Mega Man Star Force falls into the trap of many games that are simply the next step in a long series: mediocrity and repetition.
Mega Man Star Force is essentially the latest installment of the Battle Network series. While it doesn't share that subtitle, the core gameplay and themes are, well, exactly the same. The first and most important thing to be said about this game is that fans of the Battle Network series, who continually come back for more, might enjoy this game. Yet even for series fans, it's hard to recommend. The game does not mess with the formula at all, and only makes very tiny improvements. If one has played any Battle Network game, they need not apply. For those who haven't played the previous games, read on.
Players control a child named Geo Stelar, whose father has gone missing. He still believes his father lives, somewhere out in space, and continually watches the stars in hopes of finding him. One day, as he surveys the skies, he is approached by an alien being that lets him know about the abilities latent within him, as well as telling him about another world that has been under his nose his entire life. He is then all like, "Whoa." From there, players get to lead Geo through dozens, or perhaps, hundreds of fetch quests in this "Wave World."
|There are some admittedly cool battle effects in the game.
Trekking through "Wave World" is the main part of the game. Basically, players will constantly enter in order to "talk to _______," "get me ______," or "defeat ______." As they travel through the Wave World, players will encounter an inordinate amount of random battles, which occur about every four to seven steps. Battles follow the tired formula that every other Battle Network game has employed, with slight graphical variation. This time around, players will control Geo from more of a third-person view, instead of a sideways one (the power of the DS at work). Players select a group of attack cards at certain times during each battle. These cards are generally pretty powerful, but players have to get the timing right in order to make sure their attacks connect. Getting new cards with which to do battle is a fairly important part of the game. Players also have a normal attack which is generally useless, but can be used to deal some quick damage in between times they can use their attack cards. Some obstacles on the battlefield can mix things up once in a while, but after a couple hours, the battle system just starts to wear down the player's desire to live.
One neat thing in Star Force is that the Wave World can be seen just about anywhere in the normal world using these nifty glasses Geo's dad gave him. This allows the player to find new access points in the Wave World, and can add some playability into a game that is sorely lacking.
The game also employs a "brother band" system that allows players to make friends with NPCs across the game world, as well as other players, which unlocks new comboes and abilities in battle. It also grants some boosts that would not exist if the player doesn't make any effort to interact with NPCs.
To be sure, the first couple hours of the game are pretty impressive. After the intial fun of the battle system and wondering about what starts off as an okay story, however, players begin to realize that they've already played the best parts of the game. Nothing improves, nothing is there to keep players going. The story dissolves into a string of fetch quests, and the battles are the constant annoyances rather than remaining fun.
|This shows about 75% of the game right here.
This game doesn't look good by any stretch of the imagination. The only graphical "improvement" over the Game Boy Advance installments is the new battle perspective with some 3D effects thrown in. Some of these effects are pretty sweet, but most don't really impress. Other games have shown that the DS can display some nice visuals, so it is disappointing to see that Star Force doesn't capitilize on the capabilities of the handheld.
The sound of Mega Man Star Force is not impressive either. There are some honestly good tracks in the score, but overall the sound quality is awful, not to mention some pretty bad and/or recycled sound effects.
It would be pretty hard to recommend Mega Man Star Force to anyone but people who either really enjoyed other Battle Network games and wouldn't mind another duplicate or are truly starved for a role-playing game on the DS. It could have at least pulled off mediocrity if it wasn't so drawn out (clocking in at about 37 hours) and didn't have such a ludicrous encounter rate. Unfortunately, it was that drawn out, and it does have a ludicrous encounter rate. What is most unfortunate about this game is that it honestly seemed to have something going for the first part. Unfortunately the game never finishes builiding on the formula it establishes, and starts to fall below average. Game over.