Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation
Publisher
Atlus Co.
Developer
Max Five
Genre
Strategy RPG
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Mild Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Actually requires strategy to win
• RAP system is fresh addition to combat

The Bad

• High level of difficulty
• Average graphics
• Story takes a while to get rolling

 
Grade
B-

After some serious delays, Max Five's strategy RPG has finally come out for the Playstation. During development of the game, many people were drawing comparisons between Hoshigami and Final Fantasy Tactics. While the visual layout of the overworld map and the combat grid are extremely similar, that is where most of the similarities come to an end. Hoshigami starts out the tale of three separate kingdoms. As the forces of the Valaimian Empire surge forward into Nightweld, Fazz and his band of mercenaries are brought in to face off against the military force. As events reveal themselves, Fazz is drawn into a plot larger than it seems (even though it does seem to take forever to get rolling).

Graphics:
Graphically, Hoshigami is really nothing spectacular. In fact, most everything about the game feels rather average in appearance. Spell effects feel rather uninspired and the character sprites and their representations in the turn menu during combat are under-detailed, often leading to confusion as to which sprites are enemies or allies. While certain cutscenes are played out with the in-game battle engine, others are done with the anime-style sprites almost like a slide show, which only manages to leave me feeling like they were a cheap way out of telling certain story portions. While I find myself unimpressed by the overall graphics, I would say that I found the battle stage design and story character illustrations to be well done. Sadly, though, most of the designs for the non-story NPCs (hirable mercenaries) are fairly average in comparison to the main characters. Fortunately, in a game like this, weak graphics can be ignored by the quality of gameplay.

Audio:
Sound effects are decent and at times the music is fairly good, but after a while both tend to get old and annoying. In fact, there seems to be so few different sound effects that most every action falls into one of a few categories. Since you'll be spending some time in the Tower of Trials, you'll probably grow tired of the music there also. Don't be surprised if you turn down the volume to your television fairly early on in the game.

Gameplay:
With what I've already said about the graphics and audio, most of you probably have already written off this game. That's understandable. For those of your who are still reading and are concerned about the gameplay, you will be rewarded. When I said that this game has very little in common with Final Fantasy Tactics, I wasn't kidding. The basis of combat is the RAP (Ready-for-Action Point) gauge, in which all actions take up a certain amount on the gauge, all of which is dependent on other factors (weight of equipment, distance of travel, speed of weapon). By utilizing this gauge, a player can move, cast magic, attack and use items in any order, but with certain limits. Players can choose to attack multiple times in a round or cast a Coinfeigm and then move into cover. Combat Magic is based on a Coinfeigm system, where seals are engraved into coins to make the magic spells more damaging or have a faster recharge rate. In combat, a character needs only to use the coin to cast it's magic. When it comes to experience levels, Hoshigami sticks to the standard leveling up, but with a twist. Skills are acquired by aligning characters up with one of several deities and gaining Devotional Levels. Also, each deity gives characters certain bonuses and weaknesses in their base abilities (defense, magic, etc). Another aspect is the ability to pull off Sessions, where the character knocks an enemy into another ally (or series of allies) for a chain attack that often does enough damage to kill the enemy (and often nets a fairly decent piece of equipment).

The real strength of Hoshigami lies in the difficulty. After the first two battles, expect to be outnumbered and often outclassed by your opponents. Hoshigami easily redefines the phrase "pyric victory". Without some well thought strategy, you'll most likely be starting missions over often or replacing your mercenaries after every mission. Each battle requires some planning and you'll find yourself keeping allies nearby rather than chancing their easy demise. This is not to say that combat isn't fun or that the AI is so much better than the usual gamer. It's just that small mistakes can often lead to huge problems. Of course, watching an enemy archer shoot his own ally in the back of the head repeatedly is always good for a laugh.

What it boils down to is that Hoshigami is a strong strategy game that fans of the genre will enjoy. For being a first effort, I would say that Hoshigami is a start in the right direction for Max Five. Casual strategy players or people looking to break into the genre will be immediately run off by the average visuals and harsh difficulty. While there are a few things I would have liked to have been changed or improved, I would have to say that the game is worth the time and frustration to play.

- - Vane

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