So, when I started up Hoshigami, I was impressed. It looks pretty good (along the lines of Final Fantasy Tactics), the story is interesting, and it seems intelligently designed, intricate, and difficult. I love a challenge. But I was betrayed...as I played further, Hoshigami became a chore, subject to a stupid loophole in the gameplay that made the entire thing quite ridiculous (I will explain below).
The big 'innovation' here is the RAP system. Each character has RAP points, which are consumed by executing actions (movement, attacks, etc.) I can see how a system like this could be applied to enhance the game's strategy, but something went wrong. In the end, the system only empowers certain characters to make an extra attack or move a few more spaces every turn. All that really happens is you end up pressing the button a few more times every turn, which makes already slow battles slower. Oh my. Why not just give a character more movement? More attacks?
Spells appear on little goodies called Coinfeigms. You can equip characters with Coinfeigms, and elective magic is an idea I really like. The number of Coinfeigms to be collected is very impressive, too. However, they are entirely useless. For all the game's difficulty, spells imbued in Coinfeigms are hopelessly underpowered. Further evidence that spells are completely unavailing is found in the fact that as I played through the game, none of my characters were ever slain by an enemy's spell.
In Hoshigami's polytheistic world, your characters develop skills by following a specific god and gaining powers through devotion. Devotion levels rise just like experience levels, so fighting makes you more devoted, getting you more abilities...right? Right. This was a very intriguing idea (unique skills according to different gods), but the developers messed up. Firstly, it takes forever to raise your levels. The stretches between levels are long, long, LONG. Secondly, the skills you earn with higher devotion levels are almost always useless. These two things make the game very difficult.
And I mean VERY difficult. Anyone who plays Hoshigami is sure to get slaughtered several times in the first few battles. The enemies are far more powerful than your team, and you are almost always outnumbered. Plus, if a character dies, he's dead -- resurrection only becomes possible much later in the game. Initially, I was glad for a challenge, but there is a fine line between "challenging" and "morbidly frustrating"...and Hoshigami crosses that line.
The only _apparent_ way to strengthen your party is to enter the Towers of Trial, which serve as training grounds for your characters. The Towers made me want to kill myself, quite honestly. They are stunningly boring, with repetitive battle maps, monsters, and everything else. I didn't want to train in these Towers, which were degenerating my sanity, but how else could I be match for the game's ridiculously hard battles?
So I discovered the "stupid loophole" I mentioned above. Instead of using a full team of characters, I used just two: Fazz (the main character) and one other mercenary. My mercenary would be a dummy fighter to draw enemy attacks while Fazz did the fighting. Usually my mercenary would get killed quickly, but I could always hire a more powerful one later. Even if the mercenary survived, any experience he gained would still leave him at a level lower than another mercenary I hire, so there was no point in keeping him. The beauty of it all? Fazz accrued 99% of the experience and became a death machine. It was mildly difficult at first, but soon I was able to kill most enemies in one or two hits. It became even easier when my weapon of choice became a bow & arrow so I could kill from a distance.
Suddenly, a viciously difficult game became mindlessly easy. I must say, I don't like strategy RPGs to be "mindless." I pushed on to the end to see what would happen in the moderately entertaining story, but the gameplay was probably making me stupider with every battle. Granted, the fact that I could defeat 15 enemies with just two characters was somewhat amusing for a few battles, but it became very boring, very quickly. A game that is too difficult is not fun. A game that is too easy is not fun either. With Hoshigami, it's either too easy or too difficult -- either way, it's not fun.
Get Tactics Ogre on GBA and skip Hoshigami.
What did you think of this review?
"Hoshigami brings back the game play that hard core tactical RPG gamers crave," said Yu Namba, Project Leader for Hoshigami. "Hoshigami is poised to take the tactical RPG market by storm to fill the void left by classic games such as Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics."