Owners of Mega Man Battle Network 4, the previous game, will be happy to learn that this latest installment fixes some of the features that were introduced in that game, as well as includes a few new features all its own. Many of the dungeons in cyberspace now include puzzles and side games, instead of just leading the player toward the exit with a constant flurry of random battles. Battle arenas have a wider variety of terrain, such as rocks and leafy vegetation, and some arenas are split so that enemies are on the left and right side of the screen while Mega Man is in the middle. Best of all, dark chips have been made easier to use. Dark chips are powerful attack chips that can cause Mega Man to lose HP or turn evil if they're used too frequently. There are twice as many now, and they can be collected and put into folders just like regular chips. Previously, the CPU would occasionally just insert a random dark chip into the deck during a battle. This new method is nice because it lets players choose whether or not to use dark chips. Another welcome change is that dark chips can now be used in soul unisons without any lasting effects to Mega Man, apart from the off chance that they'll backfire and conjure up another enemy on the other side of the arena. This gives players a way to use dark chips without pushing Mega Man toward the dark side.
Pick and choose from hundreds of battle chips, including rare and powerful dark chips.
The story in Mega Man Battle Network 5 is also much more coherent and involving than the garbage plot that was concocted for the fourth game. In Mega Man Battle Network 4, players spent most of the game participating in tournaments and running errands for people. The ultimate enemy, along with Lan and Mega Man's role in the overall story, wasn't revealed until the game was almost over. This fifth installment, thankfully, is set up so that Lan and Mega Man are constantly meeting new adversaries and uncovering clues in the context of the story. The story itself is your typical bad guy trying to take over the world plot, but it has a few twists and turns involving Lan's friends and family. In a nutshell, Dr. Regal, Lan's constant nemesis, has joined up with a group called Nebula, which has begun taking over entire areas of cyberspace. A group called the Anti-Nebula Corps is formed to retake those areas, and Lan joins them when Dr. Regal kidnaps his father. Everything you do in the game is guided by the story or moves it along, which is really what you want out of a role-playing game.
Once again, unfortunately, the graphics and audio are pretty much identical to what was used in the first Mega Man Battle Network game, which was published in 2001. In fact, if you've played any of the previous installments, you'll quickly notice that many of the environments, backgrounds, and characters have simply been recycled for use in this newest game. The character graphics used for the Navis and viruses, as always, are fairly large and benefit from looking just like the sprites that were in the old Super NES Mega Man games. There isn't much animation to speak of, however. Characters pop instantly from one square to the next on the battle grid, instead of walking, and their bodies transition into attack poses or react to damage in two or three jerky frames. The backgrounds and floor tiles that make up the battle arenas are also extremely bland. They only employ a few colors, even though the GBA can display 512 at once, and, aside from a few infrequent color changes and flame effects, there's absolutely nothing happening. As for the graphics that make up the real world and cyberspace, the three-quarter-view environments and bigheaded characters look just like what you've seen in the majority of other GBA role-playing games. Everything is easy to make out, and the various characters, like Lan and his friends, actually walk around instead of popping back and forth like the characters in the battle arena viewpoint do. The crayon-style colors, goofy portraits, and nonanimating backgrounds look very out-of-date though, especially compared to games like Golden Sun or Fire Emblem, which employ photo-realistic graphic elements and richly detailed anime-style artwork.
The graphics and audio are rehashed from earlier games.
Likewise, major portions of the music and sound effects have also been recycled from earlier Mega Man Battle Network games. In general, they're a combination of dramatic melodies, familiar Mega Man themes, and serviceable pops and explosions that come together into an overall soundtrack that fits the action without going overboard. It's just a shame, though, considering what developers have been able to squeeze out of the GBA, that the Mega Man Battle Network franchise continues to rehash graphics and audio that are now more than four years behind the curve.
Longtime fans probably won't mind very much that the graphics and audio are so stale, because this new game finally brings together and fleshes out all the features that Capcom has been adding to the series with each successive release. Newcomers, too, should also be able to tolerate the bland presentation in light of what's otherwise a solid role-playing game with an action-packed combat interface.