Video Game

First impressions: Sea of Stars Demo

A retro-inspired turn-based RPG

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Reading Time
3 mins
Word Count
1.1k approx.
The cover illustration showing Valerie and Zale holding weapons in their hands, with a big moon as the background
Sea of Stars Demo, developed by Sabotage Studio

Sea of Stars has been one of my most anticipated RPG of the year. I’ve just finished playing the demo on Switch. I was amazed by how beautiful the game is. The 16-bit pixel art style and the music score is incredible. Everything that I saw was so pleasing the eyes. But what impresses me was the gameplay and combat system. Let’s dive in.

Image Credit

Screenshots in this post were captured from Sea of Stars on Nintendo Switch.

At first glance, Sea of Stars could be one of those RPGs that gives you nostalgic feeling because of its pixel art style. If I had to describe the game, it’s a combination of Chrono Trigger with some gameplay elements similar to Golden Sun. I was very excited to play the game, but there was some friction when I tried downloading the demo. Aside from that, it has a decent gameplay experience.

16-bit retro pixel art

First, the visuals look gorgeous. It was heavily inspired by SNES era RPGs. The sprite work was very well done. The character movements, like running, climbing, jumping, and swimming in water, are all animated in detail. I really like the aesthetic the game is going for.

Our party members carefully cross a rope bridge between two cliffs
The sprites’ animation is carefully crafted. It looks so highly detailed and smooth when exploring the map
A tavern filled with different NPCs sitting at their tables
Even the NPCs in a tavern are all nicely drawn. They brings the retro art style to another level

The environments are also nicely decorated and show a lot of care. I can tell they put an insane amount of effort into creating those assets. And on top of that, the dynamic lighting in the game is like icing on the cake. The effect It was very well executed and beautifully done.

UI & typography

The UI of the game is simple enough. The text dialogue along with a portrait of the character fit the screen. The font size, spacing, and line height were just about right. I especially like the proportion of those UI elements. I can read text comfortably in handheld mode.

A dialogue box with a portrait of the character
The dialogue box makes text easy to read. And the portrait of the character is a nice touch
A dialogue scene where it offer the player options to accept or decline
The UI somewhat reminds me of Final Fantasy. It gives me vibes of old style RPGs

However, I’m not sure if it was intentional that the game hasn’t implemented visual cues for user control. When I was exploring the map, I had to press the A button repeatedly to see if I could perform any actions like climbing up or down or jumping over an edge or staircase. It’s because there weren’t any visual indications present. It seems to me that they want to bring back the old gameplay style with out making them obvious.


The demo has a dungeon for players to explore. It involves a few puzzles, and they require some trials and errors to complete them. Players can perform an “air blast” by pressing A button to push blocks for reaching new areas in the dungeon. The mechanics reminds me a bit of Golden Sun. Some of the areas are optional, but if you wish to collect treasure from chests, it was fun to look for them.

The view of our party exploring the dungeon
When players solved a puzzle, some enemies might spawn. It looks like we have to fight against them without skipping
Our team and two NPCs gathering around a campfire
The camp offers player to save the current game, rest, hear a story from NPC, or cooking

The dungeon consist of a few area with puzzles, players has to complete them to unlock new areas. You can switch the lead character from Valerie or Zale in camp. During the adventure, some ingredients can be gathered in the wild for cooking. In my journey I found that crafting recovery items are kind of important for restoring HP and MP.

A scene showing the character travel on the world map
The world map is very similar to old style RPGs. The camera is zoomed out implying the scale of the world
Our party swimming in a fish pond
You can jump into the water and swim. The fishes will stay away from the player

There is a mini fishing game for gathering ingredients for cooking food. You can also complete a side quest where an NPC is looking for a golden watch. The game provides different ways for players to discover hidden chests in town or dungeons. Overall, the level design are engaging and fun.

Combat system

Seas of Stars is a turn-based RPG. I still think turn-based combat is considered classic. It never gets old. The encounters are somewhat fixed in their specific areas. Without grinding for experience points, combat was a bit harder than it is nowadays.

A screenshot with our three part members fighting against four enemies
Valerie cast a projectile that launch at enemies while the player can deflect it to maximize the damage
A screenshot showing the final boss where it glowing in white light
The final boss battle of the demo. I played the game for around 1 hour

What makes it unique is that, when performing an attack or skill, there is a QTE-like mechanic; players can input at the right timing when hitting the enemy to land a critical attack dealing more damage. But the window for that is limited, and it felt like it could have a higher chance by spamming the A button. The same rule applies when deflecting an enemy’s attack, which can reduce the damage. Also, there’re different types of actions depending the skills. It was indeed a fun feature to have.

Final thoughts

After playing the demo, I honestly think the game is not just another throwback RPG with a retro style that we’ve probably seen before. It’s unique and it has its own take. They’ve successfully met—exceeded my expectations. I’m a bit concerned about the story and the quality of the side quests since there was only a dungeon for players to explore in the demo. I really can’t say much about the story in that regard.

But based on the demo and what I’ve seen so far, it looks promising. If Sabotage Studio can deliver more than the demo, this could easily become one of my top three games of the year.

Cover illustration for the game Sea of Star
Review Switch Demo

Sea of Stars

4 out of 5 stars
Time Played
1 hour
Sabotage Studio
Release Date
Feb 2023


  1. Since my Nintendo account is tied to my region, and the demo wasn’t available on the eShop 4 days after the Nintendo Direct on 8 Feb 2023. The eShop will redirect me to my region even if I switch to Americas on the Switch. Maybe because localization works differently, games are always delayed in my area if they’re published from the West. I was annoyed that the Octopath Traveler II demo was available right after their announcement. I didn’t want to wait any longer, so I decided to login to my Nintendo account to change my region to America. I’ve forgotten my password and had to reset it. That’s a lot to went through. ↩︎
  2. I rarely play games in handheld mode, but this time I did. Because my Switch is still in very good condition, I didn’t upgrade it to the OLED model, even if it has a bigger screen. ↩︎