Aren't obscure tactical RPG's from the Playstation era appearing on the DS a sign of impending apocalypse? Yeah, we thought so too.
It seemed apparent that with Sony's original refusal of direct from PS1 ports (those like Breath of Fire 3, lacking more than 30% new content), and then from their PS3-to-PSP downloadable title initiative, that we wouldn't be seeing anymore retail releases of PS1 titles in the handheld market. Well, it turns out there was always that one awkward possibility that we refused to acknowledge. That possibility being PS1 titles, who didn't feel at home on the PSP, could always jump sides and head to the greener pastures of the Nintendo DS. It's not very likely, and it's a possibility that hasn't been largely popular, that is until Aksys decided it was time to have a go at it. The company has taken the time and effort to delve into the back-catalog of the PS1, and pull out a title that they feel will find a happy home in today's handheld market. The game, Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth, is, if nothing else, an interesting choice.
A tactical strategy RPG originally published by Atlus, Hoshigami catered specifically to the hardcore. The game rode high on the tactical RPG boom created on the PS1 by Final Fantasy Tactics (this too will soon find a handheld home), but it missed the wave by just long enough to slip mostly under the radar. Its poor timing, coupled with one tragic flaw, made it just another title we've largely forgotten about from the PS1 era. The flaw in question being the original releases difficulty level. Gruelingly difficult thanks to some unique combat systems, Hoshigami on the PS1 undoubtedly caused more than a few thrown controllers and sore knuckles. Not one to miss something like that in their preparation of the new title, aptly named Hoshigami Remix, Aksys first sought to remedy the overbearing slaughter most gamers faced within. Now with three selectable difficulty levels, Hoshigami Remix shouldn't be causing any more early-onset gray hairs, that is, unless the player goes for that sort of thing.
Moving on from the difficulty, Aksys apparently saw no reason to let Hoshigami be a directly straight port either. Which is interesting, considering that if they saw fit to do this much work for the DS remake, why then, wouldn't they do the necessary new work to allow themselves entry into the PSP market? Regardless, their choice has been made, so they'll be making the best use of the system at hand. Obviously, this means players should expect touchscreen controls on their DS, as battles can be navigated entirely with the stylus. Also, both screens of the DS will be used extensively, the lower for regular action, and the upper for displaying the character information and status of a selected ally or enemy.
Allies and enemies are what make tactical RPG's go round, and in Hoshigami Remix they're looking pretty nice. The visuals are charming, and tactical RPG gameplay lends itself particularly well to the DS. As selecting options and movements with the stylus is about as simple as it can get, this is something beautifully fitted to a touchscreen interface. The characters aren't as unique or varied as those of Final Fantasy Tactics or other popular games from the era, but they do have a unique set of classes and each character can also choose to worship a deity in order to receive stat bonuses or specific magical spells. The deities include the generalized RPG norms of Fire, Earth, Wind, Water, Lighting, and the sixth slightly more abstract deity, Force. Players willing to enter the fray at the two more difficult levels of gameplay should learn to love or leave their crew however, because fallen allies won't be resurrected at the end of a battle. These guys lay down for good, ala' Fire Emblem.
This makes navigating the games unique combat system, RAP, a lesson the player is going to need to master early on if they're trying to maintain their party throughout the course of the game (50 hours, we're told). RAP, as determined by a gauge, allows each player to perform a certain amount of actions, each lowering the gauge somewhat. Actions like attacking or casting magic lower the gauge more significantly than simply moving, and the amount lowered is going to important, as it determines how long until a characters next turn. It sounds more confusing than it actually is but mastering it will undoubtedly be tricky. Players need to capitalize on the gauge, all the while not making so many actions that they are left vulnerable while the enemy performs many smaller, quicker actions.
The story of Hoshigami Remix unfolds mostly in the battle scenes or on the world map, as players of many tactical RPG's will no doubt be familiar to. There aren't actually free-roaming elements like traditional roleplaying games. Players will work through the story as Fazz, the optimistic leader of a ragtag band of mercenaries, who ends up taking an ordinary job and walking right into the den of some shady evil that's about to be. Among the games other new features, Hoshigami Remix also includes a brand new character created specifically for the DS update.
New character art, new scenarios, an updated soundtrack, and the ability to trade items with friends are all included as well, making Hoshigami Remix one hell of a port, if it can still be called that at all. The game's been streamlined for the DS so it should be suited well for a handheld, although the sometimes hour long battles of tactical RPG's might lay waste to the portability and quickness of gameplay that many DS titles seem to tout as a feature. Even still, there is obviously going to be a level of production quality to the game that was once suited to console titles, so it should be a standout title in the long summer ahead. Waste away the little time left until the release by checking out all the screens we have available.