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Posted on Jan 29th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (Disposed Hero)
Posted under Review, RPG, Zeboyd Games, PC, PS4, Chrono Trigger, Phantasy Star


I've made it no secret that I am a huge fan of JRPGs, and I have written quite a few articles covering some titles for this site.  While I love JRPGs from all eras of gaming, I will always have a soft spot for the titles released during the 16-bit era.  My first exposure to the genre was on the SNES with titles such as Chrono Trigger and the Final Fantasy series at a young age, so I have a lot of nostalgia for this style of games.  So when I heard about Cosmic Star Heroine, a new title that takes direct inspiration from these beloved titles from a bygone era, I couldn't help but feel intrigued.




Cosmic Star Heroine was released on April 11, 2017 for the PlayStation 4 and PC.  Developed by independent studio Zeboyd Games, it was largely funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign.  Touting inspiration from highly acclaimed titles such as Chrono Trigger and Phantasy Star, Cosmic Star Heroine promises to merge the best of classic and modern RPGs while also bringing something new to the genre.

The story follows main protagonist Alyssa L'Salle, a top agent of the Agency of Peace & Intelligence (API).  Alyssa discovers that the agency she works for is involved in a conspiracy to enslave mankind, so she goes rogue in order to stop the API from achieving world domination.  Overall, the story is fairly formulaic and is one of the lower points of the game.  There is not much exposition given to story events and characters, making it all feel rushed and like much effort was not put into the writing.  The dialog isn't particularly great either.  There are a couple of good plot twists throughout the game, but these do not save an otherwise weak story.


There are some amusing references throughout.

Just like with most RPGs, you will spend a large portion of the game exploring towns, caves, and other locations while fighting enemies, talking to NPCs, and looting chests.  Cosmic Star Heroine features three planets that can be explored, and while each planet is distinctly different from the others, there are few locations on each planet that can actually be visited by the player.  Each planet only has one main town, and these towns are filled with the usual shops and NPC characters to chat with.  Certain NPCs can be recruited and will grant specific bonuses to your party while they are 'equipped.'

Wilderness areas have branching paths that usually lead to treasure, so exploration is encouraged.  Instead of random encounters, enemies appear in the environment and will be engaged once the player makes contact.  I personally felt like battles could go on for a bit too long, but this is mitigated by having relatively few enemies in the environment.  One nice feature of Cosmic Star Heroine is that you can save the game literally anywhere outside of combat, which makes it easy to pick up and play in short bursts. 


There are also a few sidequests and optional bosses to be found.

The combat system is heavily inspired by Chrono Trigger with a couple of original twists on the familiar formula.  Turn order for both allies and enemies is shown on a timeline on the side of the screen, but unfortunately very little seems to actually affect it and it mostly serves as a reference.  Each party member has a variety of abilities that can be selected each turn, but most abilities can only be used once per battle unless a turn is spent defending to recharge those abilities.  There are also two resources that accumulate throughout battle, Style Points and Hyper Points, which can affect damage output and ability effectiveness.  It is advised to keep these resources in mind when selecting abilities, and all of these components together introduce an impressive amount of depth and strategy to an otherwise familiar battle system.  Overall, Cosmic Star Heroine's battle system introduces a few new twists to a familiar formula, and it is likely the highlight of the game.

Cosmic Star Heroine features a fairly large and diverse cast of characters that can be used in your main party.  Although most of the characters can prove to be useful in combat and are important to the game's plot, there were a few that I felt were tacked on just to pad the cast a bit.  Some characters (Clarke immediately comes to mind) never seemed very useful in combat and had little to no stake in the story.  However, most of the characters have attributes that are unique and beneficial to the party.


Yes, the tales of your uselessness have spread far and wide!

The visual presentation of Cosmic Star Heroine is quite good, especially when compared to many other indie games of this genre.  Character sprites and environments look great and are fairly detailed, and the attractive color palette helps keep the game easy on the eyes.  There are also the occasional animated cutscenes that feel like they're straight from a Sega CD or TurboCD game, and these typically look great and help provide some variety to the visuals.  My only real complaint with the visuals of the game is that they take a little too much inspiration from Chrono Trigger, as character sprites, animations, and battle effects are stylistically identical to Square's beloved classic, holding Cosmic Star Heroine back from securing its own identity.

The soundtrack of the game is another highlight.  While there aren't a ton of distinct music tracks in the game, what is here is very well done.  The battle themes in particular are catchy and never get old, and I would often find myself humming them when I wasn't playing the game.  Tracks themselves tend to be fairly long, so you will usually hear a good bit of distinct music before it begins looping.


There are even important life lessons to be learned.

As it stands, Cosmic Star Heroine is a good game and a decent attempt at hearkening back to the 16-bit era, but its faults do drag the experience down enough to make me hesitant to recommend it.  My biggest criticism of this game is that it tries so hard to be Chrono Trigger without actually living up to it, that I would often wish I was playing that game instead.  If Cosmic Star Heroine had done more to stand apart and have its own identity, I likely would have enjoyed it more.  If you're a fan of RPGs from the 16-bit era, you could do much worse than Cosmic Star Heroine and may want to give the game a shot.


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Comments
 
Hmm, interesting.  I have read that the developer is hoping to maybe bring this game to the Switch.  I'm wondering if I should bother with it, should that occur.

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