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On the Go: Mega Man Star Force 3

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This is a new series of random typing that I here by dub as "On the Go" where I give my piece about various portable games that have come out or are coming out. This will usually be about DS games since I lost my PSP a year ago, so until I get a new one to replace it, I'll be unable to review them. Today I'll be looking at the third in a series that is a sequel to a spin off of a classic series of games, Mega Man Star Force 3. The good thing about the Star Force and Battle Network series is that you can pick up any copy and instantly jump in, there's hardly ever a need to know about the plot in previous games since it's pretty much just know their name, and in the case of villians, that they were previous dicks if they showed up in the past.

Ok, so let's start out with the story. None of the games have ever had a really good story compared to games like Final Fantasy VI or Persona 3, or Chrono Trigger or even Xenosaga, but it held up none the less as decent. The basic premise is it's an alternate time where technology is advanced beyond the capabilities today even if everyone in the world put together their brain. Programs exist called Navi's and in Star Force, Hertz, that help people complete various tasks, usually running various other programs, doing homework, laundry, and so on. Everything's all peaceful until someone decides to be a dick and wants to rule the world or destroy it, then it's up to the lucky lad who goes by Mega Man in order to stop the dick from dicking around somehow. Each game goes on about a different plot focus, however, so that it's not a 100% copy/paste for each game (unlike Pokemon). In the case of Star Force (which takes place 200 years after the final events in the last Battle Network game), it's about a kid (named Geo) whose dad left to go into space yet never came back because of some horrible accident, ends up getting stuck with an alien who was partially responsible for it (named Omega-Xis, or Mega for short), yet the two team together to become Mega Man because the puppet master decided to invade Earth and the kid finds out his dad is still alive. Star Force 1 ends on a happy note with the bad guy realizing how stupid he was and leaves. Star Force 2 has an evil scientist give out ancient beast program things similar to the aliens in the last game to other people and some ancient rock is thrown in as well. However, the game introduces a character that followed into Star Force 3, named Solo, who transforms into Rogue. What's his role? Be a dick. He has a plot but outside of hating everyone because they hate him, it's not deep. Star Force 3 has more characters thrown into the mix, and it's for the better because honestly, the plot in the third game has actual potential to be great by the rest of the series' standards. Going into the actual story, technology has continued to advanced expotentially and now programs called Wizards exist, which are similar to the Navi's in the Battle Network series. However, all of the sudden bursts in technology doesn't come without faults. Stuff called "Noise" exists as a sort of semi-radiation from everything, and apparently a giant mass of Noise exists in space called Meteor G. What does the G mean? Who knows, all the people care about is getting rid of it somehow. However, a dick named King decides he wants to use Meteor G to control the world. As for who King is, he's the leader of a group called Dealer and pretty much every member is named after a playing card, such as Jack, Queen Tia, Heartless, Joker, and the three Wizards that go out of control are given the names Spade, Diamond, and Club. King also happens to be some guy that builds parks for kids or something, but apparently hates everything and just wants to rule the world. It's up to Mega Man to stop him from dicking around with a giant meteor. The story seems somewhat lack-luster, especially since it's also a copy/paste from Battle Network 4, what with the giant meteor that could end life as the people know it. However, it's the other characters that give the story potential. It's also fairly spoiler-refic if I say so, but it does give the plot more substance than before.

Onto the combat. If you never played either Star Force games, then it plays similiarly to the Battle Network games. If you never played those, then the summed up version is you go into random encounter fights, you have a gauge that builds up over time, and when it hits it's peak, you hit L or R to go to a menu to use cards/chips to attack the enemy, and for Battle Network, each side has a 3x3 field for the fighters to move around in, while Star Force takes the field, puts it on it's side, and only gives you 3 spaces to move in, while also having the ability to lock onto enemies and block attacks with a shield. Star Force takes out the letter code in Battle Network, as well as Program Advances (which are combinations of certain chips that combined into a much stronger attack) in favor of selecting 6 cards on the menu, a different colored card to use in any combination of other cards, and the Best Combo system, which allowed you to deal insane amounts of damage to enemies once you made one up against a boss. Star Force 3, however, gets rid of some of the stipulations in the previous two, as well as bring back the Program Advances over the Best Combo system. In the first game, you could only select a top and bottom card regularly until you went into your super form which allowed you to then choose either a top and bottom card, or either the top or bottom row of cards. Star Force 2 allowed you to equip an ability late into the game that allowed for similar results, while also having a form that had the same ability (which, thanks to the double file system it used, you ALWAYS had by the time you could use your forms). Star Force 3, however, ALWAYS lets you use either combination, while also putting a spin on it. Each card came in one of three types, Standard, Mega, or Giga, and as the rank got higher, so did the size of the card. If one card was layered over another, then the card behind would be dulled out and couldn't be used with other cards unless the cards in front were used during that turn, or depending on it's type, would change into one of five other cards. This can work to your advantage in some ways, because some cards may be useless for you during that turn and being able to turn invisible or paralyze the enemy in conjunction with the other card could prove useful. That is, if it weren't for Murphy's Law which will more than likely have half your cards chain layered so that you could only use one or two per turn at the most. Because the layering system is also random about it, it's possible for a card to be layered over several times, even after using the cards that were in front of it. This is less problematic for Standard cards, but where it really bugs you over is the Mega, and especially Giga cards, which can take up the entire screen because of the size of them. While it's supposed to incorporate strategy, it really does nothing but piss you off. You'll want to use you Giga card to hit the enemy hard, but the system will force you to go through at least 10 cards before you can use it, and because the cards can overlap on other rows, you could have two cards on the top overlap the middle card, and the middle card on the bottom overlap as well. Another bit about combat is the form system. Ever since Battle Network 2, each game had different forms to use, and ever since the next game, Battle Network 3, the forms were usually version specfic. Battle Network 5 introduced a 'super form' that got an upgrade in the next game, then forgotten in Star Force, and upgraded even farther in Star Force 2. Star Force 3 uses the plot device known as Noise as the formation. A bit into the game, a character will give you an ability to equip that 'controls' Noise in a sense that shortly afterwords, you'll be able to transform into various types of Noise forms that are a throw back to the aliens you fought in the first game, as well as two aliens that show up in that one. Unlike the other games, however, every form can be obtained in either version, with the prime point being rarity (some forms are more common in one version than another). Instead, the focus is the super form that you get which puts the other super forms to shame. Each super form is called whatever the version is (i.e. the super form for Black Ace is Black Ace), and each have a different effect on the character. For example, both forms change the cards you use into a powerful set that bends the rules by having more than one copy of a giga, the card layering effect is not applied, and you're also given a new set of abilities. While each game tended to have a favored version of the game due to certain forms being overpowered or no weakness', Star Force 3 actually keeps things rather even. You need to build up the Noise meter past 200 in order to get your super form, which is usually done only through a boss fight, the ability to merge any two forms to create a combination of abilities works well with eliminating one weakness in favor of a different one as well as an extra set of abilities, and the forms themselves aren't too overpowered in one spot or another, with each one having their ups and downs. Compared to the other games, the form system is actually perfect because of the overall balance.

For the rest of the game, it's pretty much par for the course or below average. It uses sprites for most of the game with battles being in 3D, but the sprites aren't amazing, or even good, just decent. The music is all over the place. Some tunes are good, others are bad, but none leave a deep impression, even on a negative look at it. All in all, the game is only for those that are a fan of the series, and that's about it. While non-fans can give it a go, it will be a bit difficult to understand the workings of the whole thing, and due to the randomness of the Noise system (that is, with the Noise Gauge), can leave even the most seasoned veteran confused.

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