The Blue Bomber returns on the DS with a stylish new look, but does this new Mega Man have substance or is his beauty skin deep?
Mega Man has seen many incarnations over the years, going from robotic helper turned savior of the world, to futuristic Maverick Hunter, to treasure hunter, and even a computer program. Mega Man Star Force is a complete overhaul of the Battle Network concept, but for the things that are different, there are many more things that remain the same, quite a few of which should have been changed in the first place. Mega Man Star Force takes place in the same universe as Mega Man Battle Network. Two hundred years have passed since the events of the Battle Network games, and the emphasis on technology has now lessened. The world is no longer networked by computers, but by EM (Electromagnetic) waves. These EM waves create a world invisible to the naked eye, but visible through a special pair of glasses called a visualizer, which the game's protagonist, a boy by the name of Geo Stelar, is given by a research colleague and personal friend of his father's. Geo Stelar is the exact opposite of Lan, who was Battle Network's main protagonist. He is disconnected, quiet, and antisocial; he sees no value in friends and avoids school; and he spends his days being taught by the Navi Teachman and his nights staring up at the sky waiting for his long lost father to return to him.
At the very core of Mega Man Star Force lies the still slowly beating heart of the almost seven year old Battle Network formula. However, the formula is shaken up a bit with a simplified battle system, an online friend system, a new point of view for battles, and a completely new take on the old net world in Mega Man Battle Network, having it be integrated with the rest of the world instead of being inside computers. The new friend system, which is called the Brother Band Network, is a replacement for the Navi battle chip system that was in Mega Man Battle Network. Instead of getting battle chips of boss enemies you defeated, you get a chip of your friend's power that you can use in battle. The effects are mostly the same: you gain an extremely useful attack from your friends to use in battle.
The visuals themselves haven't changed all that much, still sporting 2D graphics with the isometric point of view. The level of detail has been noticeably boosted, though, thanks to the additional horsepower that the DS affords developers, though the boost is less than adequate. The visuals in battle are one hundred percent in 3D, with an over-the-shoulder view of the battlefield from Mega Man's perspective. These graphics don't do anything for the game play, which has remained largely the same.
The controls have remained the same aside from several game elements that make use of the touch screen. Geo and Mega Man are moved via the D-Pad, with certain buttons thrown in for becoming Mega Man or opening the menu. The implementation of the touch screen is trivial at best, as the game itself would have been perfectly playable without them. The touch screen controls at times tend to be more of a hindrance, particularly during battles ,where the game gives you the option of choosing your attacks with the touch screen, but forces you move Mega Man and initiate his attacks with the directional pad and buttons, respectively. The directional pad controls have a one or two second lag in their response, so some enemies will be entirely too easy to beat, while the faster enemies will be near impossible to even land a hit on before dying.
The sound quality in the game has received a modest boost, thanks to the superiority of the DS hardware, but that's not to say the sound pushes the hardware in any respect, because it doesn't. The music and sound effects are still mostly at GBA quality, still sporting the familiar sounds and tones of Mega Man Battle Network, much in the same way that many series that have made the transition over from the GBA to the DS have recycled audio assets.
This game, when all is said and done, is mostly the same as Mega Man Battle Network. If you did not like the Battle Network series, you aren't going to like this game. To reiterate, Mega Man Star Force, despite all the changes they have made to the Battle Network formula, still feels, plays, and looks like its ancestor. If you are curious about this game, just wait for it to hit the used games shelf or the bargain bin.