Retro Reviews: Tecmo Secret of the Stars
I enjoyed Judge Dredd. Yes, the film with Sylvester Stallone based on the comic book. I’m not claiming that it was the best film ever made or even that it was good. I just enjoyed it, alright? And I recommend that other people view it simply because it is entertaining. Tecmo Secret of the Stars is the Judge Dredd of videogames. You are probably thinking, “Isn’t the videogame ‘Judge Dredd’ the Judge Dredd of videogames?” Yes, I’ll review that later. What I mean is, Secret of the Stars is not that great a game. I am recommending it because it is an entertaining RPG for the Super Nintendo that was widely overlooked in the 1990’s.
First, let me tell you all the things that are wrong with this game so that somehow by the end of the article I can convince you to play it anyway. The game was released in 1995 and yet still features sound and graphics reminiscent of the NES. Battles are simplistic. Turn based confrontations consist of run-of-the-mill party members exchanging blows with run-of-the-mill enemies who rarely even have a special attack. There is no ‘run’ feature. Thus, you party moves across the ordinary landscape at a frustratingly slow pace. The story, or absence thereof, requires you to switch back and forth between two parties. This means you must perform twice the amount of leveling as usual, which is extremely time consuming. The entire thing was so poorly executed and received that Tecmo has yet to make another RPG since.
So why should you even bother? Secret of the Stars is a game to play when you aren’t feeling up to the challenge. A game meant for the days when you don’t care to think too much. The characters and storyline, while predictable and unmotivated, can be colorful and interesting. The battle system occurs from behind the protagonists, a perspective not widely used in other RPG’s of the time. The two party platform, while difficult to level up, creates some entertaining puzzles in which certain areas or paths are inaccessible without the skills of the other party (like Congress, but more fun). There is even a little town building sequence reminiscent of Sim City.
The story barely rates a paragraph. Homncruse and his evil minions are bent on conquering/destroying the entire planet for some reason. Ray and his band of Aqutallion Warriors must travel the globe with the help of their Kustera counterparts (the second party) in order to thwart the evil plot and save humanity. Again, this isn’t the stuff the great RPG’s are made of. It is the fast food fare that is not for everyday consumption, but can occasionally hit the spot.
The 90’s may be the most influential decade as far as RPG development. Yet, among that list of life-changing games you will not find Secret of the Stars. Haphazard development led Tecmo to release a game far below the par set by titles like Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger. Still, check this one out. I recommend emulation as the cartridge is rare and expensive. Also, you can speed up the frame rate so that walking and leveling are a bit more tolerable. As my boy Sly Stallone learned in a mediocre movie, sometimes we mustn’t ‘Judge’ too harshly.