Review: Mega Man: Network Transmission
Posted 06 Aug 2003 at 06:25 by Bas Oosterveld
Capcom keeps on feeding games for the hungry cubers. This time they take a slight turn back in time with Mega Man Network Transmission, developed by Arika, a semi Capcom studio, in a 2D old school adventure. Retro games are not uncommon these days, a signal maybe that those good old 2D games still got it and are in much demand by the public which is us, the gamers.
Again the cel-shading technique is used to develop Mega Man Network Transmission and it seems like a following-the-trend strategy. But in this case you can hardly choose a different type of visual. Primarily because cel-shading is the best candidate to get that retro feeling and that is just what Arika is aiming for. The various movie scenes look very stylish with it and good use has been made of lighting effects. The in game graphics however are rather simple and look 16-bit, as if they have developed Mega Man for the Super Nintendo. The backgrounds are a little pale and are hardly 3D, though the latter is subordinate, after all, we're dealing with a 2D platformer here. Still, they could have flourished the graphics up a little by adding more details in the characters, which are a tad on the miniscule side and also put some extra cel-shaded brushes on the backgrounds and on the menus too, because they look a little bland also. I guess the graphical artists at Arika thought that for truly developing an old school game, you'll have to strip the game of all its visual frills. They might have been wrong there.
Same story as with the graphics basically, the sound effects do their job, some cheerful midi tunes as background music fills the game experience up and the occasional Japanese one liner from Mega Man and his friends are nice extras. The most extensive and amusing audio parts can be heard in the tiny cut scenes where in an Asian kung fu movie style, Mega Man's enemies discuss their strategy to delete our brave hero from the net.
Okay, Mega Man Network Transmission may not be exactly eye candy or have spectacular sound effects, at least the gameplay is fantastic, right? Well, pretty much.
On the surface it looks like an average 2D platformer, where you have to go from point A to B and then go man-to-man against an annoying boss, but that's not all of it, as the extensive menu may suggest. RPG elements have been used to make the adventure more versatile and more interesting. Mega Man has Magic Points and Hit Points attributes which can be upgraded and also has also 3 other stats which can evolve, namely 'Charge', 'Attack' and 'Rapid'. Supplementary, there are shops where Mega Man can buy things like upgrade points, healing items, battle chips and armours with a currency called the 'zenny'.
The storyline is entertaining, Lan has to stop the so called Zero Virus, which has infected the Internet, by jacking into PC's and make his way through cyberspace to defeat the deadly virus. He uses cyber pet Mega Man for the dirty work while Lan himself feeds Mega Man with battle chips. En route you can collect zennys, chips and data which can be used for upgrade, healing or battling foes.
The main feature in the game revolves around the battle chips, which consist of various weapons and healing items. Every time you start at a level, Lan randomly picks 5 battle chips you can choose from. Choose your chips wisely because they cannot be changed until the custom gauge meter is full again, which will do so automatically. Also the battle chips can be mixed to one super weapon, called an Advance Program. This can be accomplished by using 3 battle chips and putting them in to the right order when your custom gauge meter is full. A message box will pop up and you will be able to utilise this super weapon.
Question marks can be put on not having direct control over your array of weapons; the difficulty of the game depends largely on it, because with the right battle chips you can burst your way through most of the levels and bosses. I guess Arika thought the game was to easy if you could pick the battle chips yourself, so they decided to leave it up to the element of chance. This is a hazardous approach, because when you are about to battle an almost invincible boss, you're nothing more than a little worm on a big hook when not having the right weaponry at one's disposal.
Manoeuvring is as easy as one, two, and three as it should with 2D platformers. Mega Man's movement is pretty basic though. He can jump and slide and fire two types of weapons; his normal blaster, which can be charged if it's upgraded, and a button for using the battle chips. No fancy stuff like bullet time or slow mo' or anything, just stick to the old formula.
It takes a little while to get used to the gameplay, but people who like Mega Man or platformers will have fun with it, because once you get wise with it, you'll notice a cleverly developed game, yet a little struggling with its own mechanics. But the action is addictive enough to try and finish it, which will take about 15 hours. After that the dabblers amongst us might just to want to pick it up again and finish it in record time.
The idea of mixing a 2D platformer with RPG elements is a great direction. But the execution is a little bit off, mostly because of the randomly battle chips picks. Still, nostalgia could convince you to play this game, that and the fact that at this moment there aren't a lot of fresh platformers for the cube. Hopefully Capcom will take this into consideration and deliver an even better balanced ace-hitting sequel.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Become enchanted with virus crime fighter, Mega Man!
Colourful tiny cut scenes