Developed By: NeoBards Published By: Capcom Categories: Retro, Compilation, RPG, Card Game Release Date: 04.14.23
Its hard to believe that the Mega Man Battle Network (I’ll shorten it to EXE) series is over twenty years old this year. I remember playing the games as a child. I grew up playing the classic and X games, which were platformers, but I was always into JRPGS. So when we had a Mega Man series that was an RPG…I was hooked. And since I feel old, time to make everyone else feel old. EXE 3 was one of the 15th Anniversary titles for the series.
We have a lot to cover here. Six games, with 3-6 having two versions. That means ten different titles are bundled together. The games are based off of their Japanese editions in terms of content, which means EXE 6 has the previously removed Boktai content! This almost means that other Japan exclusive features like e-reader Patch cards, event, and download cards are all available too. The fonts are all redone too, to be much clearer on say a TV. I play exclusively in handheld mode however.
Lets start with the collection as a whole. Well, there’s actually two collections. One has the first three games, one has the last three games. Now don’t worry! This is all on one cart physically, this just means we have two executables. This also means the gallery is split between games, but for the sake of convenience, we’re going to just broadly speak on features as they’re the same features or extras, just set to each game.
The front end/wrapper is by far one of my favorite I’ve seen in any retro collection set. You’re in a PET and Mega Man talks to you! Pressing L just like the games event prompts Mega Man to say random things. He’ll even ask you if you have any hobbies…wait for a response and then say something like “That’s so cool! Me too!” It’s incredibly charming. He’ll even start talking to himself if you just idle about. And if he’s too annoying, you can just mute him. If you pre-ordered the game, the extra skins can even get new comments from Mega Man. These are all voiced by the by.
There’s the art you expect. A lot of it at that. Dozens and dozens of pieces per game. You do get the cover art, but there’s no box or manual scans. Capcom doesn’t really ever seem to do that however. You even get art for games *not* in the set like Network Transmission, 4.5, or Operation Shooting Star. There’s even promotional art for events, anniversaries, crossovers, etc… Each game’s entire OST is included as well. This is standard for the Legacy Collection releases.
In a move that surprised me, Neobards, the developer behind the recent multiplayer Resident Evil titles, RE: Verse and Resistance handled this release. It reminds me of how M-Two(RE3R, RE4R, GnGR) handled The Capcom Arcade Stadium releases. Capcom must really like having Resident Evil assistant devs work on collections. The settings per game seem standard with borders, filters (turn them off, please do not come at me with smeared sprites), how much of the screen to fill, languages, etc…do the games play well however? Why yes! Yes, they very much do. To the best of my knowledge, these are ports and not emulation.
Mega Man EXE. Where it all started. The sequels do change up the gameplay quite a bit, but this first game sets the outline and generally, the sequels will play similarly. The EXE series takes an idea, what if Dr. Light/Hikari went into networking as opposed to robotics? This puts the EXE and Star Force games on a bit of a split timeline than every other series. Since the internet is so integral to the world, the use of NetNavi’s (Navigators) are used to streamline every day life and keep the internet safe. NetNavi are this series’ Robot Masters with enemies as viruses. A lot of both are new reimagining of older series’ characters, so you’ll recognize Mets as common enemies or say… Gutsman.EXE. The baddies at least initially are the WWW (World Three).
Gameplay is another swerve as mentioned earlier. This is a card (or chip rather) based action RPG. The game unfortunately has random battles, but the fights themselves are a blast to play. There’s a grid with each side having nine blocks. You and the opponent will move within these. There are technically turns, but what this means is that at the start of a battle and when your meter refills, you are given the choice of which chips to use. Healing, attacks, assists like turning you invisible or stealing a row of blocks from the other side. Swords, Cannons, Bombs, Dashes, Pickaxes. Mega Man is quite versatile and can use chips that are just standard or something a bit familiar, using abilities of fallen foes. Some chips are even other NetNavi, which are always great chips to use, especially Roll.EXE, which does 60 damage and heals.
Chips each have their own letter. Consider this like suites of cards or say…how colors and numbers work in Uno. You have three swords and they have different letters, no big deal. But say you have a Wide Sword, a Cannon, and a heal that all share the letter D. You can use these together. Try building your deck around this.
Outside of battles, you can wander around the internet through your PET, PErsonal Terminal. The internet is full of circuitry, patterns, and all of the places you go feel unique with their personality. You get here by Jacking In, which you can do near everywhere. Your oven, a car, your friend’s houses, their console or piano, etc… Knowing addresses allows you to freely go into places. A few places are their own blocked off little rooms, but most of the web is interconnected and if you don’t have a map, at least in this first game, you might get lost.
The first title has armor, as a means to get elements into play. Some enemies have elements, some chips have elements, and the armors you can don have elements. This works a bit like a rock paper scissors strategy, much like mainline games. Future games would use styles or the act of combining two NetNavi. Double Soul and Cross System being drastic changes. These alter stats, give new moves, and really spice up the series from what would be a little bland in comparison at first. I adore the designs for all of these too.
This would be a good time to mention that when the titles started getting split, they also started getting exclusives. Different souls or styles are the ones that will probably pop out the most, as well as exclusive chips. But then you also get the odd cosmetic difference to the environment (check the squirrel). But in some cases, one version is explicitly better than the other one. EXE 3 for instance has White and Blue. In Japan, Blue (Black over there) launched after White and essentially an enhanced edition with even an extra boss. EXE 5 Team Colonel also transitions into EXE 6 better. But, if you don’t care about any of that, the games are practically the same game between versions. You can always trade chips.
Speaking of which…you know how this series is all about the internet, yet never had online? Well that’s changed. You can play all of these online with others if you want. This is how you’re gonna trade those chips and if you want to (I’m gonna try and avoid this) fight against other players online. Some chips will be rebalanced as to not just be broken with other players, but otheriwse, you’re getting an experience that had quite a fan scene, just now officially.
You also won’t be able to use the new BusterMAX mode, which is this collection’s easy mode. Your buster just does 100 Damage, making short work of everything. I’ll avoid this mode too as I’d prefer a more authentic experience. That said, this is a decent accessibility feature for those just in it for the story.
Now, if this wasn’t enough to keep you busy, there’s also full achievements to get in both collections like we’ve seen since X Legacy Collection. Don’t count on doing all of these over the course of a week though, since to do all of these, you’re going to have to play all ten games, some multiple times. It will definitely dig it’s claws in and have you hooked. Also, changing the display language does change the games and Mega Man’s voice acting to Japanese, though outside of logos, this time there isn’t big differences.
As a heads up, and the game will give you a warning too. Some things that happen or some characters didn’t quite age gracefully. Some events go absolutely off the rails in these games and some depictions of certain minorities are very not-ok today. I’d rather games not get edited in re-releases however, so I am glad the warning is here. As much as it bothers off reactionaries online. If the content depicted is a bit much for you, as uncommon as some of it may be (EXE 2 is the worst in this regard), it might be wise to avoid these games. If it doesn’t, then this should be of no issue.
If I have one issue with the set, I think that including a few episodes of the anime would have been nice. Not that the rest of the collection isn’t expansive, but I’d love more ways to keep the show in the minds of people, even if it’s the dub. I’ll say it again and again too, every time I play Legacy Collection, I always hope we’ll eventually get to Legends. The end is near, right?
This is going to be my addiction for a minute. I always at least try to play every game whenever Capcom brings out these collections and I’m definitely not running through these in an evening. Perhaps I should share my thoughts in depth the deeper I get in.
Buy Now: $59.99 Both Volumes Bundled – $39.99 Each Individually
*Game Download Code graciously provided for the purpose of review