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Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity
Review By: J. Michael Neal
Developer:  Atlus
Publisher:  Atlus
# Of Players:  1
Genre:  Strategy RPG
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card, Dolby Pro Logic II
Date Posted:  5-5-05

Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity is the first strategy RPG released by Altus since the surprise hit Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, and although it lacks all Disgaeaís charm, innovation, and depth, it isÖ available. If youíre a fan of the genre, but canít get your hands on one of Nippon Ichiís masterpieces, Iím sure this will satisfy youÖ for a while.

Stella Deus is a wholly unremarkable entrance into the world of turn-based strategy RPGs. Visually, itís practically indistinguishable from its kin. Admittedly, the hand-drawn backgrounds are beautiful (think of what a high-quality SaGa Frontier II would look like), but the 2D character models only hold up at a distance Ė as soon as the camera zooms in, during a Team Attack sequence for example, they pixilate like a PSone game. Itís not very attractive, not when they could have Guilty Gear X2-level visuals. Also, objects in the environment, trees, cliffs, buildings, have an annoying habit of blocking the camera. Typically, obstructions go transparent, but these donít, so youíll have to constantly shift the camera to get a good viewing angle.

Sound effects also seem lifted from the 32-bit generation. This could be charming, but they are low-quality enough to just seem cheap. Itís not like the game is bursting at the seams with production value Ė a little more effort wouldnít have killed them. Luckily, the soundtrack is impressive Ė a beautiful orchestral score akin to the Final Fantasy Tactics soundtrack only presented in Dolby Pro Logic II format. Iíd buy the OST if I saw it for sale. The voice-acting, on the other hand, is merely passable, fitting with the equally mediocre story and character archetypes. It is Japanese, though, so itís probably the best they could hope for.

Gameplay and controls are as standard as youíd expect. There are some minor advances to the traditional formula Ė you can initiate multi-member Team Attacks, you can make as many actions per turn as you have AP points, and you can affect character order in battle by spending spare AP, but thatís about it. Thereís a good 50 hours of gameplay here, particularly if you take time to linger over the side-quests and item fusing options, but frankly, if you are a fan of the genre, youíve already played this game two-dozen times. If you arenít a fan of the genre, Stella Deus wonít leave any lasting impressions, so why bother? If Disgaea couldnít sway you, Stella Deus sure as heck wonít.

If you are an RPG collector, what are you even reading this for? You know youíre just going to get everything Atlus releases regardless. If youíre one of those people, youíre going to enjoy Stella Deus. It wonít rock your world, but itíll keep you happy for a few long nights. The ďold-schoolĒ presentation wonít bother you, as Iím sure youíre numb to it by now, and the gameplay will feel comforting and familiar. If youíve moved beyond the simple pleasures of your text-book console strategy RPG, this game will only keep you satisfied if itís the only thing in the house.

HIGHS:

  • Excellent soundtrack.
  • Nice hand-drawn backgrounds.
  • Plenty of solid, dependable strategy gameplay.

LOWS:

  • Pixilated character models show off the weaknesses of 32-bit style visuals.
  • ďVintageĒ sound effects are disappointing.
  • Adds nothing to the genre.

FINAL VERDICT:

While Stella Deus simply goes through the motions of what people expect from strategy RPGs, itís not a bad game by any means.  Itís just not all that interesting either.

Overall Score: 6.9

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