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Mega Man Network Transmission
game: Mega Man Network Transmission
three star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: Capcom
date posted: 12:00 AM Sun Jul 20th, 2003
last revision: 12:00 AM Sun Jul 20th, 2003

By Eric Qualls

It is hard to believe that Mega Man has been around for fifteen years now. I could go on a big rant about how I'm "hardcore" because I have been playing these games since the beginning, but I happen to think that all of the self-proclaimed old school gamers these days are morons, so I won't bore you with that. Instead, I think that Capcom deserves praise for choosing to celebrate the Blue Bomber's 15-year anniversary by releasing a 2-D side scrolling game that takes the series back to its roots. Well, sort of. It is a 2-D platformer, all right, but it has more in common with the GBA Battle Network series rather than the games of old. Mega Man Network Transmission is pretty simple and straightforward, but there are a lot of little problems that keep it from being as good as the Battle Network series or the 2-D side scrollers before it.

Just like the Battle Network games on the GBA, Network Transmission follows Lan Hikari and his Navi (an intelligent computer program) Mega Man as they explore the internet, delete viruses, and battle with enemy Navis. Unlike the GBA games, Network Transmission puts the focus solely on Mega Man and you don't have to control Lan in the offline world at all. Also, the gameplay has shifted from an RPG to a pure and simple 2-D platform game. Elements of the Battle Network games such as collecting and using battle chips and having to "jack in" are still around, but the main draw of Network Transmission is running and gunning action.

While the influence of the BN games has a huge impact on the standard platform game formula, it doesn't really make the experience any better. In fact, it slows the game down and proves more annoying than anything. Mega Man is only armed with a simple blaster , which sucks ass for the first half of the game , and you have to rely instead on battle chips that Lan can send Mega Man every couple of minutes or so. The battle chips give you new projectile weapons, replenish your health, or summon other Navis to come help you. Chips of the same type can be combined to produce new, more powerful weapons.

There are problems with this system, though. First off, having to rely entirely on the battle chips slows the gameplay down to a crawl as you have to wait for the right ones to come up. The chips can only be sent every few minutes and are randomly assigned, so if you use up your chips or don't get the ones you need, you are pretty much at the mercy of the enemies around you unless you find a safe spot to wait around for more chips to be sent. The second problem lies in the fact that most of the bosses are so difficult that you can't really beat them unless you combine chips to create the more powerful weapons. Since the chips are assigned randomly, you have to wait around until you get the chips you need because the boss battles are practically impossible to beat without them.

I can see how this system of being randomly assigned chips is supposed to lead to innovation as you have to learn how to play with the chips you are dealt. In reality, though, it is pretty damn hard to play the game when the only chips you get are all either defensive or health powerups. This just makes the game tedious and boring. All the fun of the 2-D gameplay has been sucked out because the speed and ease of play has disappeared.

Another beef I have with Network Transmission is the extremely unbalanced difficulty. When you first start the game, Mega Man is a puny weakling with limited health and a wimpy blaster. It seems obvious that the first few levels should be easier so you can learn the ins and outs of the gameplay and so Mega Man could get powered up. That isn't the case, however, and the first few sections of the game are by far the hardest. The game gets a little easier as you earn upgrades for Mega Man, but occasionally you'll come across areas that are particularly enemy-filled or a tough boss battle where your only choice is to waste time waiting for the right chips to be given to you so you can advance.

Mega Man Network Transmission fails to push the GameCube in terms of graphics and sound, and that is a real shame. Other than some impressive cinema sequences that look just like the anime TV series, the game would have probably run just fine on the GBA. The environments are simple and bland, even by 2-D side scroller standards, and the character models lack detail. The speech in the game is in Japanese and fits the characters well, but the rest of the sound is average on every front. This is a new product on rather powerful hardware, but it looks and sounds like every other Mega Man game from the last fifteen years. Not good.

Network Transmission is disappointing all around. Hardcore fans of the Battle Network games will get a kick out of it, but everyone else is probably better off skipping it. Even when Network Transmission it was at its best, I still found myself longing for the far superior experiences of Mega Mans past. If you can look past Mega Man Network Transmission's ugly graphics and frustrating gameplay, expect a 10+-hour quest and a hefty challenge. It isn't great, but there are far worse games out there. Give it a rent.