I’m not a fan of classic JRPGs from the NES and SNES era as it’s past my time. The sprites lack detail, and the overworlds of past JRPGs of that age are barren. However, Sea of Stars is different. It takes what people love about that classic formula and brings it to a modern age of gaming with a vibrant art style. My mindset might be changed, thanks to the small demo I watched.
A group of journalists and myself were able to get a glimpse of gameplay over Discord as Thierry Boulanger, President & Creative Director at Sabotage Studio, explained what was going on. All the small details and game mechanics were excitedly talked about by Boulanger throughout our 30-minute session.
Sea of Stars looks gorgeous
It’s no surprise that there’s a lot of passion behind the development of the game. It looks beautiful. One of the first aspects of the game we were first introduced to is the stunning overworld map. You can see the clouds in the sky shifting through the screen as your characters scour a large landscape. There’s a dragon-like creature nestled around a volcano, wrapping his tail over the surface, adding so much character. Water is flowing underneath into a pool. There’s a lot to look at, and it’s only presumably the first area we get to explore. I also found the battle animations impressive as well.
We also were shown the day-and-night system, which provides a stunning lighting system that makes the world of Sea of Stars even more compelling to look at.
The exhuberant overworld is matched with some vibrant characters we got to meet in the game. The animation on each character was poignant and had a little bit of slapstick humor attached to the cutscenes we watched. For example, one of the characters burst their shirt open to reveal his muscles.
While there is, unfortunately, no voice acting, perhaps that’s a great thing as it lets the animations shine further. No VO also makes more sense with the era that Sabotage Studio is inspired by.
Will Sea of Stars get repetitive?
The one worry I have about Sea of Stars is its combat system. Many JRPGs in the past like Final Fantasy X and Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King included a bevy of different abilities to unlock, but Sea of Stars keeps it to four moves per character. A possible surge of repetition could emerge from Sea of Stars, but at the same time, there’s a lot of strategy involved with the combat. Sabotage has said that the game’s moves will have high utility, multi-hit, and slash aspects to them. You can also combo attacks together, adding more of a spin to the turn-based combat.
One neat twist on the formula is the ability to throw enemies to a specific section of the stage. This will allow you to be more successful with your area of effect attacks. Similar to the Paper Mario series, you can time your hits and blocks to increase your damage output and defense, which allows the combat to be more active.
You’ll also be able to cancel out the enemy’s spell by attacking with the correct moves. A few locks appear above their heads with symbols that represent the attack types. If you manage to take them all out, you can stop the spell from happening. This will likely increase the tension of each battle as you desperately try to cancel a spell. Sabotage Studio emphasized that strategy will be more important than grinding out bars when we asked questions about the title.
The dungeons aren’t on a simple flat plane. Instead, Sea of Stars utilizes modern aspects of dungeon design with more verticality. They’ll be far more interesting to explore than some other titles in the genre. I’m not a fan of puzzles, but thankfully, Sea of Stars implements them casually. It could have been the developer playing the game, but each puzzle element seems easy to understand but enough to challenge the player. There’s a fine line, and so far, Sea of Stars nails the landing.
Conversations with characters in Sea of Stars
We didn’t get to experience much of the story in the small gameplay segment we saw, but I think you’ll get to know your party members very well by the end of Sea of Stars. When you rest up at a camp, you have the option to talk to each party member. Skits and some background narrative could pop up in these interactions, adding more of that lush lore to the experience.
Another neat feature in the camp is that someone will remind you of what has happened recently in the story to keep you up to speed if you haven’t booted the game up for a while.
In addition to the camp, you can go fishing, and rather than treating it as a side section of the game and nothing else, it appears that Sabotage Studio has a great system at hand for this common hobby. From the hands-off gameplay we saw, the fishing hook looks precise for the player as you have full air control. It actually seems quite fun. You’ll also find a mini-game within taverns that have you defeat champions, but not much information was shared regarding that aspect of the game.
Sea of Stars sounds like it will be worth the full asking price when it releases this holiday season. After you finish the game, Boulanger revealed that there will be hidden dungeons and boss fights to find, keeping you engaged with Sea of Stars for even longer.
Lastly, the music of Sea of Stars sounds absolutely wonderful. Ten songs in the game’s soundtrack have been composed by Chrono Trigger‘s Yasunori Mitsuda. The battle theme by Eric W. Brown is epic, and the song around the gorgeous port town of Brisk was uplifting and charming. Mitsuda and Brown really embraced the vibe that Sabotage Studio is going for from the music we’ve listened to in the demo.
Sabotage Studio’s goal for Sea of Stars is to have you be able to “touch the world” and really immerse yourself. And, so far, the Quebec-based company is succeeding in that aspect. I can’t wait to dive into the game when it releases on the Nintendo Switch later this year.
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An experienced freelance writer, Chris has a vast knowledge of the gaming medium. With a Bachelor of Communications degree, he hopes to elevate his writing further. His favorite games are Kingdom Hearts, Beyond Good & Evil, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.