Nearly 20 years after his first videogame appearance, Mega Man is to star in a brand new series of games for the Nintendo DS.
If you tried counting how many games Megaman has appeared in, your head would explode in a messy shower of pink goo. That's a fact. It's likely that not even Capcom knows exactly how many there have been, preferring instead to deal in highly technical terms such as 'shitloads'. And considering just how much Little Boy Blue puts himself about on the console scene, his strike rate is pretty low - for every truly great game that bears his name, there are at least five or six titles that try too hard to be 'modern', simply don't work properly or involve kart racing. One of the few current Megaman franchises that actually commands some degree of respect is the much-overlooked Battle Network series and while you'd have to be some kind of nutcase to have collected all five versions in little over four years (the last three having two versions a piece a la Pokémon Red/Blue), this DS debut for the series marks the perfect time to grab a piece of the action.
What you have here are enhanced versions of the latest Battle Network duo on a single card, and, as with most games of this sort, there's really very little difference between the two variations other than allies and the odd chip here and there. The main raison d'ętre for this package is the newly added use of the DS' functionality. Organising your chips and navigating menus is a cinch with the touch-screen and aside from having to shout support at Megaman through the mic when he gets glum, there's a noticeable lack of the usual gimmicky elements that pollute so many DS games. Good news all around.
The game itself is a strangely compelling card-based action RPG lite. By building a deck of 'chips' that govern attack capabilities, the in-game battles involve moving Megaman about a grid and despatching foes with either card attacks or - if you're particularly fond of pissing into the wind - using your rather weak Buster shots. The real ingenuity comes when you start to build a hefty collection of chips and put the fact that they're lettered to good use. You see, you can normally only pick one of the five chips 'dealt' to you each turn, but by picking chips of the same name or chips that sport the same letter, you can combo several in a single turn for major damage. There's a definite strategic edge to the combat, moving to avoid damage and bait static foes into attacking before striking back with your own powerful counter. You'll later learn to fuse Megaman with other Navis through sacrificing elemental chips and switch characters mid-battle, both helping to add variety and yet more strategy into the mix.
You used to know where you were with Mega Man.
He was the short, mechanised child of Astro Boy that Capcom kidnapped and dipped in a vat of mercury blue pixel paint. His games were always slightly ropey scrolling platform shooters constantly broken by the fact their protagonist never managed to evolve that most critical move in the platform hero’s repertoire: the duck.
Mega Man games have always looked great (courtesy of one of the most iconic videogame character designs of the last twenty years) but left a slightly bitter, aftertaste. You’ve probably played two Mega Man games in your life: the first because the artwork and animation seduced you and, gee, if he has this many children, Mega Man must be doing something stimulating. The second you played because you wondered if the gameplay might have gotten significantly better this time.