One of the greatest tragedies of indie gaming is just how easy it is for a clever, pretty, well-produced game to fall through the cracks. As far as I can tell, Star Stealing Prince was released last year, with a final updated version released just a few months ago. Still, until today, I’d never heard of it and that’s just sad, as this is a wonderful little surprise. Developed using the much-maligned RPG Maker, but you shouldn’t hold that against it; this is a remarkably well produced pseudo-JRPG with a remarkably creative setting and story.
The world of Star Stealing Prince is a strange one. Set in a kingdom where everyone is happy but vengeful ghosts wander the wilds, and where it snows constantly but nobody is cold. It’s a world where the snowmen are happy but the scarecrows speak of fire and death and of repeating tragedy, and where there always seems to be something sinister and wrong lurking just beneath the surface. You play as the young crown prince, Snowe, who sets off on a quest to right wrongs after discovering that his beloved (and deceased) parents might have had a few dark secrets. Ones they locked up in a tower to the east.
If I had to level one complaint at this game, it’s that the combat – while solid – is fairly standard turn-based JRPG stuff. Presented in first-person Dragon Quest style, the heroes and monsters take turns exchanging blows, using magic, chugging potions and all that familiar stuff. There’s also some balance issues in the very early game, including a part where you’re stuck controlling just one character, but encounter pairs of enemies with sleep-inducing attacks capable of stun-locking you into submission. Save often, just in case. It’s not revolutionary, but it is solid, and there’s a good range of skills and powers each character gets giving the combat a respectable bit of depth.
That’s about all I can really complain about – Star Stealing Prince is a very solid package all round. The sprite-art is good, the environments are detailed and there’s lots of flavour-text when exploring, and the character are an interesting and well-written bunch. The non-sprite art is of impressive quality, too. Every single NPC has their own portrait art, and while it’s not the greatest you’ll ever see, the art style reminds me a little of Final Fantasy Tactics. The enemy art during the first-person battle scenes is detailed and consistent too, even if there are perhaps a few too many palette-swapped fodder enemies.
The most interesting aspect is probably the world itself, though. There’s not much in the way of fantasy cliche here, and the core cast are all 18 or older, even if prince Snowe is a little immature and liable to run off with half a plan. It’s an interesting, non-standard fantasy story with great presentation, decent writing and an interesting mix of childlike wonder and fear of some hidden unknown. There’s even a decently atmospheric soundtrack, although a quick look at the file tagging reveals it to be mostly stuff taken from public domain sources such as the Newgrounds music library.
I’ve not completed this yet, but estimates suggest that it’s a respectable 10-12 hours long depending on how thoroughly you explore, which means a good few days of fun for the tasty price of $0. If you’re not already tied up with a rather more high-profile and high-budget RPG at the moment, you could do a lot worse than downloading Star Stealing Prince. It weighs in at around 218mb, and is for Windows PCs only, although I don’t believe that newer builds of RPG Maker have any issues with the usual routes that Linux & Mac gamers use to run Windows games.
Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Freeware Game Pick – ‘Star Stealing Prince’