If you’ve been a fan of Japanese RPGs over the years, then Nintendo systems have been a good place to game, especially the Nintendo DS and 3DS. Thankfully that trend has continued over to the Nintendo Switch with publishers like NIS America, Square Enix, and Atlus pouring resources into developing new games in the genre. That’s not to say there aren’t indie game makers ignoring the field; it’s just that so many of them aren’t that great. That’s all about to change with Cosmic Star Heroine, a throwback to the glory days of 16-bit JRPGs.
At first blush Cosmic Star Heroine looks like something you’d have found on store shelves circa 1994. The best way to describe the graphics in this game is that it could have passed for a Phantasy Star game if it had ever been brought over to the Sega CD. It features detailed pixel art that looks great on the Switch’s handheld screen and is just fine blown up on a modern day TV. There are cinema scenes that help tell the story, but they’re not as intricate as something like the Lunar series. Instead they usually consist of still images that one might have saw during the height of the Sierra adventure games on PC, assuming you had the high-end SVGA card! It’s safe to say that this title trades heavily on the nostalgia factor, and that should earn it some decent sales numbers just on that factor alone.
Ask anyone what they feel is the most important thing in an RPG and you might get several different answers. While story is usually one of the most common, and I agree that it plays an essential part, I often feel that an RPG lives and dies by its combat system. I’m more of a traditionalist who enjoys turn-based mechanics, but throughout the years I’ve liked some different takes on the tried-and-true formula (Xenoblade Chronicles 2 being a more recent example). I do enjoy games that inject new ideas into the battles, and this game does just that. There are multiple gameplay systems at work here, and it takes a little while to get it all down, but the bottom line is it works well and makes fighting enemies fun.
Much like Octopath Traveler, enemies have weaknesses that can be exploited to deal extra damage. The caveat in this game is that each of your party members can only use each ability one time per battle. Well, that’s not entirely true because you can choose to rest a round and that will recharge the abilities – but this all makes for very strategic battles, especially when your facing off against a tough boss. You see, after each round you’ll gain a Hyper Point and once you’ve filled up your gauge you’ll activate Hyper Mode for double damage. So the question then becomes do you immediately go after the enemies’ weak spots with specific attacks, or do you hold them back for Hyper Mode when they’ll really do some massive damage? The choice is yours!
Similar to Chrono Trigger, the enemies are on the screen and when you run into them the battle takes place right there, no need for a view shift or anything like that. The battles were pretty snappy and I never felt like I had to grind for long periods of time, which is a great achievement in these types of games. I was constantly finding new items and weapons to equip and learning new abilities and obtaining new party members, which kept everything fresh.
As for the story, well it’s not the game’s greatest asset, but it’s entertaining to say the least. You play as Alyssa who works for the government as a covert ops specialist. Soon things go sideways and you find out not everyone is playing for the same team. So you band together with the ones you trust and together you attempt to stop the conspirators from implementing their evil plan. This will entail traveling to several different planets and exploring various facilities to keep the plot moving. And move it will! In fact, I was a bit surprised at how fast the story moved along, with a whole cast of characters that are interesting to learn about, but never seemed to get as much backstory as I wanted. This keeps the game down in hour count, which if I’m being honest, isn’t a bad thing in an age where it’s not uncommon for games to crack the 100-hour mark. Still, you’ll forgive me if I’ve often forgotten some of the characters’ names after the whirlwind story concluded.
The music in the game is quite good too, emulating something from the TurboDuo and Sega CD age as well. It’s got jazzy instruments and a crisp clean sound to it, just like all of those red book audio CDs of yesteryear. It doesn’t feature voice acting, but that’s to be expected with a smaller budget. It does have some awesome writing throughout, with funny lines of dialog and a ton of references to other games like Resident Evil and Metroid that will be appreciated by the gaming audience.
Cosmic Star Heroine is a great game to chill out with for about 15 or so hours and just enjoy the ride. Everything about it comes from a place of care and although it lacks some of the polish you might find in a AAA title, it’s charming all the same. The crazy story, fun combat, and impressive sprite work make this one an easy recommendation for the Switch.
Cosmic Star Heroine Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 6/106/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Not every game needs to be 100 hours long and cost $60. Cosmic Star Heroine hits the sweet spot of delivering fun gameplay mechanics with an upbeat and crazy story filled with charming characters and funny writing.
Cosmic Star Heroine was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.