Platform: Game Boy Advance
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release Dates: March 28, 2003 (Japanese release); June 24, 2003 (North American release); July 4, 2003 (United Kingdom release)
Alternate Titles: Battle Network RockmanEXE 3 (Japan); "Blue Version" in NA/UK is "Black Version" in Japan
ESRB Rating: E

As the title would suggest, this is the third installment of the popular Mega Man Battle Network games which Capcom seems to crank out at an incredible rate. (MMBN4 has already been out for a while, and MMBN5 and MMBN DS are on their way.) It comes in Blue and White versions (as noted above, the Blue version is Black in Japan). There are apparently differences in the various objects available and bosses you fight depending on which version you get, but the game itself is the same.

In these games, you play to some extent as Lan, an elementary school student in the town of ACDC in the land of Netopia; but since the title is not Lan Battle Network (which would be somewhat redundant if you think about it), the majority of actual gameplay is done as Mega Man, Lan's "Net Navi". In this world, the Internet is composed of actual paths, rooms, teleporters, and such in which sentient (or seemingly so) programs move around. Navis are programs which, as you might guess, are used by people to navigate the Net. How this is more efficient than things like web browsers and FTP clients, I don't know. Moving on...

Unfortunately, the Net is a dangerous place for Navis and their masters. Virii abound throughout its "corridors", with only a few safe havens available. These virii, by and large, try to delete any Navis and other programs. Because of this, Navis must be able to defend themselves, both with their internal abilities and through the use of various "Battle Chips". (More on those in a bit.) In addition, Navis can practice and test their skills against each other, and there are even competitions in which players can win substantial prizes.

The plot of the game follows two arcs; first with Lan going through the preliminaries to a major Net Battle competition (in between school and little side-quests), and leading into the return of the WWW, a terrorist organization headed by the nefarious Dr. Wily. Wily's ultimate goal is to destroy the "Net society" (for reasons unspecified), which will in turn plunge the real world into chaos. Not in itself a terrible plot (if rather generic), but the dialogue is simply awful, and the game is full of plot twists so incredibly stupid they put many a soap opera to shame.

Graphics in the game are top-notch as far as GBA titles go, though some of the animations are pretty sparse on frames. I personally dislike the anime-style art used to depict Lan, Mega Man, and the various other characters, but it's a minor point. Sound is adequate. A lot of the music is quite repetitive - most of it seems to loop in no more than twenty seconds - and the two boss battle backgrounds are about the only ones that don't grate on you after a while.

Battles are the core of MMBN3's gameplay. (Most of the rest of the game consists of you looking around for something and then looking around for somebody who needs it.) To that end, there is a great degree of customization available to the player. First and foremost is your Battle Chip folder. This contains the thirty Battle Chips you will have available to you during a fight. Some are offensive, some are defensive, some summon objects or change the circumstances of the battle grid. Each Battle Chip has a letter code which can be any letter in the alphabet, or a null code. Some Battle Chips also have an element: wood, heat, electricity, or water. (There's a point to this, which will be explained in a moment.) You can swap any chips you own into your folder, but the total must always be thirty chips. You can obtain new chips in stores, battles, side-quests, or simply by finding them lying around.

The second form of customization is the "Navi Customizer". This is introduced early on in the game, and allows you to insert various sub-programs you find or buy into Mega Man's program. For instance, you could add an "HP+200" subprogram which increases his maximum hit points by 200, or you could install the "SetSand" program, which changes all panels in the battle grid to sand.

Finally, at some point in the game Mega Man will be given a "style" to increase his fighting abilities. Styles consist of an element and a trait; thus there is the "Wood Guts" style and the "Electric Custom" style. These styles are somewhat randomly chosen, but they are based in part on the way you fight; if you tend to use your MegaBuster (fallback weapon) a lot, for instance, you will usually get the Guts style, which allows the MegaBuster to become a submachinegun. Every 100 battles, you will get a chance to either change styles or upgrade your current one.

Battles - with the exception of boss battles - occur almost entirely at random; a virus or pack of virii will attack Mega Man, which will transport you to the battle grid. The grid is six squares across and three squares wide, and initially divided in half, giving Mega Man and the virii equal space. At the beginning, you will be able to choose from a random selection of chips in your folder to fight with - by default five are taken, but your custom settings could make this number higher or lower. During a single turn, you can only select chips that are either the same type (e.g., both are "FireShot", regardless of letter code), or with the same letter code. Chips with no letter code (instead having an asterisk next to their name) can be used with any other chip. Once you select your chips, you can use each once against your enemies. If a Battle Chip is of a certain element, and an enemy has the opposite element, a successful hit will deal twice the damage it normally would. Conversely, if you are using a style and an enemy with the opposite element hits you, its attack will deal double damage to you. A time gauge will countdown until the next turn, when you can select more chips. If you use up thirty chips before defeating the enemy, you will be left to fight solely with your MegaBuster, so it's important to make your chips' hits count. When you defeat the enemy, you will be rewarded with any of a variety of items, including Zennys (currency), Battle Chips, and hit points.

That's pretty much it. Basically, if you don't enjoy the battling, the whole game is worthless to you. That said, I did enjoy it enough to finish the game, a feat which took me (according to the ingame clock) just short of 70 hours. So essentially, if you enjoy action RPGs of this type, or you like Mega Man, or both, and you can ignore the stupid plot twists and such, I'd highly recommend picking up this game. With the current MSRP being $15, it's a lot of gametime for not a lot of cash. And now I sound like a commercial, so I better stop now. Yes.

All information comes from my own experience, except the release date and alternate titles information, which coems from