Mega Man Star Force

Japan Import: The most confusing grid system this side of Milton Keynes

With six Battle Network games already clogging up the nation's GBA bargain bins, you might feel that we need to import another Mega Man-based grid battle game as much as we'd need to import a plate of fish and chips, or a butler named Jeeves. Aaaaand... you'd be mostly right. But not because Star Force isn't a significant improvement over Battle Network - it's more down to language barriers making this about as accessible as Wario's wallet.

Grid wars
It's not the battles that pose the problem, because these have been simplified. As this is a new story arc, casting you as prickly-haired upstart Subaru Hoshikawa, a young man capable of entering the Radio Wave World by donning a pair of 'visualiser glasses', Capcom have taken the chance to rework the rules of the grid, turning them on their side and only allowing the player lateral movement.

The result is that the battles are more intense, ramping up the reliance on defensive items to prolong your survival - although Battle Network veterans might feel a little battery-henned (if that's a verb), at first.

You fight your enemies using a series of battle cards selected prior to the battle with the stylus. These give you temporary powers according to the cards you've selected, and once you've used them up you have to wait until a charge meter refills before selecting again. Problem here - we've got two screens, so why do we need to pause the game, select the cards and then restart?

Despite this confusing anomaly, there's a decent strategy game hiding in here, which unfortunately is impenetrable due to the episodic nature of the RPG element of the game. An English conversion is nine months off, but with an army of Mega Man games already available, you'd have to have shares in Anadin to recommend this.

The verdict

A strong action RPG title that, due to a meticulous and inflexible storyline, is sadly at times as impenetrable as a remake of Van Helsing cast by the Goons from Popeye.

Nintendo DS