Genre: Role-Playing Game
Release Date: August 7, 2007
Look, up in the sky! It's a bird ... it's a plane ... it's a cliché! No, it's ... Mega Man? Okay, maybe he doesn't actually fly, but everything else in that opening phrase was true. Mega Man is the new superhero on the block, and no, it's not as terrible as it might sound.
Mega Man Star Force: Pegasus takes place 200 years after the Mega Man Battle Network series so Mega Man.exe and his operator/brother Lan are nowhere to be found. Instead, we're introduced to Geo Stelar, a whiny, depressed boy from the world of tomorrow. You see, Geo's father was involved in an accident in outer space and was never heard from again, which makes sense, since there's no air in the vacuum of space. He's also presumed to be dead. One day, while our antisocial hero is stargazing, an alien named Omega Xis enters his Transer, which is kind of like a PET from Battle Network. Omega is from Planet FM, and the FM-ian king is hunting him down by sending sequentially more powerful FM-ians to hopefully vanquish him. With promises of candy and telling him about his father's current whereabouts, Omega persuades Geo to help him. They might also be saving the world or something.
Gameplay in Star Force is set in two different worlds: the everyday human world and the wave world. Unlike the Internet in Battle Network, the wave world exists on the same plane as the human world which, in theory, sounds like it could create some new gameplay dynamics, but in practice is exactly like the aforementioned Internet-real world interaction from Battle Network, with only one exception: the Visualizer. The Visualizer allows Geo to see the wave world overlapped onto his own, along with entrance points into it. Flipping the Visualizer on and off changes things up slightly, but it's hardly enough to be called a revolution.
In order to enter the wave world, Omega and Geo actually fuse and become — that's right — Mega Man. The Internet apparently had terrible living conditions because all of the cool viruses moved onto the wave world. Unfortunately, every two or three steps Mega Man takes will almost certainly instigate a random battle. Not to beat a dead Net Navi/FM-ian, but that's just another flaw from the Battle Network series that remains untouched, and it's disappointing that Capcom is still so complacent about these games.
However, the battle system has been altered somewhat significantly since Mega Man and Lan's sixth outing. Most noticeably, it's made the jump to 3D, but thanks to that jump, Mega Man is now restricted to a single row of three spaces when he used to occupy his own 3x3 grid. Fear not, though, as that change is far from game-breaking; it just means many of the old Battle Network strategies won't work anymore.
Another change involves battle chi ... er, cards. Now, there are six battle cards to choose from during each turn, and instead of being able to use chips/cards with only the same letter or type, you can use ones of the same type or ones of the same column on the battle menu (3x2, in this case). Once again, say sayonara to old strategies, but new strategies are like new cars — they smell better.
Just as counterattacks thought they could breathe a collective sigh of relief, it's time for them to get theirs. In previous games, counterattacks merely stunned enemies if unleashed at the proper moment; now, they're markedly more powerful, as not only do they stun enemies, but they also provide Mega Man with another battle card to use during that turn. Thus, there's now an incentive to play with a higher level of finesse against powerful enemies instead of just giving up.
The first game in the Star Force series is split into three versions, and, crazily enough, it creates a pretty cool multiplayer aspect despite the fact that there are still no online battles. Each version of the game (Pegasus, Leo and Dragon) contains a different elemental transformation for Mega Man (ice, fire and grass, respectively). Fortunately, only one version of the game is required to access the content from all versions. This is accomplished through the Brother Band system, which allows players to connect over Nintendo WiFi (using friend codes, of course) and interact in a number of ways — none of which include battling, since that's restricted to local multiplayer only. "Brothers" can, however, share transformations, battle cards and send email to each other. For once, the multiple-versions gimmick isn't totally useless.
Sound-wise, Mega Man Star Force is not unlike a GBA game — which is to say that it sounds exactly like one. That's not completely bad, as the soundtrack itself is fairly catchy, even if it is extremely lo-fi. Each area has music that suits its particular look and feel, and all of it is pretty cheerful. The sound effects aren't going to be competing with Bioshock any time soon, either; many of them seem to have been ripped straight from the Battle Network games.
Speaking of "ripped straight from the Battle Network games," Star Force's graphics seem oddly familiar. This is probably due to it being the exact same graphics engine that Capcom's been using for these games since Battle Network's launch around the same time the GBA came out. Expect plenty of cutesy sprite-based characters and backgrounds. The only real visual change occurs in the battles, which are rendered in an attractive 3D cel-shaded engine that also animates quite nicely for a DS title. It's too bad the same can't be said for the rest of the game.
Without a doubt, Star Force won't leave any player feeling like he didn't spend enough time with Geo and pals. The game's got plenty of meat on its bones and clocks in at around 40 hours; some might say it's too long, and it can start to grate with its lack of variety and constant random battling.
While Mega Man may think he's a superhero now, Mega Man Star Force: Pegasus certainly doesn't do anything spectacular. If it had been titled Mega Man Battle Network 7, no one would've been shocked. Previous Battle Network players can move along, since they've already been here and accomplished everything this game has to offer. New players, on the other hand, should at least give the title a rental; it may be flawed, but it's still an enjoyable romp, and the story is wholly unrelated to any Battle Network games, so it's a perfect starting point. Mega Man Star Force may not reinvent the Battle Network formula — or even make any large-scale changes to it — but at least these re-heated leftovers are pretty good.