OPUS: Echo of Starsong – Full Bloom Edition Review – Champagne Supernova

    Title: OPUS: Echo of Starsong - Full Bloom Edition
    Developer: SIGONO
    Release Date: May 11, 2022
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: SIGONO
    Genre: Visual Novel Adventure

OPUS is a series that started out small and modest, but suddenly found itself achieving the grandiose ambitions of its intergalactic setting. The first two titles were largely inexpensive mobile-style titles, and they still cost next to nothing to pick up, even today. Even so, they had a heart and soul and quickly built a following big enough to even warrant a limited edition Switch cartridge release in Japan.

The third entry, OPUS: Echo of Starsong, has been around for quite some time, but it only recently saw a surprise launch on Switch as the Full Bloom Edition. This is a welcome release on Nintendo Switch, and while it’s less of an incentive if you’ve already played the Steam version not long ago, the new enhancements are worthwhile to those who decided to hold out.

OPUS games have always been strong on their sound design and musical score, rightfully recommending players to play with headphones on for the most immersive experience. This translates perfectly when playing these games on the Switch in handheld mode, and Echo of Starsong maintains this audio and soundtrack quality. Unlike the prior release of this game and its prequels, the Full Bloom Edition adds full voice-over for the first time.

The voice acting is set to Japanese by default, with a Chinese Mandarin option available as well. Both audio tracks have been expertly acted and produced, and while the game was never short on emotional punch in its moving story beats, the extensive voice acting does wonders to add depth and drama to the characters and overall story delivery.  The tone and timing is on point, and it’s honestly impressive to see a once humble series able to achieve quality voice acting for its carefully woven script. The rest of the audio is as strong as always, but having the story and characters acted with such care just makes the experience all the more complete.

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The main narrative introduces players to an elderly man named Jun, who clearly looks like he carries a lot of regret in his heart. The game itself is him reliving his own past and the people he loved, in particular his complicated relationship with the ever-enigmatic Eda. These characters find themselves caught in a conflict between pirates, mining federations, and even religious orders, and yet in the midst of it all is the mysterious lumen, which tends to have spiritual properties and is pursued as a powerful resource. The starsong in the game’s title refers to the hidden sound waves tucked inside asteroids and serves as the key to discovering and unlocking more lumen.

The story itself is expertly woven and presented, being the heart and soul of a good OPUS experience. The first two games were quite vague and intimate in the premise and setting, and yet they still showed signs of a universe far greater than itself. Unlike those games and their focused narratives, Echo of Starsong makes far more extensive use of the in-game universe and lore.

From the extensive history to a fully developed mythology, and a wide cast of characters, this is a setting that has an epic sci-fi feel with a lot of moving parts. Thankfully, there is an extensive glossary that documents and explains all the various aspects of the game world. And yet, as richly detailed as this may all sound, true to the OPUS spirit, the game never loses sight of its spiritual and emotional undertones. There may be more to see and far more at stake here, but the character development remains just as intimate.

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As a game, Echo of Starsong feels like a culmination of the previous two games and so much more. The first game, The Day We Found Earth, had players simply piece the story together, while the second game, Rocket of Whispers, added a stronger human element with more hands-on exploration and challenge. This one brings all those ideas together into a far more ambitious gameplay experience, one which features a diverse mix of passive story segments and gameplay depth. The game is no challenging feat by any stretch, but it is still a sizeable journey with a greater measure of player input involved than other OPUS games.

The main adventure segments involve some basic platforming and exploration as players solve environmental puzzles using collected starsongs, while the other part involves navigating the galaxies on a spaceship that must be maintained with various resources, and can even be upgraded with new parts. These exploration segments often have luck-based encounters, which are usually not too intrusive or taxing.

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There are dialogue choices along the way too, and although they don’t necessarily alter the narrative too much, still add meaningful player involvement in how the characters interact with each other. In-between these gameplay segments are visual novel-style story sequences, and these are always engaging to watch and rarely ever overstay their welcome.

As basic as the graphical assets maybe, this is a beautiful-looking game where the artwork and character designs shine through, even when the 3D graphics in most gameplay segments look far from impressive. The beauty lies in the subtle artistic touches, and so by taking a less-is-more approach along with clever use of particle effects, it creates a visual style that’s easy to get immersed in.

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OPUS: Echo of Starsong – Full Bloom Edition is the most complete and definitive way to experience this emotionally-charged sci-fi adventure. If you’re going to be picking this up on Nintendo Switch, make sure to play through the other games in order if you haven’t done so before. Collectively as a trilogy, OPUS is among the most memorable and essential experiences on the platform, and the latest shows how a humble vision can evolve into something amazing over time.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jahanzeb Khan

Old SEGA games will go up in value... you'll see!