Lest one think this site has become a haven for mindless, drone-like cheerleading for 2D games, I downloaded the Japanese demo of Mega Man Battle Network: Operation Shooting Star today. And boy golly, is it pretty much the definition of why people tend to look down on games in two dimensions.
Some background info: OSS is a remake of the original Battle Network, kind of a DS port, but also kind of not — apparently it’s a crossover with the Mega Man Star Force series. I guess it’s pretty much that episode of that awful Mega Man cartoon where Mega Man X travelled back in time to hang out with the original Mega Man, turned into an actual video game — a bit of fanservice to be sure, only it’s happening with the Mega Man franchise that hardcore Mega Man fans don’t give a crap about. There’s a certain perverse charm about that, and it amuses me.
And in theory, OSS should be pretty good. I really enjoyed the first couple of Battle Networks, until it became clear that the games would be incredibly unambitious rehashes padded by meandering, meaningless plots, year over yeard. And I enjoyed Star Force 3 this year, to a degree, because it reminded me of the quality core behind the games (so tragically obscured behind the flaws). Sadly, Star Force 3 had its own issues, the most crippling of which was the fact that the move to a 3D battle system greatly simplified the great combat that made Battle Network worth playing despite its shortcomings. The 3×6 battle grid was trimmed to 3×4, greatly reducing the strategy and flexibility of the games. OSS, however, promises to bring the Star Force series into the Battle Network mechanics — theoretically, the best of two worlds.
Except, man, for a “new” game, it sure is a lazy rehash. The demo consisted of just three battles hosted by Mr. Famous, and what those battles revealed is that OSS is more or less just a GBA game. Same sprites, same backgrounds, same everything. Not just a GBA game, either; a first-gen GBA game that looked merely OK eight years ago.
This screenshot is from the new game! Not the original Battle Network! But you’d never know unless you peeked at the image dimensions and noticed it’s 256×192 instead of 240×160. That’s… pretty crummy. By all rights, OSS should have been an opportunity for Capcom to go back and really do justice to the original Battle Network — spruce it up with new visuals, better music, more interesting character designs. Instead, Capcom appears to have used it as an opportunity to rake in some easy cash. Gamers haven’t responded nearly as well to the Star Force games as they did to Battle Network (the series was a bona-fide smash in Japan, and pretty successful over here, too), so they’re taking their newer character into the games that people actually enjoyed. Yet rather than lavish a sure-fire money-maker with any sort of care, Capcom looks to be content to simply recycle old content.
It’s disappointing — not least of all because this is exactly the sort of thing that fuels the mindset that 2D visuals are a step backward. OSS strikes me as a genuine step backward in every way, and the visuals are only the tip of that particular regressive iceberg… but they’re the part that people will notice first. I guess this is the part where I shake my fist and shout, “Thanks for nothing, buttheads!”