Hoshigami: Running Blue Remix (Nintendo DS)

Hoshigami: Running Blue Remix
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Arc System Works
Genre: Strategy RPG
Release Date: 06/25/07

You know, i am still perplexed as to how anyone thought it was a good idea to remake and/or re-release Hoshigami. When Atlus brought it over to the States on the PSX, it sold poorly and it was critically panned to boot. Personally, I thought it was one of the worst strategy games ever. I happily sold it off and thought I’d never have to deal with it again.

The original’s only real hook was that akin to the Fire Emblem series, dead equalled dead in Hoshigami. Other than that, it was a horrible game without any real depth and an engine that made you shudder every time you played it. Strategy Games are supposed to have excellent engines as they are all gameplay. Hoshigami was an exception tot he rule.

Then came the Remix version announced for the DS. This version wasn’t being developed by the now defunct Max Five, but instead by Arc Systems, the developers responsible for the Guilty Gear series. Part of me thought, “Hey, maybe they will fix it. Guilty Gear is fun.” But then polishing a turd, just leaves you with shiny poop. Plus reviewing this game keeps me consistent with my “Alex reviews shitty games in 2007.”

I warn you right now, this is a bad game. There will be little to no praise in this review as the game is sodding awful. This is one of those reviews where I am going to have to restrain myself from being outrightly cruel and offensive like in my Shining Force Neo review. Man, do I hate THAT game.

If you want to see e pretty much go off on a title that is the perfect example of how not to make a game for a specific genre or Aksys games getting the “Stupidest Publisher Decision of 2007” award, read on. If you’d like to see me do something other than ripping a game a new asshole, I suggest reading the director’s cut of the RPG Countdown.

Let’s Review

1. Story

Hoshigami is one of the most generic RPG’s out there. You have your main character who is a mercenary, but with a heart of gold. He has an older wiser best friend who is a bit of a bad ass with a shadowy past. You have the big evil bad guy in Blackthorn, but really he’s just silence but deadly muscle. There’s Kasha, the plucky tom boy with a love of all things glittery and expensive. So on and so forth. Hoshigami is basically a compilation of the worst RPG cliches known to man.

Your main characters go on a quest or two of little to importance along with some generic mercs. Eventually these quests turn out to lead to something bigger, including the razing of Fazz’s (the main character)’s hometown, the supposed death of your best friend intermingled with pointless battle after pointless battle that does nothing but pad the game’s length, which is already pretty long as it is due to how slow the game actually plays.

The funniest bit is that the prologue in the manual doesn’t even come up in the game until about 20 hours into playing it. Holy hell. It does give you a good idea as to the resolution of the game, which of course means you now don’t have to play it.

Scripting is weak, dialog is poor, characters are shallow and undeveloped past their RPG cliches, and everything is dreadfully boring. In all, you’ve got a very weak game story wise and unless you are a big fan of tactical gameplay, you’ll be rolling your eyes and wondering why you wasted your money on this. Even if you are a fan of SRPG’s, well, you’ll see soon why there are a lot better out there for you to choose from.

Story Rating: 3/10

2. Graphics

Hoshigami has your generic SRPG graphics. You have an battle map that is actually a grid in which your characters to battle on. You have your usual generic map layouts, very generic looking characters, and even the larger spells you get towards the middle/end of the game are really underwhelming in design and colour. The game basically looks like every other PSX SRPG. Ogre Tactics, Final Fantasy Tactics, Arc the Lad and so on. Thinking about it yes, the game does look very much like Ogre Tactics and that started off as an SNES title. That tells you something right there about the quality here.

Everything is pretty generic. It’s a cookie cutter SRPG graphics wise, and it’s got more in common with GBA and PS1 titles than what we know can be done with the Nintendo DS. Although a Dungeon Crawl, Pokemon Mysterious Dungeon is comparable genre wise, and it’s graphics are amazingly better. Yes, this is a remake, but a bit of a graphical update would have helped a bit. Hell, Hoshigami needed all the help it could get to begin with.

It’s not an ugly game. It’s just a generic one. And sadly generic is as good as this game gets. That’s a compliment compared to what else I can say about Hoshigami. Let’s just leave it at, “If you’ve seen one SRPG, you’ve seen Hoshigami’s graphics.”

Graphics Rating: 5/10

3. Sound

Okay, I admit the music for the game is pretty good. The score has a nice classical vibe similar to most RPG’s. Again, it’s pretty generic, but the music is still quite enjoyable. Especially when held in comparison to the rest of the game. It’s very somber and mellow, which I find helps when you’re frustrated with how slow the game plays, how long battles take and how general insipid the AI can be.

There is no voice acting aside from some really generic screaming when a character dies. The sound effects are mediocre and are what you would expect from a game like this. Weapons clinging together, a bow shotting off an arrow, explosion noises for magical effects. Again, nothing too impressive or captivating. It’s all just run of the mill and boring.

You definitely wouldn’t pick up this game for its soundtrack, nor would you just buy the soundtrack if the option was available to you. At least you’ll have some soothing music to reduce your boredom induced rage as you play through another battle where it takes you ten minutes to kill a single grunt or another hour to do a generic battle. Kill me now.
Sound Rating: 6/10

4. Control and Gameplay

It should be near impossible to make a shitty engine for an SRPG. The sheer nature of the genre makes it quite easy to make a precise and enjoyable gameplay experience. But then there is Hoshigami.

First of all the game is incredibly slow. This is of even more importance considering you only get 7 playable character on a map with each battle. With most SRPG’s you get between 8 and 12. The fact this game is slower than other SRPG’s with larger maps and more fleshed out armies is totally insane. Gameplay is just so slow. Turns take forever and you do so little damage even if you have 4-5 guys attack the same opponent that everything crawls to a halt. I’m not kidding when I say a simple 7 on 7 battle can take you an hour.

What should be the most innovative part of the game is actually the worst part about it. Hoshigami uses a turn management system called the RAP System. RAP controls how many actions each character can take on their turn. With most RPG’s regardless of genre, you can move and attack once, sometimes in a specific order. With Hoshigami you can attack as often as you want or even move, attack, attack, and move again all in one turn as long as you have RAP points left. This should be awesome, right? Well it isn’t. It’s awful.

First of all, if you go beyond a certain amount of RAP use, your next turn takes FOREVER to come up. This is even worse when you realize that now matter how many levels higher your troops are, the enemies are always better equipped and can do more damage. Thus if you have Level 10 characters and you are attacking Level 4 ones, you are getting no experience, doing very little damage and your weaker (in theory) opponents are out damaging you. Thus you have to push your characters to the max of their RAP’s just to try and do some damage, and then it all gets nullified anyway. It’s awful.

The other annoying thing is that quite often in this game you will miss. You or your enemy that is. Normally this is fine and realistic. But when the game is as slow in gameplay and in damage dealing as Hoshigami already is, this just makes things even more excruciating. I’m a pretty patient guy when it comes to strategy games but holy hell, i started yelling at the game to “get on with it!” ala Monty Python.

Then we have the fact Hoshigami breaks experience down into normal experience and magic experience. Remember when Working Designs tried this concept with Lunar 2 and how psychotically angry most fans were with that? Well of course someone on the Hoshigami design team thought this was an awesome idea to mimic. Even worse, you only earn one-half to one-fifth the magic experience you would otherwise earn in battle experience making the game EVEN SLOWER. Magic experience only goes towards gain new skills anyway, but it’s not like you’ll see many of them. By the time you’re levels 6-9 you’ll only be level 2 in your Devotion. Good luck with that not driving you insane.

Next up we have the Coinfeigms. Coinfeigms are the equivalent of magic in this game. Magic powers are sealed inside coins and you use these coins for magical effects? Pretty out there, right? Well as original as it is it again turns out to be truly dreadful in actual play. However there are two big problems. The first is that it takes forever to regenerate the equivalent of magic points. It took me eight turns to regenerate Fazz’s “resurrection” spell for example. EIGHT TURNS. Some characters are also only good with magic and thus either take forever to level up compared to your fighters in the first third of the game, or you have to take forever trying to level them up. Remember those comments about the game being long? Now it’s even longer if you want a high quality spell caster. YAY!

The other big issue is enhancing your coins. You use seals to do things like lower the costing cast, increasing the range, the power, area of effect and so on. However this is generally hit or miss and it takes a long time to get a coin to be worth anything. Then you have the issue that for 2/3rds of the game, magic is the only real way to damage anyone because melee combat takes forever. The other thing here is that by the time you get to where magic is your only real source of damage, well those magic users are so far behind in levels that you are screwed. So go to the Tower of Trial and waste even more time leveling them up. Holy hell. The game just keeps getting LONGER.

Finally there is the attack session. An attack session is the only way you can get your opponent’s far more powerful items. However in order to do this, you have to kill them with an attack session. Oh and the power of the attack is even less than a normal melee attack. Ha ha ha. Good luck not Benoit’ing your family after playing this game.

So here we have it. A game with all sorts of ideas that are neat in theory but then when put together equates to easily the worst SRPG experience I have ever had. The engine is going to frustrate the hell out of people new to the genre and drive experienced tactical RPG fans insane with how awful it is compared to other alternatives. Seeing that there’s not much out there for this genre on the DS, this is a horrible lose/lose situation for most games. There’s absolutely nothing positive I can say about this game except that it’s not WMXXI for the Xbox.

Control & Gameplay Rating: 2/10

5. Replayability

Sure there are multiple endings, but you’ll never see them. You can make all sorts of characters and customize them with different weapons and gods, but it will take you forever. You can mix and match seals to make different spells, but usually it will just end up sucking. There’s a lot you can do in this game that in theory would allow you to pick it up and make it feel fresh and new again. Then you encounter the engine and it reminds you that the possibility is there, but there’s no way you will engage in the potential action without being found in a corner the next day having carved strange ruins into your flesh and alternating chants between “Ethan Haas was right” or, “IA! IA! Cthulhu Fhtgan.”

But at least the potential is there. I guess.

Replyability Rating: 3/10

6. Balance

This game has little to no AI. I know. I say that a lot. My idea of easy is a lot of people’s idea of hard and generally if I say, “Hey, that game was tough!”, most of my readers dread the idea of playing it. But trust me when I say the AI is truly some of the worst I have seen.

I can’t count how many times the computer accidentally attack their own guys. They might use a spear on one of their own guys (which has a two panel radius) in an attempt to get to me. They might cast a spell that hits three of its own guys in an attempt to hit one of mine who has a natural resistance to that particular spell type. The game might even just randomly have an archer or boomerang user shoot one of their own guys for no explainable reason. At least unexplainable to the sane or rational. Every time the computer hit its own guys it made me laugh. Then it made me sad because it was doing more damage to its own troops than I ever could. Boo-urns.

This game is either insanely difficulty or a cakewalk. It will ebb and flow from battle to battle with no rhyme or reason. The game forces you to put in an ungodly amount of time to get any real benefit towards your characters enhancement, while overloading their own CPU troops with items and abilities you won’t find for a dozen hours+ into the game. Oh that’s right. You can do a shoot session. Good luck with that actually working in a vain attempt to steal an item.

Bottom Line: This game has no balance because it was poorly designed, play testing and somehow a second developer thought it would be a great idea to put it back on the market after it imploded the first time.

I’ve already listed repeatedly what’s wrong with this game. Please for the love of all that is holy, listen to me!

Balance Rating: 2/10

7. Originality

Okay, let’s be fair. The coin magic is original. The session attack is original. The Devotion experience is original. Okay, that last one isn’t original, but it’s a rarely used bit. Other than that, this entire game is generic. Scratch that. It’s not generic. It takes the worst bits of other games and swirls it all up into one giant clusterf*ck of awfulness. Seriously, I have yet to meet anyone that even remotely liked this game. EITHER release. Cliché after cliché with predictability, laziness and rehashing thrown in for extra spice.

This again is one of those times where originality isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Originality Rating: 3/10

8. Addictiveness

I could be a smart ass here. I could be smarmy I could be a prick. I could be witty. Instead I will say that for 6 years now I have held up Hoshigami as an example of how not to make an SRPG. That it is one of the most boring and dismal games I haver ever played. The streak continues. This game is currently my front runner for worst game I have played in 2007. A sigh of relief for The Sacred Rings.

It may just be personal experience, but I can’t help but give the game bottom of the barrel here. It’s so slow and so long and nothing ever happens that this is the perfect game to give someone to make them give up gaming for a long period of time.

Addictiveness Rating: 1/10

9. Appeal Factor

Who would like this game? People who love all SRPG’s. People who love bad games. People with no lives. Insane people. Crazy people. People who wish to go insane or turn crazy. People who have fursuits. People who are attracted to people in fur suits. People that find bulimia a fun and rewarding hobby. In other words, only the dregs of humanity can find any true enjoyment in this game. Well, and people who go crazy for this genre. Good for them I guess.

Appeal Factor: 2/10

10. Miscellaneous

This is one of the worst RPG’s on the DS. This is one of the worst RPG’s on the PSX. This is one of the worst ever SRPG’s. This is one of the worst games Atlus has ever published stateside. This is one of the worst games Aksys has ever published. Of course with the latter, I think they have only published three games, but way to make a decision so messed up it’s going to bankrupt your company.

I hate Hoshigami. As Pulse Glazer can tell you, I went into this open minded hoping that 6 years and a new development team would make it better. It did not. It fact if you compare the graphics of the original to this one, it’s actually gotten worse. How the hell is that possible. IT HAS GOTTEN WORSE.

All I have left to say is it is too bad the Kliq awards weren’t around in 2001, because otherwise Hoshigami would be the only game to ever get Worst Game of the Year honours twice.

Miscellaneous Rating: 3/10

The Scores
Story: 3/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 6/10
Control & Gameplay: 2/10
Replayability: 3/10
Balance: 2/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: 1/10
Appeal Factor: 2/10
Miscellaneous: 3/10
Total Score: 30 /100

Final Score: 3.0/10 (BAD GAME)

Short Attention Span Summary
Frankly, I’m shocked the game scored this high. Out of the dozen or so games I have reviewed in 2007, only 2 have scored higher than a 5.5. That’s awful. What happened to good games? Please let the Bigs be awesome. PLEASE.