Released in Japan on December 12, 2003 as Rockman.EXE 4 and in North America on September 3, 2004 for the Game Boy Advance, Megaman Battle Network 4 holds a rather dubious reputation as far as the Battle Network series is concerned. Like its predecessor, it was released in two different versions: Red Sun and Blue Moon.
For a moment, let’s look at the ending of Battle Network 3 in a vacuum. By the end of the game Wily, the main Big Bad, is gone, swallowed up by Alpha, as is Bass. Lan finally gets to meet his grandfather. Megaman sacrifices himself and is later revived, giving Lan the motivation to shape himself up. In the postgame we get to fight the Under King and are officially recognized as the strongest force in Cyberworld. This has all the hallmarks of a series conclusion with most of the plot threads being concluded in some way (and according to this interview, that’s indeed what it was originally meant to be). Thus, Battle Network 4 is less of a sequel and more of a soft reboot (note that the “Battle Network” supertitle has been removed from the Japanese title). There’s nothing really wrong with that on the surface, but the way this game goes about that is…not the best way, to say the least. Good RPGs should be plot-driven, and in stark contrast to both its predecessors and successors Battle Network 4 isn’t, to put it mildly. While I’ve said in the past that story hasn’t always been Battle Network’s strong point it at least made an effort. Battle Network 4 makes no effort to keep its narrative going, and the quality of its writing is inconsistent and a big step down. Compounding the matter is that Battle Network 4 fails to live up to its predecessors as a game. There’re many instances of poorly-tested or thought out game design, as well as a number of bugs – generally rather disruptive ones at that. And finally, to add insult to injury, the English localization is riddled with typos and grammatical errors on top of being a weak translation in general.
But I’m not here to endlessly rag on this game, I’m here to play it and provide my commentary as it unfolds. At the very least what I can say is that I appreciate this game for the variety of bosses it has, and even if many of the gameplay systems have been watered down they’re still somewhat enjoyable at their core. There are some good ideas nestled in there that are sadly kneecapped by poor execution. I’m certainly going to be a little more harsh on this game than on the others, though.
Anyway, the main cast, smaller this time than usual:
The series’s main operator-Navi pair has now saved the world three times over. Now a sixth-grader, Lan and Megaman will now find themselves up against a threat that could outright destroy the planet! If only the game seemed to remember that.
Lan’s father, the creator of Megaman, and one of the world’s forefront network scientists. He spends the majority of the game called away from home to use his vast intellect and programming skills to…stop an asteroid?
A vampiric Navi allied with the criminal organization Nebula who kicks off the plot by getting Lan and Megaman involved with the group’s evildoing…
A scientist from the infamous and militaristic Nation Z who is also called forth to work on that pesky asteroid problem. He's at least a better fit for the thing than Yuuichiro is.
‘’My, this is such a short list’’, you might say. ‘’Whatever happened to Chaud, Mayl, Higsby, etc.?’’ Oh they’re still around, just marginalized even more to the point where I can hardly call them main characters anymore.
Finally, despite the fact that I own both versions of the game by a fluke, I am only going to play Red Sun. This is because one of the scenarios in Blue Moon has a major bug that activates if the game isn’t being played on the Game Boy Advance. The original GBA. No emulator, no SP, no DS, no DS Lite, the vanilla GBA is the only system that will accept it. That’s not an example of copy protection either, just plain shitty programming.