Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge is a strategic card game simulation with role-playing game elements by Capcom for the Game Boy Advance. It is a spinoff of the Mega Man Battle Network series of games on the same system. While the much of the art and concepts are borrowed from the main series, the plot and gameplay is largely unrelated. The main premise is that there’s a new kind of tournament being held for Net Battlers. This uses a special program which explains why the gameplay is so different than the main MMBN games. You are tasked with fighting your way through the tournament for your own reasons based on the character you choose. This choice affects both the story and your main Net Navi, which is the character that does the battling. In case you’re unfamiliar, these are basically sentient electronic programs that assist people with managing things, largely based around using computers and the internet. But most notably, they are used for fighting. They often are needed to defeat viruses, but sometimes will fight one another to compete. Thus, this tournament is a spinoff of that idea with a new set of rules. So depending on who you are, you’ll have some set of circumstances to guide you through a series of fights to move up the ranks, collect more battle chips, and ultimately become the victor of the competition.
Since the game is almost entirely comprised of battles, I’ll do my best to explain the fighting system. So, all of your special attacks are controlled by battle chips which act like playing cards essentially. These are placed into your folder which has a total of thirty chips. You may have nearly any combination of chips aside from a few restrictions. You can select from more folders of chips, which act as your deck, before going into a set of battles. Once the set of battles starts you are stuck to using that folder, but you are able to change your current chips before each fight. When selecting your chips, you are more or less creating your hand which is called a program deck… if this card game analogy is working for you. You must place them into a playing field which moves in columns of on square, then two, then three, and finally four. The first square is always for you Navi. You can get additional Navi chips to change that Navi for the fight, otherwise you will automatically use your default Navi character for the person you chose. The next columns can contain any other kinds of chips as long as they do not exceed your current memory limits. Each chip takes up its own amount of memory which you can observe when selecting them. You do not need to fill all spaces nor do you need to place them in any specific order. There are also two slots in the upper and lower left of this setup that are slot-in spots. You have a certain amount of special memory to dictate how large these two chips can be that’s separate from the rest of the setup. Once these chips are all selected and ready the battle can begin.
Before each round of turns your moves are randomly selected. The first column of just your Navi chip is a constant and therefore will always be your final move, using whatever basic attack your specific Navi does. This then branches into your next moves. So, for example, if it picked the top slot in the second column, it would either pick the top or middle chip of the next column as it branches only to those two. If it picks the bottom on in second column, it’d pick either the middle or bottom slot in the third and so on. Once this random selection goes through the game plays out with each chip acting a turn. The decision on which character gets their turn first depends on the current chip selected. There seems to be priority system to the chip types with some generally going before others. As far as I know this is something you’ll need to feel out as you go and not displayed in the game. The order also follows your random selections from the two, the three, and then the four before using your Navi’s basic attack. If no chip is in the selected slot you will have no action that turn. After all turns are resolved for that round of turns the process is repeated until one of you loses all of your hit points. The last one standing is the winner. Additionally, as turns go by you’ll notice a meter with an increasing percentage on it. This is your slot-in meter. The percent is the percent change to slot-in a chip on that given turn. This allows you to play one of your slot-in chips on the same turn as the current chip if successful. If you fail, that chip is not used yet is still consumed. After use, the meter resets to 0 percent and refills again in the same fashion. The opponent has the same opportunities as you do for this and both of you can do it at the same time. In this instance, the chip priority comes into play once again.
The chips themselves of course have a lot of aspects to consider when selecting them. Each chip has an attack power which indicates the damage it does, an accuracy which determines its likelihood to hit, an amount of hit points, an amount of memory it consumes, and an elemental type. Chips have an element of fire, electric, wood, or water if they are not neutral. These will do extra damage to Navis of the opposing type, with fire being strong against wood, wood being strong against electric, electric being strong against water, and water being strong against fire. While null types are unaffected, Navis using chips of their own type will do bonus damage. There are some chips that say “add” next to their AP which indicated that it will do that much damage to the enemy and also do that much to the their program deck’s frontmost chip, which is where the HP of chips and their positioning comes into play. The chips closest to you in the random selection columns are used first while the further ones are used last. However, when your deck is attacked by an “add” chip it will attack the outermost selected chip first. This means it cannot attack chips not selected in the current round of turns. As such, if there are no active chips to hit then the added effect will miss. Some chips have “all” after their AP which denotes that it will do that much damage to the opponent as well as all active chips. The same rules apply here. Generally chips that attack the enemy only do the most damage, with “add” chips doing less and “all” chips doing the least. If a chip’s HP is reduced to 0 it is destroyed for the rest of the match. Some chips can create guards to protect you while others have the ability to pierce these guards. Some chips can attack slot-in chips. Some chips can heal your HP.
Some of the chips can even affect the stage by creating holes. Certain chips require you to position yourself in the front of the stage in the animation in order to attack, which cannot be performed when a hole is present. The same ineffectiveness can be noted with chips that need to run along the ground. There are other chips than can manipulate the element of the stage by design while others do it by consequence. A metal stage is turned into a grass stage by use of a wood chip. A grass stage is returned to a normal stage by use of a fire chip. And a fire stage is returned to a normal stage by use of a water chip. Stage types each have their own quirks. Some stages start with holes in them that need to be repaired or worked around. Some stages are poisoned and will slowly damage players and their chips with each round of turns. Metal stages boost the power of electric chips. Ice stages also do this but increase the evasion, or chance of having attacks miss, of water Navis. Fire stages boost the power of water chips but otherwise damage any non-fire Navis that stand on them. Grass stages boost the power of fire chips but will heal wood Navis at the end of each round of turns. There are many stage and chip types along with many unique aspects to discover and consider.
The game progresses through a series of increasingly difficult tournaments. You must select your desired tournament level from the bottom up as you unlock them and defeat all of the available tournaments there. These are usually themed around an element, a stage type, or a chip type though sometimes they are more of a random assortment. Each one consists of multiple battles in a row and rewards you with zenny, the game’s currency, for winning and sometimes some special battle chips. This zenny can be used to buy packs of random battle chips to potentially add to your folder. You will also periodically get memory expansions in order to have more customization options while picking your program deck. The amount of battles in each increases over time as well. There’s also the battle street where you can fight a longer, random series of opponents for chips and zenny. A few levels of this will unlock as you progress through the tournaments. There’s even a way to make custom tournaments with the use of pre-existing Navis provided you have the correct codes to make this work. After defeating completing the main story and all available tournaments the game is more or less done. There are two save slots available to play on as well. That’s pretty much the game in a giant, overly-detailed nutshell.
Now I’ll admit, I’m already a fan of some of the Battle Network games as well as Mega Man in general so a lot of the familiar stuff I feel like I appreciated more than I should. Then again, I think that helps give you an understanding on some of these concepts. Many of the chips here perform in ways that are similar to the main series counterparts. The art also resembles the first three games more than the later three MMBN titles. I guess I just felt like I already knew enough to feel confident in figuring out the rest. Some of the music is pretty cool too. The game offers up a TON of things to consider for strategies. You need to have a folder full of chips that can handle a multitude of scenarios and also work well together on the field as well. You can build interesting combos and synergies but because your chip selection isn’t set in stone during your fights you have to consider the odds, the order, and the placement very carefully. Do you want a full set of weak chips or leave some blanks to make room for more powerful ones? Do you want to focus on hitting the enemy hard or destroy their chips slowly to leave them defenseless? And how will that work against THEIR strategy? It’s mostly about the planning phase and experimenting with ideas, though the slot-in chips do force you to pay attention to how the battle is progressing even if the normal chips play out on their own. It’s incredibly addicting to do more battles, get more chips, unlock harder tournament ranks, and reconstruct yourself to take on the next battles in a cycle. Essentially it’s like playing a Mega Man Battle Network card game without the need to buy a bunch of actual cards, in a sense.
The downside is that this game also becomes very repetitive. You play a lot, trying to change up your strategies to see what works, but once you’ve got a good method going for fighting certain stage types and Navi types you’ll find yourself using the same tactics over and over to win. And it will work nearly every time unless you have bad luck… another annoying factor sometimes. On top of that, there are only so many different Navis in the game and you’ll face them all many many times by the end of even just ONE campaign. The other campaigns have you doing more or less the same thing with a different story that doesn’t affect gameplay and a different base Navi. This would be more interesting except you can obtain the Navi chips for all the other Navis anyway so you essentially can play as them all after one playthrough. So by the end, the longer tournament ranks just have so many battles to go through the motions for that it becomes an exercise in patience more than a feat of strategy or skill. The last Battle Street series of battles is, I shit you not, 100 battles in a row. 100 battles of randomized repetition until you beat it. Thankfully you can restart a battle from the same point if you DO lose in most cases, but even here this is almost more than your batteries can handle unless you’re plugging in a Game Boy Advance SP or a Nintendo DS. You cannot save in the middle of the marathon so clear out a day to do this on a fresh set of batteries if you’re playing on a standard GBA. The game just lacks a ton of replay value and overstays its welcome to the point where you will only beat it because you CAN, not so much because you want to.
Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge is something I can only really recommend to fans of the Mega Man Battle Network series and deck building games. Maybe if you’re a BIG fan of deck building games you’ll like it even without familiarity to the series… maybe. If you DO get it, I’d say get it cheap. 15 bucks or less sounds about right because you’ll get more playtime than enjoyment out of it, even if the amount of fun you get IS still enjoyable in the earlier part of the game. Just be sure to do a few battles to learn the system because the game explains everything at once without offering a tutorial to SHOW you how any of it works, and it’s pretty confusing and scary to see at first. I can’t imagine going for full completion of this game and keeping your mind in tact, so maybe just pick your favorite characters and have fun with what the game can give you while it lasts. And… if you like the setting and art and all of that stuff… maybe check out the main series where you can find better gameplay. The two play almost entirely differently so don’t expect enjoyment of one’s gameplay to cross into the enjoyment of the other, but the art and world are spot on and it was definitely an interesting experience I’m glad I had.