A Formula All Too Familiar
The version I played: Zerker x Saurian
The perspective: Someone who already played Star Force 1 and wrote a review about it.
How I got through the game: Played without engaging in side quests or excessive grinding. Had around 16 hours out of the game. Beat the game once and saw the ending once via the Saurian file.
Before I go on and talk about the game, I would like to discuss sequels. From a story perspective, there are some games that reset the entire cast and settings, but more often than not sequels are meant to expand the universe of the original game. More importantly, however, a sequel is meant to fix, improve and mature the core gameplay elements of its predecessors to produce a more enjoyable package. In short, for a sequel to be worth it, it has to be noticeably and significantly better than its predecessors without dropping far from the apple tree.
Mega Man Star Force 2 is guilty for its inability to innovate a once-fresh idea, but this is a problem stemming back in the mid-2000s. Since the 4th installment of the GBA's Mega Man Battle Network franchise (which will henceforth be referred to as BN), reviewers soured over the series' rehashing of the action RPG mold. Scores that were once favorable to BN now were less favorable as the installments piled on. This trend continued in Mega Man Star Force, a game that many claimed to be a spiritual successor to BN, which was berated by critics for its inability to reinvigorate the stale formula of action RPG, card based combat. Sadly, for those who want improvement after the inaugural Star Force game, Star Force 2 (will now be referred to as SF2) does not provide that significant next step for the franchise either.
Taking place after mere months of the first game's story arc, you play as Geo Stelar in his quest to stop some villains from resurrecting a lost continent and taking over the world. Fortunately for Geo, he has Omega-Xis, an alien made of electromagnetic waves, who he can "Wave Change" with to form the titular character of the game so to stop the villains who also have the same Wave Change ability. I won't go over the plot in detail, but I will say that the story is once again nothing worth writing home about.
The "Friendship triumphs above all" message is as stale as a Yu-Gi-Oh! episode, as messages about the subject is repeated so many times I've had to roll my eyes after every such incident. The story also tries to explore Geo's increasing popularity as a hero, but its fleshing out of the theme is so half-baked that I don't even think that it's worth mentioning here. Moreover, I noticed that Mega Man Star Force 2 has the more blatantly stereotypical character than any other video game cast I have seen. From the outfits, the names and the personality, each character represents a certain cliché that is not enjoyable to watch. Luna Platz aka Prez is an annoying, I-get-whatever-the-hell-I-want-and-expect-people-to-follow-me attitude wears thin, even though she plays a damsel in distress several times (you'd think that she'll be humbled by those experiences) while everyone mans their stereotype stations. In all, the story has a clichéd and uninteresting cast performing an already well-worn plot of villains plotting to rule the world. The cast is also uninteresting due to the graphical presentation but I'll get to that later.
Thankfully, once you are out of the copious amount of text boxes, you can proceed to a better (though admittedly rehashed) part of the game: The Action RPG concept whose foundation was laid out slightly over a decade ago. If you haven't picked up a Star Force or Battle Network game, here's a summary of the gameplay. As Geo Stelar, you navigate in both the real world and the Wave World (a series of electromagnetic roads that only Megaman can traverse) . As Megaman there will be random battle encounters with viruses. During a battle you move left and right, using battle cards to generate weapons to cream the viruses as well as a handy shield to block some attacks the viruses throw back at you. Outside of battle you can do some side quests to earn money or earn more battle cards; while they are unnecessary and a bit on the bland side they will ease the difficulty as the game goes on.
To the game's credit, there are some legitimately significant improvements over the first game. For starters, the game took a page off of Megaman BN 3 for its customizer system, which improves SF's Megaman attributes like increased HP. More importantly, you can fully equip Mega Man with the Zerker or Saurian/Ninja outfit which makes those powers way more significant than in the last game. More importantly, the boss battles were way better from the first game. While there are shameless rehashes, there are some original bosses that look great. They are big, menacing and a joy to fight against, so kudos to those who were involved in creating the boss battles. The game is also more difficult, especially the bosses. Many of them require more precision in terms of blocking, damaging you if you are either too early or too late in raising your shield, another key improvement for the game.
However, the one real knock on this game is that their Action RPG formula has already been rehashed and recycled for over a decade, and SF 2 does very little to standout from either BN or SF 1. The game feels exactly like playing SF 1 but with an entire new set of villains; almost everything is a hand me down from SF 1. Many of the viruses, battle cards are from the first game. The stages before the boss battles follow a very similar formula from both SF 1 and most BN games.
Which brings me to yet another weakness of the game: Its presentation. As I've mentioned in my SF 1 review, the game really borrows alot from the BN look, resulting in GBA-standard graphics that are a mockery to what the DS can do. Because of their limited graphics characters are so limited to their ability to emote and express, with jumping and the occasionally crying the only indicators of any emoting. The soundtrack is largely the same, remixed versions of the first game, but I do like the changes they've made to those original tracks, making them more an asset than a liability to the presentation.
Fortunately, the game retains its unique Brotherband system, meaning that you can form a connection with another play with the game so you can get more link power (that increases flexibility with the customizer system) and even battle one another, which is a thing of beauty. Not surprisingly, this game is best played when you have others that play the same game too.
In all, Megaman SF2 is a game that doesn't make a significant splash as the sequel to the SF franchise. Now, I admit that I enjoyed playing the game. The combat, the main part of the game, is still fun to play. And much like its forebearers, you can milk at least 16 hours for the game even when you do not grind much or do any of the sidequests. But as a fan of the SF franchise (and to a lesser extent for the BN franchise) I find it so maddening that the franchise hasn't done enough to evolve and expand the formula they have developed back in the early 2000s. If you haven't played an SF game yet, this is a good starting point (although a refresher course for SF 1's story would be highly recommended). However, because of its sameness to previous entries, I wonder why this has to be a standalone game in the first place. As a result, I cannot give a score that is anything above the 3 and a half stars I gave to the first game.
A clichéd cast in a clichéd story emitting clichéd themes in a non-funny way.
It's the same game with different enemies, but the boss battles are well better and more reasonably difficult, while the Zerker/NInja/Saurian powers play a way more prominent role in the game.
I do like the remixed musical score, but the graphics are recycled from the first game and get in the way of character emotings.
Favorite tracks: Intro music, music while on Skynet
Bonuses, Alternatives, Replay Value: 3.4/5
Still maintains the same amount of replay value as its predecessors with side quests, Brotherbands connections, human on human battles and new game pluses. But doesn't go beyond that.
Final Call: 3 stars
A fun game, but fails as a sequel.