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Sea of Stars has a demo available and it's brilliant

Praise the sun.

Retro JRPG Sea of Stars finally has a release date of 29th August, across Switch, PC, and PlayStation.

The news was shared at last night's Nintendo Direct livestream, along with the immediate release of a demo - our first chance to go hands-on with the game.

Sea of Stars is from Sabotage Studio, who rose to prominence with the release of 2D side scroller The Messenger. Where that game was inspired by the Ninja Gaiden series, Sea of Stars is inspired by Chrono Trigger and other SNES JRPGs.

Sea of Stars | Release Date + Switch Demo Announcement TrailerWatch on YouTube

In fact, Chrono Trigger composer Yasunori Mitsuda has provided some music for this game to really add to the authentic retro vibe.

The plot follows two playable Children of the Solstice: Valere, who wields the power of the moon, and Zale, who wields the power of the sun. Together they can perform powerful Eclipse Magic to fight back against an evil alchemist known as The Fleshmancer.

The game has already turned heads since its announcement in 2020 via Kickstarter, but now it's playable via the Switch demo ahead of the release this summer.

I picked up the 40-minute demo immediately after the Direct and am happy to report it's brilliant.

After a short introductory sequence, players can explore the Port Town of Brisk filled with pirates spouting amusing dialogue, before venturing into a mystical dungeon. Between those areas is a glimpse at the world map complete with a gently snoring giant dragon who's surely protecting some treasure?

world map in Sea of Stars
Look at that giant dragon!

Though presented in an isometric perspective, there's a pleasant sense of three dimensions to exploration with characters able to climb up, in and around the environments and leap across gaps for some light platforming.

Combat is also satisfying, taking its cues from both Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG. Like the former, characters can combine their techniques for powerful spells; while button prompts have been taken from the latter to add an extra oomph to attacks and defence. There are original wrinkles too, like absorbing mana from enemies to boost attacks, and breaking locks on enemies with a specific sequence of attacks to prevent their abilities. It's familiar but still has its own personality.

Exterior in port town in Sea of Stars
Combat in Sea of Stars

That goes for the demo as a whole, particularly the visuals. The pixel characters are wonderfully, expressively animated in both story and combat sequences; detailed backdrops give a sense of depth and a connected world; and a dynamic lighting system makes it all look majestic.

We're in something of a golden age of JRPGs at the moment, between remasters like Live A Live and Tactics Ogre, Nintendo's most recent Fire Emblem game, and last year's retro-styled Chained Echoes. And while Final Fantasy 16 is likely to dominate conversations this year, Sea of Stars looks to be unmissable.

Cliffside view in Sea of Stars

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