Hoshi wo Miru Hito

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Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

There are plenty of reasons a video game can go bad. Developers typically start a project with the best of intentions, wanting a game to be great but things just don’t work out. Whether it’s tough deadlines, bugs that just aren’t getting worked out, or a lack of proper equipment, sometimes projects with the best intentions can just go sour. I like to think that’s what happened with today’s game, a game legendary for just how terrible it is. Today’s game is Hoshi wo Miru Hito, developed by Another and released for the Nintendo Famicom in 1987.

Hoshi wo Miru Hito roughly translates to Stargazers and that’s what the English fanbase of this game refers to it as so let’s go with that from here on, just to avoid me butchering the Japanese language. Stargazers is clearly an attempt to capitalize on the burgeoning JRPG market after the massive success of Dragon Quest. It started off with a strong premise too. Unlike the medieval setting of most JRPGs, Stargazers puts players in a sci-fi setting. In this cybernetics world, everyone has powerful psychic abilities. Players aren’t given a clear goal but the game pushes them on towards Ark City.

To say Stargazers has problems is an understatement. Almost nothing in the game feels finished. At the start of the game, the first town is invisible so players must find it by simply stumbling across it. Start walking in the wrong direction from the start and you may never find it at all. The townfolk mention that they’ve used their powers to make the town invisible but a reason for this is never given in the context of the story. Items also do not display on the actual map but are found by simply walking across the proper tile. A ding lets players know they picked something up. This wouldn’t be all that much of a problem except there are items required for game progression that must be picked up this way with no in-game hints towards where those items actually are. Without a guide, players would be expected to literally just walk across every single tile of the map until they found the item they need.

This brings up another issue, player speed. For every one second of real-time, the character can move two tiles on the map. It feels excruciatingly slow to play and add in the high rate of random encounters, trying to do anything in this game takes a significant time commitment. Combat is a turn-based affair but has its own set of problems. For whatever reason, the HP display for each of your characters removes the ones digit of the HP. So if your HP shows as 2. It actually is somewhere between 20 and 29, because that ones digit doesn’t show on the screen. Monsters start off unbelievably powerful, often killing players in the first area in one or two hits. However, with the way that HP scales, later in the game, fights become so trivial as to be nearly pointless. The strongest monster attacks in the game can do nearly 100 damage to your characters which isn’t much when your character’s health is in the thousands by level 5 and the 10’s of thousands by level 11.

We could go on picking apart everything in this game from the useless character stats to the weapons that are weaker than punches but we just don’t have the time for it, unfortunately. Despite all of this, Stargazers has developed a niche fanbase, typically around laughing at the problems. Some dedicated fans have actually tried spreading the word or fixing the game in various ways though. An english patch for the original Famicom version is available and a remake of the game was released in 2004 as freeware, trying to fix many of the game’s problems. This remake, actually called Stargazers, is only in Japanese though so English speakers may have trouble getting the story from this objectively better version of the game.

If you want to hear more about this game’s many, MANY issues, go follow me on Twitter @vg_oftheday and I’ll post some of the funnier bugs and problems. Archives and transcripts of every episode, including this one are on videogameoftheday.com. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day.

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Devin "Katosepe" Sloane is a long time gamer and host of the show Video Game of the Day. He firmly believes Darklands is the pinnacle of gaming achievement and this is a hill he will die upon. Where his nickname came from is a secret to everybody.