Mega Man Star Force Hands-On

The Battle Network series has a spiritual successor coming, in the form of this new RPG starring familiar Mega Man characters.

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Don't lament the end of Mega Man's Battle Network line of handheld competitive role-playing games. The development team behind that prolific series is back with a new DS-exclusive franchise, Mega Man Star Force, which seems to be picking up the torch with a very similar model of exploration and combat that will likely fill the void in fans' hearts. It looks like Capcom will milk this one for all it's worth, with no fewer than (count 'em) three separate versions of Star Force--subtitled Dragon, Pegasus, and Leo--set to line shelves in August when the new brand debuts.

Similar to Battle Network, Star Force will have you exploring the real world as a human--in our demo, as a boy named Geo--and moving from town to town, meeting new characters, acquiring new powers, and so on. But the action goes down in the "wave world," which is a sort or cyber environment where you'll become Mega Man and engage in battles with various enemies, many of whom will be familiar from past Mega Man games (those little hard-hat-wearing metools, anyone?). From what we saw, battles will happen in typical RPG random-encounter fashion, as you'll launch straight into combat while roaming around on the overhead map.

Combat will take place on a three-by-five grid of squares, and you'll be confined to moving along the three-square row closest to the screen, while enemies will occupy rows toward the other end of the grid. You'll have to move laterally across your row to dodge incoming enemy attacks while returning offense of your own. Before a battle, you'll have a number of attack and defense abilities from which you can choose a subset to take into battle with you. Some will be projectile or melee attacks, others will be defensive shields, and still others will be modifiers like damage bonuses or healing effects. Once you're in a battle, a meter will slowly refill on the side of the screen, and every time it fills up, you can go back to the initial selection screen and reselect the abilities you want to use. You can basically look at this reselection as the beginning of a new turn, even though battles proceed in real time.

The difference between the Dragon, Pegasus, and Leo packages will be apparent in the available selection of these abilities. The overall world and storyline will be the same between the three games, and even the initial basic abilities should be more or less identical; the difference will be in the later, more-advanced abilities, which will be unique to your specific title. Luckily, the Brother Band system will let you link up via Wi-Fi to your friends' versions of the game, so you can share (or "borrow," as Capcom says) the abilities from those games. You'll also be able to duel those friends wirelessly.

From the looks of things, anyone who enjoyed the Battle Network games ought to find similar reasons to like Star Force. All three versions are slated to hit at the same time in August, so look for more information in the coming months.

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