The avalanche of Nintendo's fall lineup for the DS has officially began to sweep gamers in it's path, and with solid offerings for the next few coming months, it doesn't seem to be slowing anytime soon. Part of the reason for this torrent of quality releases, is Nintendo's willingness to promote and publish titles for the DS that were developed by many outside companies. Two of those outside developed titles are Magical Starsign, and Children of Mana. Set to be released one week apart on Oct. 23, and Oct. 30, respectively, these two RPG's will be competing for the hearts of 2D era role-playing fans.
The first of the two titles to make its way into stores, Magical Starsign, is a colorful RPG developed by Brownie Brown. While Brownie Brown might not sound familiar to some gamers, their previous efforts include some Gameboy Advance titles that fans should recognize. Those being Sword of Mana here in the United States, and two Japan-only titles; Magical Starsign's prequel Magical Vacation, and the much revered Mother 3. It should go without saying, when the studio behind Mother 3 gets to bring a title to the US, I get excited. I wouldn't even call it normal excited, I'd say more like, "Holy shish-ka-bob Jiminy Cricket Excited!" Yeah, that excited.
Fans shouldn't have much to worry about in losing the story of the original GBA title, the two games only have a few characters in common and the storylines are similar, but independent of each other. The storyline becomes the driving force of Magical Starsign, and the whimsical nature of the characters quest is endearing to say the least. Players control their own created character, male or female, who journeys out from the Wil-o'-Wisp Magic Academy on a mission to rescue their lost teacher Miss Madeleine. On the journey players will meet other students from the Academy, and eventually band together to form a party of six colorful characters.
Fortunately enough, the characters that join the party are each attributed with one of the elements that make up the world of Magical Starsign. Earth, water, fire, wood, and wind, are all represented by unique personalities. I only ask, what exactly is the difference between earth and wood? Regardless, the main character can be elementally aligned to either light or dark; healing or damage-dealing. All the elemental alignments make up what is a pretty robust magical system, for combat or otherwise. The battles players face are affected by the alignment of particular planets, and a day-and-night system, all of which ultimately sway battle to favor certain elements over others in particular situations.
The alignment of planets makes a significant impact, because while Magical Starsign is a game which is deeply rooted in a magical system, it also tends to move beyond the standard fantasy cliches. Players journey not from city to city, but from planet to planet. Each planet the player visits is a vibrant and detailed vision of Brownie Brown's respect for innovation. The visuals delivered in Magical Starsign are pleasant and quirky, but that doesn't mean they aren't fantastic. Massive boss creatures extend down both screens of the DS in threatening form. While players have faced large enemies in other DS titles, these screen defying foes could very well be the biggest, making them seem truly epic in scale.
The party battling these monstrous foes, and regular enemies as well, line up in two rows for combat. The front row has the benefit of attacking enemies physically, and defending the rear characters, while the back row can cast healing or offensive magic on not only one character, but all characters. Players have the option of performing these attacks or healing spells traditionally, or by using the stylus. Selecting enemies for attack is as simple as a tap, or circling a group for multiple targets. In fact, all of the actions in Magical Starsign can be performed using the stylus. Battles, menu navigation, and movement are all supported using the touchscreen.
Small intricacies like stylus support, as well as many others, have the opportunity to take Magical Starsign from standard fare, to being one of the fall lineups must own titles. The competition is stiff, but among a mountain of other titles, Magical Starsign brings not only lengthy story-driven gameplay, complex battle mechanics, and a cast of whimsical, amusing characters, but its vibrant world could make Brownie Brown a buzzword among American gamers for being so unique.