While Capcom's Mega Man has fallen on hard times this year, there was once a time when the company was willing to experiment and change the character into new incarnations once previous iterations were perceived to have gone stale. Just as Mega Man gave way to Mega Man X, Mega Man X led to Mega Man Legends which eventually got out of the way in favor of the Mega Man Battle Network series for the Game Boy Advance, GameCube, and Nintendo DS. Over at 1UP, Jeremy Parish reflects on the Pokémonization of the Mega Man franchise in which traditional action blasting and platforming was replaced by grinding for abilities, trading items with other players, and walking around mazes that sparked RPG battles.
When Nintendo's 32-bit handheld Game Boy Advance was announced a few years later, Capcom producer Keiji Inafune and his team set out to revitalize the series and restore its luster. Unlike Legends, this new game would diverge far enough away from the classic template of gun-driven action that there would be no confusion over its purpose. Instead, this game would reinvent Mega Man for the post-Pokémon age. Debuting Oct. 30, 2001, Mega Man Battle Network -- or "Rockman.EXE" in Japan -- would be a collection-heavy portable role-playing game where the player's avatar wasn't Mega Man himself but rather a young man named Lan Hikari who in turn used Mega Man as his own virtual intermediary into the world of cyber-battling. And to ensure its popularity, the game would offer both an afternoon cartoon tie-in and a heavy emphasis on head-to-head competition with players, including special events where Capcom would distribute exclusive content, Mew-like.
As a Mega Man fan, I tried my best to get into the Battle Network portion of the franchise. I forced myself to finish the first game in the series and plowed into the second, but lost interest. Mega Man and Mega Man X are timeless classics for all ages, but something about Battle Network feels pitched to younger players (another similarity to Pokémon no matter how much some would deny the connection). Kids have all the time in the world to obsess over collecting every single battle chip and trading spares with friends. All I want to do is spend a few spare minutes shooting robots and jumping on platforms in between the demands of society.