Cosmic Star Heroine is a call-back to what is arguably seen as the golden age of JRPG’s & turn-based combat. As soon as you boot it up, the nostalgia goggles latch onto your face as you’re blasted back into the 90’s. I’m 29 and having essentially grown up with gaming, I’ve seen the evolution this genre has taken. Inspired by Chrono Trigger & implementing Sega CD-like cut-scenes, Cosmic Star Heroine takes us, old-timers, back to our childhood. It also introduces these whippersnappers to what we saw as ground-breaking back in our youth.
Developed by Zeboyd Games, Cosmic Star Heroine is a Sci-Fi JRPG that was first released on PS4, Vita, PC, and is now on the Nintendo Switch. You take control of Alyssa L’Salle, a Galactic Government Agent that stumbles upon a conspiracy within the agency. As a result, you, along with others, have defected and now travel the Zavanii Star System for answers. During your journey, you’ll come across various different characters that’ll join your cause, as well as visit many alien settlements. It’s a classic tale of Good VS Evil & is presented at a break-neck pace, ideal for those that have limited time. However, it’s this very thing I felt kept an otherwise great package from excelling.
During my time with this title, I was never able to fully immerse myself or be invested in the characters. Instead of fleshing out the experience, it felt like maybe Zeboyd Games prioritized fast-paced story progression. This didn’t come without consequence however as I found that interactions were devoid of charm. One of the core mechanics of Cosmic Star Heroine is that you’re able to bring civilians to your ship by speaking to them. However, because I found the writing to be charmless, I eventually became anti-social, choosing to speak to no one. Thankfully, you do encounter NPC’s in the dungeon that are ultimately able to be recruited so I didn’t go without.
My other issue is because the story was focused on speeding through its narrative, there were instances of what I dub “convenient writing”. For example, you are thrown into jail & there happens to be a robot there. It strikes up a conversation before mentioning that it has the cell key. There’s no drama or tension, you’re just thrown into prison and have a get out of jail free card immediately. It felt like I was being pushed forward to keep from falling behind the pace that had been set.
My biggest complaint has to be the big twist in the final moments of the game; it felt anticlimactic. I just sat there, thinking to myself, was it possible this was foreshadowed & I merely have forgotten. From what I recall, there was absolutely no indication & it almost felt as though it was added in just to squeeze out an extra hour.
The combat, oh, the combat of Cosmic Star Heroine is worth the price of admission in my opinion. Inspired by the aforementioned Chrono Trigger, you will find no sign of random encounters with every enemy visible onscreen. Each time you walk into a group, you’ll trigger a battle, simple enough. Before I get into it though, I did run into a bug but know it’s a rare occurrence, happening only once in my 12-hour play-through. Upon engaging in battle, it registered as such & my characters went into their stances. However, I never received commands, leaving me unable to do anything until I restarted. Thankfully, this game allows you to save wherever so I urge you to use it frequently. While it is rare, it’s worth doing just in case.
The combat system is quite unique; you’ll have hit points, your commands, but not magic points. Instead, your characters have what is called “style” that can be built up by simply attacking. This acts as your MP but has a secondary function; as it increases, so does the damage you can do. This forces you to think strategically; will you use spells in exchange for inflicting less damage or will you hoard it longer. Another interesting layer is that it seems critical hits have been streamlined. Beneath your hit-points, there are small squares that make up your “hypermeter”. Once it’s full, your character is surrounded by a yellow aura & allows you to deal mega damage.
Just when you thought the combat system was complex enough, Zeboyd Games slaps you with another layer. During a battle, each character has eight abilities, with new ones being learned as you level up. Most of the time, these attacks are only able to be executed once before you need to rest up to recover. After “awakening”, you’re once again able to use every attack before again, you need to rest. This forces you to plan every one of your attacks around this mechanic, while also keeping hyper mode in mind. Thankfully, there are abilities that allow you to reuse them infinitely but they’re never as strong as their counterparts.
Graphically, Cosmic Star Heroine is compared to the SNES era of games but I’m inclined to compare it to Sega-CD. As mentioned before, you’ll see cut-scenes that are very clearly inspired by such titles as Lunar: Silver Star Story & Eternal Blue. That’s not to say that I disagree with the SNES comparisons as some locales reminded me of Secret of Evermore. Couple that with its clear Chrono Trigger inspired battles & you’ve got a tight argument on your hands, but I’m sticking to my guns.
Now the sound design, oh man, that’s really tough for me to peg down for a very specific reason. Let me explain; I played this in handheld & naturally, the sound was blaring but it never enhanced my experience. To be frank, it just sort of fell into the background & I ignored it. That was until I plugged in headphones & I was suddenly smacked in the face by the music. This is because the speakers on the Switch can’t really handle bass so songs do fall flat. However, if you plug in headphones that can handle it, you’re greeted with an amplified rendition of the music.
Cosmic Star Heroine won’t astound you with an amazing story or charming characters & that’s okay. Honestly, I still had a great time because I just fell in love with the game-play here. The battle system is complex enough to be considered brilliant, yet simple enough for someone like me to understand. I wholeheartedly recommend Cosmic Star Heroine, even if just for the battle system. The story does trip over itself because of it’s pacing but I still enjoyed the hell out of it. The pixel art was beautiful too & it was great to take a trip back to my childhood with this game. Do I recommend it at full price though; well, yes, I definitely do.
Buy this game at Full Price
A Code was provided by Zeboyd Games for the purpose of this review.
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