Mega Man Star Force
|Mega Man Star Force|
North American box art of the Leo version. Not pictured: Dragon and Pegasus versions
Mega Man Star Force, known in Japan as Shooting Star Rockman (流星のロックマン Ryūsei no Rokkuman?), is an action role-playing video game, and the first installment in the "Mega Man Star Force" sub-franchise of Mega Man. It was published and developed by Capcom for the Nintendo DS handheld video game console. It was released on December 14, 2006 in Japan, and in North America on August 7, 2007.
The game was released in three separate versions simultaneously, subtitled Pegasus (ペガサス Pegasasu?), Leo (レオ Reo?), and Dragon (ドラゴン Doragon?). However, the Dragon version was initially released exclusively to GameStop and EB Games stores in North America.
Despite the similarities, Mega Man Star Force is separate from the Mega Man Battle Network series. Although they are not in the same continuity, Star Force still uses a 3x3 vs. 3x3 playing field style (similar to Battle Network) but now in a 3D 3x5. Both an anime and manga were produced several months prior to the game's Japanese release date. So far, only the anime has been adapted into English. A sequel, Mega Man Star Force 2, was released on November 22, 2007. Because of the networking capabilities of the Nintendo DS, players are now able to play against each other, trade battle cards, and form something called a Brother Band Network in the game via wireless connectivity.
In the Mega Man Star Force game the players are now allowed to explore and go to various different towns and also players are free to explore the newly introduced "Wave World" where the action also take place. Star Force deviates greatly from the standard Mega Man fare because it draws almost exclusively on elements from Battle Network, making very few references or allusions to the other Mega Man series. However, Capcom has produced Star Force as a stand-alone series, meaning players can fully enjoy the title without being familiar with the Battle Network series.
Set in the fictional year 220X, emphasis on internet technology has lessened, and instead, the world has become networked through use of EM waves. Though cyber worlds and NetNavis still exist in Star Force, human dependency on them has greatly decreased, and people no longer have Navi companions. Three large satellites orbiting the Earth—Pegasus, Leo, and Dragon—power the EM Wave World that exists around the Earth's atmosphere, keeping the world networked. While the EM Wave World is normally invisible to the human eye, a special piece of eyewear called the Visualizer (possessed by the series' protagonist) allows a human to see this other world. However, like with the cyber worlds of Battle Network, EM Wave Viruses inhabit the EM Wave World, causing problems in everyday life.
In Battle Network, people operated PErsonal Terminals (PETs) to constantly interact with the network. Similar devices called Transers are used in the Star Force world. Transers are compatible with Battle Cards, and when swiped through, they provide means to deleting viruses that infect the EM Wave World and other electronic devices. A group of Satella Police also exist, dedicated to stopping virus attacks and thwarting criminals who manipulate the EM Wave World in order to break the law.
Furthermore, there exists an alien planet known as "Planet FM," inhabited by extraterrestrial beings called FM-ians. FM-ians can traverse in both worlds, and also possess the ability to physically merge with human beings through a process called "Electromagnetic Wave Change" (電波変換 denpa henkan?). Other than lending a human the FM-ian's powers, this process also transforms an ordinary human into an "EM Wave Human," allowing him or her to freely operate in the EM Wave World (as well as cyber networks within specific electronic devices).
The protagonist of Star Force is Geo Stelar, the son of a famous scientist and astronaut. He has an encounter with a rogue FM-ian known as Omega-Xis who takes residency in Geo's Transer. When the two go through an Electromagnetic Wave Change they form an entity that is eventually known as Mega Man.
Whereas a large focus in the Battle Network series were the NetNavis (who are mostly based on Robot Masters from the Classic Mega Man series), Star Force focuses on FM-ians based on many real-life constellations.
Mega Man Star Force is an action RPG much in the same vein as Battle Network. It is rendered in an isometric style during field gameplay, but its battle system is three-dimensional, with the battles being viewed from behind Mega Man, and movement restricted to only left and right. Since enemies have a much larger playing field, battle evasion seems limited, but the player is given a choice of techniques like shielding and homing attacks to keep battles balanced. HP represents the amount of life Mega Man has. Whenever he is hit by an attack the number decreases, and when it reaches "zero," the game is over (and the player must start over from when/where they last saved). HP can be recovered in a number of ways, both in and out of battle.
Battle Cards are collected in a number of ways throughout the game, and the player must organize them into a folder to use for battles. Every time the "Custom Gauge" fills during battle, Cards are called up at random and are selected to use against the enemies. Depending on their arrangement on the screen, certain Cards can be selected together to provide combinations, just like Battle Chips from Battle Network. There are three different classes of Cards ranked by their power and rarity (Standard, Mega, and Giga), and only a certain number of Cards from each class, or a certain number of a specific Card, can be placed into a folder. Other options allow players to set certain Cards as favorites so that by connecting to other players via Wi-Fi, they can use their favorite Cards in a random draw during battles. This implements an element of strategy into planning battles.
The player can also use their standard Mega Buster at any time to combat with, and upgrade items for Omega-Xis can be collected throughout the game to increase the Mega Buster's rate, power, and charge speed. The Mega Buster is constantly charging to release a single powerful shot, but the player can hold the button down to fire rapidly. Other battle elements include the "Best Combo" system, allowing the player to chain together attacks, easily dealing damage well up into the thousands—Star Force's version of Battle Network's "Program Advances". At the end of every battle, a player's performance is ranked on a number of factors, such as speed and amount of damage taken; The higher score, the greater the reward.
Star Force also borrows the same elemental properties that Battle Network uses. The four elements include: Heat (fire-based), Aqua (water and ice-based), Elec (electricity-based), and Wood (plant and wind-based). Elements are attached to certain attacks and to enemies' (or Mega Man's) defenses. When an element is hit with an element that it is weak to, double-damage is dealt. Heat is weak against Aqua but strong against Wood, Aqua is weak against Elec but strong against Heat, Elec is weak against Wood but strong against Aqua, and Wood is weak against Heat but strong against Elec.
Gameplay outside of battle typically consists of exploring areas, conversing with people and programs to progress the storyline or access side-quests for additional items. While traveling in the EM Wave World or cyber networks, battles ensue at random. The game also calls for Geo Stelar to run errands or perform tasks in order to solve problems or puzzles and push the story along, much like Battle Network. However, unlike Lan Hikari of Battle Network, Geo has the aid of Navi Cards, special cards that allow him to call upon NetNavis to assist him in solving problems. Throughout the course of the game, Geo collects five Navi Cards. Also, Geo may converse with Omega to get hints on what to do next.
The game also makes use of the Nintendo DS's touch-screen capabilities. Certain cyber networks require the player to interact with the touch-screen in order to progress, such as by riding mechanical bulls or dragging rockets with the pen stylus in order to hit targets.
Mega Man Star Force consists of three versions sharing the names of the satellites: Leo, Dragon, and Pegasus, references to the constellations Leo, Draco and Pegasus, respectively. Each version offers a separate transformation for Mega Man based on the satellites: Ice Pegasus, Fire Leo, and Green Dragon. (No elec-element transformation exists in the game.) Each transformation also has a special "Star Force Big Bang" attack that can be unleashed after countering an enemy attack. All three transformations can be attained on any version through Brother Band. Outside of these transformations, each version has minimal differences.
Mega Man Star Force is compatible with Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection as well as wireless play. Through wireless play, players can trade Battle Cards and battle each other's Mega Men. Through use of Wi-Fi, players can use the Brother Band network (a play on broadband) to share favorite Cards, Star Force transformations, or status upgrades as well as send e-mails. The game also offers a complex portrait-creation process for one's Brother Band mug-shot similar to the decal creation in Mario Kart DS, and a censorship filter is also implemented when creating profile information. The game allows you to have up to six "Brothers" at a time; Two are open for other players through Brother Band and the other four are offered to the player from in-game characters.
Takara has released a Wave Scanner accessory which functions as an AM Radio, as well as operating much like the Battle Chip Gate released for the Battle Network games. Inserted into the Nintendo DS through the Game Boy Advance cartridge slot, players can swipe actual Battle Cards to use during battles as well as communicate with the "Wave Transer" toy, also produced by Takara. The device was released in Japan in February 2007, but like the Battle Chip Gate, it is unlikely that it will be released in the U.S. The Wave Transer also functions like an e-Reader in that it allows the player to power up Mega Man by granting such bonuses as extra health.
The Game Boy Advance slot has other uses, however. Any previous Mega Man Battle Network GBA game (including Battle Chip Challenge and the Japan-exclusive Rockman EXE 4.5) can be inserted to unlock a cameo appearance from MegaMan.EXE himself. He gives the player an item for Omega-Xis if a task is fulfilled for him, but then he quickly escapes back to his own time. Outside of this easter egg, however, there are only a few references to the events or characters from two hundred years ago.
In addition, the crossover aspect between the Battle Network and Konami's Boktai series returns in this game. Characters from Lunar Knights (Bokura no Taiyou DS: Django and Sabata) appear in an in-game side-quest and can become Brothers through "Cross Brother Band". This feature was removed from the US/PAL versions, as it was from Lunar Knights. It's unknown why this feature was removed from the US/PAL versions.
The game stars a fifth-grade student named Geo Stelar, who can be renamed by the player, and his FM-ian partner, Omega-Xis. Geo has been mourning the disappearance of his father Kelvin after the explosion of the space station Peace three years ago, and as a result, he has not been attending school. A group of children from Geo's class constantly urge Geo to attend school, but he always refuses.
One day, Geo comes home and finds Aaron Boreal, Kelvin's co-worker at the AMAKEN Space Agency, conversing with Geo's mother, Hope. Aaron gives Geo the Visualizer, a glasses-like device that allows humans to see the EM Wave World. Geo goes outside to sulk on an observation deck over the city when he puts the Visualizer on. Using it, he sees Omega-Xis, who recognizes Geo as Kelvin's son and quickly performs an Electromagnetic Wave Change with him, transforming into the Star Force version of Mega Man.
Omega-Xis is considered a traitor by the FM King because he has stolen the mysterious Andromeda Key, and he also claims to know about the events leading up to Kelvin's disappearance. Geo agrees to work with Omega-Xis to protect the key, and thus, Omega-Xis resides within Geo's Transer much like Navis do in PETs. He is aided in his fight against the FMs by the three satellite Admins, Pegasus, Leo, and Dragon, who are also energy-based aliens.
The game is presented episodically in this fashion, following a basic formula: enemy FMs descend to Earth and target humans with conflicted lives, promising them the power to turn things around. However, unlike the merge between Geo and Omega-Xis, these humans merge somewhat involuntarily and lose control of their bodies during the conversion. Mega Man has to defeat them in order to rescue the innocent human from the enemy FM's control. At the end of the game Mega Man has to fight the planet destroying war machine Andromeda. However, beating it does not end the game, for there are other paths left to complete such as completing the card library. The player can also become brothers with Zack by talking to him in vista point after the game and pulsing into the piano in the school then talk to him again. In addition, if the player puts in a Megaman Battle Network game and pulses into the dog house, they can embark on another journey for the BN Buster, one of the strongest Mega Buster upgrades. Finally, you can battle several optional SP Navis not previously fought throughout the storyline; these include Cancer Bubble, Wolf Woods and Crown Thunder.
For the first few "chapters" of the game, Geo is withdrawn and has trouble allowing himself to trust others. Later in the story however, he finds kindred spirits in a young pop idol Sonia Strumm, and a boy named Patrick Sprigs, who, like Geo, have lost loved ones and gain FM-ian partners. He forms a strong bond with Sonia, forming his first "BrotherBand" with her, and soon begins to open up to others, eventually becoming best friends with Pat. However, Pat is revealed to suffer split-personality disorder. The cause of this was his being abandoned by his parents, who left him to fend for himself amongst the mountains of garbage on Dream Island. As he grew, he was desperate for some sort of companionship but he was never accepted by anyone, so he created a friend within himself which he named "Rey", his darker side. Pat and his cruel "evil twin" transform into Gemini Spark and reveal they were just using Geo to obtain the Andromeda key the FM-ians failed to.
Geo's spirit is crushed, and he reveals that after he lost his father he decided he'd rather not bond with anyone if it meant he might lose that person too and he cuts his ties to all his friends. Omega-Xis leaves, disappointed in Geo for reverting to his old ways after making so much progress. Soon after, Aaron Boreal calls Geo to AMAKEN claiming he has made contact with Kelvin Stelar's space station. Only to find it has been seized by the FM-ian King who is on his way to destroy the Earth and feed the souls of Humanity to Andromeda. Before Geo leaves, Aaron tells him the reason his father created the BrotherBand, the reason he searched the stars to find neighboring life forms was because he believed that bonds with others were the key to a better world, even a better universe. He wanted his son to grow up in a world where he would not have to fear anyone. Geo's faith in his friends, humanity and himself is restored, and he sets out to find Omega-Xis. The two are again confronted by Gemini Spark, but Pat interferes to save Geo and allow him to reach the space station. Upon reaching the station in his wave form, Omega-Xis reveals to Geo that he knew Kelvin Stelar before coming to earth, but converted him into a wave form so the astronaut could escape the king's wrath. At this point, Kelvin's spirit could be anywhere in the universe, but it is not likely Geo will ever be reunited with his Dad. Geo is undaunted and remains hopeful. He soon meets the King and must kill Andromeda before the earth is lost forever. He defeats Andromeda but spares the King, following his father's dream to establish peace with other life. The king tells Geo his name is Cepheus, but asks Geo how he could possibly trust one from another world, for he never has. Eventually, he is convinced that he and Geo are kindred spirits and must both set out to make their parts of the universe a better place.
Geo is ready to return to earth, but the station begins falling apart and he is cut off from the wave road he used to reach the station in the first place and he is forced to escape via a derelict escape pod. For days he and Omega-Xis drift through space, doomed to die on this spacecraft and be lost in the void forever but just as Geo is ready to give up hope, somehow, from the endless vastness of space, his father's spirit is finally able to reach him. Geo is confronted by his father in a dream where he tells Geo he must hold on to those he loves most and as long as he keeps believing in them, Kelvin shall always watch over him, no matter how far apart they are.
At that moment, Geo's friends, even Pat, have gathered at Geo's favorite spot to call him back home. The strength of their bonds cause all their BrotherBands to converge into a beam that connects with Geo's space pod and miraculously saves him. Geo simply watches the earth draw closer as he is brought home during the game's credits, never to be the boy he used to be again.
According to Capcom producer Takeshi Horinouchi, the Mega Man Star Force games have been among the most difficult games in the franchise to develop because they "[came] on the heels of the Battle Network series," increasing the expectations of the fans.
The game's music was composed by Yoshino Aoki and Mitsuhiko Takano and released as the first disc of the Shooting Star Rockman 1 & 2 Original Soundtrack (流星のロックマン１＆２オリジナル・サウンドトラック Ryūsei no Rokkuman wan ando tsū orijinaru saundotorakku?) compilation.
According to weekly Japanese sales report of the first week of release for Mega Man Star Force, none of the three versions placed in the top 10. However, Media Create sales data shows that the three versions of the game sold a combined 219,171 units in Japan by the end of 2006, placing it as the 59th best-selling video game of the year in that region. An additional 374,504 units were sold in 2007, making it the 37th best-selling game of that year and totaling sales to 593,675 units for Japan alone.
Reviews from popular Japanese gaming sources, such as Famitsu gave the game an overall score of 32 out of 40, indicating that the games are getting good reception based on content. IGN gave Star Force a 5.2/10, their main concern being the game's lack of innovative gameplay and being almost identical to Battle Network. GameSpot gave the game a 6.0, citing the game's similarities to the Battle Network games as a down point, despite saying it had "minor improvements", the friend system being one of them. Nintendo Power, however, ranked the game a 7.5/10 for its new battle system but citing the same old look in non-battle scenes.
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