Review: Cosmic Star Heroine
Cosmic Star Heroine, to put it simply, is a fantastic 16-bit style RPG that shows a clear respect for many beloved JRPGs of that era (Chrono Trigger comes to mind) while never feeling completely beholden to the past. It instead offers a deliberate old-school inspired game that offers smart solutions to problems that many games in the genre have faced.
Alyssa L’Salle’s journey kicks into gear just a few hours into the game when, along with a couple friends, she discovers a massive conspiracy that calls into question everything she’s known. Forced to go rogue, Alyssa and company are branded as traitors and must now do whatever it takes to keep a rather powerful device out of the wrong hands. From a broad perspective, the story throughout Cosmic Star Heroine is one of the few things that I never grew too attached to. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, it’s just that in comparison to everything else the game has to offer, this is the thing that ended up taking a back seat. That said, my appreciation for Cosmic Star Heroine’s world and characters comes in the form of Chapter 5’s incredible series of boss fights, the live band you watch preform at the night club, and partnering with a detective to clear my name. These were generally short segments in the game, but they’re also the key moments in which I really felt attached to the universe crafted by Zeboyd Games.
The main draw for Cosmic Star Heroine, and the reason why I’ll endlessly recommend this to my gaming friends, is its combat system. Combat takes place in the game world (no separate battle screen) and triggers whenever your party comes within range of a group of enemies. Everything is turn based and the turn order can be easily viewed on the right side of the screen. The catch, however, is that there’s no MP, most abilities require a turn to recharge, and all items are single use within battle. The game then builds upon this foundation and continues by introducing a Hyper mechanic that boosts a character’s attack every few turns, a Style percentage that impacts stats as battles progress, and a huge emphasis on exploiting weaknesses as well as buff and debuff skills. What this leads to, is a game where every single battle starts exactly the same way. You’ll never have to worry about stocking up on ethers, instead, you’ll always have access to any given ability and every fight in the game is built around that.
Cosmic Star Heroine’s battle system requires an immense amount of strategy, especially on the harder difficulty settings. You’ll need to learn when to buff characters, when to use certain abilities, and how to ensure that you’ll get the most out of every single attack. This is topped off with a skill system for each character that ensures you’ll never grow out of an ability. Alyssa’s water spell that she has at the beginning of the game is still useful in the final boss fight because she’ll never learn ‘water 2’. Instead, every new skill, every weapon, and every item found is unique and has its very own purpose. You’ll need to sort out which skills and items you take into battle with each character’s loadout screen, but what’s important here is that everything found and learned is significant in its own way. I absolutely love that, instead of focusing on just a couple strong spells and attacks, I had to learn the ins and outs of every single thing the game provided me. The result was a ~20 hour RPG where every single encounter was exciting and required me to put some sort of thought into each move.
Outside of combat, Alyssa’s journey stretches across three planets and eventually a full on space ship where any extra party members and crew will stay behind. There’s all sorts of people/aliens to meet throughout the universe, some of which you can recruit, whereas others might have some sort of side objective for you to complete. All of this fleshes out the universe and characters within it and ultimately just adds a good bit to the overall game. It’s worth taking your time, exploring each area and town fully, and ensuring that you speak to all NPCs.
All of this goes without addressing the fantastic soundtrack that’s provided by Hyper Duck Soundworks (Dust: An Elysian Tail, Toto Temple Deluxe). Cosmic Star Heroine is simply an incredible JRPG inspired adventure that’s even more impressive when you consider how small the team is that made it. Aside from a story that didn’t completely pull me in, my only real complaint is that the game’s UI can, at times, be a little unclear. In battles an AoE attack sometimes wouldn’t highlight multiple enemies (even when it’d still hit them) and in shops there didn’t seem to be a way to compare equipment. I also ran into a couple small glitches, one that forced me to reload a save file, which is a bummer, but luckily Zeboyd Games have been quick to patch out these issues. Ultimately, Cosmic Star Heroine really shouldn’t be passed up, it’s a fantastic throwback to games like Chrono Trigger and Phantasy Star that, like Shovel Knight before it, presents a modern twist that makes it a clear standout indie release.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- A fantastic battle system that requires strategy and utilization of everything in your arsenal.
- Chapter 5
- Great soundtrack
- Doing massive damage by taking advantage of weaknesses, buffs, and Hyper mode is incredibly satisfying.
What I Dislike:
- Story didn't really grab me like the rest of the game did.
- Couple minor bugs and UI issues.