"Star Force 3 makes many small improvements over the first two games that bring it closer to the simple fun of its Battle Network predecessors. "
Mega Man Star Force 3 is the third and final game in the relatively (by Mega Man standards) short Star Force series. Star Force 3 makes many small improvements over the first two games that bring it closer to the simple fun of its Battle Network predecessors while also providing a more intricate and less episodic plotline and compelling characters. As is customary for the series, there are multiple versions of Star Force 3, featuring only slight differences such as the powers and forms afforded to Mega Man. This review is based on the Black Ace version of the game.
The story of Star Force 3 begins shortly after the second game ends, though the world has changed somewhat. Now, almost everyone can connect to the wave world through a program called a Wizard (essentially a "net navi" from the Battle Network games). This means that the protagonist and his alien friend, Geo Stellar and Omega-Xis, no longer have to be as secretive about their activities and can encounter other personalities in the wave world. There are even battle tournaments between wizards, bringing back the competitive feeling that was nurtured in Battle Network. Of course, there are new problems as well in the form of a meteor heading for Earth. Unlike most meteors, this one is made up of "noise," a sort of detrimental data that interferes with the wave world and subsequently the planet as a whole. In addition, there is a criminal organization called Dealer causing havoc and collecting noise for their own nefarious purposes.
Star Force 3 does a much better job than its predecessors in streamlining the plot and developing a variety of characters. Many of the antagonists, mostly members of Dealer, have personal motivations rather than just being generic bad guys. Moreover, characters from previous games have a significant presence in the game, the prime example being the continuing rivalry between Geo and Solo (introduced in Star Force 2). And it's not just the bad guys who have been upgraded: Geo and Mega no longer have to work alone, but instead team up with other wizard users (some new faces and some from the previous games) in order to face the new threats. There are even some surprising twists which depart from the formulaic nature of the first two games, as well as a lengthy endgame scenario that strongly ties into the first game. Overall, there is quite a bit of closure to Star Force 3, which is fitting as it seems to be the last game in the series for the time being.
Mega Man Star Force 3 is similar in gameplay to the first two games, but it tweaks many key areas. The game is effectively divided between exploring the real world as Geo, exploring the wave world and various dungeons as Mega Man, and battling enemies. Throughout the game, you collect new battle cards that increase Mega Man's abilities in battle, and Star Force 3 has the largest library of cards in the series. For further customization, Mega Man can change into a special form which grants him greatly increased abilities for a short time. There are also a variety of weapons that can be equipped instead of the default buster. With all of the optional and hidden boss battles in this game, you will have plenty of opportunities to test your skills and refine your tactics.
The battle system itself has been revamped as well, though the core is the same as in previous games, with players moving Mega Man around a grid and destroying enemies with battle cards. There are now fewer restrictions placed on you as far as which cards you can choose for a turn and players will feel like, with the right battle cards, they can set up more devastating combinations without being shackled by the luck of the draw. There is also the new noise gauge, which you fill through various means including doing more damage to enemies than they have HP remaining. Completing a battle with a certain amount of noise results in the rewards for that battle being changed into something completely different, including battle cards from previous games and powerful cards the player might otherwise not have access to at that point in the game. Increasing your noise even further can transform Mega Man into one of the special forms mentioned above and gives access to more destructive battle cards that can be used in that battle only. There is also a system whereby players are can try to maintain their noise gauge from battle to battle if they so desire.
The sound and music quality of Star Force 3 is at about the same level of the previous titles. There are some catchy battle tunes as well as some bland background music. I particularly enjoyed the boss battle music as well as the final level's background theme. As far as sound, being the third in the series, Mega Man Star Force 3 has a lot of recycled sound effects from the first 2 games. New to Star Force 3, however, are some brief lines of voiced (English) phrases such as on the title screen and when connecting to the wave world or starting battle. Though it is a minor addition, I think it added a bit of personality to the game.
The graphics are largely similar to the previous games as well, with little change in the character or enemy models and many recycled sprites. Star Force 3 maintains the same vibrant feel as the previous games, with colorful battle card illustrations and at least somewhat varied graphical motifs for the levels. The in-battle models can still seem a bit unrefined and rough, making for the same mediocre battle graphics as in Star Force 1 and 2, while objects can sometimes seem grainy or obscured. Controls are almost exactly the same as in the first two games of the series. You explore using mainly the d-pad and the face buttons for interaction, and in battle, you have a choice of using the touch screen to select battle cards or simply using conventional controls.
As what seems to be the final entry in the series, Mega Man Star Force 3 corrects some of the mistakes made by its predecessors and is a decent game. Fans of the series will enjoy the more intricate plot and wider range of choices in battle, as well as the myriad of battle cards to collect. The main story is a bit longer than the previous games without including the reasonably lengthy endgame content I alluded to earlier, which will further satisfy fans. If you did not enjoy the first two installments in the Star Force series though, I would not recommend continuing to Star Force 3 despite its improvements. Overall, the Star Force series never lived up to the Battle Network games that it was spawned from, but the third game presents a solid gaming experience.