Friday, September 30, 2011

Megaman Battle Chip Challenge

A really cool game that makes me wish there was more to it.
The Megaman Battle Network franchise, in my mind, has been a total joke, so far. The main games, while having a brilliant and fun battle system, were plagued with a huge reliance on tedious fetch quests and other elements that bogged down their funfactor. Naturally, I wasn't exactly jumping off my seat to get this- but I did anyway. I don't think my purchase was a waste at all.

GRAPHICS: Megaman Battle Chip Challenge has fairly good graphics. Unfortunately, it also suffers from the Capcom tendency to use and reuse until it's way beyond obsolete- and so you know! If you played Megaman Battle Network 1, 2 OR 3, then you will recognize every single sprite, background and effect in this game. That's right, every sprite, background and effect is rehashed from the main 3 games. Though, in a way, this makes sense since you're in the same world and it gives a certain familiarity with things- but I think most of the motivation for this rehashing is laziness. There's no reason they couldn't have at least added new face pictures or animations to handle the differen't chips X_x. It wouldn't have killed to maybe make a few frames for certain Navis that work with cannon and other such chips, especially since they don't have most of the virus' sprites taking up memory this time around. The only reason i'm not lowering the score too much on this factor are the awesome anime-style slot-in portraits that scroll on-screen.

SOUND: Thankfully, none of the music was rehashed. Instead, we have some really classic Megaman style compositions that I think fit the game really well. I just wish there was a bit more, because while the standard battle theme is very good- it can lose steam as you play through the game. The only real alternatives are a subpar boss theme and tournament theme. Besides the lack of variety, I feel the music is still quite good. As for the sounds...well...they have also been rehashed from the main games. I guess they work for the game, but still.

GAMEPLAY: Battle Chip Challenge has a really neat Carnage Heart style feel to its gameplay that has kept me going back again and again. Basically, you have your Navi (An AI that is basically your avatar when wandering about online, among other things. Though it DOES think and speak for itself) modeled after a robot from the Megaman series. Your job is to gather battlechips, which hold various attacks from both virus' and other Navis and put them in your folder, which can hold up to 30 of these battlechips. From there, you have to build a 'Program Deck' for your Navi to follow in battle. A 'Program Deck' is basically a very simplistic AI with a series of paths that the Navi picks randomly from. Depending on where you place these battlechips on your program Deck, the Navi has a variety of strategies available to it in battle, should it choose to use them. Outside the battles, you don't walk about- like in Carnage Heart, you choose where you want to go and are presented with a menu as such. Every place you have access to is basically functional, with no fluff. It's all there to serve gameplay purposes. The battles themselves have no real direct control, either. Basically, the purpose of the fights is to put your Folder and Deck design to the test. And you watch your Navis strategies unfold in a style quite similar to Dragon Warrior. Your only real input is the 'Slot-in'. Two slots on your Program Deck (Assigned to the L and R button, respectively) can hold chips that take up a certain amount of memory. You push L or R in the battle to 'slot-in' these chips and force them to act immediately. The downside to this is that you have a gauge determining how often the slot-in will work and that once you slot-in, the chip is lost for the fight. Regardless of whether it worked or not.

The slot-in, when combined with the Program Deck and superbly done balance of chips (Every Deck has its weak point- and while some are very overpowered, you can still overcome them) makes for an awesome strategy game that's just a blast to watch and play. The fights go quickly, so they're tense and very fun to watch. The multiplayer is also fantastic. You can choose to fight a friend's Deck and Navi directly by linking- but linking isn't required. 

Thanks to the Navi Code system, which stores the Navi and Deck into a User Name and Password, you can just post your code on the internet and anyone who inputs it will have your Navi and Deck availiable for fighting. You can even hold tournaments to test your friends Decks against you own and eachother's! The more friends you have, the bigger tournament you can hold and the bigger the prize. It's truly awesome. My only real gripes are that it could have been more. A lot of stuff that was a prime part of the main series' battle system just didn't make the cut. While it's kinda disappointing, I feel what's there is already quite good.

STORY: The story is quite simple and fun in nature. Basically, the BattlechipGP tournament is being held and is attracting Navis and their owners from all over the world. This includes the main cast of Megaman Battle Network. Lan and Megaman, Chaud and Protoman, Dex and Gutsman, and Mayl and Roll all enter the tournament, each for their own reasons- and you can choose to play them, or try out the two new characters and their Navis: Mary and her Navi, Ring or Kaito and his Navi, Turboman. I'm very glad they went back to the lighthearted story-style that's been absent since the first Megaman Battle Network. The characters, universe and overall PLOT is so much more suited to it- and the writers they employ for Megaman Battle Network can't write a serious story without it looking ridiculous and stupid. As such, I enjoyed this game's story, simplistic as it may be. In conclusion, Megaman Battle Chip Challenge is an awesome game that just makes me wish there was more. The Program Deck and balance of chips that makes the nearly endless strategy possible more than makes up for the rehashed graphics and lack of variety in music. The story is simple and fun- and really only makes the game that much more enjoyable. If you like Megaman Battle Network and/or enjoy strategy games in the vein of Carnage Heart, this is a worthy addition to your Gameboy Advance collection.

SYSTEM: Game Boy Advance, Wonder Swan Color



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