The Mega Man franchise has been evolving since Mega Man first appeared on the NES, placing the little blue guy in a pretty varied series of titles since that auspicious debut nearly 15 years ago. The latest incarnation of the blue bomber, the Battle Network series, blends action and RPG elements into a solid package that has been well received since its first appearance on the Game Boy Advance in 2001. We recently checked out the latest installment in the series, Mega Man Battle Network 3, which retains the series' solid mix of gameplay and throws in some new Pokémon-esque elements.
The game's story again puts you in the role of Lan and his cyber alter ego, Mega Man. The pair is tapped to investigate some strange goings-on while on a field trip. Lan and Mega Man become aware of trouble brewing in cyberspace during a visit to a research center specializing in the investigation of Net viruses. The basic structure of the game is pretty much the same as in the previous entries in the series. You'll interact with characters in the real world and their alter egos in cyberspace once you've jacked into the Net with Mega Man. As you explore cyberspace, you'll do battle with a variety of enemies using the battle chips you'll collect. Fans of the series should recognize many familiar faces from the previous games as they progress through the game. The game mechanics also follow the same basic design as their predecessors, although there have been some refinements and tweaks that make for a deeper experience overall. The most significant is a "memory map" feature that lets you arrange the program parts you collect on a grid. The different configurations you create will provide different enhancements to Mega Man's abilities. As you progress through the game, you'll be able to create more-elaborate arrangements that will give Mega Man even greater abilities. You'll find four different core program-part styles in the game: guts, custom, brother, and shield. The guts style enhances Mega Man's buster attacks. The custom style lets you use multiple attack chips in a fight. The brother style helps defeat enemy navi quickly and rewards you with rare chips. Finally, the shield style helps you block enemy attacks during a fight.
Mega Man Battle Network 3 will put a Pokémon-style twist on the program-part collection by offering unique items in the Blue and White versions of the game. The Blue version will feature the shadow style, which lets you hide in the shadows in the game to avoid enemies. The White version will feature the ground style, which lets you control the topography of the cyberspace environment you're exploring. The Blue and White versions of the game will also feature other unique elements, such as battle chips, enemies, and bosses.
The series' graphics have received a few tweaks in Mega Man Battle Network 3. Detail has been improved in a few places, and the sequence that plays when you jack into cyberspace has been overhauled. The game's audio is solid, offering a good mix of catchy music and sound effects that suit the action.
If you were a fan of the previous games, Mega Man Battle Network 3 Blue and Mega Man Battle Network 3 White shouldn't let you down. The game is a fun, action-RPG-lite experience that's pretty accessible. The two versions and their unique elements should also provide a good experience for completionists eager for a perfect game. The Blue and White versions of Mega Man Battle Network 3 are both slated to ship late next month for the Game Boy Advance.