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Game Review – Stella Glow

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stella-glow.jpgOfficial website

Around a month ago, I was looking for a new 3DS adventure to sink my time into. So, I downloaded a few demo’s from the Nintendo eShop. When I played the demo of Stella Glow, I wanted to give the full game a try. Later that day, I talked to my friends here at The Buttonsmashers and something happened. I was asked to review this game and I got a review copy. So, that was a very lucky thing. Also, the subtitle (swansong) of this review has a special meaning. This game is published by Sega, Atlus & NIS America but it has been developed by Imageepoch. Sadly enough, they are bankrupt now. So, they made this TRPG (tactical RPG) about music as their final game. Is it any good? Well, I had high expectations. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game. 

Swansong

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In this game, you play as Alto. A boy who got adopted and lost his memories. One day, when he was out hunting, he encountered a mysterious woman that warns him to leave the village, he refuses and not too long after, all hell breaks loose.

This is how the game starts. There were a lot of clichés in the story, but they didn’t weaken the story one bit. The writing of the characters is excellent. You really get to know the large cast of characters in this game. Both in the main story and in the side missions, all characters are well developed. Every character has his/her own personality and they can be very relatable.

The only negative I have for the story is that it introduces too much new major plot points in the final three chapters. So, the pacing of the story isn’t the best in the end, but hey, it’s a minor thing in my eyes since it keeps you at the edge of your seat.

Also, something that really helps in the story department is the voice acting. Man, the voice acting is top notch. All the actors did an amazing performance for this game. I have nothing bad to say about the voice acting of this game.

The power of song

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In this game, you fight turn-based battles like the Fire Emblem games. Another really nice that this game does is when you press anything on the touch screen like a stat or something else, you will get a small and brief explanation of that stat. It also displays if a certain enemy is weak to certain attacks or strong against a certain type of characters.

The battles in this game are amazing to play through. I had a lot of fun with them. They are quite challenging, but, the AI of the enemies isn’t always the best. There were a couple of times I got very lucky and avoided certain death.

All my praise for the battle system aside, I’m on the edge about how slow battles can feel. I missed the “Skip enemies turn” button from the Fire Emblem games on 3DS. Where the game skips all enemies moves and shows you the results. This is something I believe should be in every Tactical-RPG in my opinion.

Moving on, you can also customize your characters to a certain degree. You can equip orbs to them. These orbs can put status effects on enemies, help dodge attacks and so much more. Depending on the weapon, you can put 1 to 5 orbs on the weapon.

Something I also liked in this game is the fact that you had conditions you could go for, but didn’t have to fulfill, however If you were able to fulfill them, you got special items or weapons.

After certain conditions are met, the witches are able to use song magic. These come in types of song magic. The weak ones and the stronger ones. The weak ones only affect those in the approximate area. The strong ones affect everybody in the battlefield. The strong ones always give your allies a buff and your enemies a debuff.

Sidenote: Now that I think about it, a perfect example of what I mean by: “the battles can be slow” is that you have to sit through character by character (or enemy by enemy) getting buffed (or debuffed)

That however isn’t the only twist this game has on the traditional grid-based RPG gameplay. The order of every character depends on the speed of the characters. This means that certain characters could be able to have two turns before  other characters. The order is shown on the bottom of the top 3DS screen. The only negative I have for that is that when you have, for example, two wolves on the battlefield… It’s unclear which wolf goes first. So, I wasn’t always sure I made the right move.

The battles are made more difficult by the fact you can only carry two items per character. So, you will have to fight wisely, and hope that the AI makes some stupid move when you are in trouble.

Something very interesting in the battles is that you have to destroy the chest or use a character that’s able to open them. The same thing for doors and gates. This added an additional layer of strategy into the battles since sometimes you had to use two or more turns to destroy them.

Besides the battles, you are also able to have some free time. In these moments, you can improve relationships with your allies, explore and work. Exploring gave you the chance of finding rare items. If you worked, you could unlock discount in shops and earn money. But improving the bond with the characters is really important. You not only get more backstory, you can unlock special skills and even change the ending of the game. So, choose wisely how you spend your free time. Since it’s limited. Oh and, you won’t have enough free time to explore everybody’s backstory, but in the “New Game Plus” in mode you unlock after beating this game, you get a lot more free time.

There is one thing I wasn’t able to do in free time and that is to explore the actual world, because I prefered to fight battles in order to grind my characters,  and some battles are extra difficult but cost play coins. These battles were very useful to level the characters I rarely used. Just in case I had to use them in a story mission.

“Press Start” isn’t “Press A”.

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If I have to say one negative thing about this game, well it’s that the menu system isn’t the best. I started to write everything down that annoyed me but the further the game progressed, the more I was able to scrap off my list.

Yet, some things remain until the end. If you choose to skip dialogue, it’s possible you only skip a little bit ahead to the next scene. But sometimes, you skip a whole lot of dialogue.

In most games, when you press any button to skip the introduction cutscene, you see the main menu. But not in this game. When it says that you need to press the start button, you better only press the start button.

While the menu system works really good, there are a lot of things that could have been polished. I already gave two examples. Here are few other examples. You can’t suspend save your game when you choose the direction of your character, restarting 2-part fight in the 2nd part… means you start at the first part of the battle and the side battles suddenly stopped displaying the recommend level to start the fight at. It could have been polished up a bit more, but in general; it didn’t annoy me that much.

The presentation of this game is amazing. This game is very pretty to look at. Every area has a theme and sticks to it pretty well. I really loved the Asian themed area. It was one of the best areas in the game in my opinion.

The animation of each character is amazing. The amount of detail is just stunning. The only thing I found strange is that if you upgrade the weapon, you were able to see the upgrade in the animation… but the armor didn’t change. Why only go half-way?

This game also suffers from the recolor-syndrome. All enemy archers look the same but recolored. Thankfully they haven’t done that with all the enemies. Only the knights look different from their altered version, the ghost knights.

The only negative in the animation is that you weren’t able to skip the song magic animations. What I mean here, is that you are able to skip the animation of all the attacks, but you are unable to skip the intro animation of the song. Maybe it’s meant as a sort of loading gate?

I was able to beat this game in 45 hours, give or take. This game is quite lengthy. Also, I didn’t spend too much time in the side battles. Otherwise, this game could have taken a way longer time to beat this game.

This game isn’t that difficult. If you level up your crew and don’t make too many stupid mistakes in the battles, you won’t lose too many times. I had two or three missions where I was very frustrated. The goal was to defeat a certain character without a certain character dying. The very annoying thing is that some enemies have an instant kill skill.

Oh, and one thing I seriously hated with a passion but didn’t want to get removed in the game is the ability “guts”. Ugh, it lets the enemy survive one time. Yet, it added a layer of strategy onto the battles.

The final thing I want to talk about is the soundtrack and the sound design of this game. The sound design is really well done in this game. They did a really good job in the sound department and I haven’t anything to complain about.

What I do have to complain about it, is the soundtrack. It’s way too good. Seriously, it’s one of my favorite soundtracks I heard in a long time. There are energetic songs and there are really soothing songs. I seriously want the soundtrack of this game on a CD right now. I love it.

So, I think I said everything I wanted to say about this game. It’s time for the conclusion of this review.

Conclusion

The good:

+ A very well written story with memorable characters.

+ Multiple endings.

+ Amazing voice acting.

+ A killer soundtrack.

+ Fun battles.

+ The replay value is high because the “New Game Plus”.

+ Amazing visual presentation.

+ Quite lengthy.

The bad:

-The AI doesn’t always exploit your big mistakes.

-The UI and menu system could use a bit more polish.

-The battles can be a bit slow.

Final Verdict

This game is very addicting. If this game had a bit more polish in the UI and AI department, this game would get a perfect score in my opinion.

The story pulls you into the world of Stella Glow, the voice acting will make you fall in love with the characters. The visual presentation and the soundtrack will make this game come alive. And the battles will make you come back for more.

This game is near perfection. I honestly think that if they made the AI a bit smarter and polished up the UI a bit more, this game would be perfect. They are the two big flaws of this game.

If you have a 3DS and you like RPG and/or SRPG games; don’t doubt, play this game. You won’t regret it. It’s one of the best games I have played in 2016!

Thank you for reading my review! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, take care and have a great rest of your day!

A copy of Stella Glow for Nintendo 3DS was provided by NIS America for this review.

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