Similar to the first Battle Network, but vastly improved and a lot more fun
After playing, and loving the original Mega Man Battle Network game (from now on MMBN), I just had to pick one of it's sequels, and the first one I found was MMBN3 white version so I bought it and played it. I think the blue version is basically the same with minor palette swap and different chips, so this review basically applies to both versions. I unfortunately never had the chance to play MMBN2 yet, so I will compare this game with the original Battle Network game.
Just in case you don't know you control a guy named Lan, which access to the internet via a pet, which allows him to control the mighty blue bomber Mega Man on the internet (internet people are called "navis"). Mega Man have random encounters with viruses (which are the monsters of this game), and occasionally bad navis (which are the bosses of this game : reused robot masters from the original Mega Man series), with the help of "battle chips", which are different attacks you get from enemies. I'll let you discover more in the game.
Well, the first things you will note is that the game does look a lot like the original. The graphics has almost not changed, only the internet graphics has a major change, and the game universe it barely bigger than the ridiculously small universe of the original game.
The whole game basically take place in only 8 different areas : ACDC Town, SciLab, Yoka and Beach, and their internet counterparts. Yet Capcom managed to put out a game immensely better than the original (which were already good).
The game is a lot longer than the original battle network, as there is a lot more missions to do, going here on the real world, then going here on the net, etc... There is also a "job list", which contains side missions to do along the game, each job giving you a prize once completed, and clearing the whole list will make the game even longer.
The story in itself is very simple, childish and at times comically predictable (especially for those who played the first game), but it does the job, and what should be mentioned is that to compensate this the character development and dialogue through the whole game is absolutely awesome ! This brings a unique and cool feeling to the overall game, which will make you just fell in love for it ! I don't know how to describe this but the internet on MMBN3 is a very unique fictional universe that is very interesting to explore and talk to other navis.
Now the battle system. It's basically exactly the same as in the original, with 3 main differences.
First, your energy is *not* restored at the end of each battle, adding a stamina factor when traveling in big instances. Going out of the internet and back in would restore Mega Man, though you often wouldn't want to do this. The only way you can now restore Mega Man is through healing battle chips, or healing "sub chips", which acts like potions or herbs in normal RPGs. There is also sub chips which will reduce the frequency of random encounters for a while, which is a good thing, because I used them a lot.
Now the second difference is the style changes. Every 100 battles, you will get a style change, and the game automatically assert the style to Mega Man which seems to suit the most your battle style. You can, however, deny it and keep your old style if you want. You can also revert to regular any time you want. When Mega Man is "equipped" with a style, he got an element, is strong against its element (e.g. if he's fire fire grounds won't harm him, etc...) and is weak against the opposite element (each attacks of the said element will double the damage). Then he get a special buster with that element, which can give him advantage to certain enemies. He also get some other special powers with the style changes I haven't mentioned. I loved the style I finally got, the AquaGuts style. It allows the mega buster to be charged very quickly, and to shot water shots which are very fast too, and the mega buster power would be doubled. By doing so, I could fight most enemies without using too much battlechips, for quicker and cooler battles ! I could even finish strong fire enemies in matter of seconds, as they are weak against water !
The difference number 3 in the battle system is the "navi customizer". It allows you to add powers to Mega Man by placing pieces of different colors on a gird. Rules have to be respected when doing so, else Mega Man will not function properly in battle and be what would be called "poisoned" in a normal RPG. You get pieces to enhance the Mega Buster, pierce enemy guards, have more energy, pass trough tiny places on the internet (this one is necessary at some point of the story), and even one to have Mega Man feel like a bad guy, so he could introduce in a base full of bad guys and they would think he's one of their friends ! This is a really cool features, as when you're editing this puzzle you have to think a lot in order to get as much power as you want. If you fail to do so, the game may be harder ! In addition to this the music when you edit the navi customizer is excellent.
By the way, I haven't talk about the music yet. The music in the game is for the most part good, but not as good as in the original (even if there is definitely a lot more different tracks in this one). The internet music, navi customizer music and boss music are excellent, the others are good enough but nothing to write home about. I hope you like square waves because most of the game's music is only about them. Fortunately I like this particular square wave style of music, as it adds to the unique Battle Network series feeling, and sounds "computer-ish" without sounding completely bland either. This still sounded wrong in a zoo or in a hospital, but overall it's a nice and unique style of music, even if I preferred the music in the original (which made better use of square waves).
The game is easier than the original and has perfect difficulty. It gets challenging at times, but you'll always make yourself a way out after putting your brain and fingers to serious good use. However there is times where your mission is to find a special chip you have no clue where to find, and this can take hours. Aside of that the game isn't terribly difficult, the last boss aside. Yes the last boss is impossible, I usually don't write reviews before beating the game but here I'm stuck right before the last boss for 6 months and have done everything else I could do in the game without too much problems, so it doesn't make sense to continue waiting, as I've still enjoyed 99% of this great game.
Also, having only one single save slot seriously decrease the risk that someone would play the game a second time. The only way to do so while keeping your old save intact would be to buy a new cartridge. The two versions of the game could be a lame excuse to do this, but I don't think it's worth it. Sounds rather commercial to me.
The Bottom Line
Mega Man Battle Network 3 is in every aspect improved from the original (except maybe the music, which is still good anyways) so this means this is a very great game. It took me 50 hours of game play to almost beat it, but I'm sure someone experimented with it could beat the game in less than 15 hours. I wandered a lot on the net speaking to people and fighting just for fun, as a proof that the game actually is fun. Of course this game is not for everyone, if you can't stand cool crazy and fun games and only want gore games this will not be for you. If you play RPGs because you smash buttons as fast as a slug this won't be for you either. Now if you like RPGs and Mega Man and have a GBA and still don't have this game I recommend to get a copy of this game (either version) immediately. I assure you won't regret it (at least not with the white version, and probably not either with the blue version) and good luck on beating it.