Capcom has officially unveiled the next instalment in its Megaman Battle Network series at this week's editor's day event in Las Vegas (which, before some bright spark cheerfully points out, we clearly weren't invited to). Megaman Battle Network 4 is due out this autumn throughout PAL territories in two versions - Red Sun and Blue Moon - once again aping the dual-release strategy familiar to Pokémon fans.
Red Sun and Blue Moon have been doing very well in the Japanese charts recently (as regular followers of sister-site gi.biz' Japan Charts round-up will know). The Battle Network series has already breathed a bit of much-needed life into the stagnating Megaman series (even if the most recent console version, the Cube's Megaman Network Transmission, wasn't quite up to scratch), and the fourth title in the series genuinely sounds interesting.
Unlike the Pokémon titles from whence the dual-release strategy was borrowed, Red Sun and Blue Moon are significantly different titles, it says here, with separate storylines, enemies unique to each cart, six unique "souls" per game and all manner of different battle chips and characters. As with previous games, BN4 charts schoolboy Lan and his friend Megaman.EXE's adventures through cyber-space, as they attempt to rid the place of viruses and other problems, customising Megaman's abilities as they go by assembling program parts in a memory map.
The main focus of this Battle Network is said to be a tournament system, where players encounter a variety of cyber enemies (yuck), and the ongoing battle between the good and the evil (corrupt) programs inherent to BN's vision of the Internet also starts to infect the core gameplay. A new "Soul Unison" system sees Megaman synching up with certain enemies during battle, allowing him to transform and mimic their special attacks. On the flipside however, there is also a new "Dark Soul" system, which will offer to bail the blue bomber out of tough situations with a tempting and explosively powerful Dark Chip - the catch being that over-use will infect Megaman's Net-Navi with more and more evil and corrupted files, inhibiting progress and even robbing him of the ability to perform Soul Unisons.
Megaman still isn't for everyone, but Battle Network 4 is something we're suspiciously keen to get to grips with. In the meantime, here's a bunch of screenshots.