Review by Yami Shuryou

"Not so good as the last two."

Mega Man Battle Network 4: Blue Moon and Red Sun is the return of Capcom's trademark zany and quirky translations, from lines such as, “Leg's go Lan!” to “Scary steps.”, and even “What a nice young man she was.” It's also the fourth mainstream game in Mega Man's fourth series on the Gameboy Advance, consisting of strategic, action, and RPG elements.

Whereas the previous three games consisted of dramatic “Try to become a good NetBattler and end up saving the Net from total annihilation” plots, Mega Man Battle Network 4 further differentiates from it's predecessors by having three tournaments in the game. In these tournaments, young schoolboy Lan Hikari, NetBattler extraordinaire, must defeat Navi's in battle after doing tasks beforehand the matches. These tasks include many things, including but not limited to sending Navi ghosts to the afterlife, learning how to cook curry, saving a young maiden Navi in distress from a stalker, going head-to-head against a kendo master in Jedi style, and playing a couple of matches of soccer (football for you Europeans).

But wait. Just what is a NetBattler in the first place? In 200x, the world has evolved into the Internet Age, where daily life evolves around the Net. For personal conveniences, people carry around PETs, or PErsonal Terminals, that contain Navis, artificial intelligence programs that respond to a person's needs. These artificial intelligence programs can be humanlike in appearance, much like our protagonist Megaman.EXE, or resembling of a beast, such as the batlike Navi Shademan or the mummy-like Navi Pharoahman . However, with the advances of the Net and the conveniences that comes with it, so do downfalls. Viruses are the plague of the Net, and evildoings are easily disguised through the vast areas of the Internet. Items such as burglar alarms, ovens, and TVs are connected to the net, allowing for sabotage from long-range. Thus, people carry around programs called Battle Chips that give their Navis the power to do special attacks. Fighting against viruses and other Navis; that is the art of NetBattling.

How does NetBattling work in the first place, though? On a 6 by 3 panel field, Megaman has half the field, and his enemies take the other half. From his nine squares of the field, Megaman can shoot his buster at the enemies, or charge it to fire a charged shot that does ten times the damage of a normal shot. Meanwhile, the viruses that happen to be his foes will try to make life a living hell for MegaMan, sometimes working in tandem if there are at least two viruses on the battlefield at a given time, and at other times using the exaggeratedly cheap attack, the type that you throw your Gameboy Advance or SP down onto the floor in frustration. Additionally, effects on the field may throw your strategy awry; some panels might be cracked, and if you step on them and then go off it, will be gone. You will then have to wait for about a half a minute before the panel reappears. A panel might also be of the swamp quality – if you step on it, it slowly poisons you, draining your HP for each second that you stand on the panel. Other times, it might be something you can use to your advantage – using a Fire chip to fight an enemy that is standing on a grass panel will result in double damage to the virus, or quadruple if your enemy is grass element. Next off, there is the in-battle Green Mystery Data. These green diamond-like objects have only 1 HP, and you'll have to maneuver against your opponents effectively to make sure that the Green Mystery Data is not destroyed. If you win the battle with the Green Mystery Data intact, you can win something good. Lastly, the Custom Gauge bar. This bar will fill up during combat, and once it reaches the end, you can go to the Chip Screen. Here, you are able to select from five to ten chips.

Now, you can go into a battle with 30 battle chips. Battle chips can be obtained through various methods, such as winning a virus battle, buying them, or finding them in Green Mystery Datas. Each battle chip has its own unique purpose, and they aren't always used to harm an enemy; for example, the PanelReturn will repair your side of the field so that all your panels are normal, and the Aura will protect you from any attacks under a certain amount of power. However, other chips are deadly and fatal as far as your enemies are concerned. The Poison Anubis statue, with a whopping 400 HP that it is required to take before it can be destroyed, will whittle away at your opponent's HP at double the speed of normal poison. The SuperVulcan is a powerful chip, able to fire fifteen shots of ten damage each. Although it may initially be weak, what happens if you add on the Attack +30 chip, which adds 30 attack power to an offensive chip? You can suddenly do fifteen shots of forty damage each. Using battle chips is all about strategy.

In addition to the requirement of thirty chips in your chip folder, there are also other restrictions placed on you. Chips are divided into Standard Chips, Secret Chips, Mega Chips, and Giga Chips. Whereas you can have 30 Standard Chips in a folder, you can only have 5 Mega Chips, and 1 Giga Chip. In addition, you can only have four of any Standard Chip, and one of any Mega Chip. Secret Chips cannot be gotten in-game, with the exception of Gun Del Sol EX, but count as Standard Chips. The last restriction of chips is their code – each chip has a code that ranges from A-Z, or *. While you can have as many codes as you like in a folder, when you select chips to take into battle from the chip screen, you have two restrictions; the battle chips have to either be the exact same chip, or have the same code. * is a wildcard, able to be used with any other code.

Besides just being weapons, certain chips can also be used together to form Program Advances – totally new attacks that can have devastating effects. The Zeta Program Advances call for the same chip with three different codes, and allow you to use the same chip an infinite amount of times in a certain timespan. The unicoded Program Advances can be said to be more devastating; the Lifesword alone can cause 400 damage in a wide range, and the PileDriver can be demoralizing, while putting a Poison Pharoah in the enemy's back row in combination with two Areasteal's is just plain evil.

The last effect of offensive chips is the power to put you into Full Unison. To get into Full Unison, you have to counter viruses with a chip attack just as they are about to attack. When they flash red, they're about to attack. Once in Full Unison, the next chip attack will be doubled, after bonuses.. If it's a Program Advance you're using, then its attack power can also be doubled.

Spread throughout the web are Green Mystery Datas, Blue Mystery Datas, and Purple Mystery Datas. Each of these has an item stored within them. The Green Mystery Datas are the most common Data that you'll encounter. The items that they have within them are random (Although the number of possibilities of items that you could get from a Green Mystery Data in a certain area is relatively small), and once you pick up a Green Mystery Data, you can jack out and jack in to the Net again, and the GMD will be there again. However, sometimes, they'll have a virus inside the GMD instead. To get the item from the GMD and not pick up a stray virus, you'll have to use an Untrap once inside the Net. Blue Mystery Datas are different. The item that you can get from them is fixed, and they will NOT reappear until the next difficulty (More on that later). Lastly are the Purple Mystery Datas. Besides sharing the same qualities as the Blue Mystery Datas, Purple Mystery Datas require an Unlocker Subchip to even get the item from.

Just what are SubChips, though? SubChips can be found around the real world or the CyberWorld, or bought with the game's currency of zenny. They have different purposes, such as the FullEnergy's ability to completely restore your HP, the Unlocker's ability to unlock Purple Mystery Datas, and the SneakRun which will allow you to avoid virus battles for a while.

In Mega Man Battle Network 3 Blue and White, the Navi Customizer Program was introduced. With this, you have Navi Customizer blocks, which are made up of squares. The Navi Customizer is a 4 by 4 square machine that can be upgraded to 5 by 5, and you can place the blocks onto the Navi Customizer. Each block is shaped differently, so you'll have to come up with a layout plan to get everything you want into the Navi Customizer. The blocks have many different effects; for example, Custom +1 will grant you the ability to choose from an extra chip on the chip screen in battle, Charge +1 will allow you to charge your buster more quickly, and Attack +1 will give your buster another point of power. Besides these blocks, you have others, such as Dark License, capable of allowing you to use Dark Chips without the HP penalty (More on Dark Chips later).

However, as with chips, there are restrictions to the Navi Customizer. One five square strip of the Navi Customizer is called the Command Line. Each Navi Customizer block has their squares either solid, or textured. Solid blocks have to have at least one of their blocks on the Command Line, while textured blocks cannot have any. If you break either of these rules, a glitch will occur in Megaman. The third restriction is the color of the blocks; you can only have certain color of blocks at a time, and you cannot have two different blocks of the same color touching each other.

From Mega Man Battle Network 3 Blue and White, and Mega Man Battle Network 2, the Styles system was induced. After a select amount of battles, Megaman's program would evolve to fit the style of battle that he preferred. If you liked to use your buster, you would get Guts Style, which would double your attack power, reduce your buster speed, and allow you to shoot a machine gun. Custom Style would allow you to have an extra chip to choose from on the chip screen as well as having the capability to have six Mega Chips in your folder (In Battle Network 3 only), while Ground Style would give you the power to crack squares. In addition to this, your style would also be element-based, changing your charged attack to either a flamethrower, electrical ball, tornado, or bubble shot.

However, in this game, the Styles system has been replaced by the Souls system. Throughout Mega Man Battle Network 4, you'll be taking part in three various tournaments. In these tournaments, you'll sometimes come up head-to-head against customized Navis. Sometimes, when you beat a Navi, you'll be able to commune with their soul, and use their powers. In order to first be able to use a Soul in battle, you'll be required to sacrifice a chip pertaining to the Navi. For example, if you're trying to summon AquaSoul, you would use an Aqua element chip. Same goes for Thunder chips and Thunderman, and sword chips with Protoman. Once summoned, your Soul will last for three turns.

And they're useful, that's for sure. Guts Soul will add 30 attack power to any generic chip, and can crack panels. RollSoul can shoot Roll Arrows, which will destroy an enemy's uploaded chips (If you're playing an enemy who does upload chips), and for each chip you use, you recover 10% of your total HP. Number Soul will allow you to choose from ten chips on the Chip screen! However, Souls can only be used when you're Normal, or Light.

Different from the former three games, you can choose to be light orientated or surrender to the dark side. After a storyline event, you are able to use Dark Chips – chips of the devil, which will draw you into MurkLand, a place of insanity. For every battle that you use a Dark Chip, you lose a single HP forever (Although the DarkLicense NC block can stop the penalty). In addition to this, you will drop in karma, which is a system that determines whether you're dark, light, or normal. While you are dark, you are given access to a whole new class of Navi chips, the DS chips, and a slew of other powerful battle chips as well as two Program Advances that can only be utilized while dark. However, as said earlier, you forfeit your right to use Souls, as well as the ability to use the SP class of Navi chips, and other chips and Program Advances.

Gameplay isn't the only change that Capcom has made to their fabled Mega Man Battle Network series. The graphics of this game's predecessors have been changed, from an anime look to chibi-stylish artwork. The figures are smaller. Corners of a net path are rounded. Face sprites have been totally redone. Many will be shocked and alienated by this change, but I really don't see the fuss over it all.

Capcom has included the usual varying music that is a trademark of their corporation. From the theme song to the usual ‘Triumphant over the netmafia behind this whole mess' music, you're sure to find at least one track that you like out of the score of MIDIs.

The one thing that I can really understand people hating about this game is the plot. In the original game, number 2, and number 3, the plots were dramatic, with suffering, competition, new friends, and the like. In number 4, however, this game was reduced to three tournaments with a small plot in between. Apparently, an asteroid is headed to the Earth, due to cause extinction of the human race, much like the dinosaur theory. So, the guys at the space organization known as NAXA decide to shoot a giant laser beam at it to change the asteroid's path. Their plan fails, so they try to find the world's best netbattler through use of the tournaments as their denouement. And get this; to get all the stuff in the game, you'll have to go through four difficulties. Four. Thankfully, you will be able to keep all your chips, souls, Navi Customizer blocks, power ups, and the such between difficulties, with the exception of key items.

Capcom tried to be moreover innovative with Mega Man Battle Network 4 than they did with the last two games of the series.. They succeeded, but the end result wasn't as good as the likes of number 2, and barely standing ground with number 3. All I can say is, I hope that the fifth installment in this series is better.

Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/11/04, Updated 07/15/04

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