My Battle Network Story

In the summer of 2003, my family moved for the first time in my life. I was 10 years old. That's a tough time to have to leave the only home and school you've ever known.

Luckily, I managed to keep in touch with exactly one friend: my best friend at the time, Alex.

Sometime after we moved to our new house, I invited Alex over for a sleepover. Alex brought over the new hotness at the time: a bright red Game Boy Advance SP. That thing was beautiful.

As soon as bedtime came, and the lights went off, the GBA SP came out and showed off its signature feature: a backlit screen that let you play in the dark.

The game Alex had with him that day was MegaMan Battle Network 2.

He let me play a little of it. I don't remember where he was in the story, or if he'd beaten the game already (I didn't know enough about it at the time), but I remember we were running around the Koto area, looking for QuickMan.

After that, he very graciously let me start a new file to see the beginning and play the tutorial if I promised not to save, which was the etiquette at the time.

I marvelled at the brightly colored art, the smooth sprite animations, the snappy UI, the combination turn-based/real-time battle system.

And that music. Battle Network 2 still has my favorite music of the series.

Up to that point, I'd only ever owned two video game consoles: A Super Nintendo that was handed down from my aunt and uncle after my cousins outgrew it, and a Sega Genesis that my neighbors gave us after they bought their kids an N64.

I'd never had a handheld of my own, though I'd ocassionally borrowed Alex's Game Boy Color to play Pokemon Crystal. The only time I was ever happy to be in church on a Tuesday morning at my Catholic elementary school was on a day when Alex had agreed to loan me his GBC for the week, and I could watch the handoff from his mom to my mom.

Playing a tiny slice of Battle Network 2 on my bedroom floor in the dark, I felt the pull. I needed to find my way into this world.

In the fall, I went to my new school, and made some new friends.

Eventually, miraculously, my new friend Eric offered to sell me his old Glacier Blue Game Boy Advance (non-SP, so no backlit screen, but it would do) for $20.

I knew I could make that happen. There was plenty of lawn to mow.

I made the money, brought it to Eric, and the deal went down just before lunch. Almost immediately after our transaction, Eric asked for takesie-backsies. He had finally realized what I knew from the start: $20 for a GBA was a killer deal.

I said no. But he spent the next few months "renting" Game Boy games to me, so he got me back.

Sometime later, probably for Christmas, my parents presented me with a brand new, pristine, in-box copy of MegaMan Battle Network 2. I was ecstatic.

Something about this boxart just hits different for me. The colors, the character design, the composition, the warped green cyber grid in the background. I could stare at it for hours. Lan and MegaMan are brothers and best friends and they're my best friends.

Getting to play in this little world on my very own handheld that I wouldn't have to return to a friend for the first time was such a special experience. More personal than playing a console on a TV. This was my game.

I played non-stop. I NetBattled and traded with Alex over his Link Cable. We talked about the game over the phone to each other. We obsessed over secret areas and battle chip combinations with each other.

When I found my way into the WWW Area, it was a big deal.

From there, I became completely obsessed with the series. I made my own PETs out of cardboard, I drew fanart, I wrote fanfics. When the MegaMan NT Warrior anime came to KidsWB, I watched religiously. I asked for the Advanced PET toy for Christmas, and was so excited about it I peeked on my parents' pre-Christmas present stash for the first and only time in my life.

And Alex and I continued buying each new game in the series. We somehow both missed Battle Network 3, but never missed an entry after that, even into the series' evolution into Star Force on the DS. We always made sure to buy the opposite version from each other, to maximize our experience and trade version exclusives with each other.

In a very real way, those games kept our friendship alive. It's probable that we would have stayed friends anyway, but MegaMan Battle Network gave us a good, solid reason. Something common to bond over. It's impossible to tell the story of my experience of these games without telling the story of our friendship.

All in all, these games came around at just the right time in my life, and around just the right circumstances to become a big part of it.

I'll always love them for the excitement, the friendship, and the countless hours of fun they brought me.