Admittedly, I’ve never really been a huge fan of strategy RPGs. When it comes to playing a JRPG, I’ve always preferred the typical turn based-style as opposed to what is essentially a giant chess board. But when Atlus announced an EU release date for Stella Glow for the Nintendo 3DS back in November, I couldn’t help but get excited. I’d seen gameplay footage previously and it really piqued my interest, and even though I wasn’t a lover of SRPGs, I really wanted to give Stella Glow a try. So when I got the opportunity to review it, naturally I jumped at the chance.
It follows the story of a young amnesiac named Alto. He was found two years prior by Lisette, the game’s co-protagonist, and taken to Mithra Village to live with her and her mother. Alto struggles to remember anything about his past at all, and takes on a new persona in Mithra Village and soon becomes its best hunter. One morning, Alto hears a strange song coming from the forest, and upon investigating, stumbles across Hilda, a powerful Witch. He then learns that nobody in Mithra Village, or the whole of the Regnant Kingdom in fact, is able to sing because the gods took the ability away from humans as punishment for their arrogance—except for Witches. Alto then discovers Hilda’s evil plan to take over the world by song, little by little. Deciding to fight against her, he and Lisette go on a journey across the Kingdom in search of four other Witches who can aid them in their quest.
Honestly, Stella Glow’s story is really, really well put together. It does include an awful lot of stereotypical anime tropes, but it’s by Atlus… What did you expect? Despite this, the overall character development is absolutely amazing, and as usual with an Atlus title, the voice acting and overall translation is fantastic. The game does have some pacing issues though—sometimes with over 30 minutes of dialogue between fights, and it’s a common issue. Of course, if you don’t mind this in a game then fine, but I personally found it a tad tedious, and it felt a lot like a visual novel in places. I saw myself getting bored at times due to the wait between dialogue and gameplay, and it wasn’t because the story was boring. I just wanted to get stuck in more, and 30 minute wait seemed like forever.
You start off by controlling Alto and Lisette in battle, but the list of party members grows significantly throughout the game. Each character has their own unique weapon and skill sets, which is great to see. Nothing worse than having a multitude of characters who all perform almost identically. Skills range from SP-consuming techniques, to buffs, combos, healing spells, and long-range attacks. Characters also have their own abilities to aid them in battle. For example, Alto has “Counter”—a counter-attack that deals damage back to the enemy after each hit he receives. Battles are turn-based, and much like Fire Emblem games, you’re able to see just how much damage you’re able to do before you launch an attack—a feature I found incredibly handy. It’s all about positioning here: land an attack from behind, and you get an accuracy and attack boost, but attack from the front and the accuracy is decreased. Of course, this works the same way for enemies as well, so it’s all about being strategic and using the grid layout to your advantage. When you’re actually engaged in an action with an enemy, a small cutscene will play, showing the attack and the damage dealt, and any abilities the character has in use. There is no way to speed up enemy turns though, which is an annoyance. Each mission also comes with its own set of “Battle Conditions”, which are completely optional, but grant the player rewards if completed.
In terms of customisation, Stella Glow hasn’t got the most original set of options to offer up. Stats are applied automatically, which is fine, but I do prefer to apply my own stats to characters when I can as I like the whole idea of building up your own character, so to speak. Even the equipment management is bog-standard here, and it would have been nice to see something different instead of what we’re seeing with a lot of SRPGs of late.
If you’re a fan of the Persona series, you’ll be familiar with the “Social Link” system within it. Stella Glow puts its own unique spin on the system, in which you can get different endings depending on your “bonds” with other characters. Levelling up bonds also unlocks new abilities and skills for characters, so they’re definitely worth doing. You can also undertake part-time jobs at the Tavern, which give you extra money and items, and you can also go out and explore to get them too.
The game’s soundtrack is truly delightful and really is deserving of a mention here. With its beautiful mix of upbeat, cheery songs, and intimate, haunting melodies, there’s always something wonderful to accompany whatever you’re doing. Some characters, like the Witches for example, have their own songs, each wonderful in their own right. The OST really does do a fantastic job in setting each scene perfectly with each track, and nothing seems out-of-place.
Like most SRPGs and JRPGs in general, Stella Glow is lengthy, with at least 50 hours of gameplay, depending on whether you just stick to the story or do side quests or not. It does have a New Game+ mode, which means the game definitely has a large element of replayability to it, which is fantastic. There are also multiple endings to Stella Glow, so there’s always a different path to follow if you do decide to play through more than once.
Overall, I found Stella Glow to be a true delight, and really did open my eyes to the SRPG genre. With its tight combat and fast mechanics, to its great character development and overall wonderfully engaging story, I really, really did enjoy my time with the game. I’d definitely say it’s worth your money, and the many hours you’ll spend playing it as it really is one of those games where you know you’ll be getting the most out of it.
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