The world as portrayed in the Mega Man Battle Network series is so ridiculous and yet so outlandishly awesome that it's hard not to adore. In our boring reality, if your toaster doesn't work it means you're pretty much out of luck. In the Battle Network world, it more likely means you need to upload your virtual companion into the cyberuniverse within your appliance to wage war on the little virus-demons that have infested it. More time-consuming than getting a new toaster? Probably. More satisfying? Undeniably.

Mega Man Battle Network 2 continues in the same vein of strategy-RPG action as its predecessor, which is not a bad thing. School-aged protagonist Lan and his NetNavi MegaMan.EXE still share adventures between the real and virtual worlds, this time finding themselves taking on a net-mafia that goes by the name Gospel. Yes, we just used the term “net-mafia." It's in the instruction manual!

Battles within the net are a fun combination of card battling and real-time action. Most combat takes place with MegaMan.EXE and the enemy each occupying their own 9x9 grid. MegaMan can freely move among the spaces of his grid and fire his buster, but it only plinks away at an enemy's health bit by bit.

To really cause damage during a fight you need to take advantage of Battle Chips. These act very much like cards in a collectible card game, where you can organize a folder or “deck" to take into battle. Five are randomly drawn for you to choose from, representing more powerful attacks, chances to heal, or effects such as grabbing a piece of the enemy's grid for yourself. Normally, you can choose only one to use for a turn, but chips with the same action or classification letter can be chosen as a group. This makes for a fun, strategic dynamic where you can customize a folder for your play-style - grab a power or powers, go to town, then bust away and survive until you can access your folder again.

The gameplay and menus might seem a bit daunting at first for someone new to the series, but the opening of the game walks you through the motions pretty well. As this review experience can attest to, you don't need to have played the original to get into Battle Network 2. Newcomers expecting something more akin to the original Mega Man series might be a bit disappointed, but there are still plenty of shout-outs made to the root sources.

Battle Network 2 saw light in Europe and North America in 2002. The GBA graphics and music can be said to still hold up pretty well today, and can even be seen as a strength for this series given its endearing brand of “futuristic" cyber-suburban kitsch. The backgrounds of some virtual areas are a bit reminiscent of Angelfire pages, which could be taken as either garish or wonderful.

As this is a Virtual Console title, there is unfortunately no ability to link with another game to do battle with another human being. However, if you visit the “Network" multiplayer section in the menu anyway, you'll receive a pack of rare, powerful chips you could only have normally picked up through linked trading and battling - a very classy move on Capcom's part.

Conclusion

Mega Man Battle Network 2 expands upon the first game in the series, serving up more fun, chip-based gameplay with a bit more refinement. The series' card and board game-styled influences make for some exciting encounters and collectability, although you might have to fight the temptation to break out those gift chips you're granted to burn everything down early. If you want to play the whole series, you might as well start with the first game; if you want to just jump in and find out what this series offers, however, number 2 is a great springboard.