Mega Man Star Force 3: Black Ace/Red Joker Review for Nintendo DS

Mega Man Star Force 3: Black Ace/Red Joker Review for Nintendo DS

Third Time Is Definitely
Not the Charm

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.

Mega Man Star Force 3: Black Ace/Red Joker screenshot

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 Star Force 3: Black Ace/Red Joker screenshot

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.

Mega Man Star Force 3: Black Ace/Red Joker screenshot

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.

Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to: whether or not you’ve played a Battle Network/Star Force game before. If you have, there’s absolutely no reason for you to purchase Star Force 3. It’s the exact same thing you’ve played before, and it would be a shame to encourage Capcom to continue releasing these shameless rehashes. If you have not played one of these games, you’ll find that Star Force 3 can be entertaining, though there are still some elements that hold it back.

Mega Man Star Force 3: Black Ace/Red Joker screenshot

For example, Star Force 3 is a visually underwhelming game. Capcom’s apparent laziness is apparent not only in the rehashed battle system but also in the graphics, which are for the most part lifted right out of the GBA Battle Network games. Battle animations have improved, which is expected, but character sprites and environments are GBA-quality. With developers working hard to take advantage of the graphical capabilities of the DS, it’s fairly obvious why this sort of technical laziness is unacceptable.

For those players out there who are so in love with Mega Man to play this game to completion, there are some multiplayer components to Star Force 3. You can trade cards to fine-tune your deck, as well as unlock an even more “ultimate” Mega Man transformation that is obtainable only by linking the two versions. Wi-Fi connectivity is a nice gesture, but I feel that most people will find themselves disgusted with Star Force 3 long before they would start thinking about trading cards online.

Frankly, it’s time for this series to die. It’s been continually plodding along, getting little love from anyone outside the Mega Man hardcore. Capcom refuses to update the formula in any meaningful way, and as such it’s clear that they don’t really care. Rather than spending developmental time, resources, and energy on rehashes of a game released in 2001, they should work on seriously redoing this series or else dropping it altogether. I see no reason to purchase this game and in so doing support Capcom in milking players with a shamelessly unoriginal game.

The battle animations are decent at best. For the most part, art is blatantly stolen from past Battle Network games. 3.5 Control
Typical RPG controls. It would be nice to see a Star Force game that requires use of the stylus – lack of such functionality only highlights the fact that this is really just a GBA game. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is certainly not as disappointing as the graphics, but there’s nothing all that original here. 2.0

Play Value
There’s a lengthy role-playing adventure to be found; the problem is that it’s one you’ve probably played at least once before.

2.2 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Master over 10 different Mega Man transformations to tap his ultimate power.
  • Over 360 different battle card powers to discover and use.
  • Battle up to 5 friends over Wi-Fi to unlock new powers!
  • Connect Black Ace and Red Joker to unlock Mega Man’s combined transformation!

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