The next day, Yuichiro calls his son and initially doesn’t seem to have much to say, only for Chaud to get on the phone (I presume he’s in Yuichiro’s office) and demand Lan get out of this serious, virus-busting business, Lan’s history of saving the world during MMBN1 be damned. To even Yuichiro’s surprise, Chaud says that “the WWW’s plans have simply taken a different form.” With that, he leaves.
Chaud’s voice actor is Mitsuki Saiga, another .hack// and Senran Kagura vet, also known for Gurren Lagann as Rossiu, Fullmetal Alchemst, Joshua in Legend of Heroes, and as Link in several Zelda games. She’s also got a pile of Square Enix games: Dragon Quest XI as the lead (and in Smash Bros), Bravely Default II as Gladys, Star Ocean: The Last Hope as Faize. ProtoMan also speaks in this scene. He’s Masaya Matsukaze, former Megaranger, also in Dangranonpa, Death Note, and Ouran, and is also known for Ryo, the lead from Shemnue. He’s got a lot of big ones.
In addition to emails you got for clearing the last of the four selectable missions, you get two more to set up new plot developments. One is from Dex, saying that a nearby arcade is under attack by a Navi. The other is an anonymous email sending you to an abandoned power plant that’s definitely the source of the Zero Virus. I assume the email adds that you have to go on the night, blindfolded, without bringing any friends or weapons, and wraps up: “PS: Not An Ambush.”
Once again, you can select your choice of mission. We went to the arcade first, wher—Network Transmission, this is a casino. What did I expect? What did I expect! The guilty Navi here is ColorMan, who seems to be 100% lucid, talking to himself about “pranks” in the “”arcade.”” This only convinces Lan that he’s stumbled on some sort of WWW revival, but ColorMan bails. ColorMan, by the way, is voiced by Yuji Ueda, Higsby’s voice actor.
Now that we’re in the next loop of the game, it’s time for some upgraded enemies, including recoloured Beetank, Canodumb, and Mettaur. Using our Double Jump chip, we were able to try, and by-and-large fail, to skip ahead and get some nearby prizes that you’re supposed to get at the end of a longer route. Still not sure how Kyle eventually did complete one of these jumps, but by the time he did, we had already done the long route in full!
The road forward is blocked by two gates, meaning you have to go through Heat and Aqua-themed sections of the dungeon to solve it. The only real difference between the two is the element of the enemies, and no water or fire-related traps actually exist. This section is surprisingly easy considering we’re in a brand new stage set: the Aqua route involves a dangerous jump over spikes, but the Heat route requires… nothing, really? The under-cooked feeling continues after a Link, where you come across some platforms that look like pinball bumpers, except they’re really just regular platforms with extremely easy jumps between them, and no enemies in sight? Note that this level does, in fact, have pinball bumpers that work like you’d expect from Sonic, or whatever, but they look entirely different. Somebody really just seems to have screwed up?
Past the fake bumpers, you come across another Mega Man classic enemy, the PieroBot! This clown on a ball is far more at home here than in Metal Man’s stage in MM2, but MMNT seems to have… missed the point a little. You see, the idea behind the PieroBot is that the ball is durable but the bot is not. By shooting the bot off its perch, you can jump over the ball. But the high HP on display in MMNT renders this impossible: you can’t really kill either of them without Chips, and Chips could handle both! The PieroBot only makes sense in a world where you can one-shot or close-to-one-shot the Piero!
After two PieroBots, it’s on to the actual pinball table section, straight out of a sub-par Sonic game. The “bumpers” from earlier are now playing the role of fake flippers instead (they’re still absolutely bumpers, even artistically: note the bolts holding them in place at both ends), while the real bumpers are only one tile wide. Kyle notes that this all feels like a forerunner to Bounce Man’s level gimmicks from MM11 (Kyle has played a little MM11, while I haven’t played any), and it’s nowhere more evident than in a hallway of bumpers later on, ping-ponging you around without interruption, although I suppose that also exists in Spring Man’s stage in MM7?
ColorMan waits beyond the bouncy hall, with a nice, pre-rendered intro involving him inflating from a flat cartoon pancake. Unfortunately, the boss himself is the easiest since IceMan. ColorMan spends the whole fight on a bouncy ball – like a PieroBot! Though you can only hurt ColorMan himself, not the ball. Sometimes he’ll hurl the ball at you, and sometimes he’ll use extremely predictable fire attacks. That honestly seems to be it…?
After MegaMan honest-to-god declares, “How do you like them apples?” ColorMan drops the twist: his attack on the casino has nothing to do with anything. For real. The WWW isn’t coming back (that he knows of, anyways), he’s never even heard of the Zero Virus, and he was just acting out because Ms. Madd has been “ignoring” him. Honestly, Lan, considering how often you barge about like a bull in a china shop, you’re lucky this is only the first time you’ve run off the main path by mistake! MegaMan jacks out, and we get our first new victory splash screen – the one with Glide on it, as it happens.
In between levels, Chaud sends you a warning for fucking around, and a news bulletin informed us that Program Advances exist in this game too! Basically, if you select the proper combination of Chips, the Chips are replaced in your hand by a single chip representing the Program Advance. Activate it, and you’ll not only gain the Chip’s special attack for a given period, but be rendered completely invincible! The advantages here are high, and since this game always keeps active Chips in the rotation, some players have figured out you can exploit the system by burning up all remaining Chips so that the game deals you the same Program Advance turn after turn!
Okay, on to the power station and the obvious trap. And it really is a power station this time, and not some shopping website having a power issue. Lot of cyberbars here, as well as Gabyoall, Fishy and Bunny recolours to mess you up. Past the first Link, you discover another Mega Man classic buddy, the Big Eye. Remember when QuickMan’s stage ended with a reference to a giant, jumping robot? Well this is the original giant jumping robot, from MM1, making the fact that QuickMan’s stage did the reference with a Poundy kind of odd, but whatever! Unlike the Poundy, the Big Eye won’t target you. Instead, true to its MM1 form, it jumps forward with no real regard to your location. Like MM1, it will shift randomly between short and tall jumps, and they’re shorter jumps than in the original game to compensate for your slide. The fact that the jumps are shorter also means the Big Eye is in the air for less time, giving you very little window to actually slide in the first place! Instead, you’ll probably just shoot them. In MM1, you’d almost never do this because their HP is just too high, but in this game, everyone’s HP is too high, and the Big Eye isn’t any worse than the norm!
Now that a new reference enemy is on the board, the power plant gives up all pretence: this is ElecMan’s stage and it’s not going to hide it anymore! The stage immediately takes on the appearance of Elec Man’s stage from MM1: climbing a vertical tower with Gabyoalls, and continues from there with identical lightning traps that hit a short distance nearby. It also brings back Blasters, a turret that shoots three shots and then hides behind a shield. These feel like the least appropriate Classic robot-turned-virus: not only are they clearly robotic, but I think they just don’t feel the same with more than 1HP? They’re an accuracy challenge in MM1: how quickly can you learn to snipe off a whole room full of these things without being shot in return? But in this game you can only one-shot them with Charge!
After a few MM1 rooms, MMNT repeats a less-appreciated element of Elec Man’s stage: dropping from one ladder to another. This is easily bypassed with Double Jump, of course! After that, it’s time for the boss himself, voiced by Chihiro Suzuki, known for Free! as Kisumi Shigino, the Tales games as Luke and Asch, and we’ve even got another Disgaea voice here as Vyers. For a Square Enix connection, he plays T’nique in Star Ocean: The First Departure.
In case you were worried this would be another fake-out like ColorMan, no need: ElecMan seems to be under the effect of the fake vaccine, and even declares that he’s trying to prevent you from investigating the Zero Virus before he starts the usual berserk raving. Like most of the latter-game bosses, ElecMan is invincible most of the time. He responds to attacks by teleporting behind you and electrocuting you with his evil finger of doom. On the plus side, he’s vulnerable while doing that, and Kyle discovered the Sword chip has a back-swing! You can avoid the finger of death by jumping, but you only have a few frames. Your only wholly safe opportunities to attack are when he jumps or when he calls down clouds that shoot lightning.
Normally in games like these, the longer a fight goes, the more likely you are to lose: your resources run out but the boss stays the same, or worse, gains a desperation attack. That’s mostly true in MMNT, but its chip system may surprise you by giving you a great Chip late in the fight, and I was lucky to win a surprisingly long fight against ElecMan by luck of the draw, getting a Roll Chip, after another draw, a pair of Aqua chips at just the right time.
After the fight, ElecMan lucks out: Count Zap isn’t watching him like Mr. Match was FireMan, but he prudently decides to jack out on his own, and saves himself from the mind control completely by accident! At this point, we get some laffs when Lan’s dad logs in and warns him not to follow obvious trap emails. But it’s not just cheap jokes: someone at the center has had a similar experience to you, and realized that if someone’s having corrupted Navis leave traps for people investigating the Zero Virus, the two viruses are probably connected. From a player perspective this is super obvious, and it’s always a drag to see the characters lag behind on genre-standard things like this. I think I’d have appreciated if someone had said it was suspicious the two e-plagues were happening at the same time!
At this point, Lan has run out of leads, so it’s about time for something else to drop into his lap. But not all rapid plot developments are good news! In this case, MegaMan really starts to succumb to the Zero Virus, and Lan is forced to shut off his PET. Dang, Lan, this must be rush for you. I mean, do you even know how to do other things with your spare time? I bet your friends do, but do you even know enough to ask them?
Dad investigates and, to our amazement, declares he’s performed emergency first-aid to bring MegaMan back up to fighting-fit. Emergency first aid on a computer program! I love it! He also has a lead: after Chaud dropped his mysterious comment about the WWW, Yuichiro looked through seized WWW files and learned that the Zero Virus was created by none other than Lord Wily! But for some reason, it was abandoned and stored away in a Cyberworld called “the Zero Account.”
MegaMan takes some time to revive, but despite his PET being explicitly offline all this time, declares that he’s been thinking. Naturally, Kyle and I decided he had been infested by the mind control virus and started making jokes about destroying all humans. But no! MegaMan wants to stop the Zero Virus, which is barely even a dramatic plot development!
They decide to contact Higsby about it, and while he never heard of any Zero Account, the general idea of an abandoned WWW project made him think of an derelict WWW server that you might be able to find near the UnderNet. He sends you the password. You end up in “Global Area 3,” where Lan and MegaMan piss everyone playing the game off without exception by declaring that they can set a “shortcut” here for fast travel, but never did in any other location!
Still, I can’t fault the dev’s arbitrary choice of checkpoint. You’ll be coming back to Global Area 3 a lot. It’s the access point for basically every level to come but one, instead of using the Map, so I’m disappointed to tell you that it opens with a quick midboss fight against a Sparky. I got really blasé about the whole area and forgot about the Sparky basically every time, taking an early hit and resetting at least twice to get rid of it!
You spot ProtoMan soon after entering, and based on what was probably just a flippant comment from a walkthrough, I thought he was blocking the route, so we avoided him. This sent down a side track, finding two Navis, one of whom mentions that you’re in that “Data Graveyard” Froid foreshadowed earlier, and another, purple, evil Navi keeping you away from the entrance to the UnderNet. The Data Graveyard consists of only a few conveyor belts, followed by some extremely dangerous 1×1, spinning wheels as your only platforms over spikes! Getting to the end finds you Froid’s mystery data packet, which turns out to be source code for something, though even MegaMan can’t work it out. The two choose to send it to dad instead. And yes, this heavily foreshadowed item is optional. While we did end up here because of misreading the walkthrough, that probably wouldn’t have discouraged us from finding this in the long run: we did come back to this bloody room nearly a dozen and a half times during the playthrough!
At this point, we talked to ProtoMan. Lan tries to convince Chaud to let them help out, but he’s not into it, but at least he forgets to throw his authority around and bar you from following. You end up finding a teleporter and a SecurityCube, and this is basically the structure for the next few levels: one teleporter after another, three in total, each guarding the Zero Account. You’ll need to clear each to get the codes required to access the next..
The first section is called the “Old Area,” MegaMan saying it was written in a very old programming language, which is a really neat idea! In practice, it just looks a little rusty, which is disappointing, that had potential!
The levels get really hard from this point, and this is a great example. But not because of the bulk of the level, you know? Most of it was just par for the course! There are blade traps all over the level, popping out of the ground to make platforming harder. CanDevils, those firey viruses that draw their health regeneration from a candle, were also here, though if you have your Charge upgraded like we did at this point, there isn’t much need to actually attack the candle.
Where Old Area 1 really gets mean is with a series of tight jumps towards the end. And these aren’t jumps over a pit: the stage loops back over itself, so if you fall, you basically restart the level just like a regular pit! While we did get a handle on these later on, they were much easier off with Double Jump, so you won’t be surprised to learn that we went grinding for the max number of Double Jump chips soon after. But if it had only been a few nasty jumps, this wouldn’t be as bad. But no, we also had to deal with Aura enemies for the first time.
You remember Megalian, yes? The aura enemy that shoots its head out and you can only hurt it by breaking its armour or hitting its head while it’s outside the aura? Well wouldn’t you know it, almost none of our chips were powerful enough to break the aura, we had almost none of the proper elemental chips, and when it shoots out its head, it really jets back and forth, only giving you a few frames to hit it. It took a lot of practice to get used to these guys, and our chief lesson in later stages was to dodge past them whenever and wherever possible, even if it meant taking a hit. But one fucker’s guarding a ledge (pictured below) and you have no choice!
Old Area 2 isn’t much kinder. There are spikes and pits everywhere, including an extended section on one-tile pillars, occasionally with more Megalians guarding the jumps. Once you finally make your way through, you run into ProtoMan again, who got his ass kicked by a Navi, seemingly because he was somehow infected with the Zero Virus during the trip. After all that fuss getting here, we were finally willing to cheat, and Kyle sat outside the boss Link to wait for the Custom Gauge to fill before moving in!
The boss here is SwordMan from Mega Man 8, definitely the freshest reference in the series so far, unless you consider ColorMan to be Clown Man, also from MM8! He’s a leftover WWW Navi deliberately set to guard the Zero Account, and according to Chaud, he’s particularly powerful. SwordMan is voiced by Daiki Nakamura, but hey, fun fact: SwordMan is another game->anime character, and a peculiar one, because there were three SwordMen in the anime, each voiced by a different actor in Japan, and none of them Nakamura! (In English, SwordMan only has one voice actor.) Instead of being a SwordMan voice actor, Nakamura was ThunderMan in the anime, an MMBN2 Navi that Kyle and I have already met in our MMBN2 playthrough. Nakamura’s also the voice of Haohmaru in Samurai Shodown, was in a pile of roles in G Gundam, and has been in a surprising number of western imported dubs, including another Thomas train, multiple TMNT titles (generally as Leonardo), and even Chief Wiggum on The Simpsons.
SwordMan flies about, but thankfully isn’t invincible like so many previous bosses! His attacks include flying out of your general range and then stabbing down, not only trying to hit you but landing a ground smash on the entire screen like GutsMan. He can also throw two swords at you, which are probably best dodged by sliding, and below half health he can also swing sword beams in your direction. Unfortunately for him, his lack of invincibility put him well below the difficulty curve at this point, and we were able to take him out with our Level 4 Charge and almost no Chips! On the plus side, between our upgrades and his downgrades, this also felt… you know… like a Mega Man boss, so I wasn’t complaining!
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