There is always hope that the retro-style RPG game you backed on KickStarter will be the greatest game ever and take you back to a simpler time in gaming. All too often gamers are promised a nostalgic experience that sports those classic 16-bit sprites and a huge RPG story. And all too often they are let down in more ways than one.
In 2013, Zeboyd Games launched a KickStarter for their turn-based, sci-fi, Japanese-style RPG Cosmic Star Heroine and fans flocked to the campaign to quickly back the project. I remember I was even caught up in the hype, making it a point to play the game at any event that I attended where it was being shown. Now that the game is out, I can say that the wait was definitely worth it, but I’m left wanting more.
Cosmic Star Heroine puts players in control of Alyssa L’Salle, a top agent at the Agency of Peace & Intelligence set on the Planet Araenu. After returning from a special mission she discovers some shady acts by her employer and, like all great heroes, she must save the day. Sadly, the story’s premise isn’t revolutionary in too many ways, but I feel the writing is something that will stick with gamers for years to come.
Character interactions between other members of the party and their surroundings makes exploring new areas so much more enjoyable. Something that seems to have been lost in recent RPGs is the option to search through random set pieces around the map.
For example: a computer can be examined and looked through, which will be followed with the party reacting to what they find somehow. Cosmic Star Heroin has many different ways for players to interact with the environments. Although it’s something that can be ignored, it’s there for players who wish to dive deeper into this world and learn more about the personalities of the cast.
Even though the maps can get rather large, with various branching paths to take to get to a location, the Zeboyd Games team shows an amazing attention to detail that I haven’t seen in any other 16-bit game. Additionally, the developer chose to tackle multiple themes ranging from abandoned warehouses and desolate planets to back ally slums and space ships.
Each area seems to invite the player to explore every nook and cranny and find out everything they can about this universe. As an added bonus, the game rewards exploration by adding secret treasure and bosses to maps that provide some of the strongest gear in Cosmic Star Heroine.
The only problem with this was that I felt that I wasn’t allowed to spend very much time in these areas. The story took me from one place to the next without very much warning. When I started playing this game for review, I took down a note very early on that I wished I was able to freely explore these beautiful areas.
Although this the option to explore some of the planets freely opens up later on in the game, I would have opted for a slower paced beginning and a chance to just leisurely explore the Agency of Peace & Intelligence offices or return to a couple planets to find my bearings in the universe.
The battle system of Cosmic Star Heroine puts a huge spin on any type of turn based JRPG that I’ve played. Each battle requires a certain level of planning and skill to survive basic encounters, which makes it almost impossible to just mash the action button and attack till the battle is over. During battle there are a number of unique skills that each character has, some of which have elemental properties.
Now, the thing that players need to get a handle of early on is that most of these skills can only be used once and require the character to use an action and charge before the skill can be used again.
Some battles can be won without thinking too much, but early on surmounting combat can be difficult because the game doesn’t allow many opportunities to level grind. Most encounters don’t reappear, which means that (in the first few hours of the game) you wont be able to dominate during boss battles, no matter how many battles you get in.
However, the game also handles a character’s HP in a unique way: if an enemy attack knocks a character’s HP below 0, they still have a chance to survive if they heal before the end of their next turn.
The music in Cosmic Star Heroine has got to be one of my all time favorite soundtracks in video games. Each track is memorable and fits perfectly with the theme, whether you’re on a strange planet or in an abandoned warehouse. If the development team was trying to pull on these nostalgic heart strings, then the music was the icing on the cake in terms of what this game has to offer.
Throughout the game, the character roster grows to the size of 11, which is quite high for being only being a 16 hour campaign. Personally, I would rather have seen the team focused on a party of four to six members and flesh out their stories. More often than not I was being introduced to new party characters half way through that I didn’t really care about. That said, I understand some RPG fans will enjoy the variety of characters, despite the fact the story may have suffered from trying to keep up with so many different back stories and introduction.
Cosmic Star Heroine is the perfect example of a crowdfunded indie game that might have been held back by budget and time. I enjoyed everything the game had to offer, but I was was left wanting more than a short RPG experience with an overused premise. If you’re looking for a gorgeous 16-bit RPG with a unique battle system and a short campaign than Cosmic Star Heroine is going to resonate with you perfectly, but if you’re looking for a story that will stick with you over the years than you probably should look elsewhere.