|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: CAPCOM||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: CAPCOM||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 30, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-7 (Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Not the Charm
by Joseph Catalanotto
Mega Man has had a long, long run. A series that started out as a tough-as-nails platformer has steadily migrated into the world of RPGs, the latest of which is Mega Man Star Force 3: Black Ace / Red Joker.
The Star Force series, which is a continuation of the GBA Battle Network series, still maintains a fairly enjoyable play formula, but it's one that became old and tedious several installations ago. If you're a diehard Mega Man fan, or if you've never played a Battle Network/Star Force game, than Black Ace/Red Joker provides a relatively interesting role-playing experience. But, if you have any prior experience with the series, you're not going to find anything new or interesting with Star Force 3.
Just as in the previous Star Force game (Zerker x Ninja/Zerker x Saurian, for those of you not on top of your Mega Man chronology), you play as Geo Stellar who teams up with an alien named Omega-Xis and as such can explore both the real world and the Wave World. As always, there's an evil organization trying to destroy the world, and as Geo you have to stop them. It's essentially the same story that every one of these games has presented, and as you might think, it's getting really, really old. Additionally, the characters are shrilly and annoying and the writing is weak. The plot is a significant element of any well-made role-playing game, but it's conspicuously absent in Star Force 3.
The only element of Star Force 3 that makes it even remotely playable is the battle system. Like the past Battle Network and Star Force games, battles take place on a 3 by 5 grid, with your allies on one side and the enemies on the other. Each turn you're given a handful of cards with which you can attack your enemies or defend yourself. Additionally, you can sidestep enemy attacks provided your timing is right, allowing you to hold on to powerful defensive cards until you really need them.
The cards that you get are selected randomly from your deck, but the cards in your deck are fully customizable. You're allowed thirty cards, and exploring the environment for new cards that fit into your battle strategy is a fun undertaking. There are tons of different cards that are particularly useful in certain circumstances, so building a deck to suit your fighting preferences is both feasible and, more importantly, enjoyable.
Mega Man games, from the original platformers to the Star Force series, have always been known for their impressive boss battles. On this point, Star Force 3 does not disappoint. You'll often have to remix your deck when taking on bosses, in order to exploit a certain weakness. In a series that is not known for variety or creativity, the boss fights are surprisingly inventive and fun.
The final major gameplay component of Star Force 3 are Mega Man's form changes, which are another staple of the series. Throughout the game, Mega Man will be able to adapt different forms that in turn give him certain strengths and weaknesses. Each card has a different element, so changing forms may make Mega Man resistant to one element but particularly weak to another. Clearly, this has a lot of strategic potential, and taking advantage of the different forms is useful in emerging victorious in some of the game's tougher battles. The titular Black Ace and Red Joker are references to Mega Man's final, most powerful form changes that occur late in the game.
Taken on its own, the system is engaging and works quite well. The battle frequency feels a bit high for such involved fights, but overall fighting is a deep, entertaining experience, provided that you've never played a Battle Network/Star Force game before. Seeing as this is essentially the ninth entry in a series that absolutely refuses to mix things up, the odds of you having not played one of these games is relatively slim.