Sea of Stars (PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, X/S, PC)

When I was a teenager in the early to mid 90s, I loved 16-bit RPGs.  Couldn’t get enough of them.  I poured over Final Fantasy 4 and 6, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Lufia 2, and many more.  But once I started college and the 32-bit era came about, I started to fall out of the RPG loop for whatever reason.  And now I don’t play near as many RPGs as I used to as a teen.  Many times since then, a game maker has tried to capture the magic of those 16-bit RPGs with a new title, but they almost always miss the mark.  Until now.  Sea of Stars is a new RPG by the same folks who did The Messenger.  The Messenger was a 2-D platformer starring a ninja, and I reviewed it way back when.  Sea of Stars is actually meant to be a prequel to that game, but luckily you don’t have to have played it to understand what’s going on here.  Which is good since I don’t remember a whole lot about what went on in The Messenger!  Anyway, in Sea of Stars, you’ll play as one of two Solstice Warriors as they are charged with defeating evil Dwellers.  Along the way they’ll meet friends, encounter twists and turns, betrayals, and much more.  Sea of Stars plays most like Chrono Trigger and is available on all current consoles and PC, but reviewed on PS4 here.

As said earlier, this game plays most like Chrono Trigger.  Your world map is viewed exactly the same, where your characters are tiny and walk around to major locations to visit.  And battles take place in the same areas where you walk around, so it’s very seamless.  Like other RPGs, you’ll gather clues and items in towns, and venture forth into dungeons to battle enemies and take on bosses.  The dungeons are fun to explore, too, with lots of neat puzzles to solve and interesting set pieces.  There are tons of secrets to find and food to cook and mini-games like fishing, too.  Graphics are great and a lot of the music is pretty good, too.  Especially that battle theme!

For me, an RPG is only as good as its battle system, and here it’s great!  Battles are turned based, but they add a few wrinkles to keep you on your toes.  You can refill your magic points by attacking, and that also makes the enemies drop these glowing white dots.  When it’s the next character’s turn, they can collect those dots to power up their attacks, so there’s a bit of strategy involved.  And when enemies are about to unleash a strong attack or move, they’ll show you what types of attacks and magics you can use to cancel out that if you are quick enough to do so.  These additions to the battles keep you on your toes without making things too overwhelming or difficult.

My only problems with this game are extremely minor.  The game starts out a little slow as they explain all the rules to you.  And sometimes it’s kind of hard to tell where you can go and things you can climb on, since many of the areas are a bit dark.  I also wish you could save at any time instead of only at certain spots.  Luckily there’s a lot of those spots you can save, so that’s good.  One last really nitpicky thing is that the game looks TOO good for 16-bit, with fancy shadows and lighting effects, and a bit of animated cutscenes here and there.  Just kind of cuts down on the 16-bit authenticity.  But otherwise, this game is great.  One of the best games I’ve played this year so far and probably the best RPG I’ve played in a long time.  If you have good memories playing classic RPGs like I have, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.

Kid Factor:

Sea of Stars is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Mild Blood, Mild Language, and Fantasy Violence.  I really didn’t notice any blood or bad language in the text, so it must be used sparingly.  You attack enemies with weapons and magic, and baddies just disappear when defeated.  When your characters run out of hit points, they just fall over with dizzy stars above their heads, but they can come back after a few turns.  I grew up playing games like this and I turned out OK, but I’d say this one’s best for older kid gamers because of the high level of reading involved.

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