Steven Universe Save the Light Conjures Good Memories of Licensed Games

first_img GEEK PICK: GEEKY VINYL SALEAlways Save The Day With This Steven Universe Gift Guide You don’t see many licensed games on consoles anymore. At least, there are very few that don’t begin with the words “LEGO” or “Telltale.” Nothing against those games, but you know more or less what you’re getting when you play one. Licensed games used to be everywhere on consoles, each one trying to put its own unique spin on whatever genre was popular at the time. Most weren’t what anyone would call “good.” Licensed games were often rushed, barely-playable cash-ins. Sometimes, you’d find a game that was a lot of fun despite a few flaws. I have fond memories of those PlayStation 2 Simpsons clones of Crazy Taxi and Grand Theft Auto. Occasionally, you’d find something actually cool, like Spider-Man 2, or more recently, South Park: The Stick of Truth. Steven Universe: Save The Light, which comes out this summer, looks like it’s going to fall in that category.Though the Cartoon Network-published Steven Universe: Save the Light, isn’t technically a licensed game, it deals in licensed properties. The game, coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, is an RPG that borrows a lot from Obsidian’s South Park, and from classic Nintendo and Square games as well. They’re not shy about it either. At a preview event on May 19, Grumpyface Studios founder and lead designer on Steven Universe: Save the Light, Chris Graham was very clear about where his inspirations came from. The combat feels like a mix of Super Mario RPG and Final Fantasy. Instead of being strictly turn based, you have a reserve of stars. Each action in battle costs a certain amount of stars, and you can replenish them by waiting for a Final Fantasy ATB-style bar to fill or by using consumable items from Steven’s Hamburger Backpack. When you attack or are attacked, a star will appear underneath the target. Press the button while the star is there, and you’ll either do extra damage when attacking or take less when guarding. The timing took some getting used to, as it felt a little loose, but I got the hang of it as my time with the game went on.Some of the most fun I had with the demo was exploring the game’s version of Beach City, which turns the cartoon’s setting into an open RPG town. My favorite thing to do in any game is walk around fictional cities, talking to everybody and seeing exactly how things are laid out. It’s why I enjoyed those Simpsons games so much. After years of watching the TV show, I had so much fun seeing where Springfield’s most recognizable locations were in relation to each other. I got the same kind of feeling playing Steven Universe: Save the Light. It felt even better this time, as series creator Rebecca Sugar’s heavy involvement in the game adds a layer of authenticity to Beach City’s map.It also helps that moving around in Steven Universe is fun. Steven has more mobility than most RPG characters. He can curl into a ball and do a fast roll across the ground (useful for finding secrets hidden in trees and mounds of dirt), and he can also jump high enough to walk on top of Beach City’s buildings. The developers hid secrets all over the place, usually items that help you in battle, so this kind of exploration is encouraged. As you’d expect from a game like this, there are plenty of familiar characters scattered throughout town that you can talk to. Most will offer side-quests, and others will just offer a bit of flavor dialog. Lars is standing outside Big Donut, acting like he’s too cool for Steven. Most of the side-missions I saw were your basic “this thing has gone missing, find it for me” fetch quest, but they’re usually callbacks to specific episodes of the show, which is fun for fans of the series.The first thing most fans will notice is that the game has a decidedly different look from the cartoon. That comes from Grumpyface’s first SU game for mobile, Steven Universe: Attack the Light. Graham said that during the development of that game, they based the characters off the distance models from the cartoon, meaning the less-detailed versions artists draw when the characters are supposed to be far away. The idea was that those models would be more appropriate for a small screen you hold away from your face. The result was a clean, cute look that was unique to the game while still being unmistakably Steven Universe. For the console sequel, they added a little more detail while keeping the simple, craft-paper look intact. And since the game’s on consoles now, they were able to up its scale significantly. The areas are much larger than in the mobile game, and you can explore a lot more freely.Even with the different look, it so far feels like you’re playing an episode of the Steven Universe cartoon. That’s largely thanks to Rebecca Sugar’s close involvement in its development. Graham said that unlike with Attack the Light, where Sugar signed off on the story, much of her writing made it into the game. Graham described a very collaborative partnership between himself and Sugar. Graham, who said he’s a fan of the show, would send scripts and quest ideas to Sugar, who would add her own changes and ideas, and the process would go back and fourth like that until they were happy with what they’d come up with. The result is a video game adaptation that feels like it understands what makes the show special. It has the wacky sense of humor with the underlying earnestness and heart that sets Steven Universe apart from most other cartoons. It may not be the full involvement that, for example, Trey Parker and Matt Stone had in the South Park game, but that’s probably why it will release on time.The one part of all this I’m not entirely sold on is the dialog options. It’s an RPG in 2017, so of course, they’re going to be there, but they didn’t feel all that meaningful, at least as far as the story was concerned. Now, I only got to play a small section of the game, so I can’t say fur sure, but their purpose seems more mechanical than story-focused. From what I saw, there’s a right answer and a wrong answer. Which is which depends on who you’re talking to. Choose the right one, and you get some extra relationship points with that character. It’s one of the ways the game rewards you for being familiar with the show. As a result, it feels less like you’re choosing what you want Steven to say (or think he would say), and more like you’re trying to guess the answer to a trivia question.Those relationship points do have a purpose though. In combat, if you build up your relationship between two characters, they can join to perform special moves. For example, Steven and Greg can play music together that protects the entire party. The coolest thing the devs showed me were the fusions. Yes, certain characters can fuse together in this game, just like they do in the show. Build up the relationship between some characters, and they’ll fuse together into a new character. The one the devs showed off to me was Steven and Connie’s fusion, Stevonnie. Stevonnie is a powerful character whose attacks made a serious dent in the health of a difficult boss. They also look really cool. Seeing them appear onscreen was definitely the high point of the demo. As a fan of the show, it put a huge smile on my face.There is a drawback, though. Stevonnie has their own attacks, and can’t use any of Connie’s or Steven’s. This forces you to choose your fusion moments carefully, making sure you don’t need Steven’s healing ability, for example. That very need forced me to un-fuse Stevonnie and cost me the boss battle. To be fair to me, that battle got surprisingly hard for an RPG presumably aimed at kids. The fight involved an evil woodchipper who unleashed a devastating group attack after its minions fed it three logs. When multiple minions carrying three logs each started to appear, I yelled out, “Oh, come on!” Graham told me they’re still tweaking the difficulty.The game will feature eight playable characters (seven to start, with another added in planned post-game DLC), and you can have up to four in a party. Even in the overworld, each character has a unique ability that will help you explore the environments and find secrets. For example, Connie’s sword can cut down bushes, and Greg’s guitar can solve Zelda-style music puzzles. For now, they would only talk about five of the playable characters: Steven, Connie, Greg, and the three “main” Crystal Gems, Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. I asked if it was possible to un-fuse Garnet and play as Ruby and Sapphire. Graham hesitated for a moment and declined to answer. Hmmm. Sounds like it could be a possibility… I was a little disappointed to learn that Lars would not be a playable character. He’s become a bigger part of the show in the current season and has grown into one of my favorite characters. Mostly I want Lars to be playable because, like most of the fandom, I desperately want to see a Steven-Lars fusion. Oh, well. Maybe if the game gets a sequel.Steven Universe: Save the Light is the kind of game you don’t see so often anymore. It’s a licensed game for a console that, at least so far, feels like it has a lot of love behind it. Graham told me that Grumpyface has been able to choose the properties they work on, which means they’ve gotten to work on Cartoon Network and Adult Swim shows the developers actually like. In the little bit I played, that love of the source material is definitely present. There’s just enough fan service to make regular viewers of the series happy, but not so much that it will alienate more casual fans. If you’ve only seen a couple of episodes, and aren’t the type to obsess over it on Tumblr, there’s plenty here for you too. If the rest of the game is anything like what I played, it should be a fun, casual RPG that stays true to its source material. As burnt out as the world got on licensed games back in the day, I’m excited to run around a world I’ve only seen on TV. I haven’t done that on a console since the PS2 days.Steven Universe: Save the Light will be out this summer for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. (Sorry Nintendo fans, no Switch version is planned at this point.) Stay on targetlast_img

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