Nostalgia truly is an interesting thing. That yearning feeling for something of the past that dwells inside you, always waiting for the moment when it is triggered and sends you into a reminiscent daydream. Cosmic Star Heroine brings out a longing feeling for the times of old right out of you and scratches an itch many of us probably didn’t know we still had.
Cosmic Star Heroine is a love letter to RPG and retro fans alike, and a good one at that. Like a handcrafted letter from the girl you were always fond of, the game speaks right to your heart. Looking at the game initially, it is clear that the title would have been right at home on an older console like the SNES, and I mean this in all the nicest of ways. The way the worlds are crafted, the characters, combat, even simple things like menus all scream prime retro content. The developers, Zeboyd Games, apparently wanted the title to feel similar to titles like Chrono Trigger, and after playing I would say they’ve succeeded in spades, capturing so many aspects from the title while also keeping things original to make the game it’s own.
Cosmic Star Heroine really tries engrossing you into its world not only through dialogue but through its frequent cut scenes. Yes, while short and fairly barebones altogether, the title does indeed have cut scenes. It was enjoyable seeing these from time to time to break up reading text boxes for hours on end, and really helped to get a sense of this system of stars and planets you are playing through.
The title certainly looks nice for the crowd it’s trying to appeal to, and this is furthered by its excellent soundtrack. From the time I first booted up the game and heard its Sci-Fi title theme that oddly enough took me back to the days of watching Power Rangers on early Saturday mornings, I knew I was in love. Each area of the game has a fitting song to accompany it, whether it’s an abandoned warehouse littered with mutated creatures, an underground waterway inhabited by spectral aquatic creatures or even a yearly festival filled with mini-games, each track fits nicely. Even typing my review long after my time with the game has ended – until I head back for a second play through – the boss themes still ring in my head, my head nodding to the rhythm even as the foes I faced ripped my poor party members in two.
In terms of its characters, I would say that Cosmic Star Heroine mostly succeeds. While I did enjoy the main character Alyssa despite how at times straightforward she was, there were several members that were either boring or just not given enough time to really develop for you to truly enjoy them. Having a character that is a battle hardened bounty hunter interested solely in tracking down top-ranked targets to achieve glory in battle initially sounds interesting, but you don’t even get to enjoy that character when he’s only in your party for about 1/4th of the game. Cosmic Star Heroine’s main heroes ultimately fall into the trap of having too many party members. Fleshing out characters in a game and making them interesting is a challenge in and of itself. The more characters you add, the more difficult it is to give them all enough screen time during the run of the game. This title is a prime example of how some characters get pushed to the side and are used almost solely to cover archetypes for your fighting party.
Making matters worse, Cosmic Star Heroine really drops the ball with the main villain of the game. I won’t spoil who the villain is for those who plan on playing the game, but the best word I can use to describe them is boring. I honestly felt no real emotion towards them throughout the game. Sure, they were constantly pursuing my party, had a decent enough plan that needed to be foiled and overall were enough of a pain in my arse to warrant being taken down. However, the main villain really has no defining characteristics that make them an enjoyable villain. They would show up, spout some nonsense that I really could care less about due to the sheer lack of emotion coming from them -yes, you can have emotion in a game with no voice lines- a battle would commence, he’d take off like Doctor Robotnick after getting trashed by a certain blue hedgehog, and I’d go to the next area to do something more interesting.
As much as I harp on the characters, none of them were terrible enough to really affect my playthrough too much. While the villain is indeed awful, the main cast whom you play as do more good than harm in terms of likability so I give it a pass, if just barely.
As a turn-based RPG, Cosmic Star Heroine will naturally have players slogging through many battles, but battles in this title are done in a way that keeps them enjoyable without feeling too much like grind fests. In the title, players have the usual assortment of attacks and defensive abilities that each member specializes in. Though the game has different terms for stats which makes it harder to get an assessment of what does what early on, you’ll quickly find out who are your squishy mages and who are your hard hitting front liners without too much difficulty.
The title focuses a lot on status ailments, with enemies being more susceptible to ailments the next time, should the first fail. The same can be said for your own party, so while you may ignore an enemy’s assault initially, if you let them continue to nail a character, you will soon find that they have become plagued with negative effects. Cosmic Star Heroine also makes the nice choice of healing party members after every battle. While this takes away some of the item management that comes in RPG’s, it was refreshing to not have to open the menus to heal near dead party members after every encounter. As characters heal after each battle, items are used a bit differently. You are allowed a set number of items each battle, only one of a type, and may use them as you see fit and the items are permanently in your inventory despite using them. This means you can use your nice elixirs and poison vials without worrying about them being gone until you find or buy another. When you don’t have to worry about losing a precious commodity, players will likely find that they feel much more free to use them.
I find the battle system in Cosmic Star Heroine to be one of its best selling points, as even by the end of the game, battles never really got old to me.
Now, this next part may come off as nitpicking, but hear me out, as it needs to be said and I really feel that it breaks the immersion of the game for all players. There are a few small features in the game that should naturally be in an RPG, but have been seemingly missed. For example, there is no journal in this game. That may not sound like anything particularly bad to some of you, but in Cosmic Star Heroine, there are numerous side quests. Without a way to keep track of any of them, you can ultimately forget you even took these quests on. For anyone saying “you could simply write them down”, this is a game released in 2017. Retro or not, not having a submenu of any kind to keep track of your side quests is simply bad design.
Another nitpick I can think of off the top of my head is that when purchasing new equipment at a shop, you are never allowed to see stat comparisons with what you already have equipped. You have no idea if the new equipment is even stronger than what you currently have without exiting out, opening up the party menu, checking what you currently have and memorizing it, and then going back into the shop menu. Cthulhu forbid you don’t have the party member you’re buying equipment for in the party, because then you can’t even do that. So unless you feel like buying every new piece of equipment you see (that you may have picked up already as the game won’t tell you if you have the item) you need to wait for the member to return to check the stats, making things a huge pain. I need to reiterate, these are NOT game breaking, but they do need to be addressed and I feel fixing these issues would help the title out.
I need to make this clear, I love Cosmic Star Heroine. I love how the game made me get home excited to play it, to progress further into the story and see what else it had to offer. I loved getting new skills and items that made battles easier and seeing my strategies work out. The title does little that really stands out as particularly new, but it does enough right and slightly different to be in a realm of its own. I had my issues, yes, and they are what keep it from achieving a higher score. However, I really did have a good time with the game overall and look forward to another playthrough on the most difficult setting to truly test my skills, – for any wondering, this review was done with the game on the Heroine difficulty- I enjoyed this love letter to JRPG fans like myself. I love you too Cosmic Star Heroine, let’s go out sometime, I’ll take you out for coffee.
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