MegaMaster Musings

Multiple Versions
July 13, 2006

Since Battle Network 3, Capcom has been producing every Battle Network game in two versions: White and Blue, Blue and Red, Moon and Sun, and so forth. It doesn’t take someone long to start wondering why this is.

The first answer that’s likely to jump out is that they’re emulating Pokémon. Or, you might say that, with a minimum amount of additional effort, they can get some people to buy two copies of the game, thus doubling the amount of revenue generated from it. (*ahem*)

But there might be more to the story. Battle Network, like Pokémon—and unlike other Mega Man series games—allows players to trade with one another. They can trade Battle Chips, Libraries, and so forth. Having multiple versions of each game encourages—or in some cases, even demands—such trading. This is because having only one version would, in a way, lessen the need.

To illustrate what I mean, say for example that my friend and I both have the same version of a Battle Network game. If we were both about equally skilled at playing it, we wouldn’t really need to trade anything, because everything he could get, I could get on my own, and vice versa. Or, if he was really good at the game and I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have anything to offer him for the things he could trade me, because he would already have all of the good stuff and I wouldn’t.

At least with two versions, even a mediocre player can offer something that his buddy with the other version of the game doesn’t have.

Is it worth it? It really depends. Each of the Battle Network games went about this versioning in different ways. In Battle Network 3, the differences were practically unnoticeable, whereas in Battle Network 4, each version of the game was practically an entirely different game. In the latter case, this means a player can’t really experience the full game without buying both versions, which then goes back to the issue mentioned above.

But of all of them, I think Battle Network 5 suffered the most from having two versions. In that game, like Battle Network 4, you still had entirely different ally Navis in the different versions, but unlike the previous title, the plot was nearly identical regardless of which version you had. You just had different characters speaking the dialogue. Which meant the plot was often incongruous and the character development was virtually nonexistent.

Battle Network 6 tries to rectify this by making your ally Navis have almost no place in the plot at all. Consequently, they essentially turn into side quests—and some of them are even optional. Occasionally the Link Navis act as shoe-ins within the dialogue, but not for anything major. This certainly helps; the plot can be better developed and more streamlined this way. I just wish it was possible to get any combination of teammates that you wanted. For example, why can’t I have an Aqua-based Navi and a Fire-based Navi in one cart? The plot development may be improved, but I’d enjoy the game more if I choose my teammates instead of getting whatever arbitrary selection the developers decided to put together.

Of course, which of these methods is best depends on your outlook. If the versions are different only in minor ways, such as in the selection of Battle Chips, then there really would never be a point in playing both versions of the game. On the other hand, make the versions too drastically different from each other, and people start to feel obligated to buy both copies of the game just to experience everything, which might make them slightly resentful. So making multiple versions is treading a fine line.

Personally speaking, the differences in Battle Chips and such doesn’t bother me, but I’d be just as happy if there was only one version of every plot. It’s a bit less confusing that way as well.

- The MegaMaster