Hoshigami Remix is an updated, portable version of Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth from the original PlayStation. When it originally game out, the game had a rather tepid response. This was largely due to the strange systems and intense difficulty (which was made more difficult by the game being somewhat broken). Remix adds various, easier difficulty levels, new character art, redone music, a new character, and an overhauled localization. Unfortunately, trying to fix a game that is so broken to begin with was apparently too large a task. Even the added in content is not enough to make up for the strange mixture of systems present in Hoshigami's gameplay.
The storyline of Hoshigami is certainly average, at the very best. Basically, Nightweld is being invaded, and Fazz is hired on with a group of mercenaries to fight back. It's something taken right off of a chart of cliché RPG storylines. What doesn't help is that describing the characters as fitting into standard "cookie-cutter" molds does not cut it. Other than Fazz (man his name is annoying), most of the characters could best be described as cardboard cutouts. The amount of emotion present at any point of the game sometimes seems to stretch even further back from zero and into the negative columns. The characters relate tragedy with such a callous disregard for what they're conveying that it can be unintentionally humorous at times. It doesn't help that the new character art is about as generic as it could possibly get, not lending any help to the stale characters. There
is an attempt here to insert a politically themed plot into the mix, but unfortunately it fails terribly at creating anything compelling.
|The RAP system is unique, but frustrating.
Hoshigami Remix's gameplay leaves a lot to be desired as well. First off, there are the different difficulty levels. On the easiest, the game is an incredible pushover...except for a few bosses that are so incredibly cheap they are almost game-breaking. On the most difficult setting, however, even a "simple" enemy can be such a tank that he/she will take down half of one's party before going down. There's a real lack of consistancy--or rather, leaning too much toward extremes--across the board as far as difficulty is concerned.
The battle system itself has two major subsystems that really seem at odds with each other. First, there's the RAP gauge--basically an AP meter. Players can choose to use up the entire gauge for a character's turn, but this would be unwise. Conserving the RAP gauge allows players to act more quickly, as well as letting them set up special attacks known as an "Attack Session." The name "attack session" is basically code for "kickassery." Basically, players can line up their characters very nicely, conserved enough RAP to perform the special attack, set up a character with a weapon that can do a "shoot attack," get the acting character near enough to start the whole thing off, and then unleash an attack chain that almost certainly destroys any enemy, and generally yields an item to boot (assuming the game is on easy or normal difficulty).
The other system present in the combat that won't be immediately familiar to players of strategy RPGs is the Coinfeigms. In order to use magic, players must purchase coins and engrave them with a seal in order to set them up for use. This system for using magic gets extremely confusing and takes the better part of the game to truly learn. The problem that sets this at odds with the RAP Gauge is that Coinfeigms completely unbalance the game, especially at the later stages. Essentially, a player who has built his/her party on the use of magic will have a much easier time of the endgame than one who has focused on weapon skill. In fact, the argument could be made that a player consistantly using Coinfeigms to their full potential can easily counter any benefits lost from not being able to do "attack sessions."
One system outside of battle (though its implications on battles are huge) is the use of deities. As in a few other SRPGs, a character's alignment with particular deities can directly affect how well they perform in battle against characters of different affiliations. The game's manual does a satisfactory job of explaining some of the differences, but it's a system that is deeper than it seems, and one that remains confusing throughout the game. It is unclear what all stats the deity affects, or what change on the outcome of an attack they have, other than some obvious bonuses.
Another problem with the game is the extreme lack of portability. It is a DS title, and as such should be capable of being played for small amounts of time at once. Unfortunately, there is no suspend feature to allow for saving while in battle. Factor in that the average battle can take 20-40 minutes and that sometimes one battle immediately follows another with no break for saving, and here's a game that is not at all good for playing on the move.
|This is some of the better character art, no, seriously.
The music in Hoshigami Remix is not bad at all. There are some pretty good themes mixed in the rather bland overall soundtrack, but nothing to keep players listening.
Hoshigami is inexplicably dark. Not darkly themed, just dark. It can be extremely hard to see what's going on in the game, unless one is playing in the basement with the lights off, not unlike a vampire lurking in a corner waiting for the latest prey...though this reviewer wouldn't know anything about that. In any case, other than that, the game looks pretty respectable, except for the absolutely terrible art direction. The story sequences show characters art up close, and that is not something anyone wants to see. The characters manage to look even more dull than their dialogue suggests that they are. The game could have been impressive looking were it not for the "bonus artwork" and extreme lack of lighting. Truly, some of the environments aren't necessarily unique, but they are pretty nice looking, and the animations in battle are respectable.
There are some moments of joy to be had while playing Hoshigami that cannot be denied: moments in which an "attack session" completely obliterates a boss that has been a bother for a couple hours, moments in which a well used series of Coinfeigms wipes the map of opposition in a flurry of color, and a couple moments where Fazz shows some intelligence that no other character in the game displays. Other than that, the game is a sad victim of its attempts at innovation and ridiculously unbalanced difficulty. The game can be enjoyable (if not recommended) for the most die-hard fans of SRPGs, but for newcomers, the best advice would be to stay away.