For all intents and purposes, Mega Man Star Force is the seventh entry in Capcom's Mega Man Battle Network franchise. There's a new story featuring a brand-new pair of heroes, tweaks have been made to some aspects of the battle system, and now it's easier for you to trade and share attacks with your friends. However, the core structure and gameplay are largely the same as they were in previous installments. As such, this game, like its predecessors on the Game Boy Advance, is a role-playing game geared toward people who will tolerate pouring dozens of hours into fetch quests and random battles, as well as the obsessive pursuit of putting together a customized repertoire of attacks to unleash in offline battles against friends.
Structurally speaking, Mega Man Star Force doesn't stray from the formula established by earlier Mega Man Battle Network games. As a young boy named Geo Stelar, you walk in the physical world. However, by putting on your activator goggles and merging with an energy being named Omega-Xis, you become Mega Man and gain the ability to explore the electromagnetic world that exists parallel to our own--and do battle against the energy creatures that dwell there. For the roughly 30 hours or so it'll take you to finish the main quest, you'll find yourself constantly alternating between the two worlds in search of the bosses you need to defeat and the items you need to collect in order to advance the story along. The only difference in pacing in Mega Man Star Force that distinguishes it from its predecessors is that it offers a wider selection of optional fetch quests. Indeed, if you choose to, you can run an errand for literally every character you meet to stretch the story out for a good 40 hours.
While the new third-person battle perspective limits your movement, the homing function allows you to hop forward if need be.
When you're walking in the electromagnetic world, battles occur at frequent random intervals. These encounters still take place in real time on a 3-by-6 grid. However, for this game, they've rotated the viewpoint so that you see the battle from behind Mega Man's back, with the enemies facing you. Enemies have free run over the entire combat surface, but your own movement is primarily restricted to sidestepping left or right at the back of the grid. It is possible to move forward, however briefly, by first locking onto an enemy. If you tap down on the control pad before pressing the attack button, Mega Man will leap onto the combat field and unleash the attack right in the enemy's face, effectively giving you the option of wasting an attack card when you want to jump over an incoming attack. This new third-person perspective isn't necessarily any better or worse than the old way. On the one hand, movement is certainly more restricted. On the other hand, timing plays a greater role in your ability to dodge an attack or nail a shifty opponent.
For the most part, battles unfold just like they did in previous Mega Man Battle Network games. You still need to deplete your opponent's health meter before he or she obliterates yours, and the best way to do that is still by using the attack cards that are randomly selected for you when the confrontation begins. Each card depicts a hero, minion, or boss performing an attack from one of Capcom's numerous Mega Man games. When you play one of these cards, you'll perform the attack that's shown, hopefully deducting the indicated health from your opponent in the process. Cards vary in terms of damage doled out, blast radius, and elemental attributes. You can only bring 30 cards into battle with you, so that's where most of the game's strategy comes from: collecting and organizing useful battle cards in the folders you've set up. In all, there are more than 150 unique cards to find and collect. Capcom has simplified the rules underpinning the use of cards in Mega Man Star Force, generally for the better. Without giving you an entire essay on the subject, all you need to know is that six cards are now drawn instead of five, and you can play cards situated in the same column or that have the same name or border color. The end result is that you have a better chance of pulling the card you need, and you can unleash multi-card chains more readily.
Another way to bulk up is by adding people to your friends list, also known as a brother band. When you add another person to your brother band, you can use his or her cards and combos in battle. You also gain various health and ability boosts that you otherwise wouldn't get with an empty brother-band list. Becoming brothers with someone is easy. All you need to do is wirelessly link your two systems together offline or exchange friend codes to establish the link through Nintendo's WFC service. Once that's done, you can send messages to each other, trade cards, and enjoy the automatic bonuses that the brotherly bond entails. The lone downside to the brother-band list is that you can only have six people on your list at any given time.