Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection Review

Pocket Mega Man.
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When I think about the Mega Man games of my childhood, it’s Battle Network that pops into my mind instantly. Sure I played some of the original NES games, some Mega Man X and even a little bit of Mega Man Zero – but Mega Man Battle Network 3 is what made me a fan of the franchise to begin with. I have vivid memories of hooking up GBA link cables to trade chips and battle friends, and reading theories online about all the secret Bass battles. Diving back in with the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection has made it clear that even without my nostalgia goggles on, Battle Network is fun, gorgeous, and unlike anything else.

The Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection gives you access to every main GBA entry in the series, split across two volumes – volume one has Battle Network 1 through 3, while volume two has Battle Network 4 through 6. From Battle Network 3 onward the series would make two slightly different versions of the same game similar to Pokémon releases, so you get both versions of every numbered entry for a total of ten titles. There are a few missing side-entries, though, including the stripped down, tournament focused spinoff Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge, and the GameCube exclusive action-platformer spinoff Mega Man Network Transmission. The latter is a huge game and it’s a bit of a bummer to not see it represented.

But what even is Mega Man Battle Network? While Mega Man spin-offs like X or Zero take the base lore of “evil robots and Dr. Wily’s uprising” and put some mature spins on them or introduce wider scifi worldbuilding. Battle Network goes in a very different direction casting you as grade-schooler Lan Hikari who happens to have Mega Man in his pocket. In the world of Battle Network, society is connected through the internet in all ways of life – there’s a neighborhood in your microwave, and you can visit it by “jacking in” to the web.

On top of the anime-inspired aesthetic and atmosphere, these games aren’t platformers – they’re adventure games where you explore real towns, digital dungeons, and then do battle on real-time, 6×6 grids where you build a deck of Chips to influence your available attacks. It’s unlike anything else I’ve played, and even today very few games come close to even trying to replicate the gameplay of this series.

The stories of each Battle Network game are pretty standalone, so you can jump around and play the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection in any order you want. While Battle Network 1 is the first entry, it’s more of a historic novelty than anything. It’s rough, slow, and pretty unpolished, and it’s frustrating to see this be based on the GBA original instead of using or including the Nintendo DS remake somehow. Battle Network 2 is a big improvement and a fun story, but if you want to dig right into the earliest high-point of the franchise, just jump into Battle Network 3. This is where a lot of people started with the series, and revisiting it makes it clear why. This entry adds the NaviCust system that lets you really customize Mega Mans stats, and it also introduces the alternate versions of White and Blue on top of expanding the Style Change system to really reward your play-style with unique abilities and appearance changes for Mega Man.

Volume 2 of the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection is arguably the more robust set of games. From Battle Network 4 onwards, the series gets an impressive facelift that makes the sprite art and character portraits even more beautiful. With base combat refined, each of these entries expands post-game activities, bosses, secrets, and secondary gameplay mechanics like Double Soul transformations, Dark chips, turn-based Liberation Missions, and a slew of updates and changes to battle mechanics.

Battle Network 4 is a fun game to go through casually, but the repetitive tournament-structure of the story and the absurd requirements to 100% it can be a pain. Battle Network 5 and 6 are neck-and-neck for being the strongest entries in Volume 2, and even the series as a whole. Battle Network 5 introduces a darker story, multiple characters, and expansive side-content. Battle Network 6 isn’t the strongest story, but it’s the most refined and customisable the combat has ever been in the franchise, which makes it a PvP enthusiasts favourite entry.

Obviously, you can’t plug a GBA link-cable into your Switch or your Steam Deck to play these games with friends, so Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection has added a robust online system to connect with players for trading, library sharing, and battling. There’s even a Ranked battle mode with numerous rankings to work your way through. I couldn’t test any of this out in the pre-release period, but it’s an exciting addition that will hopefully let me recreate those summer memories of endless Battle Network fights over lunch with my friends.

A new feature that I was able to test, though, was the Patch Cards system. Originally, Battle Networks 4, 5, and 6 had compatibility with a physical e-reader device in Japan allowing players to buy physical cards and scan them to unlock buffs, items, bonus missions, and an expansive array of stat-altering Patch Cards. These were nearly impossible to access for overseas players, and were outright removed from the international releases in some cases. Now, you can open each game and simply browse a digital list of every e-reader patch card.

For Battle Network 4, most of these are straight up cheat-codes that buff Mega Man to the point that the game warns you Ranking Data will be disabled when Patch Cards are in use. 5 and 6 work Patch Cards into the meta, though, so they aren’t as much of an instant game-breaker. With Battle Network 6, some Patch Cards even add new areas and battles, like the newly localized crossover cards with Hideo Kojima’s Boktai series. Yeah, for real.

Beyond the expansive Patch Card system and Online Functionality, the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection has some standard features you’d expect from an old-school anthology. There’s a robust gallery of art and music to explore, a couple dozen screen borders to choose from, and a pixel-smoothing filter that you can, thankfully, turn on and off whenever you want. These games have beautiful, chunky pixels that need no filtering, though you might want to turn the display-size down in-game if you’re not playing these on a handheld device. There’s even a toggle-able “Buster Max Mode” that essentially turns your basic blaster attack into a one-hit kill. It’s game-breaking, but also a godsend for grinding through the slow parts of some games or speeding straight into the postgame of your favourite entry.

Summary
The Mega Man Battle Network series was a huge part of my childhood, but now I get to appreciate these card-collection tactical RPGs from a whole new perspective. While some of these entries are mostly fun nostalgia trips, most of them hold up just as well today, and the restored content from the Patch Cards alongside the robust online functionality make this collection the definitive way to experience the series.
Good
  • A robust collection of charming, card-collecting action games
  • Welcome gallery and border-display options
  • Patch Cards and restored content are a dream come true
  • Full online functionality is a potential game changer
Bad
  • Mega Man Network Transmission not included
  • Omitting the DS remake of Battle Network 1 is a bad choice
8
Written by
I'm a writer, voice actor, and 3D artist living la vida loca in New York City. I'm into a pretty wide variety of games, and shows, and films, and music, and comics and anime. Anime and video games are my biggest vice, though, so feel free to talk to me about those. Bury me with my money.