One year ago today, Mega Man Battle Network celebrated its tenth anniversary. I guess that makes it a "grown up" series, so to speak; many of players who became fans at the start are beginning to enter adulthood today! (To say nothing of those who practically were adults at the time... eh.) In some regards, it seems like an afterthought now. It's hard to remember that it's still one of the most commercially successful Mega Man series to launch. In part to make remembrance of the series, though in greater part because I've been sitting on this for a while, let's take a look at one of the titles few fans outside of Japan probaby ever got to try. This would be Rockman EXE Phantom of Network. Launched back in November of 2004, it was an exclusive to NTT DoCoMo i-series mobile phones (the following year it was brought to au service too).
For the time, fans could only imagine what it was like. A whole new adventure for Netto (Lan) and Rockman (MegaMan), with new characters and new abilities. Here and there, small details would drip out, character artwork would become available, but the game itself would never be fully detailed to Western fans. That is, until now.
The following post will begin our coverage of this obscure mobile title, and hopefully give you a good idea of what it's all about. Like our coverage with 5 Islands Adventure, over time we will provide footage, music and translation of the game. But for now we have a little of everything. Read on!
Given the nature of Battle Network games, Rockman EXE Phantom of Network (hereafter referred to as PoN), has a much easier time bringing an experience true to that of the series than 5 Islands Adventure could do for Mega Man Legends. That being said, both games share a lot of the same structure.
As you may know, the story deals with Lan and MegaMan starting to look into the cause of a number of problems occurring with computer devices once Mayl's own PC malfunctions. In the incidents they pursue, they find strange balls of light that summon berserk Navis, either those thought to be defeated before or even known friends. With the appearance of FireMan it looks like a WWW scheme, but in truth the ringleader is an entirely new enemy. Although not implicitly stated, the game seems to take place between Mega Man Battle Network 3 and Mega Man Battle Network 4.
In PoN, the real world is entirely menu driven. Going to different locations, talking to people, and jacking in to various devices are all handled via a simple menu.
The cyberworld is where the game's action takes place, and these segments are fully as controllable as they are in the GBA titles. The major difference is the view is a perpendicular one instead of isometric. Besides that, it's much of the same talking to Navis and Mr. Progs, finding items and exploring networks, and, of course, virus busting.
Battling is exactly what you'd expect it to be. There are over 175 chips in standard, mega and giga classes, you can make Program Advances, set regular chips and exploit elemental weaknesses.The phone controls make play slightly more awkward, although this could depend on the type of phone you have, but overall it works well.
Despite the diminished real world, everything is more or less still there. Almost every location as people to talk to and things to jack in to. You still have chip shops, chip traders and a request board. Furthermore, unlike in a lot of the GBA games, all of the minor cyberworlds have unique maps.
PoN features a system called the Skill Editor for powering up MegaMan, which works like a streamlined combination of the Navi Customizer and Style Change. You place parts which you can find or buy onto a grid, which do things like increase MegaMan's HP, improve his buster in various regards, or give him other abilities. Unlike the Customizer, there are no real rules for how pieces need to be placed. The grid itself can be expanded by finding more Skill Slots.
Furthermore, each skill piece also has an elemental attribute. Whichever element is the dominant one among the pieces you use makes MegaMan that element and gives him a new charged shot. Battles also have elemental panels to help or hinder whichever element MegaMan is.
Nevertheless, the game still seems to be on the short side. Chapters (which were originally delivered separately over time) go by pretty quickly, and the game doesn't waste time in powering you up. By the end of the first chapter I already had 200HP, and the Skill Editor is given in the second chapter. Fortunately, chapter contents appear to stack. In other words, you can still access places later in the game even if they're not relevant to the present storyline. So it's not as though you need to reload an older chapter to grab something you missed. The game features eight chapters, along with a secret area.
Overall, thanks to Battle Network's easier adaptability to cell phones, the mechanics of the game work well, there's decent depth, and you get the same story and character experience you'd expect in a BN title.
Anyway, now for the goods. This initial offering includes a translation of the first chapter of PoN, done by Sensei-Hanzo and myself, and recordings of the music I've encountered so far. The game has a little more musical depth than 5 Islands Adventure, though not by much. So far, the real world and cyberworld seem to have a continuous theme regardless of the location, which is disappointing. A formal, complete soundtrack will be released once I clear the game. But for now, enjoy these goods!
Screen shots via GAME Watch