Sunday, March 24, 2013

Top 10 Most Shocking Games in a Series - #1: Mega Man Battle Network

It was the early days of the NES, and the video game company Capcom was finally ready to release their newest game; a little game they decided to call "Mega Man" (Rockman in Japan). Mega Man was a side scrolling platformer about a little blue robot who set out to stop the evil Dr. Wily from taking over the world. Really it was a simple game, but there was also something about it that made it very unique.

You see, Mega Man was a game that allowed you to play the stages in any order you wanted to, and whenever you beat one of the Robot Master bosses, you would get their weapon. These weapons could then be used against other bosses who were weak against them, creating a sort of rock paper scissors type of game; however, it really wasn't that simple. The original game was actually a very challenging game that required dead on platforming, enemy pattern memorization, and it really required players to stay on top of their game. Truthfully Capcom wasn't sure how well the game would do due to these facts, but in the end it actually became a hit.

Not too long after Mega Man was released, Capcom went to work on its sequel "Mega Man 2." Mega Man 2, unlike the original, included eight bosses for you to fight, it refined the gameplay, made it a bit easier, and added in a few new features as well. Once again Mega Man 2 was a hit with the world, and that is what lead Capcom to create a series of sequels following. Mega Man 3, 4, 5, and 6 all came out for the NES, and each and every one of them brought new features to the game. From the ability to slide under gaps and enemies, to the ability to charge up Mega Man's buster gun to unleash a powerful charge shot, the game's gameplay continued to evolve. That's when Capcom finally decided to take the next major step forward.

In the early 1990s the new SNES was released with its 16 bit graphics, and Capcom decided to make full use of it to show just what the system could do. While Capcom did in fact make a Mega Man 7 for the SNES, they also decided to release an entirely new Mega Man game as well; one that they would go on to call "Mega Man X." Mega Man X was still a side scrolling action platformer like the original series, but it also had many changes as well. The game's story took place over 100 years after the classic series, and it focuses on a brand new character named Mega Man X. X was a part of a group called the "Maverick Hunters," and the game follows his story as he hunts down "Mavericks" (robots who have gone crazy and broken the rules of robotics). The game featured a much darker storyline, and took place in a world where "reploids" (robots that were based on X's design) can think for themselves and have feelings (just like humans). Just like with the original Mega Man games, the X series went on to spawn many sequels, and it was the first Mega Man series to really form a deep storyline.

After the success of Mega Man X, Capcom later went on to create a direct sequel to Mega Man X (called Mega Man Zero which focused on Mega Man's friend Zero), as well as a 3D adventure series called Mega Man Legends. While the Zero games continued the dark history and gameplay of Mega Man X, Legends was a fully 3D game, it featured a completely brand new character named Rock (who was renamed to "Megaman" in the West), and it played out a lot like an adventure game. You explored ruins, found treasure, found new gear to use, and made your way through a storyline. Later on a game series called Mega Man ZX would continue the story past the events of Mega Man Zero (while mixing in elements from Megaman Legends), but before that one other series was actually released; one that NO ONE could have seen coming.

In 2001 a game called "Mega Man Battle Network" was released for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance, and it was quite the shock. This game was nothing like we had ever seen before, and it was a game that was COMPLETELY out of character for a Mega Man game. Battle Network was a game that took place on its own timeline, and it took place in a modern day world; one that we currently live in today. In the world of Battle Network, people have become depended on the internet, and everyone carries around "personal terminal" computers (known as PETs for short), and they serve as everyone's gateway to the net. From surfing the web, to checking email, to also being able to act as a phone, these PETs help everyone with their daily life, but they also include one other feature. Inside each PET lives an AI known as a "Net Navi" who helps their owner out in any way they can.

These Net Navis are virtual living beings who can directly enter the cyber world (a virtual world version of the internet), fight and delete viruses, and interact with the world in many different ways. They can control computer systems, help build networks, or help out with just about anything else that might be job related. To sum it up, these Net Navis are human's best friends, and both humans and Net Navis are able to work hand in hand to achieve their goals.

The story of Mega Man Battle Network follows ten year old Lan Hikari, and his Net Navi Megaman as they go about their daily loves. Lan attends school, "net battles" with his friends (which is where their navis enter a virtual world to fight), and goes on living a normal childhood in the age of technology; however things don't stay this way for long. When a group calling themselves the "WWW" show up to pull off cyber attacks, Lan soon finds himself caught up in the middle of the attacks, as he does whatever he can to protect both his friends and family. By sending Megaman into the networks, Lan directly confronts the WWW, and their navis, and stops each and every single member. While this sort of story itself is unexpected, the real shock actually comes from the game's gameplay!

Mega Man Battle Network is an Action RPG mixed with a strategy game. In the game you control Lan from an isometric perspective as he travels from area to area, and interacts with NPCs (as you might expect from an RPG), but this is really only the half of it. In this world EVERYTHING electronic has a built in virtual world where navis, programs,and even viruses can gain access, and because of that Lan can actually send Megaman into them! By "jacking in" into an object, the game will switch over to playing as Megaman in these virtual worlds. While electronic objects are normally just stand alone objects with small areas to explore, personal computers and servers will actually allow you to gain access to the internet. The internet is the massive overworld in the Battle Network series, and it is where you spend a lot of time in game. On the net you can find more NPCs to talk to, find items, as well as get into fights with viruses (and other enemies); however that too isn't quite the same as your normal RPG.

While the battles in Battle Network are in fact random (as in you'll be randomly pulled into them), the battle system is completely unique. Battles take place on a 6x3 grid where each "side" of the field has a 3x3 grid they can move across. While Megaman always faces right, the viruses/enemies on the other side will always face left, and both sides are able to jump between each panel on the grid to both dodge attacks and attack themselves. Although the battle system is in fact in real time, there are still in fact "turns" in Battle Network, and at the start of each turn you can pick which attacks you want to be able to use. Mega Man Battle Network uses a "battle chip" system where you collect card like computer chips to use as attacks. Each battle chip is a different attack, and you are able to build a "chip folder" with a limit of 30 of them to take into battle. Each and every chip is only one time use per battle, but you can never really run out of moves to use. Megaman does in fact have a normal buster attack (which is weaker) to use, and when you're not using your battle chips, it does in fact become your main form of attacking.

To go along with the battle chip system, there is also a system called "Program Advance" which allows you to pull off special moves. By selecting battle chips to use in a special order, you can create a chain reaction of sorts, which will transform your battle chips into a massive special attack. For example of you use the battle chips sword, wide sword, and long sword together in that order, it will create a massive sword, that hits most of the battle field, called life sword. Systems such as these really make you think about how you want to build your chip folder, and it also makes you really think your moves through during battle. Sure the combat is action and skill based, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't play smart. Mega Man Battle Network is a game that tests both your reflexes and your mind, and that's where it really shines.

Although up to this point Mega Man had already had a few other series, Mega Man Battle Network really is something you could have NEVER seen coming. It wasn't a side scrolling game, it featured a unique battle system, it took place in a completely different timeline/world, and above all, it took place in a world we are slowly seeing come true today! Back in 2001 we really didn't have all of these smart phones, you couldn't connect to the internet everywhere you went, and we didn't have these AIs that controlled our mobile devices with voice commands (heck we hardly even HAD mobile devices)! The world in Battle Network truly was a "near future" world, and it is a world we basically live in today. Everything about Battle Network was shocking, and that is why we felt it deserved a spot at number 1 on this list. If someone ever tries to tell you they saw this game coming, then they lied.

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