Developer: Zeboyd Games
Publisher: Limited Run Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Role-Playing & Adventure
Release Date: August 14, 2018 (EU & NA)
In a dystopian near-future, humanity has merged with technology to enhance their everyday lives, but it has put them at risk of being hacked and subjugated to the wills of evil government agencies. Our heroine, Alyssa, has been tasked with retrieving a prototype of great importance. After retrieving it, hackitude specialist, Dave, discovers that the prototype could be used to dominate the wills of humanity, and the director of the Agency of Peace and Intelligence, Steele, wants to use for nefarious purposes.
It is immediately decided that the prototype needs to be recovered and kept out of Steele’s hands. You then navigate your way out of the API facility and into the outlying slums to get in contact with an old friend to make some connections that will help you muster the firepower to go up against the corrupt, but powerful government agency that has trained you. Cosmic Star Heroine will take us on a humorous trip through political intrigue across three distinct planets, interspersed with beautifully animated sprite-based cut-scenes.
On its surface, Cosmic Star Heroine looks and feels a lot like Chrono Trigger. The character sprites and environments are heavily inspired by the venerable classic, and it even borrows its over-world navigation and combat introduction style. You see enemies going about their patrols on screen before you encounter them, and as soon as you get within range, your party spreads out and the battle begins.
In place of using MP, all of your characters actions are limited use in between charges. For the most part, these actions can only be used once before recharge. It makes for some interesting and dynamic combat choices when you have to figure out how best to utilize your turns in combat.
Each of the four active party members have three different types of actions that they can take during combat- Skills, Items, and Programs. Skills and Programs are specific to each individual player, while Items are the same for everyone. Unlike many other RPGs, items don’t disappear after each use, they just become unavailable after the first use until the next battle.
Skills make up the bulk of the actions you will be taking during battle, and these usually include at least one reusable standard attack, and all characters have a defend/recharge option. Programs are just additional skills, but a bit more powerful than the standard attacks and buffs that you’ll regularly be using.
While it is nice that Cosmic Star Heroine doesn’t make you sit through two hours of tutorials before getting too far into the game, it would have been nice to get a small explanation of style and hyper without having to dig for them in the menus. Basically, Style is cool points that you can earn to help your party members go into “Desperation” mode. Desperation mode is a last-chance opportunity to heal your party member above 0 HP before they finish their next action.
While in desperation mode, they will do more damage, but also take a penalty to HP restoration effects. Hyper mode is a skill charge system that seems to just make your next action more powerful. Honestly, if there weren’t a character that buffs hyper mode, I would have never even noticed that it existed, because when you execute hyper mode, it does so without prompts and effectively comes across as a critical hit.
Another amazing modern touch for Cosmic Star Heroine lies in the fact that your party members all recoup all of their health after each battle, and status effects go away at the end of combat, as well. It was a huge relief not to have to worry about keeping stocked up on potions, or needing to carry around antidotes and so on. As such, shops in the game only need to sell weapons and shields.
Weapons are character specific, and oddly aren’t evenly distributed among locations. There are eleven playable characters, and each shop generally sells weapons for five to six at a time. Shields are universal, and they can give various bonuses and usually offer a unique Skill or Program for the wearer. Occasionally, there will be a plot point that requires a specific item, at which point there will be a merchant of some kind selling that item.
The eleven playable characters primarily serve the purpose of switching things up in combat to keep things a bit more fresh. There are various points in the story where you will be forced to have certain people in the party, but after that, you are free to swap people in and out from the menu at will. Party members have different elemental attacks, and have various buff abilities based on their class. Unfortunately, the characters are poorly developed during the story, and their backstory is of little consequence. In addition, there are also various recruits that you can pick up that offer a bonus to the party. This support person can be changed on a whim, as well.
I started off my review by introducing the game’s plot, and I just mentioned how little consequence each character has in the game itself. While this is an intriguing and workable plot, the game doesn’t really spend a long enough time developing characters or exploring their motivations to make anyone stand out. The story is moved along at a breakneck pace that doesn’t allow for too much fleshing out of anything, really.
While it is a breath of fresh air to be able to sit down and play through an entire game in one afternoon (it took about eight or nine hours), it is also a bit disappointing that there are so many playable characters, but none of them receives any kind of consideration. I believe that the developers could have kept the game in an 8-10 hour range, but still fleshed out the story and characters a bit more had they instead focused on 6-8 characters as permanent party members. There are a few throwaways that are introduced, forced into your party as circumstantial members, and then never used again.
Cosmic Star Heroine pushes you from one plot point to the next, and so there isn’t a lot of time for exploration. The little bit that can be done, which is mostly just wandering around talking to NPCs, can lead a dozen or so side quests. Each character has their own side quest, and then there are a few more that are generally tracking down specific items.
Sure they help fill out some game time, but nothing more. Each NPC does have something to say, and if the information they give isn’t useful, it is generally humorous, so it is worth talking to everyone. All of these interesting little interactions make me again wish that the game was a little longer, though, because the world seems like it could have an interesting lore about it.
Overall, Cosmic Star Heroine is a solid throwback to 16 bit era role playing games. It doesn’t have the same epic scope or depth of characters present in those classics, but it really captures the nostalgia of playing those games again, with enough modern touches to make it so much less of a slog. The game seems to have suffered a lot of glitches and bugs upon its initial release for the PlayStation 4 and PC, but those have been all ironed out for the Nintendo Switch release.
THE VERDICT: 7/10
*Review Key Provided by Zeboyd Games
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This post was written by sodamancer