Siliconera spent some time with Atlus and Stella Glow this year at E3, and though the demo was entirely in Japanese, there’s still much to say about Imagepooch’s new strategy role-playing game. “If you played Luminous Arc before, the combat should seem familiar,” Atlus PR Manager John L. Hardin assured me. “And you have to listen to the music. You just have to.” He was right.
While I’ll hop into the gameplay in just a moment, the thing that left the greatest impression on me was Stella Glow’s outstanding soundtrack. It’s the kind of game that necessitates headphones—from the swelling battle theme to the haunting song that Hilda sings in the prologue, each track I heard hit a unique and emotional note that helped set the tone of the game.
That tone, of course, being expectedly grim, given the premise of the story. The demo we played introduced us to two of the game’s main playable characters: Alto and Risette, members of the Knights of the Regnant who are forced to defend their village from Hilda and Dante, who make up a group called the Harbingers (John notes here that while Harbingers is a suitable title, he likes their literal Japanese name, the Gospel Apostles).
As noted earlier, the game is similar in feel to Luminous Arc, which is expected, since Stella Glow is by the same developer and serves as a spiritual successor to that series (which is now under the control of Marvelous). The player can move a set distance represented in square units along a map. Icons representing each character lined the bottom of the screen, telling the player who gets to move next. I asked whether or not this turn counter could be manipulated as in Ubisoft’s Child of Light or Xseed’s Trails of Cold Steel, but the answer I received was inconclusive. “Certainly not in the demo,” John said, “but I can’t say as much for the rest of the game.”
Anyone who watched Sega’s Stella Glow gameplay livestream back in April got a taste of what the combat looks like, but for those who didn’t catch it, it reminds me a bit of Fire Emblem: Awakening. Attacking an enemy results in a transition to a battle scene where the player enacts the chosen attack. Unlike Awakening, though, the characters maintain their overworld appearance. Attacking from behind, or even from the side, can land you certain benefits—bonus damage and status effects only being a few.
You can also use powerful Sync Attacks, similar to Chrono Trigger’s Double Techs, where two characters work together to deliver a powerful attack. To learn these skills, players will need to take advantage of the Sync System. “The Sync System is sort of like Fire Emblem: Awakening or Xenoblade Chronicles, where you increase your affinity with characters through conversation and other means outside of combat,” John noted. That said, don’t be shy about attacking, either. Much like Project X Zone, characters gain experience from attacking enemies.
The prologue battle was not one that was meant to be won, though. Stella Glow does what so few games dare to do—in fact, the last game I remember doing this was Magi Nation for the Game Boy Color—and that’s forcing the player to lose a fight for the sake of story. After a somewhat clichéd event in which Risette’s mother, Rosa, is turned to crystal by Hilda’s Song Magic, the player is forced to fight her and Dante, though they are hopelessly overpowered.
Though it falls victim to some of the clichés that haunt contemporary anime, Stella Glow feels much closer to an opera. The game begins with tragedy and establishes the motives of its two primary groups—the Knights of the Regnant and the Harbingers—immediately. Animated cutscenes like those seen in the Tales games intersect with gameplay at pivotal moments, and help add to the drama and theatrics of it all.
Stella Glow, published by Sega in Japan, is being published by Atlus in the United States and is aiming for a winter release.