Review: Mysterious Stars: The Samurai (Nintendo 3DS)

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Mysterious Stars: The Samurai
Publisher: Collavier
Developer: Collavier
Genre: Connect-the-dots
Release Date: 06/26/2014

It certainly makes a degree of sense to take a simple concept like connect-the-dots and try to create something more with it. Tack on a story, add some high scores, throw in some art, and you’ve got yourself a game. That seems to be the thought process behind the Mysterious Stars series. Everyone’s connected the dots at some point in their life. Usually it’s on the back of cereal box or in a coloring book. It kind of makes sense to take the idea to handheld video game consoles as well.

The premise of the series is that there’s a God of the Stars that occasionally showers a poor soul with gifts in order to improve their life. He does this by empowering a helper to draw objects in the night sky. For example, if someone needs a hat, the helper connects the stars to make a hat shape. The item then appears in the troubled person’s room by magic. Your role in this game is as the helper, but you’re also allowed to watch as the story events unfold.

starssamurai1In The Samurai, you’ll help a couple of people in Feudal Japan. First up is a samurai without a lord. Due to events out of his control, he’s found himself impoverished to the point where he’s had to sell all of his possessions in order to be able to survive. There’s also a young thief who himself dreams of becoming a samurai. The tale is mildly interesting. The writing isn’t particularly strong, and the motivations of the villain are bizarre. Still, it’s meant to be a simple fairy tale about right overcoming wrong.

The first of the problems arrives in the translation. This game was not made in English by default, and it shows. There are misspellings, typos, and poor use of grammar throughout the tale. It’s bad enough that you’ll have to reread much of it in order to understand what they characters are trying to say.

When it comes to the game’s presentation, there’s certainly room for improvement. The story takes place in a single room that gets filled with items as you progress, and there are only a few characters to speak of. The art style is simple and cute, but nothing special. The only animations are mouth movements, but that was more than I expected. During actual gameplay, you’re simply drawing lines from point A to point B on the same backdrop. You can see your progression on the top screen, but you’ll need to move your view around on the bottom in order to find all of the dots. The items you’re drawing are simply too big to fit on the screen.

The game is really short on audio. There’s the gameplay track and a song that plays during story sequences. That’s it. The effects are sort of used in gameplay. You can tell if you got a great score if you hear a certain audio cue, but it isn’t really that important. I ended up turning the sound off and playing the game while listening to music.

starssamurai2As you might have guessed, the game has little in the ways of mechanics. When it’s time to play, you’re taken to a screen full of numbered stars. Your job is to connect these stars in progression by drawing a line between them using the stylus. If the next numbered star isn’t visible on the screen, you can change your view by using the analog nub, the stylus, or by tapping an icon that switches the view to the next number. Once you’ve drawn a line to the final star, the level is over.

Believe it or not, this game does keep score. Depending on how straight your line is, you’ll get a word score of “bad” to “great”. You’ll earn points based on your word score. This means that while you can technical just doodle spirals before connecting to the next star and have it count, you won’t get much in the way of points for it. Your score determines the number of stars you get at the end of each level. By earning more stars, you can unlock fancier versions of items your giving to the story characters. For example, that bed can become a royal bed if you earn three stars. This allows for a modest amount of customization and gives the player at least some reason to play again.

There’s also a time attack mode, where you’re awarded stars bases on how fast you can complete the picture. Neatness isn’t a worry here, so you can draw like a madman. The interface proves itself a bit clunky for this though, as you’re constantly fighting the camera to get the view right.

The sad news is that the game offers little value. It only takes about an hour to work through the twenty levels in the game, and the customizations rewards are hardly good enough reason to replay the same levels over again. Even for a five dollar game, players should get more.

Short Attention Span Summary

diehardjack1-150x150If you’re looking for a video game version of connect-the-dots, there are probably worse options than Mysterious Stars. However, the game is short, the translation is bad, and the price is steep for the lack of content. It’s a cute idea, but one that fails in the execution.

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