Mega Man Battle Network 5: Team Protoman Final Impressions
We get our hands on a finished copy of Mega Man's latest role-playing game for the Game Boy Advance.
Scheduled for release in North America next week, Mega Man Battle Network 5 is a role-playing game in which you'll assume the roles of a schoolboy named Lan and his "navi" named Mega Man. Two versions of the game featuring different allies, enemies, collectible BattleChips, and storylines will be released simultaneously. One version is subtitled Team Colonel and the other is Team Protoman. We had an opportunity to spend some time with a work-in-progress build of Mega Man Battle Network 5: Team Protoman not long ago, and more recently we received a finished version of Mega Man Battle Network 5: Team Colonel.
If you're not familiar with the Mega Man Battle Network series, the above reference to Mega Man being a navi no doubt requires an explanation. Basically, navis are avatars that people use whenever they visit the Net cyberworld--an Internet-inspired isometric environment in which navis can interact with each other, learn new skills, and battle against viruses and such. Like just about every character you'll encounter in Battle Network 5, Lan is the proud owner of a personal terminal (PET) that lets him jack into the Net using any of the numerous computer terminals scattered throughout his hometown and the surrounding area. To complete your first task in the game, for example--delivering your mom's recipe for stew to a friend--you'll need to jack into the Net from the computer in Lan's bedroom, and then navigate Mega Man through a couple of mazelike environments en route to the friend's kitchen computer, where her navi is waiting. It's not quite as straightforward and uneventful as it sounds, though, because you never know when Mega Man is going to become embroiled in a random battle against the unseen viruses that populate every area of the Net.
Even more intriguing than Mega Man Battle Network 5's premise is its unusual combat system, which combines elements of turn- and card-based combat systems with real-time gameplay on battlefield grids no larger than 18 squares in size. The cards on this occasion are in fact BattleChips that you'll collect as you progress through the game. Each BattleChip grants your navi (you won't always be using Mega Man) a different ability or a different attack. You'll be able to carry 30 BattleChips chosen from your collection at any time, and once you get into a battle you'll regularly get the opportunity to pause the combat momentarily while you're dealt a hand of five random chips to play with. Your navi's memory restrictions will mean that you're rarely able to use all of the chips you're dealt before you receive your next hand, though, making the choice of which chips to play almost as difficult as timing your use of them.
In addition to increasingly powerful projectile and melee attacks, BattleChips can be used to temporarily incapacitate enemies, destroy parts of the battlefield, regain health, and to imitate the often unusual attacks of enemies that you've defeated previously. Two of the first enemy attacks we learned, for example, included a "quake" move that, after a short delay, drops a heavy weight onto the square (and onto the enemy, hopefully) three spaces in front of your navi. The second enemy attack is the "cactball" attack, which rolls a deadly, bouncing cactus down the length of the battlefield.
Most of the enemies in Mega Man Battle Network 5 are very predictable as far as their moves and attack patterns are concerned, which can make battles against multiple enemies of the same type quite easy. Different types of enemies employ different patterns, though, and the game gets pretty challenging once you find yourself being attacked from both sides and by different types of enemies--many of which are capable of causing damage over large areas. Certain portions of the game will even place a time limit on your battles, which can make for some really frantic and challenging encounters against enemy types that you've previously had no trouble defeating.
Other challenges that we've encountered in Mega Man Battle Network 5 to date include a few decent boss battles that played out in much the same way as regular encounters, and a handful of word and number puzzles that needed to be solved in order to get past security doors. We've enjoyed our time with the game thus far, and we look forward to bringing you a full review in the not too distant future.
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