Review by WishingTikal

Reviewed: 11/05/08

Not exactly the best, but enjoyable in an average way

The portable systems have been the platforms of choice for ports and remakes this generation. Afterall, there's nothing better than to have a classic right in the palm of your hand. Strategy/RTS games are probably the most logical ports to have on DS, thanks to the touchscreen. However, there aren't that many to have graced the system so far, even less ports or remakes, which ended up on PSP instead (FF Tactics for one). The DS however still got one, Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth, a much lesser known PSX title.

This remix version of the game is more or less a direct port; same graphic engine, same musical score, same storyline... only some minor changes were made to the gameplay to adjust the flow of the game, and a new character was added to replace another one. The battles result as less tedious and somewhat quicker. Also, the characters can now obviously be selected and placed on the map via stylus/touchscreen. Overall, Hoshigami Remix is a good port, but still a quite average game... though it's fun at times. A big plus as well, the game lets you choose the difficulty between easy and hard, making it a perfect strategy game for either beginners or advanced players.

In case you've never heard about or played the PlayStation version, Hoshigami follows the quest of a young sword-wielder and his best friend, who later gets taken by the enemy and turned against him (typical fare). Throughout the quest, the young hero meets up with a girl character who joins him on the adventure. The driving element is to fight through various areas through the kingdom, in order to recover your missing friend. Even though the game starts you with a set party of different characters (that have nothing to do with the storyline), you're free to dismiss them and replace them with any character you can hire in town, though none of them will have any background.

One thing that Hoshigami has to its advantage in this regards is that characters can wield any type of weapons, from spears, bows, knives, swords to maces or even boomerangs. If you want your whole party to wield boomerangs, it's up to you, despite each have their own weaknesses and strengths. Magic can also be used in the game, though it's not very effective unless you know what you're doing. Each character can be assigned to a different God to pray. Depending on which, your character will get different bonus abilities and will excel in different types of magic. This is an interesting element in the game but not much input, is made on it, in sort that you quickly forget about it and end up leaving the characters to their default elements.

One of Hoshigami's downsides is that even though it's a fairly lengthy game, it's not very varied. The battles take place through similar landscapes the whole way through, and the enemies will be the sames from the first level to the last level. Your party will also always be somewhat the same, unless you decide to change some party members, which isn't really to your advantage as they will be severely under-leveled. Since the enemies don't give much EXP after you reach a certain level, the best way to level-up is to hit your own characters, which is kind of ridiculous. Even though in Difficult mode your party members completely vanish after they die in battle, in Easy mode you'll be able to keep them intact after the battles.

What makes Hoshigami unique from other games of this genre is its CP gauge, which really adds more strategy to the game than some other so called strategy games. The CP gauge is a bar at the top of the screen that shows you how many turns each character can take. Each move or attack you make will fill the gauge, but some attacks will take more CP than others. Moving around also takes CP, so the farther you move your character, the less CP you'll have remaining to attack. This means that you will have more turns to attack if you don't move. You must therefore be very strategic and think carefully about what to do next. Whereas in most strategy games all you do is move once, then attack once, in Hoshigami you have to plan accordingly as you can move and attack more than once depending on what you choose to do. This is honestly some of the best gameplay I've seen for a strategy game, and I wish more games would use it.

Unfortunately, apart from that great concept, Hoshigami doesn't really deliver. Even with the slight changes made for the DS version, the game still fails to impress or distinguish itself. The gameplay is great, but it's everything else that is middle of the road. The characters are all uninteresting and cliche, so never in the adventure do you feel like caring for what becomes of them. The overall atmosphere of the game is bland, and not much comes from it. It's your typical medieval-fantasy game with nothing worth a mention.

The music features about three or four different tracks, one of which you will hear over and over again in each and every level, and which is nothing overly melodical, to the point where it's almost irritating. I ended up turning off the volume more than once near the end of the game. Graphics aren't anything special either, the colors being very muddy and the polygons and textures low, even more than in the PSX version, which looked a tad better on the big screen. But it's one of the only strategy games on DS with 3D graphics, so it's a plus for it. Even the character art is very dull and resembles the one of several other games.

It's easy to recommend Hoshigami to newcomers, but hardcore fans of strategy games won't really find much to like about it, especially since FF Tactives Advance 2 is out now. It's a pretty subpar game, and not exactly better than te PSX version, but it has some interesting gameplay mechanisms. I found myself enjoying the game playing one level per day, but any more than that and the game would have seriously become tiresome. Hoshigami is only a great game if you're into the way it plays out the battles, because otherwise it has barely any charm and really lacks personality. Everything about its presentation is pretty much forgettable, from start to finish.

Breakdown

Presentation: Nothing very memorable about the game; characters, music, graphics and atmosphere are all very uninspired. 5\10
Gameplay: Some interesting ideas, but not enough variety in many areas, and gets repetitive after a while. Some battles drag on and the characters are hard to level-up. The game is fun in small doses. 7\10
Graphics: Pseudo 3D isometric view that looks good on DS. It doesn't look as clear as the original, but it's a good effort. 7\10
Music: Good at first, then very irksome. The same battle music is overheard through over 20 levels. 6\10
Overall: Very average, yet sort of enjoyable. 7\10

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth Remix (US, 06/25/07)

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