Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: August 2007
With Mega Man Star Force, the blue bomber is modeling his world domination scheme upon that of Nintendogs. Sadly, you won't be able to toss him a flying disc or clean up after him — but you can buy three versions of his latest game. And sure, just like Nintendogs, the versions are incredibly similar, but if Pokemon has taught us anything, it's that you gotta catch 'em all. There's no way around it.
Star Force serves as a continuation of the Mega Man Battle Network series, which, along with its import-only spin-offs, managed to spawn a dozen iterations in just five years, along with multiple versions of many of those. I am constantly in awe of the Capcom sequel machine. Set some 200 years after the Battle Network timeline, Star Force thrusts gamers into a future in which battles are fought in the virtual Wave World with a deck of cards. Or is it in real time? It's both!
Though your character wanders the world through a series of sprite-based environments (with a standard three-quarters overhead view), the game makes fair use of the DS hardware when the battles begin. Polygonal characters line up on a 3x5 battle grid, with Mega Man's back toward the screen and the enemies ahead in the distance. At that point, a series of cards pop up on the touch-screen, and players must create a combo attack based on the available cards. After selecting a special move, the blue bomber can actively evade and execute attacks by shifting from side to side and firing his weapon.
One of the more interesting features of Mega Man Star Force is its emphasis on maintaining relationships with other gamers via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Through the Brother Band system, each player can add up to six friends with which to battle and trade cards, and the use of the online mode will apparently unlock special bonuses.
Unless significant enhancements are secretly planned for the North American release (none were mentioned), the three versions of Mega Man Star Force look to be largely alike. Dragon, Leo, and Pegasus each allow the player to perform an exclusive transformation and attack, though these transformations can also be obtained via the Wi-Fi Connection. Aside from that, it seems like the versions are essentially three-of-a-kind, so one version should be quite enough for the non-obsessive gamer.
Though Star Force is being billed as a standalone series (with its own anime series, manga, and an announced sequel on the way), the overall feel of it seems largely similar to that of the recent Mega Man Battle Network games. As such, it seems unlikely that those turned off by the complexity of Battle Network will fall head over heels for Star Force, but the addition of online interaction may help allure the masses. Expect the Dragon, Leo, and Pegasus versions of Mega Man Star Force to hit the Nintendo DS sometime in August.
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