The mage of Aquarius.
There are some things you probably want to hide from your friends. Being a Golden State Warriors fan. Your collection of Backstreet Boys CDs. The stack of weird asian porn you found in your neighbor’s trash. The fact that you were looking through your neighbor's trash. And Magical Starsign
, the latest RPG offering for the Nintendo DS. But with a decent presentation, great localization, and some okay RPG gameplay, you won’t just be hiding this game, you’ll be hiding the fact that you kind of like it.
You begin by choosing a male or female avatar and either light or dark magic. The story begins at a magical academy where you and your friends are students. Your teacher sets off on a trip to another planet, doesn’t come back and wouldn’t you know it, you and your buddies set off on an interplanetary adventure to save her. As you can probably tell, the storyline is about generic as it gets. But what Magical Starsign lacks in plot, it makes up for with great dialogue. I found a lot of it to be humorous and amusing. It’s not going to choke you up with laughter like Borat, but for a game called Magical Starsign, I can’t believe I’m even making that comparison.
In an interesting move, the game pretty much requires the player to use the stylus at all times. From moving about to issuing commands to talking to NPCs, everything is accomplished by tapping the touch screen. The option to use the regular old d-pad and buttons would’ve been nice, but you have to admire developer Brownie Brown’s commitment to silly names. And the touch screen.
Magical Starsign is also an apt name for a game that implements an interesting astrology aspect. When not in battle, the top screen usually displays the solar system of the world, with the different planets rotating about. As time passes and days turn to nights, the planets slowly make their way around the sun. Each planet is related to a different element – there’s your fire planet, wind planet, water planet, you get the picture. When the planets are aligned just so, the characters (and foes) with the matching element will gain a boost to their magic attacks. Each element is strong and weak against others, like rock-paper-scissors.
Which brings us to the battle system. The game employs a semi-isometric perspective (similar to the one in Lunar: Dragon Song
) and uses both screens to show your party and the enemy. Everything else is traditional; you have physical attacks, spells, and pretty much everything else you’ve come to expect from a traditional turn-based role playing game. Since physical attacks aren’t very effective and you regain a substantial amount of MP every turn, you’ll be relying on magic more often than not.
So you’d think each character would be able to learn more than five spells. What this adds up to is using the same magic attacks over and over, some of which have animations that are overly long (that you won’t be able to skip). Thankfully, much like in the Paper Mario
games, tapping your character with the stylus at just the right time will either boost your magic attack or lessen your damage taken, which makes fighting baddies slightly more engaging.
The main quest in Magical Starsign
is pretty lengthy, and is padded by some interesting multiplayer options. You can wirelessly trade info with other Magical Starsign
owners, which earns items and eggs. From there you can incubate the eggs, and when they hatch you can turn around and use them in the game’s online multiplayer matches (up to six players race through a dungeon for items). Then again, that would require telling your friends you owned Magical Starsign
, and them secretly owning it, too.
While it won’t blow your graphical socks off, Magical Starsign has an appealing old-school quality to it. The locales are vivid and lively and everything else is relatively attractive. However, on a side note, I found some of the character art to be quite hideous (I thought one female character was a man, and what was supposed to be a bunny I mistook for a repulsive looking dog). You’ll also encounter a fair number of pretty neat FMVs that certainly add a little oomph to the visual presentation.
The soundtrack is also surprisingly good, featuring an interesting blend of traditional tunes with some rock-like songs. The whole game is quite pleasant to listen to, and not once did I even think about turning off the sound. That has to be some kind of first.
is a very capable game that fans of old-school RPGs (myself included) are sure to enjoy. It looks good, sounds nice, plays just like you’d expect and has a lengthy quest sure to kill some of your time. No, it won’t replace Final Fantasy XII
or Twilight Princess
, but for some role-playing on the go, Magical Starsign
isn’t a bad choice. Just don’t tell your friends.