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A Phantasia of Fire and Fear

STAR STEALING PRINCE REVIEW (90/100)
Mystery and Magic, Splendor and Awe, Whimsy and Wonder

Star Stealing Prince is a blindingly beautiful RPG Maker VX game that has gotten shockingly little attention on RMN. Considering how great the visuals are and how much people consistently like that kind of thing, I am sure it has received (more than?) its fair share of attention elsewhere, perhaps RPGMakerVX.net. Still, more people from RMN should really play this game, as it's actually quite amazing.

Would you like to read a hideously long and complicated sentence?

Then here one is for you!

I haven't played as much of this game as I wanted to before reviewing it--an odd statement to make--but I got stuck towards the end of the tower (Chapter Two; the demo is reasonably substantial, and by commerical demo standards is vast) and I didn't want to wait for the creator to get me unstuck because...I wanted to be the first one to review this largely undiscovered (again: on RMN) gem.

Story

To be brief (ha ha), color me intrigued. This isn't just any kind of story, it is a faerie tale. It is a story of magic and whimsical childlike wonder, and like all the best faerie tales, no lack of terror and dread. It is a contrast that works beautifully, just like in the best faerie tales.

While I would need to play the full game to evaluate this category in fullness, it's off to a great start, and this score gives it every benefit of the doubt.

Oh, what's that? You want a synopsis? Fine.

You play a handsome lad named Snowe who has inherited the snow...y and isolated faerie tale kingdom of Sabine from his parents. Snowe is tellingly privileged and quite a bit spoiled, but I don't want to make him sound like a whiny brat or an obnoxious sociopath like Joffrey Baratheon. He is really quite likeable, both beloved by and kind to his people.

Not, really, that they have any choice but to love him. See, the introduction implies that the people of Sabine have a symbiotic relationship with their monarch, and that they feel his emotions. So when Snowe is sad, his subjects are sad, and so forth. It's actually a rather creepy concept, and I hope the game explores it further. So far it has been shown, but not really told, as Snowe was in a towering fury of anger at one point and no riots erupted.

Anyway, Snowe dutifully rules his blissful kingdom under the oversight of Richard, his well-meaning but doting-verging-on-smotheringly-overprotective regent. But his real passion seems to be on long sojourns exploring the farthest borders of his kingdom, borders which, for unexplained reasons, he has been told he must never cross.

One night, Snowe has a truly terrifying dream that reveals to him a dark secret about his parents' past. His investigation of this shadowy event sets him off on a quest that could change everything.

So there's your bloody synopsis, and that'll be $0.035 a word.

Anything bad to say, Max? Hmm...not much, actually. I guess maybe this, just for the sake of completeness. I haven't played far enough to know, but it is entirely possible that the game operates around a central plot conceit that is a direct rip off of Neil Gaiman's Stardust. (I ripped off the same idea for the first RPG Maker XP game I ever attempted. It was nowhere near as good as this.)

Extra points are awarded for (what I assume is) a primary antagonist that was truly creepy and menacing, particularly in a game that was otherwise so innocent and cute. I would love to see this creepy aspect pushed more and more as the game continues.

SCORE: 89/100

Gameplay

That last section wasn't all that brief so let me really pour on the brevity here.

Gameplay in Star Stealing Prince is pretty darn good. Battles are simple, well-balanced, and quite accessible; a very plentiful amount of healing items makes it pretty hard to lose for the most part. Still, I don't want to make it sound like this is one of those defanged systems where battles have been completely wimpified. If you don't pay careful attention to when to heal and when to press the attack and keep yourself well-healed between battles, enemies WILL fuck you up.

In fact, it is possible for the very first enemies in the game to stun-lock you and beat you to death before you can take a second action, a fact that

Dungeon design is really quite good, with lots of clever but simple exploration and puzzles. The dungeons aren't punishing brain benders like in Kinetic Cipher, but there is STUFF TO DO IN THEM besides just walk forward towards the exit battling monsters. On-touch encounters only sweeten the mix, because if you don't feel like fighting a battle, you can run away from a sprite instead.

The game suffers from a really obnoxious bug, where equipped items are supposed to teach you skills, but sometimes when you use the equip scene, that feature randomly fails, and you need to unequip and equip certain weapons to relearn the skills they're supposed to teach you. This was annoying, and the game does lose a few points for it, but minimally so. A helpful readme minimized the damage by warning me this would happen.

I also encountered a much more serious fatal crash bug upon trying to open the menu even after a combat--fortunately, SSP lets you save anywhere and I'd saved recently. I wasn't able to reproduce the bug unfortunately, but being a fatal error, it seems serious, and the creator may want to look into it. Fortunately, it never happened again.

More points were taken off for the point where I got stuck; suffice it to say that after a certain point in the second dungeon (the tower in Chapter 2) it became VERY, VERY unclear how to proceed. After soldiering on for quite some time, I finally quit in befuddlement. As soon as the developer tells me how to move on, though, I'd definitely like to pick this up again.

SCORE: 75/100

Visuals

I'll be honest, as a developer of games people regard as "fun/good story but ugly" games, I am fairly easy to impress graphically. But anyone who wouldn't be impressed by Star Stealing Prince needs to have their freaking head examined. This is a game so great-looking that not even commercial-grade 3D visuals would improve it. It should stay exactly as it is, beautifully rendered 2D eye-candy.

The visuals of Star Stealing Prince are absolutely lush and gorgeous. The game depicts a visually rich fantasy wonderland. Tiles are awesome, mapping is awesome, characters appear to be original graphics in an own-style, every map is drenched in great-looking lighting and weather effects. Actually, it can all be a bit overwhelming on the eye candy level, and some maps look literally "drenched" in syrupy-sweet effects, but I'm not taking off points for this. Overall, this is a really really really really good looking game, even if it does occasionally overdo it.

What I liked even better than the mapping and lighting and weather effects was how internally-consistent the style and palate of the game's icons and menus were. Amazing job at making something really, really, really professional looking.

The only reason I'm not giving this the maximum score is to leave myself open to the remote possibility that I encounter a game even better looking some day, but I doubt it.

SCORE: 99/100

Audio

As is so often the case, I've saved the most brevity for this section, which always comes after I've expended the effort to write the others. Poor Audio! I always have so little to say about you. Anyway:

The sound design and music in Star Stealing Prince is really really good. Not the best I've ever heard, but still REALLY REALLY GOOD. There. Brief'd!

SCORE: 80/100

***

FINAL SCORE: 90/100 (Not An Average)
BOTTOM LINE:
Star Stealing Prince is aesthetically beautiful, reasonably fun, and has a hauntingly lyrical faerie-tale story that I hope continues more and more darkly from the point where it's begun. I cannot recommend this game strongly enough, and I hope to be back to update this review for the final version.

Posts

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Ronove
More like Misao Stealing Prince
2298
Aww, you're so sweet! I'm sorry that you're stuck actually and sorry that bugs happened! I have fixed them for the final version of the game, I just haven't really had time to update the demo because I've been trying to finish haha. The game was bugging out the skill because at times if you hover over to disequip the item (like go to select a blank spot) the game tries it without the weapon being equipped. But the script for the skill didn't realize the game did this so you could potentially learn a skill from an armor without actually equipping said armor/weapon. Oops! Sorry about that!

The bug for the game crashing has to do with an undisposed window. I have fixed that, just every time you go into your item part of the menu, save. That's what makes a window not dispose and too many of those makes the game crash! I'm sorry that slipped by! ;_; (It took me FOREVER to pin it down too, so hopefully that's the only one @__@).

As for the story comments, I don't think I've read Stardust! And hopefully you find the creepiness appearing more and more in the full game (it's actually there a lot in the demo if you know where to look!).

And for the tower, what are you having trouble with? Is it the doors all being locked? The three switches open the doors--just turn them on and off and certain doors will unlock (doors having candles above them that are lit when they are open but not lit when they are locked). I think I should put a little note somewhere in the tower to mention that! I didn't think it'd be that hard to figure out. :< Unless it's something else and if so, let me know! Remember, there are hidden passages so feel free to run Snowe into walls. He won't mind. He has a flat nose.
author=Ronove
Remember, there are hidden passages so feel free to run Snowe into walls. He won't mind. He has a flat nose.

It's true! I spent a good 2 hours doing this while beta-testing.
...so yeah the flat nose may be my fault. SORRY, SNOWE. ;n;

Also, Ronnie - I can't remember if you did this or not because it has literally been weeks and months so a VERY LONG TIME~ since I last played, but were you using that lighting effect script on the torches...? You know, the one that makes the extra light circle thing that everyone and their mother who uses VX uses? It might help make the candles a little more obvious - I actually solved that entire puzzle and never realized that the candles were turning on and off. OTL

OF COURSE YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY DONE THAT I JUST COMPLETELY MISSED IT BECAUSE I'M STUPID.

Other than that - THIS IS A LOVELY REVIEW. ;w; I'll definitely agree on how pretty this game is - everything looks like it's where it should be for a reason, and nothing stuck out in my mind as looking strange or icky - it's really very nice! ;w;d
Ronove
More like Misao Stealing Prince
2298
Yeah it's there, Emmy! I think I'll probably have Snowe mention "huh, did the candles change?" when you flip the switch and walk out the first time to make it even more obvious. I use lighting like nobody's business so maybe it was just lost.
author=Ronove
Yeah it's there, Emmy! I think I'll probably have Snowe mention "huh, did the candles change?" when you flip the switch and walk out the first time to make it even more obvious. I use lighting like nobody's business so maybe it was just lost.

Hahaha, seems like a good idea! xD
Yeeeeah, I figured it was in there, but I was definitely too silly to notice! xD Ah-hahahaha there was a large amount of "FFFFUUUUUUUUU"-ing when I read that the candles changing were a thing. ;n;
Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
18257
I really enjoyed this review.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9219
And for the tower, what are you having trouble with? Is it the doors all being locked? The three switches open the doors--just turn them on and off and certain doors will unlock (doors having candles above them that are lit when they are open but not lit when they are locked). I think I should put a little note somewhere in the tower to mention that! I didn't think it'd be that hard to figure out. :< Unless it's something else and if so, let me know! Remember, there are hidden passages so feel free to run Snowe into walls. He won't mind. He has a flat nose.

I have all three levers and have installed them all; all three switches are working. I have turned them to every possible combination (I think) and I still can't get the door at the very top to open. I have explored every door (I think) and gotten the bone armor but yeah, not sure where to go from there. Step-by-step walkthrough would be awesome at this point.

Glad you liked the review, I'm not usually this um...positive, lol.
Nice review, Max. I'm pretty tempted to give this a whirl now.

THE SYSTEM WORKS.

Edit: @Ronove Can we get a "how long until finished game is available" estimate?
Ronove
More like Misao Stealing Prince
2298
Max: Do you remember the room with the holes in the floor (supposed to be spikes, but since most people make the spikes go away before getting to that room, they just appear to be random holes in the ground (I've flipped the order of the rooms but I may make a different puzzle for that now)) there is a secret passage to get an item (Revive Herb in a goodie bag) and then one where you can go further north where you can get "Astra's key" and a monster. That key unlocks the door that you need to open to proceed. Go left of the holes in the floor and walk through the wall. That should be it unless you mean another door (there is a door at the very very top that is a side door--turn on the arrows to see the arrow for it, if that's what you're missing). Maybe since that's a for-sure get, I should add a carpet extending into the wall to give players a hit.

NewBlack: I should make an estimate but I'm really terrible at keeping them! I only have 2 more dungeon-y areas to balance (plus two bosses and the final boss) so I'm actually quite close! I definitely work at least a half hour to an hour a day (if I have work that day, it's a half hour, if not, I have no social life so I work on it throughout the day when I have a day off)! I don't want to put a date because I'm really worried about something bad happening if I do make a date. Such as my health taking me down, beta-testers being slower than my estimate (which is totally okay, but if I make a date that would mean me having to tell them to have it done by this date and that's not good if I want it thoroughly tested), et cetera. I used to say "if it's not out by December something's wrong" but I actually got a job so that saying is no longer accurate. I figure saying "if it's not out by the end of February, something's wrong" I think that'd be a safe guess.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9219
Um...lemme check. I don't remember seeing any holes in the floor.



Do you mean this room? It kind of matches the description. There was no key there, just bone armor.

Edit:
It might help if you could tell me which door it is (from the bottom, like third, fifth, whatever) and what position the switches need to be in to open it.
Ronove
More like Misao Stealing Prince
2298
^ And nope! That one you get there from walking into the right wall. Look below because you edited that as I was posting! XD



Looks like that if you flipped the switch when some weirdo tried to attack you?

The door that leads there SHOULD be the third door up!
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9219
Okay let us try this again. (Damn this tower is confusing.)

EDIT: Huzzah, I found it!

It was my fault, I never tried X X O for the switches. *facepalm*

See, this is exactly what I mean about some things occasionally being the player's fault some of the time.

Thank you for the timely assist, Ronove!
author=Ronove
^ And nope! That one you get there from walking into the right wall. Look below because you edited that as I was posting! XD



Looks like that if you flipped the switch when some weirdo tried to attack you?

The door that leads there SHOULD be the third door up!

Can I just add that this room gives me a dungeon design boner? I was able to figure this out because I saw the path on the right side, so I guessed that there had to be a path on the left, too.
IT TAUGHT ME WHAT IT NEEDED TO TEACH WITHOUT BEATING ME OVER THE HEAD IT WAS GREAT <3333
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9219
Wow, holy shit, that bird is TOUGH.
Ronove
More like Misao Stealing Prince
2298
;_; Did you use the Child's Cornet and the Scary Mask? They help a lot. In fact, most bosses they are terribly helpful and I assume you got them when I balance. Because your people love you!
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9219
I used the Coronet and the Barrier Relic, but I never found the Scary Mask.

I got owned on my second try, largely due to trying to make Sleep a cornerstone of my strategy after it worked once on a fluke on my first try. I'll try again later.

Very, very tough for a first boss though. You might want to tone it down just a little. : )
Ronove
More like Misao Stealing Prince
2298
I think the Mask would have helped (cause it brings down magic which is what the bird smacks you with--he'll also do blizzard a lot more when he's almost dead! Kinda like he's panicking and really wants to be rid of you!)--one of the kids gives it to you (Joshua or Trillby I think), but yeah, I think I will. I'll mess with him to be a little more weak against states too. Like putting him to sleep, that would be a good one. Cause then you have a turn to heal! But I do balance a lot of bosses keeping in mind that you did get both the Cornet and the Mask from the kids because they really do help.

Thanks for the feedback! :)

Oh, also try poisoning him. He's really prone to getting poisoned.
Good review and good game. I'm playing this right now.
Yeah it's definetly a good review. As for the flat nose...it could of very well been my fault too, since I explored everything! I never encountered the game breaker myself (could of been luck, who knows), and I was the one that managed to replicate the skill bug successfully, which probably helped a ton on getting it fixed.

As for the boss, I didn't have too much trouble myself (any stronger and I probably would have), but I agree it might be a tad too strong once ya factor in not everyone is a veteran at rpgs. I can always await (and hope there are) superbosses in the completed game. Overall, a fun game!

Also, I wonder if anyone else figured out the meaning behind a spot in that dungeon (no cheating and looking at one of my earlier posts in here!). I figured I'd ask since it factors in with dungeon design :).
Cool demo. Can't wait to see more. I wandered around trying to get the switches right, to get into different rooms in the tower. The boss near the end gave me some problems, but I did some grinding before going back out to him, and then every time he damaged us, I kept spamming poison, heal, and the skeleton's double blade attack, and flame attack when it got charged.
Ronove
More like Misao Stealing Prince
2298
Jear77: Haha, I forgot I gave the demo access to that attack. I balanced the bird without having that attack myself and went "welp, let's make Hiante useful" and slapped that on his sword. Glad it helped! :)
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