The History Of Mega Man (Part 2)

Mega Man Battle Network

Mega Man’s not a robot. Dr. Light didn’t create him. Proto Man’s a total prick. And the hero of our story is the best friend of an elementary school student.

What is this, the Twilight Zone?! No, this is the world of Mega Man Battle Network, a radical revamp of the Mega Man franchise introduced by Capcom in 2001. Taking place in the year 200X, society is very similar to our own. Robots are few and far between, but people are much more dependent on computers and digital networks. Almost everything has a network port on it; TVs, refrigerators, even traffic lights. Most people carry PETs (PErsonal Terminals), which are combination cellphones/PDAs/computers. Many of these PETs contain AI programs called Navis (Net Navigators). Navis have a variety of purposes: assistants, confidants, gophers, even virus-busters. Enter Lan Hikari, a typical student. His Navi is named Mega Man (MegaMan.EXE, to be accurate), and he was designed by Lan’s father, Dr. Hikari. Mega Man seems weak at first, but he soon learns the art of virus-busting and unleashes his hidden potential.

Mega Man Battle Network is a major shift in the world of Mega Man. While the other Mega Man titles were primarily action platformers, the MMBN games for the Game Boy Advance are RPGs. Plus, since Mega Man has no physical form (he’s a program, after all), actions in the “real world” must be performed by his operator, Lan. (For example, Lan may need to throw a power switch to shut down a firewall.) Battles are handled in quasi-realtime; this is one of the best (if not the best) RPG battle systems I’ve ever seen. Mega Man’s on a 3×3 grid, facing his enemy (or enemies), also on a 3×3 grid. You can move from space to space, but only on your side. You also can’t jump. You can attack with your regular arm cannon, or use up to five Battle Chips. The Chips are where the game really shines. During battles, a meter on top of the screen (the Custom Gauge) charges up. When it’s full, you can pause the battle by hitting L or R, which brings up your Chip Select menu. Battle Chips have all manner of effects, like elemental attacks, defense, battlefield modifiers, and escape. Some chips can even be combined into powerful Program Advances, which come in very handy for enemy Navi encounters.

Mega Man himself levels up over time, and items can be purchased to make him even more powerful. Aside from Battle Chips, there’s also PowerUP items (to upgrade MM’s armor and firepower), RegUP items (to increase your Chip Folder’s memory, so you can use more powerful chips), and HPMemory items (to give MM more life points).

What about bosses? To keep up the references to the original MM universe, most of the bosses are “EXE” versions of their original series counterparts. Fire Man, Ice Man, Guts Man, Elec Man, Magic Man, Magnet Man, and more have all made appearances. Capcom hasn’t stopped there, though; plenty of new bosses were thought up for the MMBN universe, like Number Man, Gate Man, Thunder Man, and Planet Man. There’s even some weird ones, like Japan Man and Bowl Man. Many of these characters have been radically redesigned, with only some passing resemblences to their original series counterparts. Also, their attacks are generally a lot nastier. Where did all these baddies come from? The World Three (WWW), a cyberterrorist organization headed by the nefarious Lord Wily. These guys want to take over the world, and we can’t have that!

MMBN was a lot to digest, but MMBN2 added even more. Here we’re introduced to the Style system, where Mega Man earns an elemental affinity based on the way he fights. This affects his offense and and defense. If he’s got the Heat Guts style, his charged shot is now a powerful flamethrower that will deal double damage to wood-based enemies, but MM will take double damage from aqua-based attacks. The threat was even stranger in this game; it even deals with merging the real world with the cyber world. Funky.

MMBN3 brought in more Styles, and you could even level them up! MMBN3 also came in two versions: Blue and White. Each version had a few different bosses and hidden characters, plus varying Battle Chips. Also, the insidious WWW was back, so you had even more problems to contend with! One of the major plot points in MMBN3 is the N1 Tournament. This is a monstrous competition for NetBattlers worldwide, and people came from all over to watch their Navis throw down. In fact, Capcom even released a game solely based on the tournament, called Rockman EXE Battle Chip Grand Prix (we’ll be getting it in a few months as Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge). This game’s not an RPG per se, but more of a “card battle” strategy game. You can choose one of six participants in the tournament (Mega Man, Proto Man, Guts Man, Roll, or one of two new characters, Ring and Turbo Man), and fight your way through various brackets to be the best! Plus, by defeating enemy Navis, you can sometimes earn their chips, just like in the MMBN RPGs. However, rather than summoning them briefly to attack for you, a Navi’s chip in this game lets you actually use that Navi as a playable character! This is definitely important as your progress through the various tournaments, as later Navis are much more powerful. The plot differs slightly from the tournament in MMBN3, where Mega Man obviously won the day. At any rate, the game is fantastic. One of the coolest features by far is one where you can generate a password based on your Navi, his/her level, and what chips they have equipped. You can then email this password to a friend, and by inputting it into their copy of the game, they can fight against your Navi! A very cool addition indeed.

While the MMBN universe began on the GBA, it’s since expanded a bit. One game’s been released for the Gamecube: Mega Man Network Transmission. Unlike the GBA titles, this game’s a platformer, very reminiscent of the original NES Mega Man games. In fact, MMNT is loaded with homages to the classic series, like sections of levels that are perfect reproductions of NES levels. Quick Man’s level even has those godforsaken laser beams from Mega Man 2! Anyway, this game takes place between MMBN and MMBN2, and features a few new bosses, like Needle Man, Gravity Man, Sword Man, Star Man, and Bright Man. There’s also a new Navi known as “Zero”…

One MMBN game that US gamers won’t ever get is Rockman EXE WS, released for the Japanese-only Wonderswan Color handheld gaming system. This game is a platformer like MMNT, but doesn’t feature any new characters. Nevertheless, it’s a great game for Wonderswan Color fans. (I should mention that there’s a version of Rockman EXE Battle Chip Grand Prix on the WSC, too, called Rockman EXE N1 Battle.)

Speaking of which, Capcom’s really gone all-out with MMBN in Japan, where it’s known as Rockman EXE. Gee, the Japanese get cool stuff that we don’t? Tell us more! Alright, I will. Overseas, they’ve gotten two excellent anime TV series (Rockman EXE and the current Rockman EXE Axess), loads of cool action figures, working PET toys, collectible card games, dice games, board games, and more. What did we get? A horribly mangled edit of the Rockman EXE anime called “Mega Man NT Warrior.” If you ever have to watch it, save yourself the trouble and jam a white-hot needle in your eye instead. The only good that’s come out of that show is the US fans are finally starting to get action figures and other goodies based on the series. We even got the PET toy, complete with real Battle Chips!

Continuity? While many MM fans have tried to fit MMBN in with the other series (obviously taking place well before them), it really doesn’t work, since there’s references within MMBN that really can’t be justified. For example, a shop has a poster of Vile from Mega Man X, while one of Lan’s classmates has a rug with a Servbot on it (from Mega Man Legends). Nonetheless, nitpicking continuity issues can still be a worthwhile source of amusement.

Anyway, the MMBN juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down. Seven games in 2 1/2 years, fer crissake! We’ve recently seen the release of Mega Man Battle Network 4, complete with two versions again (Red Sun and Blue Moon). These have even more differences than MMBN3‘s dual release; the new Soul Unison system, for example, lets Mega Man take on the appearance and abilities of defeated enemies. However, each version of MMBN4 has six Soul Styles unique to it, plus a ton of different Navis, and varying storylines. There’s even a cameo by Django, the vampire hunting hero of Konami’s Boktai series. (Mega Man returns the favor by appearing in Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django, along with Lan and Shade Man.) The game was one of the highest-selling games of 2003 in Japan, and it only came out in December of that year! And if you’re a MM freak like me, don’t forget to check out Onimusha Blade Warriors, which features the MMBN Mega Man as an unlockable playable character! That’s right, friends…kick some samurai ass with Mega Man!

Mega Man Zero

Over 100 years after the Mega Man X series, Reploids fear for their lives, as the Neo Arcadian government is hunting them down and executing them. Their reasoning? You can’t have Reploids going Maverick if there are no Reploids to begin with! There’s a small Resistance movement trying to survive, but it’s not going well. Led by a human, Ciel, the Resistance is getting the crap kicked out of it by Neo Arcadian forces when they stumble upon the legendary hero: Zero.

And so begins Mega Man Zero, the latest offshoot of Capcom’s Mega Man franchise. Spiralling off of one of the endings to Mega Man X5, the beam saber-wielding Reploid Zero awakens from a very long sleep to help out the Resistance. Unlike all the other Mega Man games, Mega Man is not a playable character at all! It’s all Zero. The “Mega Man” in the title is just for association purposes, since it does take place in the same timeline. But don’t worry…Mega Man X makes appearances. Just not in the manner you’d expect.

There’s only two games in this GBA series so far, but both have been absolutely incredible. The graphics, sound, and animation are some of the best seen on the GBA, and the story kicks ass to boot. For one, they brought back the classic Mega Man challenge: these games are tough. Plenty of practice is necessary to work your way through the various missions. You also don’t acquire weapons from bosses anymore; you may score an item or two, but defeating bosses is just necessary to unlock later levels. As far as your weapons are concerned, you start out with your Z-Saber and Z-Buster, and later acquire the Shield Boomerang and Triple Rod (upgraded to the Chain Rod in Mega Man Zero 2) from Cerveau, a Resistance engineer. By using these weapons repeatedly as your fight your way through hordes of Neo Arcadian goons, they level up, giving you added abilities. For example, you’ll be able to charge up your Z-Saber for a devastating ground slash attack.

Then there’s the matter of Cyber Elves. These little data programs are found floating around in levels, or you can get them by dispatching certain enemies. You can equip up to three of them at any given time, but once you use one, it’s gone forever (with some exceptions; we’ll get to that in a moment). The Elves have various effects, like destroying all minor enemies on the screen, providing cover fire, etc. The best ones, however, are the ones you need to “raise.” This is accomplished by feeding them Energy Crystals (found everywhere; they’re the equivalent of currency). Once Elves are raised, then they’re ready for use, and they almost always have a permanent effect. Some will extend your lifebar, others will increase your speed or defense, and still others will turn into much-needed Sub Tanks.

So why is there no Mega Man X? Well, as it turns out, X is long gone. See, the Neo Arcadian goverment is controlled by X, but he’s only a copy. Ciel actually built him, hoping he’d replace the departed original X. Naturally, Copy X went bad. Zero ends up destroying him, and the real X (in “spirit” form) talks to Zero, and tells him to keep fighting the good fight. In Mega Man Zero 2, we find out what really happened to X: he didn’t get killed, but his body is in stasis, serving as a “lock” on the Dark Elf’s prison. The Dark Elf is an extremely powerful Cyber Elf, that would cause a whole lot of damage if released. The new Resistance leader, Elpizo, went crazy (there’s a shocker) and wanted to break the damn thing out. Surprisingly enough, he succeeded–by jamming a beam saber through X’s chest, destroying him instantly! Zero had to throw down against a Dark Elf-powered Elpizo, but still managed to win the day. The Dark Elf escaped, but somewhere within a bunker, unseen forces plot world domination. This leads directly into the recent Mega Man Zero 3, where our hero faced a new threat in the form of Dr. Weil. Here, we found that the mad doctor was exiled over a century ago along with a giant reploid named Omega. It was Dr. Weil himself who started the Elf Wars by modifying the Mother Elf, turning it into the Dark Elf. Zero takes off to stop Dr. Weil and his eight Numbers (lackeys), as well as recover the Dark Elf and its children, the Baby Elves. By the end of the game, there’s some huge plot revelations, completely altering what we thought was true. Simply put…the Zero in the MMZ series is nothing but a copy! The real Zero is and always has been…Omega! The original Zero was always designed to be a “god of destruction,” and Dr. Weil helped him fulfill that role as Omega. Copied Reploids always seem to have a flaw that separates them from the original; Copy X was evil, while Copy Zero is good. This threw many gamers for a loop, as it explained much, but left a lot open for an inevitable sequel. As expected, Mega Man Zero 4 is confirmed for a 2005 release.

On a final note…if platforming with Zero isn’t your thing, you can put his combat skills to good use elsewhere, thanks to his appearances as a playable character in SNK vs Capcom Chaos and Onimusha Blade Warriors.

The Future

That little blue robot’s sure come a long way. He’s been a lab assistant, a reluctant warrior, a treasure hunter, and even a computer program. He’s faced foes from Dr. Wily to Dr. Doom. He’s spanned over 40 games on nearly every major gaming console since the late 1980s, and even some of his pals have gotten their own games as a result. You’d think he’d be ready for retirement, but oh no, Mega Man’s still got plenty of life left in his circuits.

So where does Capcom’s beloved franchise go from here? The original series is getting a small shot in the arm this spring, with the releases of Mega Man Anniversary Collection and Mega Man Mania. There’s rumors that a similar collection will follow for the Mega Man X series, but we shall see. Like I’ve said before, what fans really want is Mega Man 9, especially if it bridged the gap between the original series and the X series. Capcom’s made no mention of this, and I have a feeling it may never come to pass. We’ll just have to see how well the anthology titles sell. We won’t even begin to talk about the horrible action figures from Jazwares…ugh.

Then there’s the whole matter of Mega Man Legends 3, which rivals Mega Man 9 for the title of “most wanted MM game.” The Legends team was assigned a new project a few years back, and the fruit of that project was Mega Man Battle Network. The Legends series doesn’t seem to be forgotten, though; interview snippets here and there hint that Capcom’s not quite done with Rock, Tron, Data, and all the rest. Plus, Mega Man Legends 2 did end on quite a cliffhanger; c’mon, Capcom, give us one more game, so we can at least bring Mega Man back to Earth!

Regardless of how the other games fare, Mega Man Battle Network seems to be unstoppable. I’ve already spoken about its insurmountable popularity in Japan, but MegaMan.EXE’s got quite a following stateside, too. Four games so far, with two more due this year. Not bad, considering the series is less than three years old. Even though we got f*cked in the ass as far as the anime is concerned, let’s pray that we’ll get some figurines or something to take away that sting. There’s plenty of Robot Masters left to make EXE versions out of, so I think we’ll see piles and piles of MMBN games before Capcom moves on to something else.

So where does Mega Man fit into the grand scheme of things? In a world of mindless FPS clones, GTA clones, and other assorted drivel, it’s nice to know there’s still some quality gaming to be had. He’s had his stumbling blocks, but Mega Man rarely lets us down. He’s got a rabid fanbase in the US, albeit some are sick f*cks who make Mega Man fanzine-porn. I’m not kidding. The worst are the lifeless fangirls who for some odd reason have made Mega Man X and Zero “gay.” The whole concept is ludicrous in and of itself: gays are homosexual, right? Robots can’t be homosexual, since they’re not any type of sexual to begin with! You need to be biological in nature, not mechanical. Sheesh. Apparently, the whole gay video game character thing is much more far-reaching (with Cloud and Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII being a popular “couple” in that regard), but come on, these are just robots. Leave the mythos alone, and get a life.

Now then…quit reading this, and go play some Mega Man games!

Game List (by series)

Original series:

Mega Man (NES)
Mega Man 2 (NES)
Mega Man 3 (NES)
Mega Man 4 (NES)
Mega Man 5 (NES)
Mega Man 6 (NES)
Mega Man 7 (SNES)
Mega Man 8 (PS1, Saturn)
Mega Man & Bass (Super Famicom, GBA)
Mega Man in Dr. Wily’s Revenge (GB)
Mega Man II (GB)
Mega Man III (GB)
Mega Man IV (GB)
Mega Man V (GB)
Mega Man: The Wily Wars (Mega Drive)
Rockboard (Famicom)
Mega Man Soccer (SNES)
Rockman Battle & Chase (PS1)
Rockman Battle & Fighters (NGPC)
Rockman & Forte (Wonderswan)
Super Adventure Rockman (PS1, Saturn)
Mega Man Anniversary Collection (PS2/GC/Xbox)
Mega Man Anniversary Collection (GBA)

X series:

Mega Man X (SNES)
Mega Man X2 (SNES)
Mega Man X3 (SNES, PS1, Saturn)
Mega Man X4 (PS1)
Mega Man X5 (PS1)
Mega Man X6 (PS1)
Mega Man X7 (PS2)
Mega Man X8 (PS2)
Mega Man Xtreme (GBC)
Mega Man Xtreme 2 (GBC)
Mega Man X Command Mission (PS2, GC)

Legends series:

Mega Man Legends (PS1)
Mega Man Legends 2 (PS1)
The Misadventures of Tron Bonne (PS1)

Battle Network series:

Mega Man Battle Network (GBA)
Mega Man Battle Network 2 (GBA)
Mega Man Battle Network 3 Blue (GBA)
Mega Man Battle Network 3 White (GBA)
Mega Man Battle Network 4 Red Sun (GBA)
Mega Man Battle Network 4 Blue Moon (GBA)
Mega Man Battle Network 5 Colonel’s Team (GBA)
Mega Man Battle Network 5 ProtoMan’s Team (GBA)
Rockman EXE 4.5 Real Operation (GBA)
Rockman EXE WS (Wonderswan Color)
Mega Man Network Transmission (GC)
Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge (GBA)

Zero series:

Mega Man Zero (GBA)
Mega Man Zero 2 (GBA)
Mega Man Zero 3 (GBA)
Mega Man Zero 4 (GBA)

Cameo Appearances

Pocket Fighter (PS1, Saturn)
SNK vs Capcom Cardfighter’s Clash (NGPC)
SNK vs Capcom Cardfighter’s Clash 2: Expand Edition (NGPC)
Marvel vs. Capcom (PS1, Saturn, DC)
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (PS2, DC)
Cannon Spike (DC)
Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django (GBA)
SNK vs Capcom Chaos (Xbox)