Stella Glow Review
With Imageepoch not even mentioned on the front of the box for Stella Glow, many people won’t realise that this is the final release for the now-bankrupt Japanese developer. Largely known in the West for the Luminous Arc series on the Nintendo DS, Imageepoch dealt with smaller budget niche releases. They had a middling critical reception in the past, but Stella Glow had more hype and promise surrounding it than many of Imageepoch’s previous titles. With this strategy RPG, will Imageepoch’s final release be remembered for years to come?
Stella Glow uses the ever-familiar grid system for all of its battles, which means that while it may not be original, it’s easy to get into the flow of the game. Along with the grid system, there is also a directional attack system (attack from behind for extra damage), that means that sometimes you’re best off hanging back and waiting for enemies to come towards you. Once you do enter battle, a small cutscene plays out showing your attacks and your opponents counter attacks, if any, similar to what you find in Fire Emblem. What results is a battle system that is solid, but feels somewhat uninspired.
It was this lack of originality and borrowing of mechanics, cliches and beats from other games that eventually wore me down and started to diminish my enjoyment of Stella Glow. It wasn’t that the mechanics were bad, or the cliches terrible, but after hours of grinding and relationship management I began to think of other games that did them better. This is the inherent risk of being similar to other games; you will be compared to those other games, and unless you do it better, you will be found wanting. Similarity is fine when you do it better or your game isn’t too long, but when you’re looking at 40-60 hours of gameplay, those similarities gradually caused my interest to decline.
When you’re not in battle or going through story sections during Combat Time, you will find yourself going through the Free Time mechanic in Stella Glow. During your allotted Free Time, you can upgrade or buy new items, explore areas, grind out some experience, or further your relationships with the other characters. On occasion you will reach a point in a character’s relationship where the only way to progress your relationship is to tune your Witches’ hearts. While it sounds weird, furthering relationships is how you will unlock new powers and special events, so tuning becomes a vital piece to gaining power as you play.
You begin the game as Alto, an amnesiac boy who has been taken in by his friend Lisette and her mother in their village of Mithra. Alto is the best hunter in the village, and while hunting one day discovers a witch named Hilda who turns Mithra, and everyone inside it other than Alto and Lisette, into crystal. Alto, on the brink of death, is given the power to awaken and fine-tune Witches’ powers. Using this power, he turns Lisette into the Witch of Water, and begins his journey to awaken and unite the four elemental Witches whose songs can break the curse placed by Hilda. It’s a story that is reminiscent of many other RPGs, but its real strength comes from its characters. Alto, Lisette and the others are charming and relatively well written and their relationships feel honest. It helps keep the story, which is somewhat unoriginal, interesting and worth working through.
Throughout the game you’ll jump between a 2D art style shown during conversation pieces and a 3D chibi style during battles. Both look nice, but that’s especially true for the chibi versions of the characters. They’re cute and colourful and are fun to look at as you go through battles. The cutscenes when you enter into combat also use these models and they’re well animated and fun to watch. Again, it’s a style that is well done here, but is also pretty uninspired.
Stella Glow is no doubt one of Imageepoch’s better releases in recent times, and is an extremely solid, if somewhat stock standard, strategy RPG. The story is interesting, the character’s charming and the mechanics fun. I would recommend Stella Glow to strategy RPG fans looking for a game to play in the lead up to the release of Fire Emblem Fates.