Stella Glow is a SRPG / tactics RPG released for the 3DS. This was the last game developed by the now-bankrupt Imageepoch (with Sega publishing after the declare for bankruptcy) but was picked up by Atlus for localization and publication. It was released in Japan on June 4 2015, and localized for America on November 17 2015. It will be released in Europe sometime in Spring 2016.
Stella Glow can be considered as a successor to the Luminous Arc series (also made by Imageepoch) as it brings in recurring elements such as magic, witches, a big cast of colourful and quirky characters, enjoyable music, a similar style of gameplay and a long story. The game doesn’t use the same style of graphics and battle animations as the LA games anymore (as we are NOW IN THE FUTURE) but rather chibi-styled character models and transitions for battle animations.
The story starts off with Alto who we later realize he is a “Conductor”, a special being who has the ability to “tune” witches; being able to dive into their hearts and mess around with any negative feelings or emotions that they have but won’t openly admit to. Think of it like the Ar Tonelico or Ar no Surge games: We dive into the female’s body and soul, stuff happens inside, and we can progress with their friendship when the dive is a success.
The powers of a Conductor is required as the Harbringers, the group of bad guys in this game, are spreading destruction by the power of crystallization. Hilda, the Witch of Destruction, is the main cause. She is also responsible for destroying Alto’s home town.
By bringing the elemental witches of fire, water, earth and wind together, they can sing a special song which is said to reverse the crystallization. However it won’t be easy as Alto has to find these witches, convince them to join his cause and tune them if necessary to bring out their full potential.
The game has 2 portions of gameplay: Mission Time and Free Time. Mission Time is the main mode, where the story progresses and the battle system comes in.
Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses, or a unique play style to master. As there is a big cast of characters, you can only bring a certain amount at a time. Deciding which character to use can be crucial as you have to consider the type of enemies up against, the type of map and different terrain, and what the main objective is. The optional conditions that appear during most missions are a nice way to add challenge to the gameplay as well and reap in some rewards.
Like the previous LA games, I feel that some characters are made more powerful than expected so you tend to use them more often. (My personal example is Popo the Wind Witch. She can use both short and long range attacks, she can heal and her +movement skills are just so good. However, her core weakness lies in her small HP pool.)
Gameplay screen. The top screen handles all the action while the bottom screen handles the character’s status screen. There are tabs at the side so you can check the skillset of the chosen character, and your current mission(s).
Free Time is set up like a condensed version of Persona 3 / 4. You can choose between spending time with the party members to increase their friendship and unlock new abilities, work to get some extra cash or choose to wonder off town to find items.
I really enjoy the variety of maps and terrain that brings a bit of strategic element during gameplay, plus they are aesthetically pleasing to look at as well. The voicework is great and plentiful for the most part (You get a lot of voicework during the extended story scenes but there are still gaps here and there). Most of them you will be able to recognise (Alto is Sorey from Tales of Zestiria, Lisette is Nepgear from the HDN series, Klaus is Alvin from Xillia, Kanji from Persona 4) along a few others. However because song magic is involved, all the singing from the witches are in Japanese. There’s this weird annoying bit where during battle if Alto uses his Conductor magic on a witch, you hear the screaming of the witch in Japanese and… let’s just say it can be off-putting if you’re playing on a loud volume.
While the game is solid for the most part, it did come with a few tiny flaws:
– Some attacks and abilities uses the same battle animations as one another (or use a re-colour variant) despite some of them having cool names (Thor’s Rage sounds cool right? Unfortunately the animation is simply a double-fist smack down to the target.)
– Speaking of battle animations, some do feel underwhelming for what they are, and some also feels “incomplete” in the way that I thought there would be at least a few more frames for that animation but it just suddenly ends.
– The game tends to use a lot of pointless scenery and day-time to night-time transitions during the story scenes (you can skip them though). In-game time isn’t a factor so I feel like these kind of things should not have been done at all. Probably just being nitpicky here.
Despite the title being different, Stella Glow truly brings and continues the essence of the Luminous Arc series, unlike Luminous Arc Infinity which tried to go in a different direction. I like to say it shouldn’t be as bad but according to kurorisa’s review, it sounds like it is…
Nevertheless, Stella Glow brings what we all loved about these games. We get a structured storyline, a big cast and good balance of male and female characters, enjoyable music and sounds, the gameplay is solid and actually has a sort of strategic element inside so the gameplay isn’t always the same. There are a few nitpicks that doesn’t completely change or break the game though. It’s probably one of the better SRPGs I’ve played in a long while. And it comes with multiple endings as well!