The Virtual Console was one of my favorite features of the original Wii. It was very cool to be able to go back and experience games from a bygone era, whether they were classics I remembered fondly, gems that I had missed in my youth, or, most excitingly, imports that had never made it to North America to begin with. The Wii's Virtual Console had a pretty impressive selection of consoles on offer, ranging from the 8-bit NES and Master System to the N64, plus weird stuff like the Turbo CD, and plenty of great games, including stellar imports like Monster World IV, Pulseman, and Dracula X, so when the Wii U Virtual Console got up and running, I was a little skeptical as to how much it really had to offer. Of course, I was almost immediately surprised (pleasantly) with the long awaited release of the SNES cult classic Earthbound, which i took to be proof positive that there was still plenty to look forward to, a feeling was ultimately justified when the unexpected announcement was made that the Wii U VC would soon feature Game Boy Advance games.
I've always considered the Game Boy Advance to be somewhat under appreciated. In my opinion, there were some truly wonderful games released on the handheld wonder, and at the time the prospect of having a secure, last foothold for 2D games in an era that was solidly 3D on the console side (the whole retro chic thing had yet to manifest) was comforting. I still remember looking at the line up for the GBA and just being awestruck, and the two games I was most excited for were MegaMan Battle Network and MegaMan Zero. Oh MegaMan...
Let me set the scene here, because being a MegaMan fan at that point was very different then, and yet weirdly similar. I had eagerly bought up every MegaMan game that had come out during PSX/N64 era, which was comparatively slim pickins. Sure, there were two awesome MegaMan Legends games, as well as a few traditional sidescrollers and even the bizarre Tron Bonne, but compared to the momentum the series had during my childhood, it was a time of famine. Six games on the NES! I loved MegaMan Legends something fierce, but I also missed the classic series in a way, and it seemed as if it was never coming back. When I saw Battle Network, though, I started to feel as if things were changing. I started to feel like MegaMan was BACK!
And you know what? That feeling was not incorrect. Seven Battle Network games on the GBA, plus four MegaMan Zero games! There was just a steady stream of games, bosses, songs comics, shows... it was a kind of amazing time. Sure, I didn't have the time or money to keep up, to be honest, but I was just excited to see the art and designs for each new game! There was this fresh, modern feeling to everything, and yet it was all still familiar, it really felt like the MegaMan I remembered. Battle Network successfully reinvented the world of MegaMan as a slick, action RPG, and reintroduced classic characters with drastic new designs, and tons of personality.
When the GBA Virtual Console was announced, Battle Network was one of the first games I thought of. Now, Capcom has been a little squirrely with MegaMan recently, so nothing was certain, but with Megaman being a major player in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. game, I felt that even they had to realize the time was right to start dipping into their ample supply of MegaMan games for rerelease. They've already done Wii U versions of several games, including the NES and SuperNES games, but so far very few third parties have done anything with the GBA VC. As far as I know, Namco was the only third party to tackle the GBA Virtual Console with Pac-man Collection, Klonoa, and most recently Mr. Driller 2, while others with huge libraries of GBA classics, like Konami and their many Castlevania games, have sat idle. Fortunately, this week Capcom took the plunge and joined Namco, releasing Battle Network as the beginning of a string of MegaMan related releases in the month of August.
So far, I've played for a few hours, and battled my first boss, FireMan.exe, and am having a blast. The Battle Network games combine action, card battle, and RPG elements with a charming game world populated by colorful characters. They manage to play totally unlike any other game on any console or handheld, and it always surprised me that they weren't more influential, as Capcom created a truly unique RPG experience for the Game Boy Advance.