Hoshigami Remix (Nintendo DS) - Review by andyr

5.5

Introduction

Hoshigami Remix: Ruining Blue Earth is an update of the insanely difficult PlayStation role-playing game that became popular on the coat-tails of Final Fantasy Tactics. In this DS version, three difficulty levels at least give the player a chance (if you choose 'easy' that is!), and several other tweaks make this worth a look for fans of the genre.

Gameplay

Hoshigami is, to put it mildly, a complex game. It will look pretty straightforward to start with as you place your mercenaries around the combat area and then start moving them towards the enemy. But while that is simple enough there is an awful lot to learn to be an effective player.

To start with there are six deities that your character can align themselves with and depending on your opponents deity you may do more or less damage than normal. So while you can just randomly attack any enemy it's definitely worth checking which god they are aligned to first.

Then there is the spell system, which is based around 'coins' called, for some reason, 'coinfeigms'. The coin is infused with magic and can be used to cast a range of different spells. Whether you can actually use a coin will depend on how much of your RAP gauge is remaining and how much 'mana' is left on the coin. So far so simple, but wait, there's more. The coins can have 'seals' engraved on them which can improve (or degrade) their effectiveness - but you wont actually knowfor sure what effect you'll end up with. I'm sure some dedicated player will generate a 'seal guide' but it's no fun for the casual gamer.

Hoshigami introduces an interesting feature in the form of a RAP gauge for each character. RAP stands for 'ready for action points' and dictates not only how many moves/actions the character can make, but also how soon they will be able to take their next turn. Each move, attack and item-use consumes some of your RAP gauge and so you can perform multiple actions per turn

A gauge along the top of the screen shows the queue of characters waiting for their turn, so you can see how many more enemy moves are left before you can have another go, and also how many consecutive moves you're going to get - which can be useful when trying to set up an 'attack session'.

Attack sessions are a neat feature in the game and are effectively combo attacks performed by multiple characters on a single poor sap of an opponent. Attack sessions take a little planning to carry out but are cool when they work. You need to arrange your mercenaries around an enemy and, at the end of their turn, choose 'session' instead of 'defend'. Then, when all is set up you carry out a 'shoot' attack which, instead of just whacking the enemy, propels them backwards towards another member of your team. That character can then bounce them towards another one of your team and so on, with each hit increasing the damage taken. Kill an enemy in this way and you may get the bonus of an item.

Levelling up your characters and their coins is a must but leads to an imbalance in the game whereby magic attacks are vastly more powerful than any hand-to-hand combat.

Controls

The D-Pad is used extensively for moving your characters around and selecting options from menus. I found that I didn't use the stylus at all as it just felt awkward to do so. The shoulder buttons come into use for scrolling quickly though lists & also for setting your RAP meter - though the D-Pad can also be used for this seemed to offer finer control.

Graphics

Hoshigami certainly looks quite nice - though due to the limitation on screen size it can be difficult to tell some of your characters apart. There are also some nice touches like the way that the archer will hold a hand to his/her eyes and scan around, looking for enemies. The spell effects are a little underwhelming however and you're left thinking that they could have jazzed up something that plays such a large part in the game.

Sound

Music is much improved over the PS version and the other effects are pretty much OK; though the death wails of defeated characters sound a little odd.

Dual screen

Although you can move the members of your band around using the stylus, you'll probably end up using the d-pad since the varying terrain levels make it tricky to get the exact square that you want. Also since you'll constantly be using the A & B buttons for selecting actions, it ends up being quicker to just put the stylus to one side. During battle the top screen shows the stats of the two units involved in combat - sometimes appearing & disappearing too quickly to be of any use.

Final comments

If you're after something for the odd quick game on your way to school then Hoshigami is most definitely not the game for you. The length and complexity of the battles requires you to sit down for a good hour at a time where you can concentrate on all the options and strategies involved.

Pro: Fans of the genre will find plenty of depth here. Pulling off attack sessions is fun (but takes some doing).
Con: Steep learning curve. Too intimidating for the casual player
Final score: 5.5

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Boxart of Hoshigami Remix (Nintendo DS)
Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: RPG
Developer: ARC System Works
Publisher: 505 Games