Tuesday 25 April 2023

24/4/2023: MMBN/Rockman EXE revisited

Who are you, again?

Rockman EXE or Megaman Battle Network. Who doesn't love that in their childhood?

I have been waiting for so long for this game -- the last game I bought was Warioware where I cleared all 52 weekly challenges and still haven't got another new game, but now here it is: the Rockman EXE remake.

I always praise TWEWY with its battle system utilizing the full potential of the DS console, and in that sense Rockman EXE was also doing similar things in the GBA era: fully customizable chip deck and navicust system which allows you choose the upgrade to take, and a battle system using all buttons that looked  very simple but can be extremely sophisticated. 

The battle system fits really well in a PVP environment which is something I did not notice back in the time. That is partly due to the fact that the viruses (or opponent's navi) are actually using attacks similar to what you can do using respective chips, creating an equal field. As such it is much easier to transcend the PVE theories to PVP theories. The highly customizable nature also means that the opponent would be highly unpredictable, testing the depth of the players -- and of course the ability to react. Although technological limitations made it hard to do real time battles back in the days, there were actually tournaments in Japan. It's so grateful that Capcom decided to bring PVP back, and you should definitely try those.

The battle system has its limitations though. The grid system (somehow reminds me of battleon/adventure quest which somehow is still alive...) is a double edge sword: this is surely the trademark of the EXE series, but also clearly outdated and make things less flexible. You can see the development team making improvements every generations but as long as the battle is still grid-based the drawbacks would persist. The biggest problem in my opinion would be the fact that the field is frozen as mega chip (those character/navi based attacks) activates, leaving no room to avoid the hit. Positioning would be the only thing you can do beforehand, but with so many mega chips to dodge this is just luck based. That won't matter too much in PVE even at endgame level (as opponent's strategy is fixed) but that would undermine PVP environment quite a bit. I always think in that way like how I treated classical Tetris -- this is all about how the meta would be. A comparison is that in fighting games there are also combos where character gets grabbed and can't counter till the end of the combo, but that only happens when the opponent performs the right input strings (which is often tricky, and takes time) and hitting the right space. That is  fair because opponent has its reaction time but not in Rockman where everything is done in a press.

The plot is really written in a retro-futuristic perspective from the 2000s (cue Effiel 65 here) on how future would be: a world where individual gets personalized navis (in modern ai, a general AI assistant); electronic things fully connected in a single network and every program has a physical look in the network world; and...connections are done by plugging in! How many of you still using LAN wires? Even funnier there is a scene where someone connected with infrared connection. How many of you even used infrared connections other than remote controls, allow me to ask? I think it's a thing when Nokia phone (3310 or similar generations) used infrared to send ringtones, then GBA had gadgets allowing infrared connections (did someone talked about GBC IR sensor...? You guys are too old for here) but it remained nothing more than a forgotten novelty...

Despite the story talking perspective, you get a heavy taste of early 00s RPG for sure. The complicated and sometimes annoying map together with a very high encounter rate and very repetitive battles makes it a torture to go through, but that's why you get the MAX burst mode and 'cheats' that allows you to access chips immediately. I hope they add a repel like item here though. A levelless RPG system should implies that the strength of the character largely depends on your finesse, but if you are good enough you should be allowed to skip battles. This is almost a theorem in 2023, but back in the days this is how we children spend time.

I spent the most time on EXE5 (not Colonel coz I missed the version selection screen) as in 18 years ago. The GBA cartridge containing the game should be somewhere in my living place but I just couldn't find that anymore...together with GBA. It's not that I liked this version the most, it's the one where I have the most memories with it. Memories with the never-ending liberation mission. 

Ah those liberation missions...this is worth another 1000 words for some other day.

But yeah, those who experienced the original game should definitely give it a try on switch, as the collection pack is quite a bargain.

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