Cosmic Star Heroine is the latest 2D RPG from Zeboyd Games. I’ve played all of Zeboyd Games’ RPGs which include: Breath of Death VII: The Beginning, Cthulhu Saves the World, Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 3 and Episode 4 and can confidently say Zeboyd games has a clear style of RPG they do consistently well - the overarching feeling of their games is one of love and appreciation of classic RPGs and their latest release is no different. I picked it up on the Switch a couple months ago (even though it’s almost two years old on PC it came out on Switch in August 2018) and was able to play through it over the last month and had a great time.
The following contains minor spoilers around generally what the plot is and who the playable characters are.
Cosmic Star Heroine has a fun plot that’s an homage to a lot of what makes RPGs and science fiction great. The story is a dramatic and light-hearted sci-fi adventure stemming from a classic plot twist. You’re Alyssa L’Salle, an agent for the API, an intergalactic crime fighting government organization, and you very quickly learn of a conspiracy being perpetrated by your boss. You become an outlaw and that’s when the real game starts. Your adventure spans three planets and a lotta fun, cool alien cultures, and futuristic gizmos.
The game can feel rushed at times. It’s not long, after all, and only takes around 12-16 hours to beat the main plot. There’s a LOT of story and places and characters and I think the game could have actually been longer, allowing the different areas to feel more developed. Even so, Cosmic Star Heroine drips with charm. The NPC one liners always had my chuckling to myself, the ghost aliens and the telepathic bug aliens were classic, and the consistently upbeat dialogue allows the player to not have to wade through overly serious RPG text blocks. Zeboyd Games has always been good at having fun with their game and they continue that tradition here.
Nothing in the story is ground breaking or amazing - but any RPG fan can appreciate its appeal as a fun, character driven, scifi romp. Playing it kind of feels like watching a more quirky The Fifth Element. It’s almost like the game is saying to you, “this is a space adventure and we’re gonna give you exactly what you want!”
The recruitable characters span a wide variety of personalities (and play styles). A lot of the charm of the game comes from these characters - they’re all fun and some are simply hilarious.
The cast of characters feature a weird telepathic bugman scientist, a club singer spy, a badass dude named Sue, a ghost private eye, a dancing android, a chill gunmancer, and a few others. They’re a big part of what makes the game great, feature their own side quests, and by the end of the game you’ll wish you’d had more time hanging out with them.
One thing that is always interesting about Zeboyd Games is the unique systems they throw into their games and Cosmic Star Heroine may be the most unique yet.
The items are simple and easy to manage - there is one of each item, you can use each item once per battle, and you equip which items you want to have access to in a limited number of item slots. It works incredibly well and cuts down on all the clutter of item management.
Each character has their own skills which you also equip to a number of slots and can exchange between battles depending on what you want to try out or need at the time.
The most diversity actually comes from equipment. Weapons vary a decent amount in what their secondary abilities do, as do accessories, but the other slot for shields is where things get really interesting. The shields really influence how you play a character - they emphasize item usage, support, attack, character skills, a mixture of those things, etc. and have their own unique abilities called programs. I’m not a big battle systems person so sometimes it felt overwhelming to me, but as I played more it grew on me because of how much it varied the combat. Someone really into battle systems would probably love it to death! You can, and should, save every shield you get because you’ll find yourself equipping early game shields late in the game just for their unique programs.
The fighting itself is a lot of fun and combines everything above into an engaging combat system. Your style % builds up over time increasing your damage - meaning you plan out multiple turns to do one huge hit by the time you hit your hyper mode, another boost that activates once the small boxes are all full below your character icon. Additionally your skills are almost all single use - refreshing when you defend, which often has its own passive abilities. If it sounds confusing its surprisingly not - everything just kind of comes together where you’re building your party up for that one big swing and then refreshing the cycle with defending. It’s a blast and when you time it right you do some serious damage.
So should you buy it?
I’ve never been disappointed by a Zeboyd Games’ release. I’ve never been blown away either. Still, there’s something nice about a consistently solid release of RPGs from a team that clearly loves the genre. For fans of classic 8 and 16 bit RPGs you will almost certainly have a good time playing Cosmic Star Heroine. Zeboyd Games also generally prices their games pretty low. Cosmic Star Heroine is the most expensive one I’ve seen and it’s only $15. Their other games are routinely under $5. Check it out or wait for an inevitable sale (there’s already been some sales on the Nintendo eshop and on Steam.)
If you’ve played Cosmic Star Heroine or have any other recommendations let me know!