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Friday, June 21, 2024

Tecmo Secret of the Stars

A game I remember seeing in Nintendo Power but never really paid much attention to even as my interest in RPGs steadily grew over the years.  After asking around about the worst SNES RPG and having the name come up multiple times, though, I had to see if it really was as bad as so many people claimed.  While I'm still not quite convinced it's the worst, I can say with certainty that it is pretty dang bad.  First, despite having the look and sound design of a very early 16-bit effort, this game came out in mid-1995 in North America.  By then the RPG genre had evolved dramatically from its humble origins and several big names like Lunar, Final Fantasy VI, Phantasy Star IV, Earthbound and Shining Force were making waves on 16-bit platforms; hell, even Chrono Trigger was only a month away at the time of its launch, ensuring Secret of the Stars would be forgotten almost immediately.  In terms of design and writing the game feels like a Final Fantasy's outlandish fantasy elements and the irreverent bent of the Mother franchise, but done completely wrong on both parts.  First, the setting is stock fantasy fare with a few sci-fi elements blended in, like a less interesting Wizardry or Might and Magic, and the plot is about as generic as they come, with your central characters out to unlock their hidden potential and defeat an alien threat to their world; hell, the whole thing is outright spelled out for you in the opening moments of the game.  An interesting, but ultimately underutilized, element is that you're given two separate parties to control and can swap between them at any time - the Aqutallion, consisting of the five main characters destined to destroy the great evil, and the Kustera - a secondary group that cannot advance the plot or even directly aid the other party, instead just opening the occasional pathway for them or venturing through filler dungeons to acquire powerful treasures for the Aqutallion team to use.  Then you throw in a spotty translation that cripples any attempts at humor or character building, an atrocious encounter rate, a combat system with minimal strategy, the narrative constantly being interrupted for inane item searches and tons of mandatory, unskippable grinding, and you've got a pretty unpleasant experience on every front.  The 16-bit era was a great time for RPGs, but Tecmo Secret of the Stars ranks among the worst it had to offer; just play any of the other great classics of the era and let this turd remain buried.

Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
Released: 1995
Platforms: SNES