Paying Homage to the Blue Bomber’s Most Underrated Series
One of the most interesting games I played at PAX East 2019 was One Step From Eden. A one-man project developed by Thomas Moon Kang, One Step From Eden was tucked within the boundaries of PAX’s inconspicuous Indie Megabooth. Despite being hidden away on the show floor, One Step From Eden caught my eye immediately, and for a simple reason: It looked like Mega Man: Battle Network.
What is Mega Man: Battle Network?
For those unfamiliar with the series, Battle Network is a long-dormant line of action RPGs for Nintendo handheld platforms. The series saw six core releases across GBA and DS, with the third entry onwards offering a choice between two dual entries. White and Blue, Blue Moon and Red Sun, Team Protoman and Team Colonel… the naming conventions got weirder and weirder as the series went on.
Sounds like Pokémon, I’m sure you’re thinking. While it’s true that the Battle Network games share more than just a couple similarities with Game Freak’s cultural phenomenon, most are only surface level. Whereas Pokémon tells the recurring story of “catching ’em all,” Battle Network tasked players with navigating the world wide web in order to prevent real-life catastrophes.
Battle Network’s perspective-switching gameplay put players in the role of protagonist Lan Hikari, a high schooler who attends classes and spends most of his free time on his PC, as well as his virtual partner, MegaMan.EXE, who patrols the web, fighting viruses and other potential dangers. Together, Lan and MegaMan.EXE (the former’s name isn’t lost on me, I assure you) work to keep the real and virtual worlds safe.
Suffice it to say, the premise and stories of these games were excellent; the constant hopping between high school settings and the virtual world was a unique idea at the time, predating the cultural zeitgeist around games like Persona 5. However, where Battle Network really stood out was with its battle system.
Battles took place on two adjacent, 3-by-3 grids, with MegaMan.EXE situated on one grid and his enemies on the other. Players were free to move around their grid in real time; however, enemies could move freely as well. Equipped with a standard buster attack and a deck of suped-up abilities, players would slowly whittle down their opponents’ HP while simultaneously avoiding the onslaught of enemy attacks.
It was fast, it was challenging, and it was perhaps one of the greatest battle systems of its time. Pokémon be damned; Battle Network had it all.
A Fresh Coat of Paint to the Battle Network Experience
It may not have the same nostalgic story beats of the Battle Network games, but One Step From Eden looks poised to scratch that same gameplay itch. The grid-based battleground, the deck-building elements, the wildly inventive enemies… it’s all here, and with a gorgeous pixel art style to boot.
Yet while One Step From Eden mimics the style and feel of the old Battle Network titles, it’s clear that there’s far more going on under the hood now than there ever was back then. One Step From Eden is faster, smoother, and more challenging than any Battle Network game my teenage self can remember. Battles play out on a larger, 4-by-4 grid, with significantly more in the way of menacing enemies to combat and dastardly attacks to evade.
This is a battle system that has been fine-tuned to celebrate what worked so well with Battle Network, while also providing a fresher, more mature gameplay experience for those who, like me, grew up with the Blue Bomber on our handheld screens. Just take a look at the game’s Kickstarter trailer if you need any proof.
As enjoyable as I found One Step From Eden’s pulse-pounding combat, the game’s overarching structure is still a bit of a mystery. The demo on display at PAX presented itself as a roguelite, tasking players with surviving a gauntlet of battles that scale in difficulty. At the end of each completed battle, demo goers were prompted to choose a new ability to add to their deck before selecting a new enemy encounter from several diverging paths. The demo eventually culminated in a pair of boss battles—tough ones, I should mention—to test attendees’ mettle.
As my time with One Step From Eden came to a close, I found myself asking many questions about what to expect from the final game. How does character progression work? How much will one playthrough differ from another? Will there be a detailed story to look forward to?
While it remains to be seen whether or not this relatively simple vertical slice is indicative of what we can look forward to when the game releases, the battle system alone is enough to get me excited. Fans of the Blue Bomber and RPGs alike, pay attention: This is one to keep an eye on.
One Step From Eden is scheduled for release on PC in late 2019, followed by a Switch release in 2020.
Interested in One Step From Eden? Don’t just take my word for it: Try it for yourself. The game has a free demo available now.