"The Aqutallion party was a group of five kids blended together into some personality-free amalgam of suck. With the Kustera, I was controlling a ninja, a samurai and a dude named "Shark". Sure, none of them were given any personality, either, but I had a great time imagining them on various quests of heroism while I was running them in circles around a town and fighting giant eyeballs, birds and lizards. And let me tell you — in my imagination, Shark is NOT someone you'd want to anger."
After playing Tecmo Secret of the Stars, I had this amusing, buzz-induced visual of some humble team of Japanese designers. They had just created a Dragon Quest clone. It wasn't a great game or even particularly good, but it was competently done (no Color Dreams-like atrocity or anything like that). To their surprise and joy, Tecmo (known mainly for football and ninjas) decided to branch out into the world of RPGs and expressed an interest in the fruits of their labor. Even better, their game would get ported to America, giving them publicity beyond their wildest dreams. Times were great for this team...until they saw the American version of their game. Dishonored beyond belief, seppuku was their only way out. Sorry guys, you got trolled by smartass translators who turned your mediocre game into a joke!
While I'm sure my vision has nothing to do with how things really happened, it makes sense, as you'd likely find out within your first hour with Secret of the Stars. Much like Dragon Quest III, you start out on a tiny, isolated continent just waiting for that golden opportunity to save the world from something or other. As you leave your abode, you're able to collect a healing item from a kindly man, giving you a PLUM-PLUM for the road. I'm assuming the second use of the word "plum" is to differentiate it from our world's plums, which while tasty, don't normally restore 30 or so hit points when eaten.
Soon afterwards, you find out that you're not just some stupid kid frittering away his life by bonking the locals critters and eating PLUM-PLUMs. Nope, you're actually an Aqutallion warrior who is destined to find four comrades and eventually beat the game's final boss, a chap named Homncruse who delights in bombing the hell out of various towns at random times. This glorious quest begins when you beat down some mad scientist, causing him to get pissed off enough to blow up his lab with you (and him...so long, Dr. Gari) in it. Fortunately, whenever ANYTHING like this happens, you'll get magically saved by someone miraculously showing up in the nick of time, so you survive and are whisked away to a larger continent in order to start recruiting those other Aqutallions and taking out Homncruse's many subordinates.
Lackeys such as BADBAD, the leader of a gang of thieves. As his name may subtly hint to you, BADBAD is a bad guy. So bad that he used a dog pill to turn all the residents of some town into dogs, but fortunately not bad enough to actually kill those people or anything extreme like that. That's how Homncruse's army rolls. At one point in the game, you'll enter a village. It immediately gets bombed by his planes. Amazingly, while the village looks like crap after this, no one (including your party) seems to get killed or even injured in the attack. With all the trouble we've had in finding Bin Laden, I think it's safe to say that after the events of this game, Homncruse must have moved on to become a high-ranking dude in our military.
Anyway, after taking out BADBAD, you'll move onto the Ringo Brothers, who are interesting characters in the sense that one of the "brothers" looks like a very young Japanese girl. Whoever translated this game must have been laughing their asses off at all the stuff they were putting into this game. I mean, there are so many bizarre blunders that there's no way they could have been the sort of "honest mistake" typos that used to frequently pop up in games. Secret of the Stars is a place where a kraken becomes "CLARKEN" and a sorceress is known as "SOURCERIS".
And it's a world where only the power of children can save the day, even if you also control a team of much more interesting adults. In the very beginning of the adventure, you will run into a chap known as David of Kustera. He and the other 10 of his kind are pledged to support the Aqutallion in their quest...or, to be honest, artificially inflate the time it takes to beat the game. You'll essentially be switching between two parties as you play Secret of the Stars. As the Aqutallions, you'll go from dungeon to dungeon killing bosses and advancing the plot. As the Kustera, you'll be able to access a few treasure chests in rooms closed off to the kids and explore four early-to-mid-game Kustera-specific dungeons that each contain a necessary plot item. After that, these guys will be completely unnecessary (and likely forgotten) until you realize you need them to help the Aqutallion party advance through the final dungeon. Of course, they'll likely be very underleveled for the monsters you'll be facing now, so you'll get to smile through the tears while wasting an hour or three bulking them up and improving their equipment for this final mission.
The sad thing is that the Kustera could have at least salvaged some sort of coolness factor from this game. The Aqutallion party was a group of five kids blended together into some personality-free amalgam of suck. With the Kustera, I was controlling a ninja, a samurai and a dude named "Shark". Sure, none of them were given any personality, either, but I had a great time imagining them on various quests of heroism while I was running them in circles around a town and fighting giant eyeballs, birds and lizards. And let me tell you -- in my imagination, Shark is NOT someone you'd want to anger.
If things had worked out well for Secret of the Stars, it could have been a perfectly acceptable mediocre RPG. Unfortunately, the way things turned out, it's pretty wretched. Any enjoyment I got from this game was from the comic relief provided by the translation, but that was a double-edged sword, as there also were a number of objectives that were not made clear. I found myself having to reference a FAQ with regularity, as when I'm told to do something like find a nail, but not given even a tiny hint as to where it may be, the concept of blindly searching the world for it doesn't appeal to me. Especially since the game already was making me travel all over the place with two different parties just to be able to handle the final dungeon. Not one of Tecmo's finer moments.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (June 14, 2010)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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