Whatever Happened To… Mega Man Battle Network?
Has there ever been a point when you’ve looked through your gaming library and wondered, “Huh, whatever happened to this title?” Well, I’ll be taking a look at videogame standalones/franchises and the lead up to their eventual absence. With that being said, today I’ll be asking the question: “Whatever Happened to… Mega Man Battle Network?”
Back in the heady days of the early-2000s, Game Boy Advance owners were treated to the digital world antics of MegaMan.EXE and his operator Lan. Game after game was released, year after year, and it seemed like it would never end. However, end it would. Note, I won’t talk about the Japan-exclusive titles, which went by Battle Network Rockman EXE.
Released in 2001, Mega Man Battle Network (MMBN) set up the world and characters that would be used for eight games. Lan and his family, ACDC Town, the evil Dr. Wily and his World Three terror organisation, and all of the technology/technobabble you could want. The second game came later in 2001, giving more of the same with some slight changes.
The third game came out about a year later, and the extra development time showed in the improved graphics and some new mechanics. It also introduced us to two versions of the same game, a la Pokémon. Luckily the differences were a few Battle Chips and some bosses.
In 2003 Mega Man Network Transmission came out on the GameCube, set between the first and second MMBN games. It tried, unsuccessfully some might say, to blend the card-based battles of MMBN with the more traditional platforming of the main Mega Man series.
Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge also came out in 2003, and removed the RPG from the game, and was met with pretty poor reviews as a result. People loved MMBN for the “Mega Man” part, not the “Battle Network” part, after all. Or at least I did. When Mega Man Battle Network 4 came out in 2004, it was a mixed experience, since it had a very watered down story, but at least it was a new title in the main series.
The next year, MMBN 5 came out and changed things up in a big way, and not just by releasing on Nintendo DS as well as Game Boy Advance. Rather than wandering around deleting viruses and stopping the Big Bad, you had to join a team to liberate the internet from the Big Bad’s minions. The developer was clearly trying new things to keep people interested.
With the release of Mega Man Battle Network 6 in 2006, we saw the end of the saga. The baddies were put in prison, the heroes received their happy ever after, and there were fewer new ideas floating around, giving the series a nice send-off. However, it wasn’t the last we’d see of the franchise.
2007 saw the release of Mega Man Star Force (MMSF), which was apparently a difficult game to make for the Nintendo DS. After all, MMBN 6 had a great ending, so just making a 3D version of those games was out of the question, they had to update it and make it stand out. It was set 200 years after MMBN, and saw Mega Man being formed by human child Geo Stelar and alien Omega-Xis, along with their friends who were very similar to Lan’s friends.
MMSF 2 came out in 2008, but critics were obviously feeling the franchise fatigue. Scores ranged from “meh” to “disappointed”, despite adding in some new ideas and changing up some old ones. Not to be discouraged, Capcom tied up the entire franchise in 2009 with Mega Man Star Force 3. It was more of the same again, but served to tie up the Star Force story.
I know I said I wouldn’t talk about the Japanese-only games, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Rockman EXE Operate Shooting Star, the Japan-only remake of the original MMBN, which has a chapter where MegaMan.EXE and Star Force’s Mega Man meet. It was released in 2009, but marks the last time we’ve been able to play in this universe.
Since both stories were wrapped up in their final games, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a Battle Network 7, or Star Force 4. However, Capcom have been on a bender with releasing Mega Man collections recently, and with nine main titles a Mega Man Battle Network + Star Force Collection would definitely make a good addition.
You can currently get the Mega Man Battle Network games on the Wii U’s Virtual Console. It’s very nearly been 10 years since the last game in the franchise came out, and given the fan love for it still after all this time, what’s the deal Capcom?