Friday, October 30, 2015

Stella Glow: Review

So finally finished the game, so my thoughts...
And before I start, let's just say I liked the game enough to pre-order the ENGLISH version for the pre-order bonuses. Not that I can play the actual cartridge because of region lock, but oh well, sacrifices are needed sometimes.






Before I start, I just want to point out some facts.
The company that developed this game is Imageepoch 
The company that published the game is Sega
The company that is localizing the game is Atlus
Imageepoch went bankrupt, making this the last game it developed. After bankruptcy, it was under Sega that this game managed to be released.
The Luminous Arc staff made this game.

So when I first saw this game, I was like, songs? WTH?
But after completing Fire Emblem: If, I was looking for a new game to play while waiting for Monster Hunter Cross. I saw reviews across the web and e-Shop and saw how praised this game was, so I decided to play the demo and I also realized that this was pretty much Luminous Arc 4. So I was like, must-buy-now!





Story:
Anyways, like the rest of the Luminous Arc games, the main attractive points of this game are the characters. However, this time, they actually also had a pretty high-quality story.

All of them get their time in the spotlight, regardless of their gender, and you can really get into them, feel empathy for them. Like, if a character just suddenly dies and that character didn't really have much a row in the story, you wouldn't really give a crap. It's pretty much a "Look, he died! Cry! Cry I say!" But not this game. Things happen. Shit happens. And I'm like... orz. 'Cause perhaps despite looks, this is a pretty serious and heavy, sometimes even depressing, game.
You play through the game and realize all of these foreshadowing. They explain stuff and you go "Oh! So that is what that meant!" or "Ahah! That makes sense!", and in overall, it is just a very completed story.
The presentation is also very well done. When the BGM plays, the characters talking differently during battle after certain situations, such.
For people that might have been unlucky enough to witness stories from JRPGs like Tales of Zesteria and Fire Emblem: If, here is a very good chance to wash your mouth of that WTH-ness and perhaps regain some hope that good stories exist out there. (Exaggeration)
There really is no complaint about the story, though perhaps some people will consider it too cliche-ed. For me, cliche is perfectly fine if done well. If you can get into the characters, into the story, it doesn't matter if they try something new or not. Because as they say, don't fix what isn't broken. In the first place, I've probably played enough games and watched enough anime and stories that it'd be one really outrageous story if it didn't remind me of some other story.
And perhaps I couldn't explain well enough, but in summary, if you are looking for a game with a good story, you won't be disappointed.


Characters:
Out of taste only, there was probably only one character I was not so keen on. Though she still had her part of character development and I wasn't as much "Ugh" against her by the end. There was also this other character, I was like "Hah?" at first, but he was able to show that he had some likable traits.
Other than that, the characters were great. Aside from the story, during your free time, you can interact with any character in your party, learning new stuff about them, developing your relationship with them, or even learning more about the past and other settings, depending on the character.
You can see an epilogue of ALL 14 characters in your party, regardless of gender. And of course, there is a CG for each character ending. So you'll be able to get with whatever character you like.


Battle System:
 One of the few complaints I heard ever about this game was the battle system. Mainly because of the tempo. This is mainly because the enemy usually takes about a second to think. Also, there is no option to speed up movement and effects in battle.
I'd say, Fire Emblem on Fast speed in map movement probably can make 2 moves for each of this game's moves. That said, this game (and the Luminous Arc series) isn't focused on having a deep battle system with a million different ways to customize. Each character does have their own unique traits, but you can't make them anything they aren't. In other words, the battle is more like a normal RPG game mixed with turn-based simulation. You grow levels and learn skills as you go through the story, buying new and stronger armer and such equipment to strengthen your character. And you take turns in battle, moving in a grid system.
Maybe there is actually a better name for this type of game system, but when dissected, that is pretty much what it is. (That is why the genre is Simulation + RPG?)
That said, I didn't really mind it that much. But I do understand complaints about it.


Balance:
As a character's speed determines how long it takes to move again, it is unavoidable that faster units will be able to attack more often and gain experience and just overall do stuff.
That said, because speed is also something that differentiates the characters, there aren't really that many other options. You can get accessories in-game that boost speed, and there are buffs that can increase your speed too. Also, against enemy units that do not move until you get in a certain range, you can just park your faster units until the slower ones catch up.
All characters can do stuff only they can do. Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't units that are harder to use than others.
You are able to participate in free battles on the world map as much as you want. So you can also technically level up as much as you want. However, you FULLY HEAL when you level up, so even if you are slightly lower in level than the enemy, you will gain more experience during battle, level up, and heal. Meaning that there are advantages to grinding and not grinding. The game CAN be cleared without any grinding, worthy noticing.


General System Thoughts:
Once you get into the game after the tutorial, the story mainly goes between Free Time and Battle Time. I really like the whole clock thing for this, BTW.
In your first playthrough, you can only do 3 events for Free Time. This means you are limited in what you can do. So you need to choose wisely. That said, for various reasons, when in doubt, work on your relationship with the characters.
During the Battle Time, you can walk on the world map (you can speed up movement here) and fight and grind as you want. Of course, you can also go to your destination to move on with the story too. On the world map, aside from the normal Blue enemies, there are also Red enemies. They cost game coins (the ones you get for walking) to enter, but they also give lots of money. Also, the enemies in these Red ones are always much higher level than you. When I did the first Red one, I spent about an hour clearing it, because I had to be careful of each of my actions. So these Red ones are not just a way to earn money, but they provide a challenge up to a point (until when your level goes higher than them, duh).

You can quick-save during battle. This quick-save does not disappear, meaning by constantly using it, you can restart as many times as you want in that location. Of course, this is abusable, but that is really up to you. It is also an important feature though, because sometimes when you are in a battle during the story, events occur. (Kinda normal, right?) Reinforcements appear, something happens that will change the enemies on the map, interesting stuff like that. Because of this, what is supposed to be 1 battle would actually be technically 2. In cases like these, you obviously want to save. So these non-disappearing quick-saves really help in avoiding the stress of having to restart a long battle. When you reach such checkpoints in battle, the game will actually ask you to save, BTW.
Also, there is an option usually to restart the battle from the start and such, so it isn't hard to avoid game overs.
That said, it isn't so easy that you can't game over. There are missions that don't involve destroying all units, such as staying alive, chasing a unit, and such. There are also many times a specific unit's defeat causes a game over, making game overs surprisingly easy to occur.

During the story, there are many parts where you can choose what to say, but this does not have a greater effect on the story. Only the current dialogue changes.
...Other than a certain one that determines the ending.

The only true complaint I have of this game is the fact there is no gallery mode. You have great music and beautiful CG, but you can't recollect on them.
In other words, get your camera or advanced phone out and keep memories in a different way. Until a soundtrack comes out, use youtube or somewhere to hear the music.

Music:
Great music. Great songs song by experienced voice actors like Horie Yui and Tamura Yukari.
Of course, in-game, you get to enjoy their voice acting too, but the localized version will be dubbed, so I'm not sure how that is going to turn out.
As far as the JP side goes, of course there are no complaints on the VA quality. Very well done.

Play Time:
In order to explore all of the characters, you will have to play the game twice. But of course, you can skip battle animation as well as most of the story, so the second playthrough will hardly be as long.
My first playthrough time was... So around 45-50 hours.


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