All signs point to "yawn."
I’ve been yearning for a good handheld RPG for a while now, and since Final Fantasy III is already spoken for, I figured I’d give Magical Starsign a shot. Essentially a cross between Harry Potter and your average JRPG, it comes off as a charming, if forgettable experience. It’s not necessarily bad, but I wasn’t ever able to get into it, and playing the game became more of a chore than it should have.
The story tells the tale of a girl or boy of either the light or dark magical persuasion (these things are up to you), and his or her adventure to, along with the help of classmates, rescue a teacher from school. This is no ordinary institution, though – they teach magic here – and so the students will have to take advantage of their fledgling abilities if they’re to save their precious mentor before getting caught up in the obligatory quest to save the day.
Two aspects separate Magical Starsign from your average handheld RPG. First of all, the game is almost entirely controlled with the touch screen. You can move around with the D-Pad if you like, but everything else, from speaking with NPCs to picking which enemy to strike in turn-based battles, is done with the stylus. While it quickens up battles a tad, it can be pretty unintuitive when you’re trying to tap on the correct NPC, only to hit someone else entirely and have to deal with a long speech.
The second characteristic lies in its battle system. The solar system in which Magical Starsign takes place is home to six planets, each with its own mystical persuasion. Since each of your sixparty members excels in his or her own type of magic, they can borrow energy from these planets. However, it can only occur when that planet is aligned in a certain way. Otherwise, your attacks carry their usual weight. In addition, you can organize your set of characters in a certain formation so that only the front line members will take damage, leaving weaker characters in a safer position.
While I appreciate the thought, these additions don’t give the game too much depth – once you get over the novelty factor, it’s just like any other old-school RPG, and the story isn’t interesting enough to save it from mediocrity. To be frank, I was bored most of the time. Starsign isn’t broken in any way – and it doesn't need to be refined – it’s just boring.
The presentation is sadly just as forgettable as the rest of the experience, with a generic anime art style and phoned-in soundtrack. The only memorable moments come from the CG cut scenes, which are actually pretty well-done.
At the end of the day, Magical Starsign is your average, run-of-the-mill JRPG with some touch screen gameplay thrown in, hoping to disguise an old horse as a new pony. If you’re hankering for a classic-styled RPG, you’re better off waiting for Final Fantasy VI early next year. Pedestrian role-playing games are quickly becoming a trend on the DS – I’m really hoping it’ll be able to buck that trend soon.