As a huge fan of classic JRPG games like Lunar: The Silver Star, Phantasy Star IV and Chrono Trigger, it’s no surprise that I was drawn to Zeboyd Games’ Cosmic Star Heroine. While it pulls inspiration from those titles, Cosmic Star Heroine stands as an excellent game in it’s own right thanks to it’s great writing, deep, addictive combat and excellent pacing. It’s a galactic journey that is worth taking!
Cosmic Star Heroine is the story of Alyssa L’Salle, as she fights alongside her friends against the terrorist threat plaguing planet Araenu. However, not is all is as it seems and before she knows it, Alyssa and her friends must stop a threat on a galactic scale. The story moves quickly and is well paced throughout.
Similar to other Zeboyd Games titles, Cosmic Star Heroine doesn’t take itself too seriously and isn’t afraid to use references for comedic relief. It’s self-aware and is not afraid at poking fun at RPG tropes while also not trying to beat you over the head with it’s humour.
Cosmic Star Heroine wouldn’t be a JRPG without interesting party members. Including Alyssa, you gain control over 11 party members over the course of the game, each with their own unique personalities and abilities. From the singer Lauren, the bounty hunter Z’xorv to the disco dancing robot Clarke, no two characters feel alike and are all charming in their own ways.
As a sci-fi RPG, Cosmic Star Heroine contains plenty of planetary exploration! Each of the game’s 3 worlds feel very distinct and each contain their own unique sets of locations to explore. While I would have loved to see more planets, I never felt bored with the locations and felt the need to explore every nook and cranny, as well as talk to every NPC.
Visually, Cosmic Star Heroine evokes the 16-bit look found in Sega CD games while conveying a futuristic look akin to the Phantasy Star series. It also weaves short cutscenes throughout, similar to the ones found in Lunar: The Silver Star that are well animated and help bring the story to life. Each planet visually looks different from each other and are well drawn with interesting locations and secrets.
One of the main highlights of Cosmic Star Heroine is it’s turn-based combat. Battles play out similar to other JRPGs but there’s a catch, many of your abilities can only be used once before needing to be recharged. Abilities used build “style” for the character who used it; the more style you accrue, the more damage you deal. Also, characters will build up hyper points that allow you to deal extra damage or have a higher chance of inflicting status effects. Recharging is done by using a character’s “defend” ability, which can sometimes also provide other added benefits such as regenerating health, providing party buffs or adding to your style in addition to providing additional protection.
Timing your ability usage with your hyper meter is critical, especially in later battles, as knowing which abilities to equip and how to exploit your enemies weaknesses is key to survival. Party management is also critical, as knowing when to have certain individuals in your 4 person party can put you at a major advantage or disadvantage. Each party member can only have 8 abilities enabled at once, so it’s up to you what mix you bring into each battle. Once you reach a certain moment in the game, you are able to start recruiting “recruits” which provide you a passive buff depending on which one you select as your support.
All of this may seem daunting, luckily, the game does a very good job of teaching you these mechanics through 3 extremely short tutorials and providing lots of in-game text if you need more info. I felt that once I started getting into the habit of reading new ability info and mixing and matching them, combat seemed to really open up.
There are some minor quality of life settings that are missing such as the ability to button-map the controls, being able to enable auto-run and changing dialog speeds, but the absence of these didn’t hinder my experience at all. The option for an in-game journal would help too but I didn’t feel lost thanks to the “Insight” command that is very good at pointing you in the right direction.
It took roughly 14 hours to complete Cosmic Star Heroine according to the in-game clock, with the Platinum trophy and completing almost all side content including optional bosses and recruits. The game offers 4 different difficulties that can be changed at any time outside of combat, which serves as the main replay value (for the purposes of this review, I completed the game on “Agent” difficulty). Switching the difficulty doesn’t appear to punish the player for lowering or increasing it and is enabled so you are able to play at the level you are comfortable with.
When Cosmic Star Heroine launched, there were wide reports of bugs affecting the gameplay. I can report that during my time with the game the only bug I encountered was when interacting with NPCs, sometimes the dialog would loop multiple times. At the time of this writing, this issue has been patched and I haven’t been able to replicate this issue since. Otherwise, my playthrough of the game has been smooth with very little technical issues.
Adding further to the 16-bit feel is the soundtrack by HyperDuck SoundWorks. HyperDuck knocks it out of the park with a brilliant soundtrack that perfectly compliments the sci-fi setting. Also, it’s worth noting that the main battle theme has been stuck in my head ever since completing the game a few days ago. While there aren’t character voiceovers, this aspect made the game feel more genuine and fits along with the games that inspired it. Sound effects are pretty good overall, with the overall battle sound design really bringing you into the action.
Cosmic Star Heroine is all I could ever ask for in a modern day interpretation of a classic JRPG. With excellent combat, an intriguing story that doesn’t take itself too seriously and a killer soundtrack. While it may not win over any new fans to the genre, Cosmic Star Heroine is an absolute steal at the current 19.99 CAD asking price! If you grew up with classic turn-based JRPGs or you’ve been looking for the next great JRPG to play, look no further!
Initial release date: April 11, 2017
Developer: Zeboyd Games
Publisher: Zeboyd Games
Mode: Single-player video game
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
Genres: Turn Based JRPG
Reviewed on PS4