Announced as early as 2013, Zeboyd Games' long-awaited retro RPG Cosmic Star Heroine finally touched down on PlayStation 4.
Alyssa L'Salle is an up-and-coming agent working for the API, the Agency of Peace and Intelligence. After thwarting a terrorist attack early in the story, she's lauded for her achievement but also stumbles upon some terrifying information that leads her to seriously question the intentions of her employer. You play as L'Salle and a handful of her coworkers and friends. The old-school art style really looks great and you'll quickly forget that you're not playing a Super Nintendo game.
Cosmic Star Heroine features a complex but not terribly difficult to learn combat system. Combat is turn-based, generally consisting of your team attacking first followed by your opponents. Each member of your party can have up to seven attacks or abilities equipped and you can also activate reusable items and programs that recharge after each battle. An extremely quick tutorial imparts a lot of this information to you but unfortunately, it's not accessible to review in-game. I actually had to use a Steam guide to help me remember some things from the all too brief tutorial messages.
Alongside attacks that come in physical and element-based varieties, you can also have party members use a variety of buffs on themselves or debuffs that will weaken opponents. You'll find that properly sequencing the variety of buffs, debuffs, and powerful attacks will result in some extremely powerful combos that you can chain together. You'll also want to keep track of every party member's hyper bar. Every 2 to 5 turns, each party member will enter hyper mode which allows them to pull off an extremely powerful attack. You'll want to reserve your most powerful abilities for these hyper attacks to really stack up the damage.
As in any good RPG, you'll level up as you gain experience to increase your core stats. There are shops scattered across the world that will sell you new weapons, shields, and accessories that will boost specific abilities for each character and provide custom program abilities that can be used in battle. The turn-based combat is the most enjoyable part of Cosmic Star Heroine. A large chunk of the campaign forces you to play with preselected parties, meaning you have to learn how to combine your team's abilities as best you can. It also provides you with the opportunity to get to know each character and put new party members through their paces. Around chapter 7, you will be able to start choosing your own members but there are still times when a preselected roster will be your only option.
Strategizing and coordinating your party's abilities is extremely satisfying as you discover which attacks and combos work best on different enemy types. At times, you'll feel virtually unstoppable. When this happens, you can crank up the difficulty to make things a bit more challenging if you feel like you're just crushing the opposition. Unfortunately, the difficulty scale is a little wonky at times, and turning up the difficulty also makes battles take significantly longer. Sometimes, you'll know that winning is inevitable but that doesn't mean you won't be spending 3 to 5 minutes going through the motions.
The creator of Cosmic Star Heroine put significant effort into building a large-scale world with culture and back story. There are literally hundreds of NPCs that you can talk to and most of them are willing to share a small nugget of information about the town you're in, the people who live there, or the world at large. For those looking to really get immersed in the experience, it's a wonderful addition. For those more interested in enjoying the combat, some of the text-based fetch quests can get annoying and confusing.
The robust world and intricate combat system are Cosmic Star Heroine's shining stars but neither aspect is without flaws. Still, it's an enjoyable and accessible game that will appeal to both the JRPG faithful and casual genre fans alike.
- + Complex and deep battle system
- + Wonderful retro graphics and character sprites
- + Robust world
- - Hard to pinpoint the right difficulty
- - Overly long battles
- - Massive amount of NPCs can lead to confusion during fetch quests