Monday, October 20, 2008

Magical Starsign Review

Magical Starsign

Platform: Nintendo DS

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Brownie Brown 

Genre: Role-playing game

Released last year on the DS, this rpg follows on from Brownie Brown's Magical Vacation, which was only released in Japan, I believe.

I picked the game up a few months ago, in summer when I saw it on sale. I had read about the game ages ago in a magazine, and the visuals, coupled with the turn based combat and the fact that it was an rpg were enough for me to buy it. 

The gameplay in this game is fairly easy overall, with only a few battles in the game that gave me problems. Also, only minimal grinding is required to make the game very easy. I kinda would have preferred a bit more of a challenge from the game. Even the end bosses aren't that hard, with easy to exploit weaknesses and strategies.

What I didn't really like about this game(even though I would say this makes the game quite unique) is the magic system. When I first started the game, I was really looking forward to mastering a lot of spells as I levelled up and played through the game with the 6 playable characters. Unfortunately, each character only gets 5 spells, some of which are near enough useless, so essentially 3 or 4 offensive spells each. This leads to insanely repetitive battles, with the player having to watch the sometimes quite long spell animations. The graphical animations, while nice at first, become boring and annoying by the end of the game. Also, since the spells do between 2 and 5(and more) times the amount of damage melee attacks do, there is essentially no need for melee attacks(apart from against a few enemies who are resistant to magic or enemies which starsign means they take less damage from certain elements.)

This leads me on to one aspect of the gameplay I quite liked, as it was quite original. There are different elemental powers, one of which is associated with each character and enemy in the game. These are Wind, Fire, Water, Wood, Earth, and Light/Dark. At the beginning of the game, you choose between male and female, and light and dark. This doesnt change much in the game, apart from you will be stronger against certain bosses and enemies and weaker against others. Each of these elements are linked to a planet which, when it comes into alignment, will strengthen the character in battle, allowing them to do more damage and receive other benefits. For the light and dark characters, they receive these bonuses when it is daytime, or night time, respectively. Also, these planets are the world that becomes explored throughout the game. One thing I thought was quite annoying was the fact that the majority of the planets are visited twice in the game, even though new areas of the planet are unlocked, it still feels a bit boring. I would have liked it if there was a greater degree of free roaming, or more planets to visit. Side quests wouldnt have gone amiss either...

Puffoon-one of the planets you go to throughout the course of the game.

One thing I didnt like about the game was that it never seemed serious enough. In the later part of the game you are searching for Millennium "gummies" of each element. This pretty much sums up the style of the game. It has a kind of unique 'charm or wit', thats how I would describe it. It is different from most other rpgs I've played, and at times I liked it, but I definitely feel that it detracted from the potentially dramatic and serious parts of the story.

Gameplay: 6/10

The graphics in this game are very good-they are vibrant and make the game visually fun to play. They help bring the unusual and interesting game world to life. The battles look very good, with the many different environments and enemies animated very nicely.

Graphics: 7/10

The story and characters are two of the weaker areas of the game. The characters dont really have much in the way of personality and are quite annoying at times. I think the choice to include 6 playable characters all of which can be in the party at one time might have been a bit of a mistake. More characters means less development for each. The game world has many interesting and amusing creatures and characters, many of which have quite...wierd names. Makes for quite an interesting play through the game, but unfortunately, the most important aspect is severely lacking. The story hardly makes any sense, and is hardly serious enough, even at the end of the game. The story basically entails the teacher of this class in this magical academy thing(Harry Potter *cough*) going missing and then the students go hunting the galaxy for her...what kind of students would do that? -_- Anyway, it then branches into other parts of the story but it still isnt going to win any awards, for sure.

Story and Characters: 4/10

The game has a few features which would lead to extra gameplay and replay options. Trying to get 100% of the bestiary could be one area, as well as a hidden dungeon and multiplayer. Apart from those, there are not many other extras or sidequests that contribute to a decent amount of replayability. After I completed the game, I had very little desire to play the game again...

Replayability and Extras: 2/10

The game has another aspect that I didnt like particularly, although some people actually do quite like this. The controls are almost all driven by the touch screen, including spell strikes to power up spells, reflex type dodging or blocking and basically everything else, including the control in the field. One of the reasons I didnt like this was running around is a bit awkward considering its hard to stop. When you touch the screen in one direction, the team then runs in that direction until you change or run into a wall or something. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I think dual controls(touch screen and D-pad) could have made vast improvements to this game. Menus and some interfaces are sometimes quite frustrating, but at times they are quite well designed-for example the battle menu which I thought was quite well designed.

Controls and Innovation: 5/10

Some things I liked about this game when I started, but by the end of it, I was relieved to be finished it because it just got repetitive, boring and felt like a chore. Worth a look for its interesting world and some of its characters, but in my opinion, it has its fair share of flaws.

Overall: 6/10

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