Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth Remix - Staff Retroview  

Stick with Sakura Taisen's Hoshigami
by Mike "JuMeSyn" Moehnke

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20-40 Hours
+ Ready for Action Points system is interesting
+ Deity worship intrigues
- Fights are either boring or too hard
- Plot is lumpy and uninvolving
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   The original Hoshigami was a late release on the PS1 that received at-best middling appraisals upon its release. Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth Remix represented an attempt to fix some of the original game's problems while giving it a second home on the DS. Never having played the original rendition, I can only shudder in contemplation of what it must be like if Remix is a significant improvement. As tactical games on the DS go, there are plenty of better options and not many worse.

   What immediately distinguishes Hoshigami from other tactical games is its Ready for Action Points system, which alters the usual flow of battle. Instead of moving and then doing something else with a turn, any character actions deplete a gauge. This can mean using multiple items in a row, moving constantly, attacking and then moving to attack again, casting magic and then attacking, or any other potential combination of decisions. Not using the whole RAP gauge means a character's turn will come up faster in the queue, and the options this system enables are varied enough to catch the attention of tactical veterans looking for something different.

   The problems begin a few battles into the game, when enemies start demonstrating a dangerous aptitude at annihilating the player's party. This does not stem from their AI, which is capable of repeatedly trying to execute attacks with zero percent chance of success. Hoshigami's challenge, even on the easy difficulty, is derived from the multitude of maps that require players to kill everything by trudging uphill while ranged attackers incessantly pelt the party. Enemies will take advantage of their favorable positions to make life a living hell, and being forced to hunt down every fleeing ranged attacker drags even the easy fights out to an unnecessary degree.

   There are two methods of overpowering the opposition reliably, and both of them are dull despite not taking a great deal of time compared to usual grinding methods. Killing enemies is actually a poor source of experience gain in Hoshigami if they are of a lower level, which makes the many Towers of Trial scattered around the game world less useful than they initially appear. The recommended procedure instead is to have party members attack each other, as just a few attacks of someone at the same level is sufficient to get one to improve. Using this method while leaving one enemy alive so that the battle does not end, characters will achieve stratospheric level gains in a short time. Lower level enemies have terrible accuracy and hit for pathetic amounts of damage, which ensures that they will eventually get ground into the dirt.

No wonder, when you live atop a 30 floor tower with people who want to kill me at every juncture! No wonder, when you live atop a 30 floor tower with people who want to kill me at every juncture!

   Physical attacks peak in usefulness early in Hoshigami, and enemies sport armor that is increasingly effective as the game progresses. Despite there being a finite 9,999HP limit for everything in the game, killing the opposition with weapons starts to take far longer than ideal, especially when every adversary is humanoid and the same faces will have to be slain a great many times. The solution is to embrace what Hoshigami calls Coinfeigms, items any character can equip that enable magic usage. By spending some time appending a variety of seals that are easily located to the coins, their RAP cost can be reduced and their range can be expanded. Powerful coins can be immediately deployed at long range by characters to blast twenty-five squares and whatever enemies may be occupying that area, a tactic that is effective until the conclusion of the game. Taking advantage of coins while easily surviving every enemy attack allows players to complete the game in under forty hours, a fortunate state of affairs when the variety of enemies is not large.

   Instead of a class system, Hoshigami sports six different deities characters can worship, which influence innate statistics noticeably. Certain gods don't get along, and attacks from adherents of opposed deities tend to be more effective. Characters also learn a variety of useful skills when reverencing divinities, such as the ability to scale greater heights or counter enemy attacks. The main problem with worshipping holy figures is that changing one's target of prayer can only be done in towns, which Hoshigami frequently makes inaccessible during battles with multiple parts.

   Equipment upgrading does not need to be done constantly in Hoshigami, which is a good thing because of how obtuse the menus can prove. Even with two screens on the DS, nowhere will it be displayed what characters currently have equipped and the changes new shop inventory will convey. Making purchases is more time-consuming than it should be due to the game's need to slowly tick down the money being spent, unless the player hits the confirm button again to speed through this. At least using seals on coins clearly displays the result of the process, except on the rare occasion when the service provider makes a mistake and produces something completely contrary to expectations.

   Interface issues rear their ugly faces in combat also. Like other tactical games of the PS1 era, this title allows camera rotation only between four isometric viewing angles, and sometimes on hilly battlefields none of the options display everything that would be ideal. Hoshigami allows characters to target enemies with long range weapons despite pieces of the landscape getting in the way, and the only means of finding out whether a particular wall will block a shot is the hard way. Using coins with large ranges is quite helpful, except that once the player has chosen the epicenter of a spell the camera view is locked and may not show everything being affected — unless the action is canceled and a closer look at the area in question is taken.

Get used to killing the same faces over & over, since this continent is full of cannon fodder clones. Get used to killing the same faces over & over, since this continent is full of cannon fodder clones.

   The plot propelling action along stars a young mercenary named Fazz, whose hometown is quickly put to the torch. Fazz is understandably livid about this, but attempting to resolve this feeling in an aggressive manner with the first antagonist he detects proves a poor decision. Through a conveniently helpful cellmate his imprisonment following this folly is only temporary, and a quest to stop the war spreading across the continent promptly begins.

   Hoshigami's narrative is quite lumpy, with long stretches of battles that feature minimal dialogue suddenly giving way to very lengthy sessions on the mythology of this planet that will lose the inattentive. Some of the things it brings to the fore are interesting ideas, but the text often comes across more like a dry history lesson from a dull lecturer than anything to captivate the player. At multiple points Fazz must answer questions that determine some of the places and people he will see, but the game is very bad about giving the player a notion of the consequences each choice entails.

   By late PS1 visual standards, Hoshigami is nondescript. It sports no ornate battle animations or eye-catching landscapes, though this means carrying out actions in combat is quick. Some of its musical accompaniment is catchy, but a paucity of tracks ensures that certain uninspiring themes will repeat themselves to the point of irritation. At least the game's death screams are effective, though these too will be heard constantly while playing.

   Hoshigami has a few novel concepts that would be more worthwhile if explored in another game. The problem is that so much else required to create an involving tactical title went awry, and tweaking some elements for the DS is not enough when the whole framework needed to be gutted and rebuilt. It's plain that the DS version is superior to the PS1's, but with the myriad other games for Nintendo's handheld that are better, there's really no reason to ever play Hoshigami.

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