Review: OPUS: Echo Of Starsong – Full Bloom Edition – Evocative And Shockingly Well-Realised
OPUS: Echo of Starsong is intimidating. Not so much in terms of difficulty — there’s very little of that in what’s largely a visual novel-esque sort of business — but in terms of story, there’s so much to take in. Even with the preceding two games (OPUS: The Day We Found Earth and OPUS: Rocket of Whispers) in your back pocket, you’re going to be thrown in at the deep end here. The world of OPUS is a shockingly well-realised one, rich with lore that stretches across in-game decades.
It’s easily the most expansive title in the series, offering a number of different inputs in order to facilitate exploration of its world, taking control of multiple different characters across multiple years. What we’re swinging at here is it’s a lot, though it may not seem like such at the very beginning. Thrown into a world of space pirates, miners, witches and extensive politics, you’re following the very intimate, very human story of the relationship between intergalactic traveller Jun, his guardian Kay, and enigmatic Witch Eda, among many others.
What this ultimately comes down to is an adventure game-like presentation mixed with the lesser interactivity and challenge of a visual novel; this is more compelling than it sounds, mostly because the story is well-written and the game features full (Japanese or Mandarin Chinese) voice acting, adding a great deal of depth to the proceedings in this Full Bloom Edition. What seems initially like a strict side-scrolling world is revealed to be 3D, too, with enjoyable exploration through the beautifully-crafted locations being a consistent draw.
There’s also a lot of dialogue, playing out in the usual Visual Novel way of talking heads overlaid across the gameplay with the occasional full-screen “CG” for special scenes. These segments look just as good as the main game — which makes impressively intricate, mysterious architecture out of rather simple polygons — but the character designs are a little generic anime for our taste. Likeable to a fault and definitely interesting, but still a touch familiar. More successful are the frequent dialogue branches, which let you choose your next remark in a conversation. None of these choices are especially drastic in terms of how they affect the story, but they’re a nice addition nonetheless and help the proceedings feel a lot less railroaded.
It’s not all talking, listening, and reading, though — there are more traditionally gamey elements at play, with the buying and selling of resources and the ability to use said gains in order to upgrade your spaceship, which in turn allows access to more areas which in turn allow you to locate more resources. There’s also puzzle-solving utilising the titular “Starsongs”, music that you play to affect the environment by turning liquid Lumen to gas, opening enormous locked vaults (among other things). Less impressively, there are sections that are based on luck, which isn’t something we’re entirely keen on in a game that’s ultimately narrative-focused. You’ll get into battles as you fly around space, and losing them will simply reload your last autosave. Not much of a penalty, but it does beg the question why you’d bother with them in the first place.
We described the visuals as “simple” earlier, and they are, but they do a lot with a little. Echo of Starsong has a very pronounced visual identity, with excellent use of colour and scale to make your characters feel as small as they are in this enormous world. It’s a testament to the strong identity of the OPUS series that while all three games look and feel different, they’re all still very much part of their series. That consistency here goes hand-in-hand with strong writing to create a thoroughly appealing game that’s only brought down at all by its more random elements — and even they aren’t particularly egregious.
OPUS: Echo of Starsong is a lovely game, an emotional adventure that represents the apex of the series to date and easily one of the best story-driven games on Switch. It’s also excellent value for money, offering around ten hours of game for its low price, more if you really take your time and soak the whole thing up the way you really should do. While the character designs are a little too familiar, the characters themselves are complex, interesting, and likeable, and the story told with them is a complete, satisfying tale. Oh, and when the opening suggests playing with headphones? That’s a hard agree from us, both to help with the music-based puzzles and simply to enjoy the excellent score.