I used to play with megaman battle network a lot. It was a spun off the world of cybernetics-off the world of megaman and into the world of the virtual, of the digital. It played much like Pokemon. Much as how you would collect pokemon to advance the story or battle others, mmbn would have you collect chips with various effects.
It is essentially a card game with 2-d elements, puzzles, and an immersive story telling about the wonders of technology and the future of internet. So having said that, what happened to it? In this article, we take a cozy dive into nostalgia and an unapologetic look through rose colored glasses.
MMBN, a game with 6 versions, and various spin-offs
Despite the lack of fast internet all those years, there was never a slow day in my childhood. From Age of Empires to Age of Empires 2 and Age of Empire 3 or Starcraft spawning sequel after sequel that culminated in a cosmological quest for the Xel’Naga, it appears that there are games after games released with each franchise.
One of these games is Megaman Battle Network that captivated our minds with the future of how internet might become in the coming days. I personally would attribute this game as sparking my interest in creating my own websites, as most of the characters in the game have their own homepage- a digital equivalent of their own homes.
Long Road Traveled
I remember it like it was yesterday. MMBN tasked us with protecting the world from Alpha, then mmbn3 came and we have to save the world from Dr. Wily’s evil World Three. The game evolved to forming teams in mmbn 5 and returning to its roots in mmbn 6 but with a twist. The game never failed to innovate for sure. It was a long journey that not many games can boast. Having 6 iterations of itself without feeling stale is a feat in and of itself.
Inspired by an equally amazing legend
The game was inspired by megaman, a game of equally staggering scale with different iterations and versions, spawning sequels left and right and giving birth to spin offs that never fail to delight. However, that’s a story for a different time. Megaman, for all its staggering scale, also gave birth to megaman battle network.
An intersection of internet and robotics
It was in this time that the world is just waking up to the wonders of the internet. Sure dial up was slow back then but it was serviceable and out came megaman battle network.
The concept wasn’t far off from us having our own virtual assistant, kind of like siri. And I think that’s what drives the interest and my own fascination with the game.
A promising Premise, a smartphone and virtual assistant analog
Having said, it was an interesting premise for sure. With the PET acting as an analog for our smartphones these days and the NET Navigators acting like siri or cortana would. But with such an interesting concept why then did it not grew to be as successful as say, Pokemon was?
Megaman battle network as a competitor to Pokemon
Pursuing that line of thought, I personally believe that done right, it would have been a wonderful competitor to Pokemon GO and would even inspire some of our current gadgets today. A shame that its life wasn’t timed well.
The writers wrote themselves into a corner.
I think the biggest reason why it fizzled out eventually was simply because the writers wrote themselves into a corner. They gave mmbn 6 this amazing ending of peace and prosperity in the golden age of the internet.
In my opinion, it’s hard to follow up that concept. The next iteration just paled in comparison. Space was pretty much done in mmbn 4 anyway. So I think the games that followed, while still did some effort to innovate and tweak the game mechanics, just hit a dead-end in the story department.
A happy accident
Be that as it may, I think it’s a blessing in disguise that it ended before it became corrupted with the current trends in gaming. You know, microtransactions and all that. MMBN was truly a labor of love that immersed us in its lore, fascinated us with the future of technology and it was only able
to do that because it came from an era where games were made to entertain, not to squeeze every last drop of subscription dollar or sellable skin and cosmetics that it could.
Back then, the focus is on the story-telling. You can see this with games even with AAA titles like Starcraft and Warcraft which, while starting strong in their story-telling devolved into pure aesthetics and sellable cosmetics in the form of World of Warcraft and the still great but paler Starcraft 2 trilogy; or the utter disregard for lore that is the game after Kane’s Wrath. The game spawned from the venerable Tiberian Sun, but now bears the curse of “the game that which we shall not name.”
MMBN, along with its family of Megaman related games were created in a much simpler time. Technology was on the verge of greatness and the internet was poised to take over our lives. MMBN reflected a stark contrast to that legacy.
Just as the internet in its infancy struggled but now envelops our lives, MMBN in its infancy flourished and slowly fizzled, not to be forgotten in the dust bin of history but to be venerated as a legend, uncorrupted by the sad story state of our current gaming industry.
And that’s not just me trying to sensationalize. coughs cyberpunk coughs I know that in the end, there are things that are meant to end not because they aren’t great, but simply because they have reached the apex of their greatness. Leaving them untouched becomes a much better decision than letting them fall from grace through corporate greed and passionless sequels.