Note: I played this on PC, this review will primarily be based on that platform experience. Also, be aware that with 7-Zip, the owner of the collection can legally extract the Japanese and English ROMs of the original GBA games for use on the emulator of a player's choice. Out of respect for Capcom, I only encourage the private dumping of these ROMs by the legal owner of this collection for private, non-commercial use, not to be redistributed.
Game compilations were all the rage at the time of this writing, and Capcom decided to bundle the Battle Network games into collections so they were no longer confined to the GBA and Nintendo DS platforms. And given how it was done, I give them high marks for the effort.
Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection Vol. 2 is a collection of the second trilogy of Megaman Battle Network games released for the Gameboy Advance. It includes both canonical versions of Megaman Battle Network 4 (Red Sun/Blue Moon), 5 (Team Colonel/Team Protoman), and 6 (Cybeast Gregar/Cybeast Falzar)
Unlike the first volume, which was a completely unified narrative, the second trilogy has its own narrative. It has callbacks to the prior trilogy and the final game will close out the series for good, bringing themes and elements from both trilogies full circle.
The basic overarching story of Megaman Battle Network is an alternate universe to the original Mega Man games. Instead of robotics, humanity pursued networking technology, to the rage of Dr. Albert Wily, who unlike the original series had his robotics work snubbed. Opposing him is the grandson of his scientific rival, Lan Hikari. Via Megaman.EXE, Lan's Net Navigator, or Navi, the Battle Network series explores an alternate universe take on the original Mega Man game conflicts, except as an RPG via the digital world of the internet. The second trilogy differs from the first in introducing new antagonists, though some old ones also make a comeback.
The basic premise of the games is a semi-turn-based RPG divided between a "real world, explored by Lan, and the internet world explored by MegaMan.EXE. The player must operate in both to solve issues that affect both sides and resolve the conflicts of the games that will spell doom to both. Combat, unlike the action side-scroller platformers this series is based on, takes place in turn-based random encounters in the internet world, where Lan must provide MegaMan.EXE battle chips to destroy viral invaders harming the internet world. In between the story, Lan, who is a sixth-grader (since this is set a year after the first trilogy), must also navigate more mundane things like his school days and time with friends when he and Megaman.EXE aren't trying to save the world.
The gameplay is a mix of top-down semi-turned-based grid RPG combat and a mix of internet and real-world exploration in isometric 2D/3D. In combat, each turn requires selecting collectible battle chips by Lan to provide to MegaMan.EXE for use after this pause to prepare to stop viruses and rogue Net Navis.
Before any technical details are described, it must be noted the games are using the assets of the original GBA games, but are running via recompiled code so they perform without any issues and limitations of that platform on much better hardware. The original game ROMs (both the English and Japanese originals) are used for their assets (such as their graphics and sounds. The only new content is cut or otherwise non-translated content not available for one reason or another in the original official releases.
The second trilogy deserves a special warning. While all the game-breaking bugs were generally fixed, the fourth game (both Red Sun/Blue Moon) is still pretty bad. The incredibly weak story, lopsided game structure, and massive canon plot holes and inconsistencies are still present with no changes. Given this is considered the weakest game in the series by fans, be advised it's still as underwhelming as it was found to be originally, it just lacks crash-worthy bugs this time around.
Graphically, the second trilogy underwent a dramatic shift. It mirrors the more proportional and expressive style used by the anime version of the series that was on air during the release of the originals. Overall, this is a massive upgrade to quality. Colors are more vibrant, proportions are much more consistent, and set pieces are much more elaborate. This did lead to some curious retools and alterations to familiar areas visited in the first 3 games, though most areas are new. The only downside to the new style is the rather experimental look used in the fourth game, which had rounded internet areas and unusual design. The fifth and sixth games revert to the more familiar style codified since the second game (with more square and grid-like designs) tempered with the enhancements of the new art design.
The sound and music, while otherwise of slightly higher quality due to being recompiled to use superior audio hardware, is still a faithful representation of the chiptune and synth style music and sound effects of the original GBA games. They still sound good given they were going for a digital world/anime sci-fi aesthetic, but still pretty retro-sounding. The main menu for selecting the games has a fully voiced avatar of MegaMan.EXE (voiced by Andrew Francis in the English version, same as the MegaMan.EXE anime), and he sounds really good. Sadly, no voiced Megaman in the games themselves, just the main menu for the collection.
The game controls originally required the control scheme of the Game Boy Advance. This port can support both keyboard and mouse and any supported gamepad if playing on PC. While the keys are remappable to a degree, a gamepad of any sort is preferred and recommended for optimal enjoyment and fidelity to the original games. Given the menu-based RPG mechanics and simple isometric 3D, the controls are not that hard to adjust to. Helpful tutorials on the basics are provided at the beginning of each title as well.
The original multiplayer aspects of the original games were completely ripped out and replaced with a fully modernized interface that uses its own native code, not merely an emulation of the original mechanics. Having tested it for all the games, I can confirm it works fine. That said, I recommend having a known friend or friends you can trade or battle with, as finding a random person on Steam to do so with is like finding a needle in a haystack.
A few bonus features were added as well. All games have special bonus addons that provide battle chips dummied out of the international English GBA releases and inject them into the save game at player discretion. There is a gallery for viewing high-quality concept art and other bonus assets as well. There is a modified version of the Navi E-Reader modifications that were Japan only now available to English players included for MMBN 4-6 as well, albeit modified to be togglable at the discretion of the player at any time from the status menu.
Stability is rock solid. It runs on rather modest computers on Windows, and I can confirm that this is fully functional and officially verified to work out of the box on the Steam Deck and on Linux via Steam Proton. The only comment on the latter is that the animated intro may cut straight to the title screen, but this is a very brief and minor thing that most players will not notice. The actual games and all their content as well as the collection's main menus are otherwise flawless.
As a final note on the games, both as a fan of the series and from a player perspective, I and many fans consider the writing generally inferior and while the gameplay is still fun, especially the sixth game, the fourth is still the black sheep of the franchise and the fifth is competent at worst.
As opposed to the first three games, there are fewer objectionable moments in the second trilogy morally, but still some content worthy of concern. Violence is nigh entirely contained to the digital world in turn-based RPG "give orders and watch it happen" style. There is an implied scene of torture via electric shock at one point and a few moments where a heroic character physically manhandles some thugs menacing your hero, but the game omits the actual details, merely showing you the results of their disablement and fleeing.
Unlike the first trilogy, they worked pretty hard to avoid sexual innuendos or anything resembling foul language. They do have some confirmed real ghosts and a parody of what appears to be Eastern-style ghost-dispelling magic (i.e. - sutras for dispelling cyber ghosts that are just keyboard keys read aloud). The fourth and fifth games also feature a kid-friendly stand-in for Hell called Murkland, and it's regarded as an appropriately nasty and evil place.
Morally and ethically, the fourth and fifth games have a system called "Dark Chips". The fourth game makes their use unambiguously evil, using both metaphors making them a stand-in for both selling of one's soul and steroid abuse as analogs to how destructive they are, with in-game moral penalties for their use. The fifth game tones this down somewhat, making their use bad except under very narrow conditions, and even then they come with serious risks. This aside, both Lan and MegaMan.EXE are quite law-abiding and respectful of authority figures, and canonically default to most moral options. Worth noting one character is mentioned to get drunk in the fourth game, albeit accidentally, though it's not presented as a good thing. There is also a reference to wine at a fancy party at one point in the fifth game, mostly informative only as it's intended for legal adults only and the player is never allowed to drink it.
One nice redeeming theme the game has going for it is the importance of family bonds. Lan is very close to his family and not only do they become key players in helping him save the world from threats against both the digital and real worlds, but both Lan and MegaMan.EXE are revealed to be literal brothers (more on that is revealed in the first game) and as such their willingness to lay it all on the line for one another is pretty heartwarming.
Unlike the first half of the trilogy, the second half isn't as great due to the abysmal fourth game. The fifth and sixth are still worth getting, and the fourth is still worth playing at least once since the fifth game does carry over a few references from what little they could salvage that was good about it. The sixth is still beloved for having some of the most fun multiplayer in the franchise, that alone is worth getting as well. If you can get it on sale with the first collection, this is also a worthy expense if you are a MegaMan Battle Network fan.