Cosmic Star Heroine Review (Switch) – a modern, 16-bit, scifi JRPG delight

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Cosmic Star Heroine offers a wealth of content considering its base cost. This scifi romp is a skillfully crafted, complete package of JRPG-style goodness that remains faithful to its 16-bit roots, and it has a great sense of humor to boot! With the polish of Octopath Traveler and gameplay similar to that of Chrono Trigger, if you liked either of those titles and you love scifi, then Cosmic Star Heroine is a game you will doubtless want to add to your collection.

The Premise

In Cosmic Star Heroine, you play as special agent Alyssa, whom works for a government intelligence agency with a small team. Alyssa and her colleagues are sent to recover technology from a research facility on an alien planet where an experiment went wrong. When Alyssa’s team returns with the equipment and data, it is covertly discovered that the agency leadership is planning on using this technology to do something wildly unethical that would affect the balance of power in the entire galaxy.

Tensions build when Alyssa and her team turn against the corrupt organization, promising to expose and stop them. Alyssa and co. are branded traitor-rebels by the government for this and must escape capture on their quest to stop the agency from using the experimental technology for evil.

Aesthetic

Zeboyd is a western dev studio, but the appearance and feel of Cosmic Star Heroine are true to that of classic 16-bit era JRPGs like Chrono Trigger. Cosmic Star Heroine definitely has a style it was going for and it looks great! You will delve into environments inspired by retro 80s scifi with a bit of cyberpunk mixed in for good measure. The game boasts finely detailed pixel art and nuanced backdrops with lots of interactive NPCs that make even the city side streets feel alive.

Cosmic Star Heroine features copious, wonderful pixel art cut scenes. I was surprised to find a fully fleshed out music video as the cut scene inside a dance club at one point. The digital synth soundtrack is gritty, moody and fitting, with high energy tracks at just the right times. The battle music could use some extra variety, but is incredibly catchy!

Combat

Enemy encounters are turn based and deliberate. Battles take place directly on the map where you approach the enemies, or when they run into you, with the combat UI appearing to bracket the sprites on screen. You can start a random battle from the in game menu if desired, so there is zero grinding unless you really want to. You can save and adjust difficulty (4 options) at any time out of combat.

In lieu of a mana system, abilities have a single charge to use (unless stated otherwise) before requiring the character to defend for a turn to recharge the full ability load out. All abilities, including elemental ones, are tech or weapon based, maintaining the scifi vibe. Ability kits are unique per character and they each fill their own niche, with some moves based on current equipment. There are also special items and programs the entire party has access to, allowing for lots of experimentation.

Characters can enter Hyper Mode to deal extra damage once every few turns. Hyper mode is available after a certain number of turns passes, depending on the respective character, so this leads to natural peaks and ebbs in the combat rhythm. If a character’s health reaches zero, they will go into negative health, called Desperation Mode, for one turn and then have until their next action to either be healed above negative or finish the last enemy. If neither occurs, they finally collapse.

Writing and Dialogue

Cosmic Star Heroine is a linear game, though this isn’t actually a bad thing at all. The 15-20 hour plot feels appropriately urgent and you are driven down the story path with excellent pacing that never leaves you lingering in one place for too long. I appreciated having consistent direction. New characters are introduced regularly, each full of personality and inter-party banter. While individual character backgrounds are not explored to much extend, the variety in the cast is appreciated.

Cosmic Star Heroine’s writing is well balanced between serious and lighthearted, and is not afraid to poke witty fun at JRPG genre tropes. You will find little genre in-jokes on many item descriptions and in the dialogue with team members and NPCs. I found myself regularly grinning at quite a few of them.

Final Verdict

Cosmic Star Heroine is best described as a modernized, scifi Chrono Trigger, but Cosmic Star Heroine certainly brings its own identity to the table. Sometimes heard from dev studios, the sentiment of “We made the game we wanted to play” is evident in all the right ways with this title. They cut out the typical fat found in most JRPGs and improved on the essentials with their own spin to provide a succinct, wholesome, nostalgic experience. I give Cosmic Star Heroine an 8/10. Additional depth added to individual character development would have bumped it up to a 9 for me.

Cosmic Star Heroine was released only about a year ago, yet had never heard of it until I saw it in the eShop. I avoid the term “hidden gem” because I think it is over used and incorrectly applied to what are usually popular titles, but honestly, Cosmic Star Heroine is a proper hidden gem in its genre. It is well worth the normal $15 price point and becomes an absolute must-buy during a sale. Definitely give it a try!

Thank you for reading!

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7 comments on “Cosmic Star Heroine Review (Switch) – a modern, 16-bit, scifi JRPG delight”

  1. This looks really interesting, the aesthetics give me Blade Runner/Bubblegum Crisis vibes. I’ve noticed that when devs say “We made the game we wanted to play”, usually the game is pretty good.

    Liked by 1 person

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