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Game Title: Cosmic Star Heroine
Company: Zeboyd Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital | Retail (via Limited Run Games)
Battery Life: 4.5 – 6 hours
Download: 1.9 GB

It seems to be RPG month for me. I just got done with Okami HD which, like The Legend of Zelda, is arguably filled with enough RPG elements and features to be considered an RPG, and now I’m starting a wave of new RPG reviews more on the retro side.

To start things off, there’s an RPG that was really popular in the PS Vita community for a long time. A sci-fi adventure that has nods to almost every popular SNES-era RPG in existence and one that I didn’t end up reviewing on the Vita for the sole reason that the devs didn’t make the game compatible with the PSTV.

Now that it’s on the Switch, it’s not an issue anymore. So, let’s dive right in and see if the long development wait, and the wait for the Switch version’s release was worth it. Here is my review of Cosmic Star Heroine for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

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Cosmic Star Heroine puts you into the shoes of Alyssa L’Salle, an agent for the Agency of Peace and Intelligence in a futuristic world. However, as soon as an important operation finishes, she is forced to go rogue and embarks on a galactic quest to save the day from a terrifying power and corrupted officials that wish to use that power against the mass populous.

The plot of Cosmic Star Heroine isn’t a bad one and is filled with enough comedy to keep me laughing and dozens upon dozens of comedic references to pop culture and other games, from Star Wars to A Nightmare on Elm Street.

However, the pacing of the story is very unbalanced in both its opening few hours and ending few hours. Things rush around and the way things escalate feel very unnatural and far too rapid. The middle hours of the game pace things very well, but it doesn’t last as the very quickly-paced ending missions are brought about all too soon.

It’s a nice story with a lot of comedy, but rough pacing.

Gameplay

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Cosmic Star Heroine is a Retro RPG that borrows elements from a lot of different games, but is easy to classify as a Chrono Trigger and Suikoden mashup. It’s a 2D, turn-based RPG with a boatload of recruitment features thrown into the mix.

It’s also a giant reference library, host to dozens of reference to pop culture and other video games. From monster descriptions and environment easter eggs to actual dialogue, there is a plethora of references to any and all things science fiction, gaming, and horror within the confines of this game.

The Switch version of CSH doesn’t include any new or extra features, but is currently the only version that can be played at home on the TV and on the go at the same time, considering the Vita version did not receive Vita TV/PSTV Support.

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Progress works in this game like it does in a lot of RPGs. You have a pretty linear path of going from one dungeon to the next, fighting enemies and bosses along the way that pushes the story forward as well as giving you experience and leveling you up, giving you more abilities and skills to use. After a few hours, though, you’ll get a hub/base of sorts that opens things up quite a bit, letting you explore new planets and revisit old ones, making the game’s abundance of side-quests must easier to handle.

The core exploration mechanics aside, though, the real beauty of the game lies in its character roster and combat mechanics. The game has 11 playable party members, along with dozens of support characters that you can encounter and recruit on the various planets you visit across the game. These characters can be swapped out at any time, unless the story requires only certain playable characters be in the party.

Although the multitude of Support Characters cannot be put in the Battle Party, each of them has a specific effect that can help you, be it a stat boost or enhanced money or experience gained from combat. They also server as side-quests as the majority of them have to be found on the planets and have their own mini-quests completed before they agree to follow you and are added to your roster of characters.

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This is enhanced through combat as well. When you go into combat, enemies are already on-screen and your characters run to their battle positions, just like in Chrono Trigger. In fact, the combat system plays almost exactly like the Chrono Trigger battle system did, offering a huge nostalgia trip for fans of those sorts of games.

This game switches things up with its skill and stat system. You don’t have MP for skills, but rather you can use any skill you have equipped at your liesure. However, using up a skill or item makes the skill unusable again unless you spend a turn Defending to recharge your used skills. This also has a fair amount of depth to it, as even the Defend skills can be unlocked and versatile in what extra effects they can give, like buffing or healing the party.

This is an interesting system, but the characters are what really make this system a lot of fun. Each of the 11 playable characters are geared around different sorts of mechanics and setups. While Alyssa is geared mainly towards unleashing powerful attacks of various kind, you also have oddity characters like Clarke, who sets up skills to kill himself off and buff the party while in the act of being knocked out or Orson, who comes with a large amount of elemental attacks and is geared towards exposing and manipulating enemy weaknesses.

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Each character has a different strategy to them and the story forcing different characters into your party gives you an idea of just how many different combat styles you can use in the game, along with how Alyssa can interact and group up with different characters in different ways.

In terms of time and post-game, though, do note that CSH is not a long game. Depending on your difficulty setting (I cleared it under the “Normal” setting of Agent), you should be able to reach the Final Dungeon of the game in around 9-10 hours, plus an extra hour or two for the various side-quests and superbosses hidden around the different environments.

All in all, though, I wouldn’t expect to spend much more than 12-15 hours in the game, at the most. There’s also the fact that there is no New Game Plus, so if you want to replay the game, you’ll have to do it from scratch.

Controls

Controlling the game is not hard. You don’t use all of the Switch’s buttons.

Moving around is done with either the Left Analog Stick or D-Pad/Arrow Buttons. The L and R triggers are used for swapping character screens in the menu, but not really anything else. ZL and ZR are not used.

A is used for confirming and selecting options or NPCs and B is used for canceling out of options. X pulls up the Customization Menu, and the + button will bring up the menu to take you back to the Title Screen.

It’s a rather simple control scheme to work with.

Presentation

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Graphically, the game looks like a Retro RPG from the SNES era. They made the initial graphics engine look like the engines used for Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, and that look is pulled off very well. They also included retro CGI cutscenes that mimick those found on the Sega CD platform.

When I played through this game on the Switch, I began to understand why they blocked PSTV Support with the Vita version. In handheld mode, you can see the intentional jagged edges in the artwork, but the game still looked very good and fairly crisp. In Docked Mode, there are a lot more jagged edges to be seen here and the game doesn’t look quite as good, even on my smaller 21″ TV on my desk.

Performance is very good in terms of frame-rate, though a few of the bugs that plagued this game’s launch still linger around here. In particular, I encountered a bug in an office room, where Alyssa got stuck between two chairs and I spent about 20 minutes moving the controls around to try to free her, to no avail. The Abilities Menu glitch is also still here, which makes the Abilities Menu appear incorrectly unless a restart is done.

Though, the nice thing here is that the Switch version has significantly shorter load times than the Vita version and never crashed, like the Vita version is known to do from time to time. It’s certainly better than the alternative versions, but still has a few minor bugs that linger around.

Battery Life

Battery is one of the things I knew from the start would be great. Here are my Battery Times, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 34 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 46 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 52 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 11 minutes

These are great readings, and enough to get well over half of the game done in a single charge.

In conclusion, Cosmic Star Heroine is a Retro-inspired RPG that is fun and is optimized the best on the Switch. Altough the game’s story pacing is a bit unbalanced and there are still a few lingering bugs, RPG fans will love the abundance of easter eggs and versatility of the game’s cast.

Final Score: 8/10