Cosmic Star Heroine caught my eye through several reviews here on WordPress. It quickly became apparent where this game draws much of it’s inspiration. I was eager to give it a go and see if it could re-muster some of the nostalgic feelings of old playing games such as Chrono Trigger. I can confidently say it accomplishes this without trying to force too much onto the player. At the same time, it takes it easy on some of the deeper meanings and messages those games may have brought and focuses on keeping things fun and light hearted.
In Cosmic Star Heroine, you play as Alyssa L’Salle, a top secret agent for the galactic empire. During one of her missions with her squad, she comes upon a top secret government conspiracy. She is forced to take matters into her own hands and bravely defies the agency she works for. Ever since, she is on the run with the help of her trusted friends and allies to bring to truth to light and save the galaxy.
The story in Cosmic Star Heroine is far from being ground breaking. This isn’t to say it’s not enjoyable. It follows your standard JRPG progression of old as you progress from town to town, talking to townsfolk, trekking through locales like caves and abandoned bases on alien exotic worlds. As typical fashion goes, you reach the climax which comes in the form of pretty awesome boss encounters, that once finished will progress the story.
The story ends up being a bit cliché, but never does it feel underwhelming. This helps because the game presents itself in a way where it doesn’t try too hard to stand out and doesn’t take itself that seriously. This may sound like a bad thing, but as the story unfolds and you get a knack for the uncanny, witty writing, this becomes clear and it ends up just being pure fun.
I do find pacing towards the end seems a bit rushed in certain segments. You end up just hoping from one event to another like it’s nothing. In other JRPGs, similar events are a bit more drawn out to let things sink in. Cosmic Star Heroine does suffer from this a tad bit, but it’s not a game breaking flaw by any means. In the end, the story takes you through fun events and throws some fun twists and turns along your path. This all eventually leads to a very strong ending.
The characters in Cosmic Star Heroine do step out of the norm a bit more and have some pretty unique abilities. They help keep the mood light hearted, while still managing to be bad asses all around. Take Chahn for example, a gunmancer who instead of wielding weapons in battle, warps in her hardware when she attacks. Now how cool is that?!
What truly helps keep Cosmic Star Heroine a fun affair is the writing. There’s some funny stuff thrown all around the game. From humorous remarks made about the bad guys, to enemy descriptions, to simple observations made by your team. It’s not laugh out loud comedy, but it really helps to have a chuckle every now and then when you encounter these moments. It really adds an unprecedented amount of charm to the package.
Now of course, a JRPG can have a fun story and cool characters. However, in the end, these games are always going to be defined by their combat. Well, I’m glad to report, combat in Cosmic Star Heroine is very good. It bases it’s fundamentals of the classic turn based style combat, but features unique mechanics that helps keep the combat fluid and fun. It also does an amazing job of keeping things streamlined and not bogging the player down with tasks that simply consume and waste time.
Instead of commands being broken down into the typical Attack, Magic, Items categories, things are done a bit differently in Cosmic Star Heroine. You have your Skills, Items and Programs. Skills for the most part are locked out when used. Some of the skills can be re-used each turn, such as basic attacks, but most of the more beneficial ones need to have your character go into defense mode to recharge those skills. In defense mode, your character loses a turn, but gains much defense and some other perks in this state. Items and Programs can only be used once per battle, but are replenished once the battle is done.
Programs are unique as they are abilities tied to whatever shield the character has equipped. In addition to boosting some stats with each shield, they each come with a whole slew of Programs at your disposal. This lends many possibilies to mix and match different combinations for each character from being able to dish our elemental damage, to casting songs that regen your parties health each turn.
You also manage style during battle, presented by percentage below your HP. Style increments bit by bit during each turn. The idea is, the more style you have, the stronger your attacks will be. On the flip side, enemies also work off this mechanic, so as much as it may benefit your party, the longer the battle goes on, enemies only become stronger and stronger.
One last mechanic unique to Cosmic Star Heroine is Hyper mode. A series of empty squares below the characters health track this, and fill up blue each turn. Once all squares are full, the character enters Hyper mode, depicted by glowing yellow light emitting from the ground below them. In this state, characters deal significantly more damage, so this adds even more depth to the combat. It is in your best interest to save your strongest attacks and damage boosting buffs for Hyper mode instead of recklessly spending them.
What makes the combat even more fun is how substantially different each of the characters plays. Alyssa works off attacks based of physical and water attacks. Clarke, a soldier, specializes in abilities that draw enemy attacks to him and boost his defense. Arete barely has any direct attacks, and relies heavily on her drone to automatically attack enemies each turn, while being able to do other abilities in parallel. Other abilities include things like sacrificing your life to heal your party, stealing style from other party members, and boosting a party members damage for three turns. You can tweak the load out of each characters abilities adding even more variations to the mix, since not abilities are ideal for each situation.
How Cosmic Star Heroine flows easily sets it apart from a lot of other titles in its class. It’s ease of access combined with it’s challenge is streamlined so efficiently, it makes one wonder why other JRPGs don’t follow in suit. There is no concept of random encounters, much like in Chrono Trigger. Enemies are seen traversing outside of combat, and in some cases, you can probably forego some battles if you wish. However, once defeated, enemies don’t respawn, meaning you can traverse back and forth as much as you’d like. You may think this is a negative, however there’s more than enough enemies to keep you busy, should you decide to take on each and every one of them.
The games level balance as a result feels perfect. Having only a set amount of enemies in the entire games shows how well Zeboyd Games planned level progression. This means there’s pretty much no chance one can be under or over leveled. Depending on your difficulty chosen, enemy encounters to me felt just right. Where as in some other games, having to grind out through many side quests and countless enemies just becomes a chore, or even being over leveled to the point where there is absolutely no challenge. Cosmic Star Heroine does away with these annoying nuances that unfortunately plague this great genre on numerous occasions.
On the occasions you do end up dying, the game presents you with your game over screen, and you can retry right from the start of the battle in a matter of seconds, or quit to tweak your approach. Health and status ailments also do not carry over between battles, and having items replenish as well without needing to manage their stock are brilliant ways to keep things moving. You also have the ability to save whenever you want. With all these player friendly features, Cosmic Star Heroine always keep things progressing forward and has the player focus purely on the fun and joy of RPGs, instead of treading through deep, thick gooey mud with mundane tasks.
Outside of the battles and localized areas, you traverse large segments of Cosmic Star Heroine in the overworld. Here you can visit different towns available on each planet. Furthermore, there are several optional areas that you can check out. Defeating the enemies you encounter their ultimately reward you with gear, or crew mates for your ship. Each of the segments brings forth unique and lush environments, like wild exotic jungles, to more modern urban city designs.
Visually, Cosmic Star Heroine looks great as it oozes with charm. The game is incredibly colourful, and environments are designed to look very distinct from one another. Even roaming around an abandoned factory brings all sorts of twists and turns, that I never feel like I’m traversing through the same area twice. The attention to detail is nice as the buildings are littered with all sorts of gadgetry to help bring things to life. The cut scenes, although being simplified, also look great as they introduce each of the characters you encounter with much detail. Character sprites are all distinct, and draw very heavily from Chrono Trigger, which isn’t a bad thing at all. During battles, attacks and skills are also represented very well, as strong attacks provide that impact as elements like water or thunder covers the entire screen when dealing massive damage to all enemies.
At this point, it’s clear I really love Cosmic Star Heroine. However there is one aspect that really sets it apart and is a must have feature for any JRPG for me to get you pumped for battle and make the overall experience that much better, and that’s the soundtrack. Cosmic Star Heroine features one of the best sound tracks in recent memory. It’s chock full of excellent tracks from heavy metal styled tracks with lots of bass and drums, to ambient sound things that do great in setting the mood in dark, abandoned areas. I simply can’t get these tracks out of my head, and just the thought of listening to them over and over again makes each play through that much more exciting. I’d highly recommend the playlist below and check out the games excellent boss music, track 10 titled ‘Critical Juncture’. This boss theme always gets me ready for the big fight ahead.
The sound track was composed by HyperDuck, you can check out their page here if you want to support them. You can find many other outlets to purchase the sound track in the youtube video descriptions.
Prior to playing Cosmic Star Heroine, I knew I was in for a treat. Right from the get go, I was hooked and there was no turning back. This feeling lasted through the entirety of the game. Featuring an amazingly deep yet user friendly combat system that does not dare to waste a players time is highly appreciated from gamers such as myself, who can only devote so much time to gaming. The game may not feature the most complex story out there, and may suffer from some rushed pacing issues at times, but through it’s witty writing and huge cast of characters, it delivers pure, unadulterated fun. It’s inspirations are quite apparent, yet it manages to still be it’s own entity and does well at it. Featuring one of the most addicting sound tracks out there, Cosmic Star Heroine makes it’s impact even with your time away from it. Clocking in at between 15-20 hours, there’s a chock full of things to do, and is well worth the price of admission. I highly recommend Cosmic Star Heroine. It’s a true gem that will take you back to times forgotten.
Disclaimer: This review was done using a Steam copy of Cosmic Star Heroiine provided by the games publisher/developer, Zeboyd Games. Please be assured that this did not affect my opinion of the game, and that my criticisms are an honest and true representation of my thoughts on the game.