Review by OutOfRange

Reviewed: 03/25/08

I Don't Remember The Last Time I Cringed So Much Playing A Game

I don’t normally criticise developers for their decisions on character names, hell SquareSoft got away with Cloud, but turning a game on and seeing that they called the main character Fazz doesn’t instil you with the greatest confidence for the game. I bought this game on an impulse, having found out that Disgaea DS is going to be a mere port, and wanted some new TRPG action. I really wish I’d bought something else, since this game doesn’t offer anything new to the genre and what it does offer is just mind numbingly dull.

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Storyline (2/10)
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This is a classic example of a game with no ideas as far as storylines go. You’re the stereotypical young mercenary torn between going off to fight a war that has nothing to do with you and staying at home with his girlfriend. Couple him with his even more stereotypical older mentor figure who inevitably ends up dead and then cliche number one, have the bad guys abduct our hero’s girlfriend so that you finally have a reason to fight them, and now you pretty much have Hoshigami. You even get a personal request from “The King” to help defend the land from evil due to your legendary mercenary / stooge status. To cut it short, the storyline is nothing short of hilariously awful and basically a bunch of cliches queued up so they can insult you with their subpar story telling one by one. This is a lesson if ever I saw one in how not to write a storyline, and even if you can’t write anything better, this is definitely not how you present it.

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Gameplay(4/10)
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Standard Tactical RPG fare here; the battles are fought on grids with you at one end and the enemies at another, and every action from moving to attacking is reliant on the grid to gauge distance. The game uses a variety of weapons, but nothing outside the established norm for TRPGs; swords, bows, axes, etc. There’s also a magic system, which never actually explains itself and leaves it entirely to guess work, which uses “coins” each type with their own spell that they offer. I’ll give them credit for at least attempting to do something different here, but it feels like it wasn’t fully thought through, since while you can “upgrade” them with seals, the onslaught of abbreviations you’re presented with when doing so means it’s guess work as to whether you’ve actually made an improvement. Also, the fact that any character can use magic, pretty much makes the specialist spell casters useless, since the extra damage is a very small amount.

Heading back to the battle system, one other thing it does differently is to add a battle meter of sorts, which allows you to see the next ten sequence of moves. It also allows you to see how a move will effect that character’s next turn, since if you only move one step, you’ll get a turn quicker than if you move two. This would have been a nice touch if for one thing; you could undo moves. If you’re trying to visualise how moving to a particular spot would effect your future turns, this meter would have been useful, except that moving to a spot is permanent, thus killing the one use the meter would have actually had.

The last thing about the battles is that no matter how little you move and how much the enemies do, they always seem to recover their turns faster, which is pretty much the only thing that makes the game hard. The enemies are by and large incredibly weak, which makes it all the more annoying while you wait ten minutes for your turn to finish them off. This isn’t much of an exhaguration, since while the levels are pretty small, it can take several turns just to traverse them. Overall, since the battle system should be the core element of a TRPG (since you’re going to spend so much time in it), it sure be damned good… Hoshigami’s isn’t.

The problem is that there isn’t much else to it; the shops offer crap equipment that barely makes any difference to your stats, and the temples where you “improve” your coins are practically pointless. There’s the mercenary system, which means that most of your team is expendable and can be replaced at a whim, but most the people you get through it suck big time. The menus look awful and are a chore to navigate through and the world map is uninspired. Basically, this game just really doesn’t have that many positives, and originally I gave this a 5 for gameplay, but in the time it’s taken me to write this I can’t find enough redeeming features to warrant saying that it’s average.

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Graphics (4/10)
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The game’s biggest asset is that the battlefields are rendered in 3D, and for the most part look quite good, since there’s a wide variety of environments. The character sprites themselves look alright and are animated pretty well. There is however a downside in that all the graphics outside battle are quite shockingly bad. Since they obviously didn’t know what to do with the extra screen, save putting a menu on it, and didn’t want to leave it pitch black (because that would be silly) so they put a horrible blue-black gradient on there. The way cutscenes are handled is to put a badly cut out image of a character on what, to be honest, are pretty nice backgrounds. This wouldn’t be so bad in itself, but each character has a variety of images to try and convey some semblance of emotion, and some of them are laughably bad. The magic effects are pretty much all nothing spectacular either, but that said, graphically the game’s at it’s best in battles, which is just as well, since you’ll spend so damned long in them.

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Sounds (4/10)
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I play the DS with the sound off most the time, so I can’t give a too in depth analysis of the audio quality of this game. I did turn it on to get a glimpse of it however, and while nothing stood out and gave me a reason to never turn the sound off again, there wasn’t anything that gave me a reflex reaction to turn it off again either.

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Lifespan(3/10)
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It’s kind of hard to judge it, since you’ll spend an eternity in some battles, but overall, the game’s just not that long. They tried to add a couple of optional dungeons, in a poor way to try and justify saying this isn’t just a complete PSX port, but they won’t hold interest for too long either. The game will last a fair amount of time if you can be bothered to play it, but the likelihood is you’ll lose interest in it far before the end of the game.

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Summary (3/10)
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Tactical RPGs have started, at least somewhat, to make a comeback, probably due to the popularity of Disgaea. But it’s games like Hoshigami that ruin it as a sub-genre, since all they have to offer is the battle system, and so many of them don’t even try to stand out. So it added a bar, which just visualises a mechanic that’s been present in a number of Tactical RPGs before it, that doesn’t make it a worthwhile game. I only bought this because it was relatively cheap, and for that I can’t complain too much. However, that said there do seem to be much better offerings available and since this is supposedly a remake not a mere port, that means they’ve had two goes to get this right and failed. Even for fans of the genre, this is one that you could do without playing. Gamefaqs own review system has it down for this game; 3/10 - not a very enjoyable game... and it just isn't.

Rating:   1.5 - Bad

Product Release: Hoshigami (EU, 10/19/07)

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