Steven Universe: Save the Light - Review  

No, not Steven!
by Sam Wachter

Less than 20 Hours
+ Feels like an episode of the show
+ Fantastic art direction and music
+ Great dialogue and banter
- Tons of bugs
- Puzzles are touch and go
- Challenge level is all over the place
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Steven Universe is easily one of the sweetest, most inclusive shows I've ever watched. There's a lot of focus on friendship, diversity, and, of course, light banishing the darkness. With the power and hope from the Crystal Gems and their desire to protect Steven, a simple boy with a huge heart, each episode of the series is memorable. Steven Universe: Save the Light is an extended episode of the series, with a warm center and a shambled body.

   Our story begins in Beach City when Steven finds a Prism that he dubs "Light Steven." However, a new threat named Hessonite steals Light Steven, stating that it is her valued property. Heartbroken by the loss of his new friend, Steven, his best friend Connie, Greg, Peridot, and the Crystal Gems decide to save the day by ruining Hessonite's nefarious plot, while also getting pizza afterwards.

   The story is straightforward, but it's full of humour and heart. Written by series creator Rebecca Sugar, this story shows the difficulties of friendship, the importance of kindness, and what it means to have a chosen family that isn't bound by blood. For fans of the series this is apparent throughout, but the game does a great job of translating all these themes into a wonderfully engaging story. Hessonite is a funny, but deeply troubled individual, and her character is easily one of the most memorable in the experience. There are also tons of great quips of dialogue that add to the upbeat tone of the game, particularly any time Steven and Peridot reference classic RPGs tropes.

   Outside of the fantastic dialogue that comes with Save the Light, players are also treated to a fantastic visual representation of the characters and world. The art direction is gorgeous, and it captures all the whimsical feelings that come with an episode of Steven Universe. Each area of the game is full of detail, and character models show great attention to detail. The world is a joy to explore for the most part, as it's lush, vivacious and full of life. The same can equally be said about the game's soundtrack which is buoyant, cheerful and hummable. Each track has so much positive energy in it that it easily gets players in the groove to battle. The voice cast is done by all the show's regulars, and they continue to reprise their character roles with great care.

Believe in Steven! Believe in Steven!

   Unfortunately, that's where the positives end with Save the Light. For all its great art direction, engaging storytelling and poppy music, the game is chock full of bugs. On numerous occasions at random, the game crashed on me almost always when it auto-saved. Whether it was transitioning to a new screen or just wandering around, the game would crash. It was to the point where I had to redo the final boss fight twice due to this bug, and even though the auto-save happened, any resources I used during those fights were gone. Furthermore, there were many occasions where the game froze, causing a hard reset of my PlayStation 4, and that's not including occasional framerate problems when there is too much going on screen.

   The AI pathfinding for the non-controlled characters is abysmal. Straying too far ahead and getting trapped in battles sometimes means players only have one combatant against three or four enemies. Not exactly a fair fight. Even worse is during puzzle-solving and platform sequences where often characters would stray or be separated making it difficult to keep everyone together. The puzzles themselves, though not too difficult, were quite touch-and-go at times and it was hard to gauge what players were supposed to do and how to do it safely. Given how frustrating the platform puzzles were, it made dungeons go on longer than necessary.

   The battle system in Save the Light is neither a high nor a low for the game. Players can have up to four characters, each with the same pool of Star Points that they can draw from. Each character has an attack worth a specific amount of Star Points and once the points are depleted no more attacks can be made until it has recharged or an item has been used to boost points. Attacks and defending are timed, so pushing the button at the perfect moment will charge the Star Gauge faster, while failing means characters take a brutal beating. There is also a relationship gauge which is built up by making dialogue choices, giving gifts to friends or having Steven heal his companions and when full allows the characters to unleash a deadly joint attack which can sometimes change the flow of battle in the player's favour.

A reminder that Greg is everybody's buddy. A reminder that Greg is everybody's buddy.

   While the Star Gauge is not a bad battle system, it requires players to be timely with their button presses and supplement items when absolutely necessary. While battles aren't hard, they are unbalanced. Since characters can level up and skill points can be allotted to attack, defense, luck and relationships, the game still feels like the odds are often stacked against the player because there is no way to balance the characters well enough for them not to be beaten to a pulp. Often the regular encounters were far more difficult than any of the game's boss fights, which is rather odd.

   I was so excited for a Steven Universe RPG, but I wish the game had been delayed a bit longer so that many of the bugs could have been ironed out. There is potential for a great game that will make any player smile, it's just too bad the bugs overcame the final product in a way that sucked the fun out of it at times. This game has all the trappings of great humour and loveable characters, but it's hard to recommend at this time for fans and non-fans given the end result.

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