This Starry Midnight We Make
Publisher: Carpe Fulgur LLC
Release Date: 06/01/2015
In many ways, calling This Starry Midnight We Make (Starry for short) a video game does it a disservice. Sure, it has a user interface, graphics, a story, sound design, etc. However, the gameplay elements are more along the line of an interesting educational tool. That’s not a sleight against the game either. This is a game about experimentation and observation. You have a full galaxy worth of stars at your disposal, and playing around with the parameters can cause all kinds of interesting effects.
The story goes that a young girl named Hamomoru is vacationing in Kyoto, Japan. While there, she meets a researcher from a college and together they discover the Star-seeing Basin. Supposedly a mystical tool used to guide the lives of the nearby populace, the two decide to start messing around with it. What this boils down to is talking to various people who live along the energy lines that emanate from the basin. Then, they create metaphorical stars, planet, and nebula inside the basin that will affect the those people. For example, creating a certain kind of star in the basin serves the purpose of helping a young Chinese woman bring customers to their restaurant.
As a interesting story, the game kind of fizzles. The characters just don’t exude enough personality, and the main characters often feel like mere spectators. It’s also hampered by the lack of freedom. You’re given quest to complete, with each quest pertaining to a particular character. No matter what you make the in basin, none of it will affect any character unless you’ve completed a quest. You can’t intentionally change the course of the story. It’s a missed opportunity, and one that would have greatly rewarded the player for the vast amount of experimentation required by the game.
The story sequences in the game are akin to a Visual Novel. However, Starry makes some improvement to the formula. The character emote, move their lips when the speak, and have movable elements on their person. It might be hair blowing in the breeze, or strange moving polka dots. Either way, the movement is appreciated, and more VNs need to utilize this technique. As for the basin, it’s more about the mechanics than the graphics. It’s basically just a bunch of blinking colored blobs in a big circle. Some of the more complex stuff looks interesting, you won’t get into that until late into the game.
In terms of audio, the game sticks mostly to music. While there are some sound effects, it’s a couple of bells and whistles to notify you of events in the basin. The music is distinctive Japanese fare, and is pretty decent background music. It’s also very mellow, so it doesn’t get in the way of the dialogue or gameplay.
By far the most important thing to talk about with Starry is the basin. Here you create stars, evolve stars, and attempt to fulfill quests. The basin is a large circle with various colored areas representing various elements. Red is fire, black is water, etc. By placing “seed stars” in the colored areas, various stars will evolve. These stars can only go so far on their own, however, and you need to use other place-able stars to evolve them in various ways. For example, fluff stars, if left unchecked will explode into energy that can help other stars evolve. Timing, positioning, and the number of nearby stars all attribute to the evolution you get.
It’s incredibly complicated. The game has a massive index of the various bodies you’ve seen, although it does little to help you figure out what you need to do to replicate those results. With stars ever evolving, your memory is going to have to be spot on. Honestly, the best thing to do would be to keep some sort of diary on the side so you know how it all worked. To that end, you can speed up or slow down the passage of time in the basin, or even stop it all together. This allows you to pause and record your progress, or make sure a group of stars are all evolving at the same time.
If you need help, there’s an SOS button in the top left of the screen. This takes you to a FAQ that gives some help as to how to complete a few of the more vague quests. However, if you don’t have a firm grasp of the basics, it will all sound like gibberish. Likewise, the quests themselves give almost no hint as to what path you’ll need to take to get the required result.
What this game ends up being, as a result of its mechanics, is a toy for experimentation. You can play around with the stars to your heart’s content, and create a micro galaxy of various heavenly bodies. Without any hand holding, you’re free to try things out and see what happens. This makes the game a perfect plaything for someone looking to go into a career of researching. It also means this game will appeal to a very small crowd of people. The meticulousness required is simply unattainable by the majority of the populace.
Short Attention Span Summary
This Starry Midnight We Make is a fantastic tool for experimenting with a set of variables. However, it doesn’t make for a particularly good game. With a weak story, limited appeal, and a high demand for patience, most people simply aren’t going to be able to work through the game’s opening scenes. However, for those who want to play around with the basin, the game could offer many hours of interesting fun.