Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Aksys Games, Inc
N Amer - 06/26/2007
Hoshigami Remix Review
The tactical strategy/RPG, which has been around since the original Fire Emblem on NES in Japan, gained popularity in America with Final Fantasy Tactics for PlayStation. After that, the system saw an explosion of titles in the genre, including Kartia, Master of Monsters, and Saiyuki: Journey West. It also saw the release of Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth, which gained a fervent cult following despite generally poor reviews. Since that time, the Game Boy Advance saw a wealth of titles of this type, and now the Nintendo DS is poised on the brink of seeing a similar influx. One of the first titles to appear on the system is a remake, Hoshigami Remix. While it shares most of the problems that plagued its forerunner, it’s still a solid choice for anyone with an itch for a DS tactical title.
The game follows Fazz, a young mercenary in the kingdom of Nightweld. When neighboring country Valaim makes moves towards an invasion, Fazz, his good friend and combat mentor Leimray, along with a group of hired mercenaries, are recruited to protect the nearby Tower of Wind. This starts a chain of events that lead to Fazz and his party becoming responsible for the fate of the land. The story in Hoshigami is standard RPG fare and won’t surprise anyone who has played their share of RPGs; at the same time, it is well told, and Fazz becomes a more sympathetic hero than most stock RPG lead characters.
The gameplay system has more originality going for it. While the basics are taken straight from Final Fantasy Tactics, Hoshigami features a few innovations that really add to the strategy. The biggest is the RAP (Ready-to-Action-Points) Bar, a meter that fills as your characters take actions. Each potential action available to your characters fills the bar a certain amount, and it’s only after filling the bar that your character’s turn ends. In this way, it’s possible for a character to move, attack, use items, then move again all in the same turn. The RAP Bar also determines how quickly each character gets to go again, and at the end of each turn, you can increase how many points each character used, essentially letting you choose when that character will take their next turn. All of this leads to much more flexibility on the battlefield than most tactical RPG fans will be used to. The RAP Bar is a brilliant addition to the formula, and should become a standard in games of this type. Other additions include a meter, similar to the swing meter standard in golf games, that appears when using physical attacks. Time your button press correctly, and you can achieve a critical hit every attack, but miss and you’ll deal only one damage. Finally, upon attacking you can choose to “shoot” your opponents, dealing minor damage but knocking them back across the battlefield. If you knock them towards your allies waiting in “session” mode, you can bounce the enemies from ally to ally in a “Session Attack”, dealing major damage. These attacks are tricky and complex to set up, but pulling one off is satisfying and destructive.
As I said, though, most of the flaws from the original Hoshigami made the transition. The biggest factor that contributed to its harsh critical reception on PS1 was its erratic and overall high difficulty. While it is improved for the DS by the addition off two easier difficulty levels, the difficulty is still erratic, varying wildly from mission to mission. The game also suffers from poor balance, in that magic attacks out-power every other offensive option to such a degree that it’s ridiculous. By the time the story really gets going, having anyone in your party who’s not a mage would be a bad idea, simply because magic is so very effective. Also, this game is incredibly complex, even by tactical strategy/RPG standards, and that’s really saying something. This may not be a flaw depending on the player, and there are definitely those for whom the more complex, the better. Most people, though, probably won’t want to have to try to remember which characters worship what deities (each character actually has a level that signifies how devoted to their particular deity they are), what elemental bonuses that confers, and so on.
All technical aspects of Hoshigami have been improved, with some being completely redone, for this release. All character portraits have been redone and some visual effects have been improved, although by-and-large the graphics are identical to the PS1 original. A majority of the game’s text has been rewritten, and the dialog is much better for this, although the story remains the same. The game’s soundtrack has also been redone, and the new music is far superior to the original’s, but it’s still nothing extraordinary. The controls have been redesigned to take advantage of the DS’s touch screen, but honestly it’s simply easier to use the buttons.
Hoshigami Remix is not a bad game, but it does practically define “niche title.” It’s certainly a game that’s designed for a very narrow audience, and as such most people aren’t going to find anything here that entertains them. For a certain type of gamer, the same people who broke the level-up system in Disgaea and completed all the missions in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, there’s a ton of interesting strategy combat to be found here. Anyone else with a mild interest in the genre would probably be better off waiting for the upcoming Luminous Arc or Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2.
|Review Scoring Details for Hoshigami Remix|
This is a solid strategy/RPG, unfortunately broken by an inconsistent difficulty level and poor game balance. Fans of tactics can lose themselves in layers upon layers of strategic depth, but others probably won’t want to bother.
The game looks quite a bit like Final Fantasy Tactics, and that’s not a bad thing. Excellent character art, sprites, and pretty 3D environments are attractive in a retro way and overshadow lackluster spell effects and bland menus.
The music, although improved from the PS1 version, still isn’t super impressive. Sound effects are decent (especially dying character’s death cries-awesome) but nothing here will blow you away.
Assuming you don’t play on “Easy” mode, in which the enemies don’t use magic (which is crazy powerful) and you can, the game is hard on the whole, with some levels being absurdly difficult. Then, every once in a while, you’ll hit a level that’s super-easy. This game has no concept of a learning curve.
This game throws out a ton of great ideas, like the RAP Meter and Session Attacks. It’s also got a deep magic customization system and plenty of characters, classes, and abilities for you to try.
This is a hard game to score. Some will love it, and others will despise it. More likely than not, your own appreciation of this title will come down to your fanaticism regarding the genre. While it is a deeply flawed title, there’s still plenty of game here for the right type of person.
A decent addition to the DS’s small but growing selection of tactical RPGs
Reviewer: Dylan Platt
Review Date: 07/10/2007