The GWJ JRPG Club: Cosmic Star Heroine (Q3 2023)

For our third game of 2023, we have two that commanded the club's attention: Cosmic Star Heroine and Dragon's Dogma. This is the thread for Cosmic Star Heroine. It's not from Japan, but is inspired by classic JRPGs from the 16-bit era, especially Chrono Trigger. Before this one, Zeboyd was known for Breath of Death Vol. VIII, Cthulhu Saves the World, and the third and fourth games from the Penny Arcade: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness series. The first two were most heavily inspired by Dragon Quest; the latter two were probably most heavily inspired by Final Fantasy V or VI.

When I think of Zeboyd I think of games that move quickly, don't overstay their welcome, and involve battle systems that are a bit more thoughtful and strategic than the JRPG source material that inspired their games. The Penny Arcade games were built around a battle bar where you could see upcoming turns and interrupt your enemy right before its attack; Breath of Death and Cthulhu were built around the idea of enemy strength scaling up over time, and thus battle got more dangerous the longer it went on (a concept that I think was also featured in Penny Arcade). This one appears to be built around buffs, cool-downs, and setting up big-damage turns when characters enter a "hyper" state. I'm excited to check it out!

Here's what HowLongToBeat.com has to say:

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/1pBJJTk.png?1)

Happy gaming, everyone!

In on Switch. Started a game a while back but got distracted by something shiny. Surely I can focus for a dozen hours.

The short length is honestly a solid draw with all the big time commitment games I've been drawn into so far this year (and makes for a nice pairing with Zelda in particular being a heaping time sink).

Will be staring tomorrow, methinks. Looking forward to getting into it!

I'm in, playing on Switch. Since it's a replay, I'll be playing on Hard (or whatever the equivalent is here) unless I find that too annoying, then I'll dial it down. This one is short and sweet, and I remember it being very well paced (reminds me of Phantasy Star IV in that way), so hopefully people will enjoy it.

I had somehow never heard of this one until it came up in the nominations, but everything I've heard makes it sound pretty appealing! I'll hope to hop on before the end of the quarter should a Switch sale provide, it seems like it regularly drops below USD $5 every few months, so we should be due for another sale before September.

Oh, wow. This one is short. I was going to skip this quarter and use the time to try to finish FF IX but I'll give this one a shot, too.

Put in an hour this morning. God, I love how quickly this one gets you into the action. I love a game that respects the player's time. The characters are all basically interchangeable snarky guys at this point and I don't remember that changing much, but I love the style, which is as much Sega CD as Super Nintendo. Real Snatcher vibes in the cut scenes.

My old cloud save was still there; I guess I played on Agent difficulty (the second-lowest level of four) and clocked about 25 hours before rolling credits, but IIRC I was streaming the game so that probably includes a lot of leaving the game idling while I BSed with chat.

Since this is a replay, I bumped it up to Heroine (the one right above Agent, second-highest level of four). Can definitely tell the difference right away, I took a death on the first boss fight while I was still getting re-accustomed to the combat, but it let me restart right from the beginning of the fight so NBD. Once again, I love a game that respects the player's time.

Started this yesterday. Up to Chapter 4 already - nice and short, these chapters! Enjoying the quick and to the point story. Combat is interesting. Was hoping to take it with me over the weekend as I'll be traveling, but sadly it seems not to support cross save on the Vita. Oh, well. Guess I'll have to wait a few days before coming back to it.

On sale for $3.74 during the Steam summer sale. Hoping it goes on sale for Switch, too.

Managed to put in about an hour more. Still very much in Chapter 4. This one chapter seems meatier.

Really liking Heroine mode, very much hits that sweet spot of "sometimes I fail, but when I do, I know exactly what I want to try differently next time so it doesn't feel frustrating" that so few JRPGs ever hit.

If I have a criticism, it's that it throws new gear and abilities at you so fast that sometimes it feels a bit much. "A new staff for Alyssa? I mean, thanks, but I was really enjoying that last staff, I kind of wanted some more time with that." Especially since a lot of the gear has abilities that can really change your play style instead of just making the numbers go up, which is a good thing, but it does mean that sometimes I find myself getting attached to a certain piece of gear and it feels bad when I have to swap it for something with stronger base stats when the old gear just plain can't hang any more.

Vita version or PC?… I do likes me handhelds.

I really want this on Switch because I think it’ll be great handheld … but I don’t “pay $10 extra” want it on Switch. Is there a sale for Vita / PS?

I'll be trying this on the Steam Deck.

That's how I've been playing it. The only reason it's not marked Deck Verified is because you have to manually change the resolution for the Deck's screen, but you do that once, restart, and then it runs perfectly.

I have been watching the PS Store and have not seen a sale yet. I am giving it another week or so to see if they do something for 4th of July.

Same here, for both Switch and PS. If they don't have a sale start this weekend, I'm either getting the PC version & jumping in, or supporting the developer with some extra dollars.

Alright, I bought it and jumped in yesterday, and as of this morning I had finished Chapter 2.

Story is nothing to write home about, but it is quick in a way that reminds me of SNES games -- a few lines of exposatory dialogue and we're on to the next plot beat! In an era of long cut scenes and stories that plod, I'm really enjoying that.

Also, this battle system is very much my jam: turn-based, with turn order readily viewable, and interesting decisions to be made at each turn. I really like the approach to buffs and debuffs, with debuffs having no random possibility of hitting, and being able to affect bosses. I also think the use of defend to refresh abilities is very smart. Reminds me a bit of Chained Echoes where defend would block damage but also would reduce the Overdrive gauge a little bit, and you could slap on other buffs as well like a minor heal while defending. I'm all for tweaks that make some of these commands worthwhile, vs. the old FFs and DQs where I'd almost never use them.

Been toggling a little bit between Heroine (the 2nd highest difficulty) and Super-Spy (the highest). I haven't quite found the sweet spot yet. I recall that when playing Breath of Death and Cthulhu Saves the World, the higher difficulty levels were agony -- and, eventually, led to me restarting or quitting in frustration. But in the Penny Arcade games, I thought they were much more manageable. Super-Spy seems to set enemy HP totals much higher than on Heroine, ensuring that battles last longer. But it already feels like with Hyper mode, buffs, and debuffs, it's possible to get some big damage numbers. I did really struggle with those flying enemies who buffed their own speed; just couldn't get damage fast enough to take them down, and had to drop the difficulty a bit.

Up through the Spectral Dragon, and I felt like a badass when I managed to drop about 1,500 damage on it. Of course, I figured this out while the Dragon had about 500 HP left, so it was a bit wasted. Could probably have doubled that, too:

Spoiler:

Sue's Rock Solid + Feint + Uppercut (Hyper) + Rust had been applied to the dragon

If I had stacked Vulnerable on the Spectral Dragon to time with Uppercut, and then also if I had buffed Sue with Alyssa's support move ... maybe 3,000+ damage?

Edit: to capture a debuff I forgot in the spoiler-text above.

I'm off and running, and have gotten through the first chapter on Heroine. I wiped to the boss once since I was trying to set up a big hit by Chahn where I could get everyone at once by timing her attack all ability to her Hyper mode, but it was too little to late to the damage I was taking in. I switched to focus firing down the goons and also weakening the boss on the second round and it went smoothly.

I'm well into chapter 4 and this game is... well, it's not what I expected. Some real WTF going on here.

Spoiler:

The agency is after us, a bounty hunter tried to take us down but failed and walked away, then a giant mech is suddenly attacking the city, we just happen to run across the same bounty hunter who is now teamed up with us... Is this some kind of metagame along the lines of the Lego Movie where the big reveal at the end is going to be that this has all just been some kid playing with their sci-fi action figures?

So, I am playing this game in parallel difficulties. Playing on super freaking easy and on the hardest difficulty available right off the bat. I only started the ultra hard run today and found that the battles function more like puzzles than standard turn-based combat. It took me about an hour to get through the intro and it was mostly because each fight took a few restarts to figure out the order of abilities that would lead to victory. It honestly changes the game completely, mechanically. I don't know how long I'll stick with the hard run, since my story-focused save will likely run way ahead, but it's enjoyable so far.

That's cool that you're trying it two ways! Keep us posted.

I'm into Chapter 4, now, lost one party member, and gained a new one. Especially with the puzzle combat, it's really interesting how the new party member's abilities--and a few key equipment upgrades--have changed which techniques are valuable and how to think about character roles. I'm also starting to see hints about the eventual exploration aspects of this RPGs, with a few characters that are clearly meant to be revisited later, and also an obligatory "please give me some seed money so I can open a store" questline.

The new character is a great, different take on a bard:

Spoiler:

Love that Lauren has a couple of abilities that take Style or hyper bars away from others to give them to her: she's in the spotlight! It's definitely different from how bards usually play.

Although I have to admit, I don't yet see the point of stealing Style from others. I get that at 50% style, you are eligible for a desperation turn, but I haven't seen real benefits from style above that. Is it supposed to drive up your attack power? It seems to matter much less than buffs, debuffs, weaknesses, the Hyper turns, and inherent attack strength.

Also, loving the cut scenes! They are very cleanly drawn and have a definite 90s vibe to them.

Made it up to the beginning of Chapter 6, today! This caught me off guard because my save file was in Chapter 4, and I didn't think I played for that long (45ish minutes, probably). I must have saved right before going into the zone that triggered the chapter break.

This game is absolutely flying by. It's so fast, which I enjoy but which is also surprising me. I looked up the table of contents for a walkthrough and there are only 12 chapters; it doesn't feel like I should be approaching the halfway point. But I would guess some of the later chapters are a bit longer and there'll be some side quests. We're still pretty on rails.

A few thoughts from Chapter 5:

Spoiler:
  • The Millenial Fair sendup was a lot of fun, including the scavenger hunt! And I enjoyed the optional boss fight against Paws, of Cthulhu Saves the World.
  • Definitely enjoyed tooling around with the 2 new party members introduced. I'm guessing that soon, we'll have options to form the party. I noticed that the bounty hunter came with more abilities than can be equipped, so that was fun to customize.
  • As I get more abilities, it'll be interesting to see what gets removed. For Lauren, it's the moves that steal style and steal Hyper; I just don't think I really need them, and right now Lauren isn't my big damage dealer. But I could see those coming back if she starts laying down numbers. For Alyssa, it was her basic bash attack. It's pretty weak compared to other options and I can't see myself needing to use it much, vs. building up to a big turn with Laser or Flood.
  • That bounty hunter has the first "Burst" move, which appears to drain style for a really big hit, much like the combo meter in Breath of Death / Cthulhu.
  • The mech / kaiju fight was stylistically interesting but not really distinct from the main combat. Hopefully, if there are more mech fights, we'll see some additional options.

I'm well into Chapter 7 with my Easy difficulty run. The game opens up a bit at this point. Managed to travel to two different planets, one of them the place where much of the previous chapters took place, where I now managed to recruit some new characters for my party/ship crew. I then went to another planet, the one where the first post-prologue mission takes place, and it is now very open-world-ish. Got some little side-quests done and now I'm doing a little something for the town's sheriff.

On my Hard difficulty run, I made it to the end of the lab at the beginning but the boss is doing a number on my party. I'll have to rethink my strategy there.

That's good to hear! I'll be interested to see what it feels like when the game opens up.

I've finished up Ch.3 on Herione, and made our big escape. The summon boss fight was actually pretty tough (as most bosses are in this game). Near the end I played a little less defense and went all out for the killing blow, but wound up with two people knocked out and two others in negative health when the fight was over. I also had a funny battle against the overseer where I had knocked out him but his drones were holding an (unconscious) Alyssa plus Dave and Sue, and so Chahn was just there plinking away at the enemies as they squeezed the life out of the rest of the team. It was a guaranteed win since they couldn't grab everyone, but still funny that one had grabbed someone who was already out. It made the fight doable since it went down that way.

I remember from my prior playthrough that Sue is always a great addition for raw power, and that Dave was always fiddly and annoying to use, and that is still the case in this run as well.

Picked this up yesterday and got to chapter 5. Definitely getting Chrono Trigger vibes from just the general aesthetic and character design. Especially after the start of chapter 5, they are clearly wearing their inspiration on their sleeve. Makes me hope there are some combo skills between characters coming in the future.

They really like to rotate the cast around. It was nice that at the start of chapter 4 they remove one character to let you experiment with another without removing the base you had relied on for the previous two chapters. I am playing on Heroine and this difficulty is feeling pretty good to me. Boss encounters are tough enough to make me think about what I am doing and plan those hyper turns well, but not so tough I am needing to restart. Even most the normal fights require paying attention to weaknesses and taking advantage of them or using debuffs appropriately. At this point I really need some more item slots though. I have between 10 and 15 items, but still only three item slots so it is hard to choose which ones to bring, especially since some are only good against certain types of enemies.

I like the idea of the shields having different powers and how much of a stat they need to unlock their skills, but unless they have a way to increase their defensive capabilities later, I feel like unless you are looking at similarly powered shields, the skills on them are going to be moot. I like the Adventurer shield, but there is no way I am going back to a 10/10 shield when my current ones are pushing 40 defense.

Through the start of chapter 5 thoughts:

Spoiler:

I like that at the end of chapter 1, when Alyssa tells Chahn to get the hostages out while she deals with the bomb that Chahn just agrees, instead of complaining that it's too dangerous for Alyssa to go alone or something along those lines. It's just a refreshing take on that trope.
The Freedom Fair, which is clearly based on the Millennial Fair, was fun. I liked the little minigames they had, although I just looked up the logic puzzle one because it was late and I didn't feel like figuring it out while I was tired.
The API twist did not catch me completely off-guard. I don't know if I was totally expecting it, but it definitely didn't feel like an "Oh man, did not see that coming!" type of thing. I am looking forward to see where/how we get out of their grasp.

LastSurprise wrote:

That's cool that you're trying it two ways! Keep us posted.

I'm into Chapter 4, now, lost one party member, and gained a new one. Especially with the puzzle combat, it's really interesting how the new party member's abilities--and a few key equipment upgrades--have changed which techniques are valuable and how to think about character roles. I'm also starting to see hints about the eventual exploration aspects of this RPGs, with a few characters that are clearly meant to be revisited later, and also an obligatory "please give me some seed money so I can open a store" questline.

The new character is a great, different take on a bard:

Spoiler:

Love that Lauren has a couple of abilities that take Style or hyper bars away from others to give them to her: she's in the spotlight! It's definitely different from how bards usually play.

Although I have to admit, I don't yet see the point of stealing Style from others. I get that at 50% style, you are eligible for a desperation turn, but I haven't seen real benefits from style above that. Is it supposed to drive up your attack power? It seems to matter much less than buffs, debuffs, weaknesses, the Hyper turns, and inherent attack strength.

Also, loving the cut scenes! They are very cleanly drawn and have a definite 90s vibe to them.

In relation to your question about Style in the spoiler, Style increases your damage and ailment success up until it reaches 100%, anything after 100% only increase the damage of Burst skills.

Spoiler:

I could see Lauren being a really strong damage dealer if she gets a strong burst skill where you are cycling between stealing Style, initiating Hyper manually, then using her burst and repeating the process.

Malkroth wrote:

Makes me hope there are some combo skills between characters coming in the future.

One of those things that's not really much of a spoiler, but out of an abundance of caution:

Spoiler:

There are, but only in a limited capacity. Alyssa gets a unique shield that gives her a dual tech with each other party member, which consumes both her and the teammates' Style for a powerful effect. It's less of a core mechanic and more of a cute reference.