What started as a new IP to celebrate the anniversary of Imageepoch, it is quite sad that Stella Glow released as the last game for the company. As a fan of strategy franchises such as Disgaea and Fire Emblem, I was happy when Atlus announced the localization of Stella Glow, since I originally thought it would be be a Japanese-exclusive title. When I was provided the opportunity to review Stella Glow, I was nothing short of thrilled. However, several hours after starting to play, I started to have mixed feelings about the new title.

Stella Glow is set in a world that prospered through power of the song, however this power also fostered discord among the people, to the point of war. God – who lives on the Moon – decided to take away their “song”. Thousand of years after this event, only five witches hold the power of the song. One of them, the Witch of Destruction, started to use her power to crystallize the world, seeking the destruction of the planet.

Sadly I can’t give further details about the story to avoid spoilers, but because the game is constantly adding new aspects to the story, it becomes harder to remember what is told from the start and what is explained later.

The game also does a good job implementing plot twists throughout the game, even in those moments which I had already realized that something drastic will happen. While the story can be solid some chapters, there are also moments where the writing is rather weak. I will talk about some of those moments later in the review.

SG 06

Stella Glow is a turn based strategy RPG similar to the Luminous Arc series. So, if you played any of the DS titles you should be already familiar with the battle system. If you played more recent games like Fire Emblem Awakening, the difference with Stella Glow is that the battle rules are more simple and the turns are given to the units rather than the teams.

With that said, you will find all the common elements in this type of game; character positioning and movement, terrain types and obstacles, physical and magical skills, an element system, etc. What Stella Glow adds is the ‘sound gauge’ that slowly fills up when you attack an enemy, and once filled it can be used by the witches to perform powerful skills being a key element for the battles.

The most powerful ones are the ones that require Alto – the main character – to be executed, which can have powerful effects, such as healing or buffing your allies. It is a very satisfying mechanic that will often turn the tables.

Almost every battle also includes two unique conditions, which you can see on the bottom screen, that will allow you to win additional items if cleared. While most of the time they will give you common items or a weapon that you will soon be able to buy, in later stages you will find better rewards including some rare equipment.

While you progress with the story you will encounter around fifteen characters that will join your party, and some of them can be really useful during the battles. Since the battles have a fixed number of units to add, you will have to stick with half of them most of the time.

You won’t be limited to just battling bad guys, though. After all, Stella Glow is broken up in two main parts: the free play and the main missions.

You can spend time with your characters during the free time.

You can spend time with your characters during the free time.

In free battles, you fight against different monsters, which is a good way to not just get money and items, but also to level up the characters you aren’t using. You can also play these free battles as many times you want; however, you can’t play the same one twice in a row. They are also a couple of free battles that require play coins; these include more powerful enemies and better rewards.

Most of the battles that occurs in Stella Glow present a difficulty more on the easier side, however they are some spikes of difficulties thoughout the story that can be a big challenge. If you want something harder for a change, you can find that extra difficulty in the free battle mode until you level up.

Exploring will help Alto explore the surroundings in order to find items including rare ones that can’t be found elsewhere in the game. Visiting the Red Bear Tavern will allow you to take a part-time job, which allows you to earn money and items.

The place location players will visit most is the Knights Barracks, where you are able to speak with other party members to raise their affinity with Alto. When raised, you can unlock new skills and abilities, and if maximized you will have access to their specific epilogue after beating the game.

It is a bit more complex in the case of the witches, where you often need to play special stages in order to ‘tune’ them. It may sounds like extra work – which it can be – but it is rewarding, mostly since the final tuning allows you to unlock their second song and definitive form, which is more powerful.

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Won’t be surprised to see this type of jokes during the game.

The conversations that you have with the characters are an effective way to know the backstory of each character, however most of the times you will be presented with bland writing and a cheap use of cliches. The same happens with the epilogues where some of them use fan service cliches; picking a character with a nice epilogue can be quite a lottery.

I had doubts about the English voice acting, but after playing I can say it is really solid. I noticed a few mistakes – like small voice changes for a few words or cut audio in some battle animations – but overall happy I was with the quality. While not surprising, there is no dual audio feature for those who wanted to play with the original voice cast.

The soundtrack can be divided into two categories: the witches’ songs and the game’s background music. The former includes over 13 tracks with a strong influence from the J-POP genre. Despite the fact that some songs don’t fit the medieval setting, they are overall well made, featuring good singers and catchy melodies, making this one of the best aspects of the game.

There is a catch, though; the songs are in Japanese. While this doesn’t affect the gameplay, it can be a little annoying at first since the English cast is really different from the Japanese one. It is understandable that finding voice actors able to sing can be a real challenge, but they should at least have included a subtitle option; unless you know Japanese, you won’t be able to understand the lyrics. The only song that can be listened to in English is the opening theme, though later in the game – when used as background music – they use the Japanese version.

The background music doesn’t stay behind in quality, featuring a solid number of melodies that fit perfectly with the game. However, the amount of songs for the battles is quite limited, which can get highly repetitive during some of the game: the songs are not bad by any means, but you will get bored eventually.

The songs are a big element of Stella Glow.

The songs are a big part of Stella Glow.

In the visual department, Stella Glow uses an anime design for the locations and characters during the cutscenes and a super deformed chibi style for the battle models. Something I really liked was the quality of the models – both characters and enemies – during the battle cutscenes, especially since there are different animations for the attacks and skills.

Stella Glow also presents around five or six anime animations, which are featured as small clips in important parts of the story. It seems that the game was intended to have more animations at first but decided to remove them thanks to the budget; one of the cutscenes features moving portraits rather than animation and another one has a lip animation that doesn’t sync with the song that is playing.

The game also gave me reasons to wonder if the graphics engine was rushed; the game uses pre-rendered sprites of the chibi models in the battlefield which often presents a low amount of frames, the 3D effect (while present) is barely noticeable most of the time, and there can be a small lag during animations.

Lastly, while game uses 3D levels for the battlefield – which also makes a nice use of textures – there is no way to rotate the camera, leading to some annoying moments during the story. There are also a few graphical glitches in specific situations. Most of them are when the game can’t decide if the sprite is ahead or behind a part of the scenario.

You will find a good variety of animations for the characters.

You will find an impressive variety of animations for the characters.

When it comes to the presentation, Stella Glow does a nice job in overall, but there are a couple of flaws that aren’t easy to ignore in a game sold at a premium price.

Something I really liked is the information screen that is shown on the bottom screen during the battles. It uses a friendly design while offering all the information needed. I often used it to decide what characters to use, what skills to use, what accessories and orbs to equip, etc.

The biggest problem in Stella Glow is the lack of speed options during the battles, since being able to disable all the battle animations isn’t enough to speed up the game. I’m not going to ask for the option to skip the enemy’s turn, but they should have added the option to make their movement and the damage/status animation go faster.

The bottom screen features a lot of information about the battle.

The bottom screen features a lot of information about the battle.

Oh, and you can’t pause the game during the enemy’s turn. Even if you can use the Home menu to pause, you are blocked from the game’s settings and the suspend feature.

Also, if you are going to play a free battle that uses play coins and you decide to walk a little since you lack one or two, close the game first. For some reason the total amount isn’t updated even if you go to the title menu.

It is also a waste that there is no gallery option – even after beating the game  – considering the large amount of scenes, songs and epilogues included in Stella Glow. They could have easily included this feature as a reward for the player, even if they would have been a small bonus.


Stella Glow is a good strategy game for the 3DS that I can easily recommend for those whose enjoy the genre or are fans of the game’s developer. However, it is far from a perfect experience. The frequent use of cliches, the lack of speed, and few difficulty options alongside other flaws keep Imageepoch’s latest work from being a memorable experience.

Stella Glow

7.5

Overall

7.5/10

Pros

  • The story can be very solid including unexpected plot twists ...
  • Artwork features a good quality
  • Battle's attack/skill animations are well made
  • Solid soundtrack

Cons

  • ...but is affected by bland writing and overuse of cliches.
  • No difficulty options
  • No battle speed options
Eric Weichhart
When it comes to gaming, I don't choose a side nor the budget, but how much fun I will get from playing.

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