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Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth
Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone (Mild Viole
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth belongs to the anime-style school of thought, a familiar look used in RPGs. Rare parts of the plot development occur as 2D full screen comic style illustrations, but the majority of the plot development takes place as scripted in-game graphics. The in-game graphics are made up of 2D sprites overlayed on an orthagonal 3D 'arena'. By 'arena', I merely mean that the area is square and confined, giving a sort of a 'chess-board' feel. The environments created within these arenas can be quite varied, however, and do a nice job of conveying anything from the inside of a tower to a section of a city, to some part of the landscape. The orthagonal 3D typically works well to show the layout of most, if not all, of the arena. For those times that you can't see exactly what you need to, you can use the shoulder buttons to rotate your view. I find that some arenas require more rotation than others, depending on the flatness of the ground and the number and size of any obstacles. All in all, the graphics do a good job at conveying the needed information, in a minimalistic way, with just enough character and animation to keep it interesting; the characters have a two or three frame animation when they're standing at rest, just to give them a little motion, and when they get sufficiently damaged, they crouch.

The music and sound effects also seem to find a nearly perfect balance between minimalism and variety. There are a few different sounds that you might hear for a sword attack, a few different sounds for an arrow attack... one 'swooshing' sound for a miss, and a couple different levels of 'thunking' sounds for actual completed attacks. Fewer sounds would have made the sound effects too repetitious, more variety would have probably been wasted effort. This is a role-playing game; the sound effects are not the main point. The music is repetitious, but not aggravatingly so. (In fact, while I can easily tolerate the music, my wife actually likes it...) The basic idea is that the graphics and sound do everything they need to, without really getting in the way of the game. All of the dialog in the game is text, however. Although this has been customary for RPGs, I still would prefer to have even bad voice acting rather than none at all.

The general idea of Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth has you traversing across a two-dimensional map, going from location to location, following the plot of the game, and engaging in battles with your party of hired mercenaries to protect the land... One of the greatest tasks you'll be charged with is the development of your party, however. Also, bear in mind that no matter how urgent your next quest might seem, rushing into battle without adequately training your party members and preparing them will end up a waste of your time. You'll want to train in the 'Tower of Trial' for quite a while to raise your levels and work out your fighting strategies. There are some very interesting and unique elements to Hoshigami that make strategy not only possible, but pretty much integral to playing the game. You have to effectively manage your characters, be mindful of their health, and choose your enemies based on level of threat just to get by. Additionally, there is a special type of move called a 'shoot' attack, that does less damage than normal but knocks an opponent a couple of spaces away. By placing team members at the correct places, and preparing them for an 'attack session', you can chain attacks from several team members, each one 'throwing' the opponent the direction they had been facing. Not only does this inflict a good bit of damage, but you can also get items from that enemy at the end of the fight if you pull it off right.

The dynamics of Hoshigami: RBE are quite interesting and allow for a great bit of exploration and experimentation. While the moves and attacks of Hoshigami do not begin to compare with chess, there are difference in the strengths and weaknesses of different types of characters, and using one type wisely will generally be better than using another type carelessly, independent of the character types. Also, the magic system in Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth revolves around 'coins' and 'seals' that are either bought or found in towers. These coins have different effects. One can be used to cure someone, and the rest are different forms of attacks. The seals can be engraved onto the coins to change their characteristics. Some seals used on some coins might raise certain attributes while lowering others. The same seal used on another coin might have a different (and purely positive) effect. Be careful - some seals offer only detrimental changes to certain coins. The unique aspect of these 'coins' is that any member of your party can be equipped with them and can use them. This means that 'magic users' per se, are merely people who choose not to use weapons, so that they can carry more coins. At low levels, coins can only be used once per fight; at higher levels, however, you can use them again in the same fight after time has passed...

Hoshigami's one drawback is that there is no quick way to 'give-up' on a fight gone awry and jump back to the load screen. Sometimes it gets down towards the last of a fight and you know it's hopeless and wish you could get out and reload some way without rebooting the machine. Once, I accidentally loaded the wrong saved game and entered a major fight, only to find out that all the characters I trained were not even there to be chosen from. I never even selected my characters for that fight. I just shut off the machine and played it later. If I could have gone straight to the menu and loaded a different saved game, I would have kept playing...

If you're familiar with RPGs, then you'll understand that the difficulty in Hoshigami depends largely on how much you've trained your characters. The easiest area you'll find is the lower levels of the 'Tower of Trial'. This is an area for training your characters and is excellent for working on developing your strategies, as well. (If you're wondering how difficult it is to get past floor 1 of the tower, when I first jumped in and started playing Hoshigami, I didn't realize I had anyone in my party. I managed to get through the first couple of floors with just my main character!) However, the battles that are integral to the plot are quite a bit harder. You'll want to build up your skills (as well as your characters' skills...) before taking on some of these battles.

If you're used to the learning curve and build-up time required in old-school RPGs, you won't be surprised by Hoshigami. If, however, you're looking to jump in, play a bit, and quit playing, Hoshigami may not be the game for you.

Game Mechanics:
Hoshigami is overall a nice game. It's fun and has character, and stays decidedly within the RPG genre. If you're a fan of old-school RPGs, Hoshigami is definitely for you. The only drawback I noticed is the lack of the ability to quit straight to the menu when you decide that the current fight is hopeless. The time it takes to reboot and reload your saved game can detract from momentum of a good run. Other than that, Hoshigami is very enjoyable.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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