Mega Man Network Transmission Review

Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: June 17, 2003 Also On: None

In anticipation of the upcoming Mega Man Anniversary Collection, I thought I would take a few minutes to review the first Mega Man game for the GCN, Mega Man Network Transmission. I’ve been a fan of Mega Man ever since the NES era, although the fact that I came straight to GCN from NES as far as consoles are concerned means that I have missed a lot.

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Given that, you would think I would have bought this game immediately upon its release, but I didn’t. I allowed myself to be talked out of it by reviewers who complained mercilessly about how difficult the game was. Thus, it wasn’t until a couple months ago when I saw a copy of the game on clearance at Target for $15 that I decided I would likely get some enjoyment out of it even if it was difficult, but I found the actual game to be significantly different than the one I had seen described in reviews. I intend to tell you the way this game actually is in this review.

Let’s start with the graphics. This is a 2D game. Yes, Capcom actually released a 2D Mega Man game on a system as powerful as the GCN. Don’t think though that this means the graphics are sub par 2D sprites. That isn’t the case at all. The best way to describe this game graphically would be to say it is a 2D game in a 3D environment. The environments and the characters/enemies are all drawn very well, although it is undeniably true that a 2D game isn’t going to have system-pushing graphics on a system as powerful as the GCN. This game is a good example of the potential of cel-shading in 2D games. Overall, the graphics get the job done quite well and are very pleasant to look at, but they are not perfect.

Now let’s look at the sound. The sound effects are handled quite well, but are basically updated versions of the same sounds the franchise has been using since day one. That’s not a bad thing though, since that set of effects are what Mega Man fans are used to, and they still work and get the job done very well. Although the creativity is lacking in this regard, it can afford to in this case.

The real story to the sound in this game though is the music. The music in this game is simply amazing. Although some people who have played the game will simply say that the music consists of remixes of music used in the original series, that is only scraping the surface of this music. The remixes actually have different melodies than the songs they are based on, although elements of the original songs do come through, sometimes more than others. The point is though that the music is similar to some of the music from the original series, but not to the point of being the same songs with updated arrangements. There are also a couple completely new melodies to the best of my knowledge, and all of these melodies are addictive. As fact, even as I have been writing this, two of my favorites have been going through my head. Well done Capcom.

Now, let’s move on to the gameplay. Like I said earlier, this is a 2D game in a 3D environment. The easiest way to describe the gameplay in this game would be to say that it is a hybrid of the games of the original series and the Battle Network series. Borrowed from the original series are the basic concepts of movement, sliding, and firing a normal cannon, while the Battle Network series supplies the concepts of battle chips, increasable HP and MP bars, and an upgradeable player.

Notice I mentioned an upgradeable player. This is where most people get their concept of this game being “difficult” from. When you start out, your normal weapon can fire at a pace such that a whopping one shot can be on the screen at once. At the same time, these shots are also hideously weak, so that it generally takes about ten of them to take out an enemy. I’m certain this sounds hard to you, because it did to me. The first thing that needs to be said is that you won’t be in this position for the entire game. Indeed, you can increase the power of your shots and the rapidity of your shots to the point where you can fire as often, if not more often, than Mega Man could in the original series. You can even give yourself the ability to charge shots and then to charge them farther and faster.

However, for much of the game you cannot afford to rely on the normal weapon. That much is obvious. But, the fact is, you weren’t intended to rely on the normal weapon that much. Most of your major battling, particularly against bosses, will come from the battle chips. At any time, you will have twenty chips in your folder and up to five different ones in your immediate possession. Most of them are simply weapons with which to kill enemies, but a few are useful for other things as well, although I won’t give specific examples lest I spoil anything.

This may sound easy, and indeed it is for the most part, but there are a couple complicating factors to it. First is the fact that you have an MP bar (similar to the special weapon bar of the original series) which depletes a certain amount (varies by chip) whenever you use a battle chip. Second is the fact that there are five different elements of battle chips, one of those elements being neutral. If you attack an elemental enemy with an elemental chip he is weak against, he will take double damage, but if you attack them with an elemental chip they are strong against, they will take half damage. All other situations will result in normal damage. This is a typical factor in RPG’s, but truth be told, you can beat most, if not all, of the game without worrying about element order.

One more thing needs to be mentioned about the gameplay. The boss navis are borrowed from bosses of the original series, ranging, I believe, from Mega Man to Mega Man 8. Having played Mega Man and Bass, I don’t believe any of its bosses made the cut, yet there are a couple that I didn’t recognize, having played Mega Mans 1 through 7. When I said earlier that the music is primarily remixes of music from the original series, it would have been more accurate to say that for each level that has a Navi boss, you hear a remixed version of the music that played in that boss’s level in the game of the original series in which that boss originally appeared. These bosses have the same names, but they do fight differently than they did originally, so be warned of that if you decide to get this game.

This game’s gameplay overall is very reminiscent of the original series of Mega Man games, and it executes very well. Any fan of the original series would very easily get the hang of this game as soon as they came to understand the battle chip system.

So far as creativity is concerned, I sadly have to say that not very much exists. Almost everything feels like it is borrowed. The plot is borrowed from the Battle Network series. The enemies, including bosses, are borrowed from the original series, with the exception of a couple who are borrowed from other Mega Man games. The music is pretty much borrowed from the original series, although some new music is present. I think you get the point that pretty much everything is borrowed. However, I get the idea from this game that they were creative in the regard that they chose to sort of use this game to honor the original series, since that original series is probably a dead series for all practical purposes (except for collections like Anniversary Collection). Thus, I will forgive the lack of creativity and give a few points in the category.

This game is also lacking in replay value. Mega Man games are notorious for not being the longest games in the world, and this one follows suit for the most part. The game will take you anywhere from ten to twenty hours to beat depending on how many times you replay levels to get more battle chips to use in the harder levels, which is a good idea, and more money to buy upgrades and other battle chips. If you have a lot of time on your hands, there is a bonus boss to be fought if you can get all the battle chips, but I am not certain if that boss is worth all the time it would take to find all 136 of them. With the exception of that, there really isn’t much reason to go back and play it again after you’ve beaten it.

The Target clearance I got this game during is likely over, but this game can probably be found under $20 used at gaming stores. It is certainly worth that much for Mega Man fans who have been hesitant to get the game, and for anybody else who enjoys good old fashioned 2D action shooters. I would certainly recommend this game at its current price to just about anybody who isn’t thrown off by the fact that it is a 2D game.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 7.8
Written by Martin Review Guide

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