An Old Game With a New Name
Mega Man Battle Network was both prolific and popular on the GameBoy Advance, so it was no surprise when the series was continued on the Nintendo DS with the title Mega Man Star Force. The franchise is known for pumping games out on a regular basis, so the original Star Force now has a sequel. Complete newbies and hardcore Battle Network fans out there are going to be happy, but I doubt anyone else will be; while Star Force 2 isn’t a terrible game, it feels like a GBA title in the worst ways possible.
In Star Force 2, you play as Geo Stellar who has teamed up with an alien named Omega-Xis. Thanks to this partnership, Geo can interact with the regular world as well as the Wave World, a sort of parallel dimension. Plot-wise, Star Force 2 is a pretty direct sequel to the original Star Force — some story elements feel really rehashed, however, and the story is laughably simple. The only redeeming quality to the plot is because it’s so basic, a new player would find Star Force 2 an easy way to get into the series. A new player is one of the few types of people out there who could have fun with this game. Why? Because nearly every aspect of Star Force 2 is stripped directly from the original Star Force, which in turn stole all its game elements from the Battle Network series. Star Force 2 is essentially the tenth time Capcom has thrown players a game that, frankly, doesn’t differ from one title to the next.
If you’ve played a Battle Network game or the previous Star Force, the gameplay mechanic here will be nothing new to you. Battles are interesting at first — unless you’ve played one of the game’s predecessors, in which case the battle system is going to be pretty boring and old. Battles take place on a grid, and actions play out in real time. You’ve got the ability to side-step, dodge, and block enemy attacks, while at the same time dealing damage to the enemies (they have free reign over the grid and can move at will). The grid system is pretty cool if you’ve never seen it before, but even if you’re new to Battle Network/Star Force, the fights are going to get really old really soon.
The problem is while battles can be marginally fun, the frequency of random battles is absolutely insane. Just getting around in the game is so immensely frustrating because you can’t move for more than a few seconds without initiating a random fight. When you’re fighting this often throughout the game, the fairly simple battle mechanic goes from being mildly novel and fun to being frustrating and boring.
There are some other gameplay additions that round out the experience, but ultimately they’re not enough to keep Star Force 2 from becoming so frustrating and boring that you’ll want to through it out a window. The biggest addition comes in the form of a deck of cards that determines your different attacks. The game doesn’t operate on an experience point system. Instead, you’ll collect a 34-card deck of abilities that can be obtained defeating monsters. You’ll also collect status upgrades from other characters in the game. This is actually one of the highlights of the title, but sadly, it’s overshadowed by the rest of the gameplay mechanic.
Were it not for the frustrating, rote battles, Mega Man Star Force 2 would have been a lot better. As it is, there are definitely some fun exploration bits to the game. These revolve around moving in and out of the real world and the Wave World, looking for new paths and ways to progress. The game is pretty light on puzzle-solving, but it’s still pretty enjoyable outside of the constant fights.
Graphically, Mega Man Star Force 2 is a real underachiever. The visuals look like they were stripped straight from the Battle Network games (which, in case you forgot, were on the GBA). When we’re getting games that look as good as Metroid Prime Hunters, Phantom Hourglass, and Final Fantasy III on the DS, the kind of graphical laziness present in Star Force 2 is really inexcusable. The sound is also poorly done, but at least you can turn it off.
As with all the Battle Network series of games, Star Force 2 comes in a number of different flavors (this time around it’s two). If you must buy this game (please, don’t), the differences are negligible and it’s certainly not worth buying both. The crazy subtitles (Zerker, Saurian, Ninja) are references to story elements that I won’t spoil for you; essentially, however, Geo gains the ability to transform into these beings and use elemental powers associated with them. It’s another cool mechanic, but unfortunately one that you’ll probably overlook while trying to deal with the game’s bigger problems.
There is some online functionality geared toward people who care enough to play and finish Star Force 2. Online, you can battle other people as well as trade cards. As I mentioned earlier, building your ideal deck is one of the more fun and addictive aspects of the game, so being able to trade online is definitely a plus. After finishing this fairly lengthy adventure, I highly doubt you’re going to want to do any more battling — if you do, though, there’s a somewhat limited online community waiting to duke it out with you. Online is definitely a positive aspect to Star Force 2, but it’s disappointing most people won’t have the patience to get far enough into the title to fully take advantage of it.
If you happen to be a huge fan of Mega Man and you can proudly claim you’ve played and loved every Battle Network game, go ahead and buy Star Force 2. If you can get over the repetitive gameplay and constant random battles, there is some fun to be had here. If you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum and have never played a Battle Network or Star Force game, then Star Force 2 will be somewhat enjoyable. But for the rest of us, who are somewhere in the middle (maybe played a game or two and thought they were okay) there’s no reason to bother with Star Force 2. Once Capcom bothers to include some original material in these games, they’ll be worth playing; until then, however, you’re better off spending your money on some of the better DS summer releases out there.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 1.9 Graphics
They’re marginally better than those on the GameBoy Advance; Capcom is getting lazy and it looks like they’re just rehashing visuals from one game to the next. 3.4 Control
The game controls fine, but it doesn’t offer anything particularly new or exciting. 2.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music clips from past games have simply been remixed without really upping their quality — the result is generally bad sound that should probably be turned off while playing. 2.2
No matter how hard you try, you’re going to have trouble having fun with Star Force 2. It does a number of things right, but sadly its battle mechanic is too huge a problem to overlook.
2.4 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.