I'm still going to wait on Ashley's response, but I'd like to say that I recognize and appreciate your criticisms of the Star Force battle system (which in such a game will often make or break your experience).
I'm a fan of both Battle Network and Star Force (well, I admit, I've only played the first Star Force game so far). I recognize they both have a number of flaws that never seem to get fixed (my biggest pet peeve being how teeth-gnashingly annoying the "danger" themes quickly become). For me, however, Star Force felt like a huge breath of fresh air in the combat department.
I found the original Battle Network an interesting effort (although exploring the internet was a pain in the ass, and the only reason I would ever want the DS remake), and I quite enjoyed Battle Network 2 and especially 3. The fourth game, however, took a lot out of me (as it did many people) - after years of playing JRPGs, it was the first game to make me really hate random battles. After a break, I found enough enthusiasm to tackle 5 and it's promising Liberation Missions, but I couldn't hold my interest. I still haven't gotten around to even thinking about playing the sixth game.
When I first saw Star Force, I looked at the ugly 3D battles and how you only had a single line to move on and I thought "geez, they really dumbed it down, didn't they?" And I ignored the series for several years. When I finally got around to playing it, however, I was amazed by how much fun I was having, even though I had gone in expecting an inferior retread of the Battle Network formula.
I never really felt comfortable with the combat in the Battle Network series, though I admired the innovation of it. I couldn't reconcile the way people talked about strategy and building special folders with the random dealing of chips and my personal need to have a diverse line-up of attacks. I understood the concept of combos, working with things like environmental objects and elemental properties, but it never clicked, no matter how much time I set aside to play with the chips I had. I went through all the games with a jack-of-all-trades folder, taking heaps of damage and occasionally running up against enemies who were like brick walls in my path.
Maybe it was because I have very poor pattern recognition skills, or just preferred brute berserker force, but I never became good at Battle Network combat. Just good enough.
With Star Force, that changed. I'm not saying I became a master or anything. I still got my ass kicked on a regular basis, especially when experimenting. But unlike Battle Network, I felt like I actually could experiment in Star Force - the relationships between different elements of the battle system seemed far more obvious, the way things worked sliding into place with a previously unrealized ease. Maybe the lessons of Battle Network were finally penetrating my thick skull, but I think it was more that the design decision of simplifying the combat changed the way I thought about fighting.
Reducing the movement range actually made me feel more in control of my movement - perhaps because I've always been poor at spatial reasoning. Dumbing down the way chips were linked to each other let me more quickly and clearly figure out what my options were. The lock-on system let me expedite battles but left a risk of taking damage if I timed the attack poorly. Adding in a simple free shield move rounded the whole thing out. I no longer felt like I was playing some odd card game which required a range of uncertain reflexes. Now the game felt snappy and responsive, more action than RPG. More like what I actually expect from a "Mega Man" game.
(additionally, I liked the ability to equip different busters as a simple method for getting a status ailment attack or raising the chance of getting Zenny/chips)
So yeah, making the game easier/dumber made it a much more enjoyable experience for me. For the first time in the series, I genuinely did not mind the random battles - sometimes I looked forward to them, just to experience that quick burst of adrenaline as I plodded from puzzle to puzzle. I stopped freaking out when I saw new enemies and started watching them to understand and exploit their patterns. The changes may have upset a lot of other people, and it's obvious why, but for me they made the games playable again.