Month: May 2017

Cosmic Star Heroine (2017)

Cosmic Star Heroine (2017)

I absolutely loved the idea of Cosmic Star Heroine as pitched in Zeboyd Games’ 2013 Kickstarter campaign: a neo-JRPG that marries Chrono Trigger with Phantasy Star, and blesses the resulting fusion with serious turn-based mechanical depth and a modern 16-bit presentation. It’s a title I’ve wanted to like from the day it was announced. And now that Cosmic Star Heroine (CSH) is finally here, the resulting package is unquestionably an impressive accomplishment – especially for a two-man team. (They of Cthulhu Saves the World.)

Yet I’ve come away from playing CSH with mixed feelings. Cosmic Star Heroine’s innovative combat system handles really well and offers a subtlety and complexity that will satisfy the seasoned 21st century gamer. Its visual presentation is top-notch and its original soundtrack is superb throughout. CSH’s animated cutscenes are gorgeous and certain to deliver oodles of cool each time, every time. However, I find that the game disappoints in the narrative department. Its story is not particularly well-delivered, personalities never develop beyond skin-deep and, perhaps most regrettably, Cosmic Star Heroine fails to make good on the abundant thematic potential of its sci-fi cyberpunk setting.

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Posted by ChronoCritic in New Releases
Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis (2001)

Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis (2001)

Have you played Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis, the acclaimed strategy RPG from Quest? Chances are you’ve never come across it – Knight of Lodis (or KoL for short) was obscure in the West even on release. Incidentally, this rarity now puts it among the most expensive Gameboy Advance (GBA) titles on the market. Original boxed copies are scarce – beware the plethora of knockoffs on Ebay! – and can sell for upwards of $150USD. Undershooting demand was somewhat of a mainstay for publisher Atlus, anyway: only 25,000 copies of KoL’s prequel, March of the Black Queen for SNES, found their way to the US in the mid-90s. And the price of those, well… Why don’t you see for yourself.

But I digress. Atlus truly did RPG fans a monumental disservice by opting for an abysmally small print run. In my book, Knight of Lodis is far more deserving of the GBA ‘tactics’ crown than Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (FFTA), the commonly considered rightful recipient. KoL’s niche status certainly didn’t do it any favours: I had to hunt far and wide to locate an isolated copy even in the early 2000s even as every kid in the neighbourhood seemed to have Montblanc hopping across the GBA’s dimly-lit screen. FFTA’s staying power has been greater, too; one only has to search YouTube for Let’s Plays to appreciate its enduring legacy.

Even so Knight of Lodis is an incredibly rich, engrossing experience that has withstood the test of time exceptionally well, and is frankly hands-down the superior game. Above all, the captivating, gritty realism of KoL’s intrigue-packed plot sustains the experience from start to finish and lends cohesion and gravitas to every mission. But mechanically Knight of Lodis excels too, as its combat mechanics are dynamic, intuitive and well-calibrated while class progression and character customisation are smooth and organic – a far-cry from, say, the FFTA Ability Point grindfest. Taken together, the game is hard to put down, even 15 years after release.

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Posted by ChronoCritic in Retrospectives