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Hoshigami: Running Blue Earth (PSOne)

Leave it up to Atlus to give us a game that might allow the Playstation to die gracefully, instead of being inundated and subsequently suffocated by budget games. Notice I put the word budget in quotation marks, because the world of Playstation games "budget" is a euphemism for underfunded, under-fun games. With that as an aside, let's all be thankful that Hoshigami didn't fall into the same trap as other recent PS1 games: Hoshigami: Running Blue Earth is fun. Don't read into the word fun too much, however, because HRBE is about as much work as it is fun, and the excitement and pride you feel with a victory in battle is easily destroyed by the pain, humiliation, and sheer length of your defeats. Oh and believe me, these battles are long, painful and humiliating. So, so humiliating (a single tear rolls down my cheek).

Hoshigami: Running Blue Earth is a strategy RPG that puts you in the ill-fitting, medieval shoes of Fazz. He a mercenary fighting for the kingdom of Aus. Along with his mentor, Limerey, and several other mercenaries, they fight several battles against an invading army. As they get deeper and deeper into the conflict, they realize that there's more than meets the eye. Nonetheless, they delve deeper into the mysterious and sexy details only to find themselves fighting battle after battle against a cartoonishly one-sided evil character whom, if they defeat him, it will return the continent to peace.

Spells and mana are represented materially with items called coinfeigns. Equip a coinfeign and you're ready to cast a spell. Upgrade your coinfeigns by engraving "seals" onto the at the coin shop. With the correct mix of seals on the right coin, that coin transforms into an upgraded version of the spell. The best part of this system is that everyone in your party can be a spell caster without training (although trained spell casters still are more effective than non magical characters).

It is impossible to save during battles, so if you die, you'll have to restart from the beginning. This wouldn't be a problem normally, but Hoshigami is an exception. Battles can last upwards of an hour, with a loss meaning you have replay all of it. This wouldn't be as agonizing if it wasn't compounded by the fact that everyone except for Fazz can die without the possibility of reviving them. This obligates you to train 2 or 3 new mercenaries every battle, win or lose, which takes hours. If you're thinking that this won't affect you because "you don't lose," you're wrong. (Pardon my pun) You're dead wrong. You will die, and you will die and be forced to restart where you left off at least every other battle. And you will cry every time.

The enemy AI is ridiculously hard to beat. It's as if they know your every weakness. They start by zeroing in on your lowest level character. How do they know? They shouldn't, but somehow they do. Next, their magic users systematically target you characters with the least magic resistance. How do they know who has low magic defense? They shouldn't, but somehow they do. If these two tactics don't work they can always fall back on their superior numbers or the fact that at the start of the battle, all of the enemies take on the level of your highest level character. That's right, if your highest level character is Fazz level 6, then all of the enemies will be level 6 with their leader being level 7. If that's the case, what's the use of leveling up? The correct answer is none.

Good strategy is the only way you'll even have a chance of beating this game. When your forces are outnumbered, and are all as equally skilled as your best player, all you have left is skill. That maybe why Atlus implemented the level equaling feature, but that rationalization still doesn't make the game any less frustrating. First of all, we can pretty much write off all of your characters who aren't equal in level to your highest level character (wow, that was confusing. Are you still following me?). Why write them off? The truth is, they're dead. There's no way around it. The computer will pick out your worst characters and kill them first, kinda like a wolf chooses the slowest sheep in the flock. It's a level 9's destiny to die in a battle with level 10s no matter how good a tactician you are. The worst part of all is that they won't even be able to put up a decent fight before they die. A level 9's effect on a 10? 10 maybe 15 points, at best. My suggestions to solve this? First, train all of your characters equally. Second, train all of your characters high enough (to about 88 exp.) so they'll level up quickly during battle making all of your characters a level ahead of your opponents (now that's turning the table on them).

With pretty much all of your mercenary (non-main) characters gone, you're going to have to buy some new ones. And since the new ones start at low levels, you're going to have to train them. That's another hour and a half wasted only to have those mercenaries you just trained die in the next battle. It's a vicious, never ending cycle, that's made worse by vicious never ending load times and battle sequences. After a minute long load (this might just be due to t e copy that was reviewed), you are given a battle sequence where, after each move, you are forced to make a confirmation. Eight confirmations later, your next player moves, and you repeat the cycle. Every character turn requires an average of 4-6 confirmations, and with some battles lasting for over an hour, you can start to see how this can get tedious and annoying. As tedious and annoying as to make someone want to stick their tongue inside their Playstation's wall socket.

The Bottom Line: Playstation games are a dying breed, and we should be thankful that some publishers are still making them. Hoshigami looks good and it's a good concept, so why do I feel so homicidal when I play?

Rating: 5.5/10
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