QCF: Cosmic Star Heroine

 thought for sure that Zeboyd Games' Cosmic Star Heroine had been released long before now. I distinctly remember it being shown from day-one in PS4 interactives and advertisement loops all the way back in 2013. Now, granted, the Cosmic Star Heroine from that time looks quite a bit different than it does today, so there has obviously been quite a bit of work done on the game since it was revealed almost half a decade ago. But what is Cosmic Star Heroine? How has it progressed? And is it worth your time?

Successfully kickstarted in 2013, Cosmic Star Heroine was released to the PS4, PS Vita and Steam on April 11, 2017. It’s a traditional turn-based RPG that takes pages - well, no, actually, it takes whole chapters - from another fairly popular game from the mid-90’s. You may have heard of it; a little game called Chrono Trigger. Players take on the role of Alyssa L’salle, a star member of a futuristic interplanetary spy agency that discovers very early on that things aren’t as they seem with her employers. What kind of conspiracy has she uncovered? One thing is for sure, Cosmic Star Heroine’s story is one that’ll keep the player guessing, and keeps things pretty interesting all the way though.

The first thing players will notice about the Cosmic Star Heroine, especially if they’ve played Chrono Trigger, is how closely to its obvious inspiration it flows. Mostly, players will traverse a variety of areas that have a number of enemies throughout them. Enemies wander around the environments players will traverse and take specific positions and are fought without any sort of battle transition. Traveling between main areas is also extremely familiar; the player’s party is represented with smaller sprites and movement is considerably smaller. There are no enemy encounters on the overworld, allowing players to take their time to catch a break, save the game, etc. The whole this just Very Chrono Trigger.

The battle system is quite a bit different though. Rather than a typical menu that players select attacks, items or special techniques at will, a small matrix of various techniques gives players their choice of whatever command they want to use. More techniques are unlocked as the player levels up and can be mixed and matched as needed. However, most techniques can only be used once before another has to be used. When all are exhausted, they character can guard to recharge them in order to use them again. This adds quite a bit of a strategic twist to the game, especially when new characters are added to the roster.

 In combat, a number of buffs and debuffs will allow players to boost allies defense, offense and so forth, as well as affecting the same attributes in the opposite direction when it comes down to enemies. Especially in Cosmic Star Heroine, using buffs and debuffs is going to be critical in making efficient progress. Other special statuses also exist; the longer a battle goes, the higher the style and boosts can affect the whole party. There are also Hyper points that can engage an aura that allows for a tremendous amount of attack power on the turn that hyper is active. There are even various team attacks which, once again, emulate Chrono Trigger fairly closely. These attacks can be learned as characters fight together and level up.

Cosmic Star Heroine also fosters a game environment conducive to action and exploration, rather than item management. While items exist for healing and character revival, all stats and HP is reset after the battle concludes, making for a much more stress-free game that lets a player have fun, rather than worrying about how many heal potions or MP they have between battles. 

There’s also a base-building aspect to Cosmic Star Heroine as well. Fairly early in the game, the player gains access to a hub-town style flying base which serves to not only transport the player’s party from planet to planet but also to provide weapon upgrades and player support. Saving various NPCs in Cosmic Star Heroine will grow this ship’s crew which enhances various options both on board or in dungeons.

On the whole, the gameplay works very well, with little confusion when it comes to Cosmic Star Heroine’s UI. However, Cosmic Star Heroine is not without its fair share of problems.  More than once, characters were able to get into spaces that were impossible to escape; thankfully, saving and restarting the game brought the party to the beginning of the area. There was also an issue we came across in battle; a glitch restored my entire party from death, but completely crashed the game. Other catches and crashes occurred intermittently as well. Hopefully, these issues will be patched soon, if they haven’t already.

One aspect of Cosmic Star Heroine that just about outweighs these issues is its presentation. The pixel art employed in this game is clear and sharp, with nice bloom effects added to give it a more modern feel. They are definitely a cut above the original trailer’s visuals and the character sprites, once again, evoke a very Chrono Trigger feel. Some poses and animations do leave a bit to be desired though, especially when it comes down to victory pose animations. The music is excellent though. Whether at home base or exploring or fighting in battles, Cosmic Star Heroine’s OST is pretty fantastic, especially the case of boss battles.

There are also all kinds of borrowed and tweaked ideas very similar to Chrono Trigger as well, which comes as no surprise when it comes to a love letter to its obvious inspiration such as this. Needless to say, players and fans of Square-Enix’s classic RPG will definitely crack a wry grin every now and again. On the other hand though, some of the names leave a bit to be desired. Having a core character named Dave seems… unsophisticated.

Cosmic Star Heroine does a lot right and, despite a few nasty issues, it works well. There are some pretty epic sequences and more than a few classic references that will have classic RPG fans coming back for more. For $14.99, you could definitely do a lot worse

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