Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection review: Jacking in to the early aughts

Capcom once again delivers a massive pile of Mega Man content with the Battle Network Legacy Collection. This set is emblematic of the Game Boy Advance experience in more ways than one.


Capcom spent an absurd amount of time figuring out what to do with Mega Man, but in recent years things have been working out well. A big part of that has been the Legacy Collection brand, which combines the tried and true retro compilation format with lots of high quality bonus features. It also helps that most of Mega Man’s history is “retro” now, up to and including the Battle Network series, which is today’s subject. Battle Network is a bullseye for millennials, many of whom like myself are the perfect age to clearly remember when this series was brand new. 

Mega Man Battle Network is a painful, but perfect time capsule to the early 2000s. The Game Boy Advance ushered in a new era of portable gaming, with just enough power to support colorful visuals and complex gameplay without compromising battery life. It was also the first post-Pokemon platform, which meant every major publisher scrambled to find its own stuff-collecting, anime-friendly gimmick. In that respect, Battle Network was enough of a home run to, in typical Capcom fashion, get run into the ground via six core entries. Many of those had Pokemon-style version splits, and similar fanbase-milking stunts like event collectibles and weird spinoffs.

If you’re new here, this series is a huge departure from the usual Blue Bomber excursion. Battle Network is a series of RPGs that recontextualize Mega Man characters as Virtual Pet-like digital assistants called NetNavis, which act as proxies for the human protagonists to explore the internet and fight viruses. 

Virus “busting” happens in real time, but on grid-based boards that make dodging and attacking a dance of precision and attrition. Stacked on top is a deck-building element that gives Mega Man a constant flow of rotating options. Connecting everything together is a bunch of puzzle-oriented dungeon-crawling that will either be the best part or the bane of your existence depending on your brain chemistry.

Oh no, I’m getting old

A screenshot of the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection

This Legacy Collection attempts to wrangle all that noise into a definitive pair of “volumes,” each comprising three core titles and as much extra baggage as possible. This includes things like “Download Chips” and “Patch Chips,” primitive DLC that often didn’t leave Japan. It’s all here now, and extremely confusing to browse through if you aren’t already a student of MegaMan.EXE. But it’s neat to see, especially since a lot of it makes the RPG grinding aspects easier without Capcom having to come in and do much extra work.

That extra work instead shows up as a suite of online multiplayer features, an optional damage boost to Mega Man’s basic attacks, and a bizarre appearance of Mega Man as a host of sorts for each volume. A 3D model of our hero just kinda hangs out on each game select screen, animated and fully voiced with a very Sonic the Hedgehog-like cadence. You can press a button to talk to him and he’ll even pause to give you room to respond when he asks about your hobbies. He also reacts to the screenshot button, because the developers knew you’d press it in stunned bemusement of this sincerely ludicrous (but admittedly on brand) feature. I don’t like it, but I respect it.

Retro, but not that retro

An image from the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection

The games themselves are presented in straightforward fashion, and it makes sense considering their vintage. Game Boy Advance games stand on their own well enough, since at this point we’ve moved on from visuals built for CRT displays. You can scale up the image by a few multipliers, and that crime against god and country Capcom calls a “filter” once again makes an appearance. But you can safely ignore it and set the image size to whatever feels best. Game Boy Advance games aren’t really going to benefit much from being blown up or left small, so it’s a milquetoast personal preference thing. The dialogue boxes and font are notably rezzed-up regardless, so everything is nice and easy to read. There are some borders you can play with that feel included just because they’re expected that don’t add much or even feel designed to be used.

The bells and whistles definitely aren’t the appeal here, nor do they need to be. The Battle Network series is a massive collection of RPGs, and simply seeing each one through will eat up hours of your time. If you’re enough of a sicko you can even endeavor to play each of the dual versions of every game after the first two, so there’s plenty of pure game content to get tired of well before you think about wanting extras. Which is good, because we’ve also kind of reached a point where galleries lose their appeal a bit. 

For the 16-bit and earlier Legacy Collection the museums were awesome, because having old game boxes and concept art scanned by hand rules. But once you cross into the Current Century you get stuff that’s inherently high res and already digitally preserved without much need for a Frank Cifaldi to come in and do wild historical dirty work. There’s still some cool art to sift through, but it feels less impactful even for games that are twenty years old. The passage of time always finds new ways to be cruel.

Don’t forget all the merchandise

Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection screenshot

As an aside, it isn’t in the game itself but as part of the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection launch, Capcom has uploaded the Mega Man NT Warrior anime series to its official YouTube channel. It’s just the first two seasons that were dubbed (the full thing went way longer in Japanese, including a movie), but it’s a part of the experience and absolutely part of the time capsule vibe. Checking the anime out at least partially is crucial to getting a full picture of how game franchises like this operated in the aughts, if you weren’t around at the time. There’s other transmedia material too and a GameCube game everyone hated (I didn’t, but I was like 13 years old), but this was supposed to be an aside so let’s keep it that way before I hyperfixate.

Aside aside, that’s what this particular Legacy Collection is all about, to me. In a lot of ways the early Game Boy Advance years were all over the place. The rules hadn’t been established yet, and the potential was higher than ever. Anime had penetrated the mainstream, Call of Duty didn’t exist and nobody really hated Sonic the Hedgehog yet. Experiments and sequel vomiting could happen at the same time, and games were still small enough to support niche audiences of all sizes. Battle Network, especially in retrospect, feels like a poster child of that time. It’s probably a little overwhelming to dive in now, and lord knows how corny the Y2K tech jargon reads, but you can’t find a better singular piece of media that sums it all up so neatly.

This review is based on a digital Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher. Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection will be available on April 14, 2023.

Contributing Editor

Lucas plays a lot of videogames. Sometimes he enjoys one. His favorites include Dragon Quest, SaGa, and Mystery Dungeon. He's far too rattled with ADHD to care about world-building lore but will get lost for days in essays about themes and characters. Holds a journalism degree, which makes conversations about Oxford Commas awkward to say the least. Not a trophy hunter but platinumed Sifu out of sheer spite and got 100 percent in Rondo of Blood because it rules. You can find him on Twitter @HokutoNoLucas being curmudgeonly about Square Enix discourse and occasionally saying positive things about Konami.

  • Tons of video game meat to chew through
  • Unique grid-based combat with few imitators (Child of Eden is a good one though)
  • Captures the vibe of 2000s video games energy so well it's almost scary
  • Lots of content that was never available in North America before
  • Impressive online multiplayer structure
  • Please, Capcom, kill that filter
  • Galleries have less oomph compared to previous collections
  • I don't understand why Mega Man needs to be my title screen friend
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