Generally, a good game remake shouldn’t stray too far from its source material, keeping its fundamental gameplay elements intact while adding and improving upon the original formula. But every rule has an exception, and Hoshigami Remix, a remake of a mostly-ignored PSone strategy RPG game, is proof positive of that.
Playing as the strangely named mercenary Fazz, you and your ragtag team of hirelings discover and attempt to thwart the evil goings-on in the land. The story and localization are competent, if not spectacular, and much of the text has been revised and rewritten for this re-release. Visually, too, Hoshigami’s had a nice overhaul, with all-new character artwork and retouched graphical flourishes that make it look more attractive than the original PSone outing. The soundtrack is also improved considerably; while the tunes themselves are forgettable, they are far less annoying than the atrocious score of before.
Everything seems alright until we actually get into the core gameplay. Hoshigami is filled with ideas that sound great on paper, but are horribly frustrating in practice. First and foremost is the battle system. Combat is built around Ready for Action Points (RAP), which determine when characters can act and how many skills they can use in combat. Movement, items, spells, and attacks each use a certain amount of RAP, which you have a set limit of for each turn. This system makes it possible to do things like attack multiple times or use items and magic within the same turn, but it also prevents you from taking back your movements. Moved into range of an enemy only to find out your attack is going to do piddly damage, or used too many RAP in casting healing spells and can’t run away? Sucks to be you.
Character building is also a headache. Soldiers worship different deities, who grant various skills as characters earn Devotion Points in combat. While several skills can be helpful, a majority of them are pretty useless. You’re still going to need to grind for experience points though, because you’ll get trounced by high-level enemy hordes in the story-advancing battles otherwise. The only place to do this is in the Towers - bland, featureless dungeons with equally bland, featureless enemies.
Even grinding might not help much later on, when combat becomes more and more skewed towards magic. Your magic is derived from enchanted medals called Coinfeigms, which can be engraved with seals to increase their potency. Occasionally, engraving seals will cause Coinfeigms to mutate, which may randomly give you a crazy powerful spell or make it worthless.
Most readily available coins and seals are weak, so you’ll often find yourself in a cycle of trial and error to get beneficial mutations to make them worthwhile. Earning the best seals involves trying to use the game’s combo system in combat, which is a magnificent pain in the ass to even attempt to set up. Alas, we had built up a team of physical fighters in our playthrough, so we were caught unaware when the balance shifted, and were driven to start over after it became clear that we were far behind the curve.
Almost all of these annoyances were present in the original Hoshigami, which is perhaps the most aggravating part of Remix. Despite all of the criticism levied against the original, the remake team failed to fix what needed to be repaired most.
That’s not to say there aren’t any gameplay improvements - revival magic, once rare in the original, is available right off the bat, the stylus-controlled interface is quite intuitive, and you’re allowed to save far more frequently (though there still isn’t an in-battle quicksave feature). But in the end, these miniscule improvements tacked onto a broken game are like repairing a wrecked car with duct tape. There seems to be some confusion about the name; the logo calls it Hoshigami Ruining Blue Earth Remix, but even the publisher has eliminated the middle three words everywhere else. But whatever you call it, Hoshigami’s a game best left to masochists and die-hards, even the second time around.