MegaMaster Musings

Network Mesh
May 8, 2006

It’s interesting to analyze the differences between Network Transmission and the classic Mega Man games that it was roughly based on. Those who are used to the original games can often find Network Transmission to be oddly difficult, and it generally has to do with the subtle differences in the game play (along with an overall more sluggish play control).

It seems to me that the designers of Network Transmission were attempting to create a game which mimicked the traditional style of the original series while keeping true to the classic Battle Network games. My opinion, however, is that the mesh doesn’t quite work; they adhered too strictly to disadvantages of the Battle Network series without including many of the aspects that make the original side-scrolling games playable. For example, in Network Transmission...

  • The Mega Buster is useless. In a traditional game you use primarily your arm cannon to defeat most of the enemies along the way, switching to Master Weapons only for specific situations (with the exception perhaps for games with universally useful weapons like the Metal Blade). It’s not very feasible to do this in Network Transmission because the enemies have too many hit points to make rapid-fire viable, and charging up takes far too long to be useful in any way. (Just to add insult to injury, you lose your charge if you take a hit, too.)

    Although it is possible in Network Transmission to increase your buster’s capabilities by using Power Up items, it takes an awful lot of them for the effects to be noticeable. Only toward the end of the game, when you can gather the maximum number of Power Ups available, will your buster begin to mimic the capabilities of the Mega Buster in a classic series game. What’s ironic is that you have to wait until the end of the game in Network Transmission to get what you start the game with in the traditional games. Until then, the buster is relatively worthless.

  • Special attacks are limited. In the original series games, Master Weapons are limited by weapon energy, but you can always find more energy to refill your weapons (except, usually, in the middle of a boss battle). If you need the Rush Jet for a specific reason, for example, you usually find weapon energy capsules lying around nearby, and even if you use those up, you can run back and forth shooting enemies to earn weapon energy drops to refill Rush’s energy meter as needed.

    In the classic Battle Network games, you can’t reuse Battle Chips during a particular battle. However, once you leave that battle and start a new one, you’re free to reuse all of the Battle Chips in your Folder all over again. Network Transmission blindly copied this mechanic, but since it does not have a distinct “battle” separation, they translated this to be the entire stage instead. This is hideously restrictive.

    In Network Transmission, the only way to refill your Battle Chips during a stage is by picking up a chip from a defeated enemy, and that only works if the foe you deleted happens to give the chip you want and you wiped out the enemy with a high enough Busting Level in order to earn the drop. In other words, you really don’t refill your Battle Chips very often in the middle of a stage. Once you use them up, they are, for all intents and purposes, used up.

    When you couple this with the useless Mega Buster, you come to the realization of a sad paradox: you are required to use Battle Chips to be in any way effective...yet once you run out of Battle Chips, you’re screwed. There is really no reasonable way of refilling them.

    What makes this worse is that certain Battle Chips, rather than being used to attack, can give you other benefits such as enhancing your jumps. But if you mess up the jump, or need to make such jumps several times in a single stage, you are quite likely to run out of jump chips and find yourself simply unable to scale the necessary heights. The solution? Start over from the beginning of the stage. Again.

  • Extra lives are limited. Having problems with a particular part of a stage? One way to solve this in the traditional games is to spend a little bit of time gathering as many extra lives (“1-Ups”) as possible, then go tackle the stage with this stock of 1-Ups (I call this the “9 lives” strategy, otherwise known as the “cat strat.”) Not possible in Network Transmission, because you are limited to a preset maximum number of lives. Not only that, but in Network Transmission you can’t earn 1-Ups as drops from enemies or find them lying around in stages; all you can do is find special, one-time-only items to increase the maximum number of Backups that you can carry at once, and these are rare. So the end result is that, generally speaking, the number of lives you enter the stage with will be the only lives you have for that stage...and the maximum limit starts out extremely low considering this limitation.

    As an example, if you have problems with the Quick Man beams in Mega Man 2, you can run around stocking up on extra lives (and get the Time Stopper) to help you along. If you are stuck on the Quick Man beams in Network Transmission...tough nuggies. Expect to be replaying the stage from the beginning over and over again ad nauseam, because by that point in the game, you have a hard cap of about 3 extra lives maximum...and no Time Stopper.

  • Busting Levels don’t translate well. Your “Busting Level” (which determines what kind of reward an enemy drops when destroyed) is based on—among other things—how quickly you defeat enemies. In the classic Battle Network games this works fine because battles have a definite and obvious start time from which to begin counting. But in Network Transmission, it seems they translated this to counting from the moment that the enemy appears on the screen. Because of the side-scrolling nature of the game, depending on the layout of the stage (particularly when ladders or ledges are involved), it’s often not possible to reach the enemy to delete it in any reasonable sort of time, which can make it difficult to earn Battle Chips from such enemies. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if Battle Chips weren’t so crucial for other reasons, but given that they are...

    A good example of this are the ghosts that drop Invis chips; early in the game, the only source for them is an area littered with ladders and platforms. It’s difficult to scroll the ghosts onto the screen and then scale the ladders and reach them to defeat them in time to earn an Invis chip. Usually I just get a Recov10 chip instead. Like I needed another one those...

Although not necessarily belonging in the above list, it’s interesting to note that most of the key differences between Network Transmission and a classic game—the overall sluggish movement of MegaMan and his enemies; the replaying of stages over and over from the beginning; the fact that you often have to stand around and wait on your Custom Gauge to get new chips—all boil down to one adjective: slow. The game just feels overall more slow than a traditional one, and perhaps that contributes to making it also seem somewhat dull.

- The MegaMaster