Mega Man Battle Network is a series of mostly good spin-offs that have little to do with traditional Mega Man. The most they have in common is the reuse of characters, but even those can be subject to a radical redesign. It’s better to think of it as its own thing.

Battle Network is an action RPG that combines elements of Pokémon with trading card games. Actually, it’s very clear that Pokémon inspired BN in several ways, in both mechanics and story.

Rather than going stronger though winning battles, you power up MegaMan.EXE by collecting better chips. You do get chips from battles, though, so on balance it’s a similar progression.

Battle Chip Challenge is a one-time spin-off of the spin-off series, featuring the same characters and basic setup of NetNavi plus battle chips. But its mechanics are completely different.

Instead of fighting viruses, you exclusively fight other NetNavis. And instead of being an action RPG, it’s more of a “minimal-action RPG.” There’s nothing like it, and for good reason.

Nothing but setup

In the main Battle Network series, you create a chip folder and get a random set to “slot in” for MegaMan.EXE (your main NetNavi) to use. These are additional abilities on top of his regular mega buster, which is generally only used as a last resort when you’ve exhausted your slot-in chips.

You use these chips in an action-packed grid battle along with the standard buster attack. Then, after a set amount of time, you can slot in more chips for another “round” of combat. Rinse and repeat until every virus (or enemy NetNavi) in the battle is “busted” (down to no HP).

Battle Chip Challenge takes this slot-in idea to its absolute bare minimum. You set up a “deck” of ten chips in a 1-2-3-4 sequence, and then the battle runs like a piece of software. For each battle step, the game randomly chooses (at a 50/50 chance) between the next two chips in the branch.

In the final step, your NetNavi’s ability triggers for a final attack, ending the round.

Combat basics

The first chip is your NetNavi chip, and the rest are “action” chips. The game flips a coin to pick the next chip over, then rinse and repeat.

Chips themselves have health, and some chips attack other chips. Erasing chips leaves your opponent with less possible actions and is the prevailing strategy.

Other chips offer healing, shields, stunning, and stage effects similar to their Battle Network counterparts.

Oh, you want to play during the battle, you say? Use your slot-in chips! As the battle progresses, the percentage bar at the bottom fills up. You can hit L or R to use the corresponding chip—but only if a dice roll is less than the percentage in that bar.

Yep, you get two chances to interact, and they can both fail. And if they fail, the chip is gone. You don’t get a second chance.

The whole thing can seem a bit complicated, but in the end it’s mostly random. Probabilities in the final row are so low, you almost always need duplicates there to get what you want.

Is this even Battle Network?

No, it’s not really BN. Other than the use of the same characters and chips, it’s very different. Anyone familiar with the Battle Network formula can’t expect the same here. It’s not the action RPG you know and love.

The grid is now a line, removing the strategic element of positioning. So, chips that paralyze your NetNavi instead stop their normal attack. Cracked panels are gone, and Hole is a permanent (unless you Repair) effect that annoyingly blocks any non-ranged attacks.

Collecting chips is an awful grind. Since battles are so random, it’s painful to aim for a specific ranking to earn chips from them. So, the only reasonable place to get chips is the shops.

Battle Network has a plethora of shops in the real world and in the net world. Chip traders offer an option to recycle trash chips at 3- or 10-for-1.

But in Battle Chip Challenge? The shops are a lottery. Instead of balanced prices for each chip with an a la carte menu, you just say “I’d like a chip” for a set price and it gives you one at random. And with no trader, you’re stuck with any trash chips you get!

Fun is in the not playing

To play devil’s advocate, there’s something charming about the “set up and go” approach. All of the gameplay is in deck setup. There’s a depth of strategy in choices for both the program deck and the folder selection, based on your upcoming battles.

But it falls apart there. The cups are stupidly long, and you have no way of knowing what’s coming (especially in later cups) until you’ve paid to enter. You could even get an hour into a cup before there’s a “twist” and suddenly you’re unprepared for a battle.

One fix would be more flexibility in folder construction. In the mainline series, you can modify folders between any battles, with rare multi-battle challenge exceptions. This would improve the flow of the game and make twists less of a troll.

Another frustration is the absence of simple pleasures from Battle Network. Instead of exploring the world organically by walking around an isometric world as LAN or MegaMan.EXE, you’re stuck in menus the entire time. This makes the game feel robotic and sanitized, and not in a cool way.

Randomness can be monstrous in this game. You can lose repeatedly simply because the numbers weren’t in your favor. Add to that the ridiculously long endgame cups, and you’re likely to toss your Game Boy Advance out the window.

Who is this even for?

I don’t know what Capcom was thinking as far as target audience for this game. It’s a huge experiment that feels like it shouldn’t have survived past the prototype stage, departing from the best elements of Battle Network. It’s too simple for strategy fans, and too different for BN fans.

If I really stretch my imagination, I guess being able to play other BN characters is a mild appeal to serious fans. Other than that, the only thing going for this game is uniqueness. But generally, I’d say avoid this one. It’s alone out there for a reason—because it doesn’t work.

Want to see me play the game with more detailed commentary? Check out this highlight from my stream.

Have you played Battle Chip Challenge and want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment below!

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