ring.EXE and TurboMan.EXE. Each Navi and its respective operator has essentially the same goal: aspire for greatness and kick some ass in the tournament.

GAMEPLAY

The core of the gameplay is the various tournament battles. There’s your standard brackets and classes to work your way through, plus optional “running battles” where you try to defeat a certain number of Navis in a row without failing. Regardless of your mode, the battles all work the same way. Each Navi faces the other on a single line of squares, and take turns using battle chips and regular attacks/abilities to take out their opponents.

Before each fight, you arrange up to nine chips in a “pyramid” fashion for your Navi to use (plus two extra chips assigned to the L and R triggers, respectively). Depending on which Navi you’re using, you’ll have a specific MB capacity that determines how many chips you can use; each chip uses up a certain number of MB, so plan your arrangement accordingly. You don’t want to use nothing but powerful chips, otherwise you’ll only be able to place a few of them, and your opponent may be able to get in more attacks per turn.

During the course of the battle, the game will automatically select up to three chips at random (in a straight line) to use per turn, with no input required from the gamer. Yeah, you read that right. The only time you’ll need to press any buttons during a battle will be to execute “special moves” with chips like the Variable Sword, to advance the onscreen text (which can be automatically scrolled anyway by tapping B once), or to use one of the chips assigned to the L and R triggers. However, to guarantee that those chips will work properly, keep your eye on the gauge at the bottom of the screen that slowly charges during battle. Once it goes over 55%, then the triggered chip will likely work.

Each battle chip has varying effects. A cannon-type chip will just blast your opponent, while a sword-type chip will cause your Navi to dash forward and slash your enemy. Recovery chips are self-explanatory, and there’s also the ever-popular guard-type chips to protect you from enemy attacks. Also, chips not only attack a Navi, but the Navi’s chips as well. Each chip has its own “lifebar,” and if that’s brought down to zero, the chip’s “knocked out” for the remainder of the battle. If you use chips that deal heavy damage to your opponent’s chips, you can knock out their most powerful attacks!

Some of the most overlooked chips are the ones that alter terrain. Since there’s no real movement of your Navi, you’d think terrain wouldn’t be all that important. In terms of damage, however, it can be extremely important. There’s six types of terrain: normal, metal, ice, lava, poison, and grass. A few of those allow a player to inflict more damage than usual (use a fire attack while on grass terrain and you’ll find out). Some terrain will also have “holes” in front of your Navi, which prevents the use of close-range attacks like swords. Before each fight, you’ll be told which type of terrain you’re up against, as well as some information on the enemy Navi, so you can place your chips accordingly.

Most Navis have elemental affinities, be it fire, water, wood, or electricity. Using elemental attack chips against a Navi who is weak against that element can make battles go by a lot faster, especially if used in tandem with a battlefield’s terrain. For example, using electrical attacks while on an ice field or metal field will inflict double damage. Plus, if you’re facing a water-based enemy (which is weak against electrical attacks to begin with), you can inflict quadruple damage. Ouch!

When you defeat “boss” Navis (like AirMan.EXE, ElecMan.EXE, and so on), you can often gain their chip. In the MMBN RPGs, this allowed you to “summon” the defeated Navi to perform an attack. In MMBCC, however, it’s quite different: equipping a Navi’s chip lets you use that Navi in battle permanently! This is rather important as the game progresses, as your default Navi is generally pretty weak compared to the boss Navis in terms of HP, attack strength, etc. You’ll have plenty of choices, since a ton of bosses from MMBN 1-3 all appear in this game.

As you work your way up through the various tournament brackets, the battles can get pretty grueling. Some of the later classes have 20+ Navis in a row! Better stock up on those recovery chips…

GRAPHICS & SOUND

Even though the Navi graphics are the same ones used in previous MMBN games (with the obvious exceptions of the new characters), they still look fantastic. Animation is perfectly fluid, colors are clear and crisp, characters all look unique, and the various cutscenes all look great. What more could you ask for?

I don’t know how they do it, but developer Inticreates has one hell of a sound engine. The same excellent audio quality we heard in Mega Man Zero and Mega Man Zero 2 is back in MMBCC, complete with cool synth arrangements and spot-on sound effects.

CONTROL

This category doesn’t really apply, since you’re not actually doing much during the battles themselves. The only time you’re actually pushing buttons during battles is to execute special moves or skip text. Other than that, you’re confined to advancing menus and rearranging chips between fights. Since it’s so simplified, it’s an easy 10/10 score, though.

REPLAYABILITY

Here’s where the hurt comes in. Once you beat everything, there’s really no incentive to do it all again, especially if you’ve collected a decent amount of chips. Add that to the fact that battles are largely automated, and this game will occupy a permanent space on your shelf once all is said and done.

ADDICTIVENESS

This really depends on the gamer. If card battles and collecting is your thing, then MMBCC will keep you occupied for a very long time; many of the chips are very difficult to acquire. There’s plenty of “sidequests” to keep you busy, too. Personally, I loved going through the running battles. If this isn’t your cup of tea, then MMBCC may bore you rather quickly.

Final Scores:

Story: 7/10
Gameplay: 6/10
Graphics & Sound: 8/10
Control: 10/10
Replayability: 3/10
Addictiveness: 5/10