• Add Review
  • Subscribe
  • Nominate
  • Submit Media
  • RSS

So Pretty It Kind Of Ticks Me Off

I might as well just get this out of the way first: God damn this game is pretty. VERY pretty. This could easily be one of the most polished RPG Maker games I've seen. When I finally made it to the forest, I couldn't help but just stand around for a good five minutes and listen to the serene theme music. And then I made it to the caves, and ended up sitting around and admiring the looks and sounds a second time. The lighting, the tileset choices, the music: everything comes together on nearly every map to make the whole thing a feast for the eyes and ears.

But how does everything else fair? Pretty good, actually.

Combat-wise, the system follows pretty close to the stock RPG Maker battle system, with a few innovations. Each character has a set elemental affinity: Fire, Water, Wind and Earth, which are off course weak to each other in the standard rock-paper-scissors set-up. Exploiting weaknesses and trying to avoid having your own weaknesses exploited is very important, as characters and enemies who are hit with their own weakness are stunned for a turn, and the attacker has a chance to get in a free extra hit.

Alongside standard MP-fueled spells (characters learn new spells from magic tomes found lying around the world, and each character can only learn a spell that's related to their element) are IP spells cribbed from the Lufia series. Many pieces of equipment have some kind of spell attached to them that are fueled by a separate IP gauge that functions much like a Final Fantasy-style Limit Break gauge, filling up when the character takes damage. Unlike MP-fueled spells, IP spells can be equipped and cast regardless of theFinding equipment with the right spells attached can sometimes be even more important than just putting on the equipment with the highest stats.

Buffs, debuffs and, surprisingly enough, status effects also play a huge part in combat. Early on, the player is given the Child's Cornet and the Scary Mask, permanent items capable of inflicting debuffs on one enemy. And you'll absolutely have to learn to use them to avoid getting steamrolled later on. And while status effects in other RPGs are usually just a thing that happens to the party and rarely ever happens to the enemy, in Star Stealing Prince nobody, not even the final boss, is immune to any status ailments. On top of that, numerous spells are capable of both causing damage and inflicting one or more status ailments, thus allowing the player to easily bury their opponent under a mountain of status ailments and debuffs (Hiante's Rock Bludgeon, for example, is great for utterly wrecking spellcasters, due to hitting everyone with Silence and Confusion.) On the flip side, though, status ailments don't last very long (usually about 1 or 2 turns,) and most enemies are just as capable of casually inflicting them on the party, so it's all balanced out.

While the game is fairly easy early on, it seriously steps up in difficulty around the halfway mark, and the player better be damn good at the game by then or else they'll be in a world of hurt as normal encounters mercilessly tear them to shreds. Fortunately, the game is VERY generous with healing items, so it's rare that you'll be running low on supplies unless you're getting thrashed particularly badly.

As I mentioned before, the game is very, very good looking. Much of the game has a sort of warm, dreamlike atmosphere (which is kind of ironic, seeing as everything's covered in snow,) and the game features expert use of filters to add to it. The mapping is superb as well, with enough props set up that not even the most insignificant room looks empty or bland (well, except for the one room that WAS supposed to be empty.) It's also rare that the character will run into items being kept in chests; instead, the player will have to examine objects in the room to find them (examining random, inconsequential background objects for flavor text was something I first saw in Skies of Arcadia and have since learned to appreciate.) Exploration is definitely rewarded in this game.

The characters and plot are another thing SSP has going for it as well, though this is where my complaints about the game start to surface. Each of the party members are very well-written and engaging, and it's very easy to feel for them as the story goes on. The way some of them are developed, though, are...odd. Eventually, the player starts running into strange orbs that contains a party member's memory, and using the item activates a flashback for that particular character. While the flashbacks are very well done (hell, one of them instantly made Relenia my favorite character,) they left me wondering why they couldn't be integrated into the game better than "Hey, here's an orb! Now let's watch Hiante's life story!" It really made the character development seem tacked on.

The dialogue hits a few snags as well. As a whole, it's done well enough, but every once in a while choice of words just seems odd and really took me out of the scene for a while. But the biggest problem I have is the scene pacing, which only seems to go at one speed: REALLY FAST. Whenever the characters aren't talking, they're moving around, not even giving the player enough time to register what happened before they're doing something else. The most fast-paced scenes (like scenes involving combat) just seem to go "Words, words, words, wo-OHMANWE'REDOINGTHINGSNOWNOTIMETOWAITAROUNDWEGOTTAHURRYU-words, words, words." This problem extends to the combat as well; there's no pause in-between character and enemy actions for the player to comprehend what took place, and they better learn to read action messages really quick if they want to keep up. The author could really learn to make more liberal use of pauses in these instances.

There are also certain problems I have with the choice of sound effects. Most of VX's stock attack sounds seem rather washed-out and lack that sort of rewarding, meaty quality that really makes you feel good about bashing a monster's face in with a mace, and some of the other sounds (like the chime that HP/MP restoring statues make) are just grating on the ears. I know it sounds like I'm just nitpicking at this point, but with a game this good, all the little, easily fixable imperfections unfortunately just stand out all the more.

Overall, though, this is a game that's definitely worth a try. It's a shame that it's so short (I clocked in about 12 hours 100%ing the game,) but what's there is certainly awe-inspiring and a great showcase of the level of polish that's possible with the RPG Maker engine.


Pages: 1
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
I agree with pretty much everything here. 'Tis a wonderful game!
Calling it "short" seems a bit of a stretch, don't you think? I mean, it's not Skyrim but 12 hours or so is not small potatoes for an RM game, especially one with this level of original art. But maybe I'm being a bit defensive cause I like this game so much - good to see it get another high score review.
Pages: 1