RPG Review #107: Secret of the Stars

NuMetalManiak
Question: What do you know Tecmo for? This is a game company known for creating the Ninja Gaiden series, as well as Rygar, the Monster Rancher life simulation series, the Dead or Alive fighting game series, the Fatal Frame survival horror series, and the Tecmo Bowl football series. In the mid-90s they also jumped on an RPG bandwagon and produced perhaps what is their only RPG game to date, Secret of the Stars. Now, I've attempted to play this game years ago, but I quit out of sheer boredom, and I hate to say it, but I'm STILL got incredibly bored as I played this. The overall ratings for this game are generally low too, which basically made this game one of the worst RPGs for the SNES overall. So let's see here.

Gameplay: Let's get it out of the way. Secret of the Stars has the most barebones RPG mechanic overall: basic slow navigation on overworld and dungeons, the usual towns and shops and dungeons, and the battles are turn-based based on basic stats. Basic attacks, basic statuses, basic spells. That's all there's to it. There's really not a whole lot new to find in this game. The only real gimmick is that you can switch between two parties, the Aqutallion and the Kustera. The Aqutallion are the main characters of the game and where much of the time will be spent, while the Kustera has more characters but they are all sideline characters. The thing is, with two parties, that equals double the grinding, which just isn't fun. There are a few dungeon puzzles which require one of the parties to cross, as the forcefields or doors will only let one particular party go through, but usually it's the Aqutallion that do most of the legwork. In fact, they are also the only group that can use combination attacks, although it's hard to find which combos to utilize and the Aqutallions must first reach Banalet class (they start out as Pennon but can go to shrines to get Banalet status).

The only other thing I can really say that's somewhat good about this game is the fact that you can aid in building a new and prosperous town by hiring new builders, farmers, scientists, etc. which will make the town prosper. Other than that, you'll be spending most of the time grinding levels to get the best spells for TWO parties, trying to figure out combination attacks, and trying your best to save as much magic points as possible for the bosses. It's amazing how I even came back to this game after all. Grade: C+

Characters: So we've got two parties, five Aqutallion and eleven Kustera, maximum party size is five.
Ray: The main hero of the game, Ray's got fire magic and healing magic and general hero stats.
Tina: The blue-haired female mage character with ice, support, and healing magic. Bad physically.
Cody: He spends a good chunk of the game transformed into a lion, but when he becomes a human again, he gains access to wind magic and is good physically.
Leona: Leona's a mage-fighter hybrid with good support and lightning spells, and good equipment and speed.
Dan: This toddler is the last Aqutallion, and actually a Wiseman despite being a toddler. Very bad physically, gains access to Bomb spells and a great healing spell, but can't combine magic with the other Aqutallions.
Now for the Kustera:
David: David helps Ray out early in the quest, and becomes the first Kustera member, although he's a pure physical fighter unable to use magic.
Ryu: He is a ninja, so he's fast and strong with a few low-level spells available.
Ben: An old priest, Ben has access to healing spells and freeze magic, weak physically.
Andy: A boxing champion from an aptly named Box Town, he can't use magic and can only fight with fists.
Arthur: Andy's brother who's more of an attack mage (his class is "witch" even though he's male).
Shark: Pretty much a carbon copy of David, even his battle sprite is the same.
Jubei: An oriental samurai with a tad of uniqueness to his mostly fighter character.
Murray: Very similar to Arthur (battle sprite is the same and he's a wizard) except he uses bolt magic instead of fire.
Evelyn: She's a thief with a bunny girl outfit, can't equip good things and has bad physical ability everywhere but speed.
Kathy: The only archer in the game.
Beth: The only Doctor in the game, and despite sharing a battle sprite with Ben, she doesn't have any offensive spells.

If you're looking for character development with any characters, there's not much of it, just "I'm joining you now" stuff. Villains are naturally one-note too. Grade: C

Plot: Honestly there's so much time spent grinding that it's easy to forget about this game's already forgettable plot. Let's see what we have though?

So on the heart-shaped island, Ray sets off to the nearby mountains and becomes an Aqutallion Pennon with David's help. After a trek in the mountains, the heart-shaped island disappears and the two wind up saved by some dude named Bosen who leads them to Old Hill, the town that will eventually prosper. Ray then sets off to find the other Aqutallions, saving Tina first, then helping out a town where all inhabitants were turned into dogs, then Cody who was transformed into a lion (later he gets turned into a golden lion), by turning everything back to normal. He then retrieves Leona who gets kidnapped by Dram, the first of the Homncruse followers (Homncruse is the main villain who sits all day in his domain doing barely anything). They then reach Banalet status and then find Dan the wiseman and his father. A town gets destroyed along the way and the father is killed by Dram, but at least Dram is defeated then, although the Old Hill town gets razed soonafter. Aqutallion is reborn since all five members are together and they set off to defeat Homncruse.

Which of course involves defeating his followers first and finding out about his past. First is Booth, the second general, then Gara, the female general. Following their defeat, a prosperous town's laboratory gets infiltrated, and info about a Parakless and his son Homncruse is shown. The lab gets blown up and the townsfolk invade Old Hill, then kick the main characters out. This is around the time the Aqutallions confront Godem, the final dragon-like general, and return to town after those crazy townsfolk have been efficiently kicked themselves. The final assault on Homncruse comes when the town gets turned into a UFO, basically, and returning to the volcano on the resurrected heart-shaped island. Homncruse resurrects his generals and the Aqutallions have to defeat them again, then upon fighting Homncruse with Bosen near them, they realize they need a Light Orb and a Metal Sword. See a cliche here? Eventually Homncruse is rematched and beaten, and the kids all go to their new home.

Wonderful isn't it? Not really. Cliches in obvious places and some areas just don't make much sense. Grade: D

Music: Well here's perhaps the only high point. The music that introduces us to Secret of the Stars is quite nice. This is followed by generally proper music for each town, such as the rich Decatas sounding prosperous while other backwater villages have generally backwater themes. Another good point is that the two parties each get their own battle theme, though neither is that enticing. Grade: B

Overall grade: C

Never again will I want to touch this one. It's supremely boring, bad plot, repetitive gameplay that even the other RPGs that I've considered repetitive totally beat. Yes, this is a boring SNES RPG. Bad too.

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