A Video History of Mega Man Battle Network

As we noted yesterday, the Mega Man Battle Network series has reached the big one-oh. That's right, ten years of PETs, NetNavis, Battle Chips, Cross Fusion, Beast Outs, and more fun than should be allowed on the internet for kids under the age of 12. Today, we are following a little inspiration from Protodude's celebration of this occasion, and giving you a sort of "video history" of the Mega Man Battle Network series. Or rather, given the Japanese origin of the vast majority of these, "Battle Network Rockman.EXE."

First up, we have the television commercial for the very first game, which appeared on the Game Boy Advance:

Compared to what would come later, the style seems a little rougher, perhaps more manga-ish somehow, but it was still cool to see the characters animated at this point.

Only months later, the second game in the series would be released, introducing the highly-marketable Style Changes to the series:

This game brought several improvements over its predecessor, and became one of the most beloved installments. Similarly, the art featured in the commercial also seemed a little more polished and traditionally cel-like than the original. In addition, Mega Man Battle Network 2 began the tradition of the games typically being released in North America during the summer months, when school would be out and kids were left with lots of time to NetBattle.

Following the success of the first two games (and undoubtedly well in the works before the second was ever released), Capcom teamed up with ShoPro to deliver the first-ever Rockman anime to be released (sure, there was Upon a Star, but that wasn't released until later), Rockman.EXE:

(Strangely enough, we couldn't find a video with just the opening sequence, so here we have an entire episode attached.)

The show began airing on March 4th, 2002, and produced just over a year's worth of episodes, 56 in total. And while the characters were on-model (unlike some other versions) and the stories were often influenced by the events in the games, the anime would go on to forge its own path. And once the 56 episodes were finished, new series would continue the adventure until September 30th, 2006, as the series would end its run with a total of 209 episodes.

In addition, the series saw a relatively brief and heavily localized version of the show released elsewhere in the world under the title MegaMan NT Warrior:

(Again, couldn't find a stand-alone intro. Really, YouTube?)

The dub seems to have earned itself a fanbase, even including some who have never even played the games (the disparate branding probably didn't help), though fans of the original Japanese version have often been known to be... let's say, "unappreciative" of the localization efforts of Viz/ShoPro, which included numerous name changes, among other grievances.

For more on the anime, be sure to visit our affiliate, Rockman.EXE Online.

Just before the third game in the series would be released (well, one version, as far as Japan goes. More on that in a bit), the franchise took a bit of a departure as Capcom would release Mega Man Network Transmission for the Nintendo GameCube:

Borrowing elements of the anime, Network Transmission would distinguish itself from its Game Boy Advance progenitors by attempting to merge the characters and gameplay elements of the Battle Network series with the core gameplay mechanics of the classic Mega Man series. How well the two meshed would seem to be a matter of opinion.

In addition, Network Transmission would prove noteworthy for introducing the NetNavi version of Mega Man X series fan favorite Zero in a side-story set between the events of the first two Battle Network games.

Some would say that the Battle Network titles took more than a few cues from Nintendo and Game Freak blockbuster Pokémon, and one of the things Mega Man Battle Network 3 may be best known for is the reinforcement of that notion with the release of two different versions. In Japan, the original version was released on December 6th, 2002, and was followed by a special improved version called Rockman.EXE 3: Black on March 28th the following year. Both versions were released simultaneously elsewhere as Mega Man Battle Network 3: Blue and Mega Man Battle Network 3: White.

Another game, Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge/Rockman.EXE N1 Battle, came out in Japan on August 8th, 2003. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a commercial for this one, or at least not one readily available.

Prior to the release of the fourth game, promotion began with the release of the second anime, Rockman.EXE Axess. Now, instead of obtaining different elemental powers, MegaMan could now obtain the powers of fallen foes through "Double Soul."

Following is the MegaMan NT Warrior Axess opening, which is mostly the same; it's a little sped up and features different music, however:

While the initial Rockman.EXE anime did have some differences from the games, Axess took it to a whole new level by allowing NetOps to perform "Cross Fusion" with their NetNavis, a henshin-styled process which combined the two entities into a new, more powerful form which could exist in the physical world, though this had to be done in certain areas created by special generators.

To hear the Japanese theme music, click here.

On December 14th, Japanese fans had not one, but two versions of Rockman.EXE 4 to choose from: Red Sun and Blue Moon, each containing unique (yet similar) stories, as well as unique Battle Chips and characters:

Apparently, people liked having two versions. Though many fans will say it is the worst of the series, it was nonetheless a bestseller, moving 1.35 million copies worldwide as of the end of 2008. This makes it part of a rather elite club among Mega Man titles, one of only four to move over one million.

Just as in the year before, the release of Mega Man Battle Network 5 would be foreshadowed by the release of a new season of the anime, Rockman.EXE Stream on October 2nd, 2004:

Despite the success seen by Battle Network 4, Capcom would return to a release schedule set months apart for Battle Network 5. Team ProtoMan was released in Japan on December 9th, 2004...

...whereas Team Colonel would be released on February 24th, 2005.

Both versions would be released simultaneously in other regions, and then again together in the two-in-one Nintendo DS release, Rockman.EXE 5: Twin Leaders/Mega Man Battle Network 5: Double Team DS:

On March 12th, 2005, Mega Man went to the movies for the first time ever in the animated feature Rockman.EXE Stream: The Program of Light and Dark, which featured the return of Dr. Regal and a Double Soul fusion of MegaMan.EXE and the extraordinarily powerful solo NetNavi, Bass.EXE:

On a personal level, I enjoy how this opening sequence of the movie combines the animation with still shots which don't look entirely unlike the style used in the commercial for the very first game, above.

It is also worth noting that The Program of Light and Dark was promoted and shown as part of a double-feature with a Duel Masters movie:

Though the promotions made it appear to be a crossover, the two films actually had little to do with one-another, besides being shown together.

The first day of October in 2005 would see Rockman.EXE Beast take to the airwaves, setting things up for the sixth and final entry in the Battle Network series:

rockman exe Beast opening - ดูคลิปทั้งหมด คลิกที่นี่

Each iteration of the Rockman.EXE anime had a tendency to introduce its own interesting elements to the series, and Beast was no different. In addition to allowing NetNavis to interact with their NetOps as small holograms, the anime exclusively featured Trill, a child NetNavi whose powers allowed MegaMan to "Beast Out."

Returning to what worked so well for Battle Network 4, Capcom would release < a href="http://www.themmnetwork.com/wiki/index.php?title=Mega_Man_Battle_Network_6" target="_new">Mega Man Battle Network 6's two versions, translated as "Cybeast Falzar" and "Cybeast Gregar," on the same date of November 23rd, 2005 in Japan:

Though it introduced the beast transformations for MegaMan and the Battle Network version (warning: spoilers) of Mega Man X fan-favorite character Iris, Battle Network 6 is perhaps best known for marking the end of the successful Capcom franchise, and providing closure for the characters fans had grown to enjoy over the years.

Though Battle Network 6 marked the end of the games, and Beast the end of the anime... well, things aren't quite as simple as that.

For starters, Rockman.EXE Beast ended early-- at least, compared to previous seasons. The last episode aired on April 1st, 2006, but this was no joke. The following week, on April 8th, Rockman.EXE Beast+ began, and was a scaled back version of the previous show. Episodes ran about ten minutes each, roughly half the normal running time, and it shared its timeslot with Saru Getchu (Ape Escape) as a part of the half-hour Oha Coliseum program:

Beast+ was marketed as a stand-alone series, but contained story arcs featuring the long-overdue appearance of Zero.EXE from Network Transmission, as well as the final boss of the cellphone game Rockman.EXE: Phantom of the Network.

Finally, on November 12th, 2009, past and future collided as MegaMan.EXE met the MegaMan of the far future from the Star Force semi-sequel series in Rockman.EXE: Operate Shooting Star:

(Edit: Apparently, this commercial we had here previously isn't the genuine article, but a fan creation by MidniteW. It's still nicely done, and can be found here.)

Unfortunately, as we would eventually learn, Operate Shooting Star would prove to be a bit lacking in content. For the most part, it was a straight Nintendo DS port of the first Battle Network, with a bonus multiplayer mini-game. The big team-up turned out to be a short story scenario near the end of the game, after which players could then use Star Force MegaMan.

The game did not do very well in Japan, and the last word from Capcom was that they were not planning to bring the title to the West, thus making it a bit of a sad swan song for the series.

One mustn't lose hope, however. At the very least, UDON has just released the Mega Man Battle Network Official Complete Works art book, and the Mega Man Star Force Official Complete Works art book is soon to follow. While that may not lead to more games in the near future, at the very least we know that interest in the series is still there, and as long as the fans remain interested, Capcom will probably give it another look.