Sci-fi, as a literary genre, has always had a special place in my heart. There is just something deeply enthralling about space exploration, discovering alien cultures and learning about new technologies that may plausibly be discovered by humankind one day. For this very reason, I was quite excited to get my hands The Stargazers to see if and how all my beloved sciency elements contribute to a yuri-centric narrative.
One of the first few things The Stargazers does right is jumping straight into the character introductions and establishing their distinct personalities. Instead of having the three main female leads introduced one after the other, the game employs the ability to choose one of three narration perspectives at the beginning and at several other key points of the story. Thus, you are able to experience the story from the eyes of Temperance Goodchild, a high-strung, disciplined military woman with no tolerance for nonsense; Risty Mello, the (seemingly) distant communications expert and romantic partner to the third main character, the highly sexual Viiflidi Ylvida, a busty free-spirited alien girl with only one thing on her mind: sex, sex and even more sex.
The option to be able to choose narration perspectives not only adds a refreshing variety while reading, but it also helps to better establish the characters into the world. The downside to it is if you feel like sticking to just one character throughout the whole game, you will not learn a sufficient amount of information about the others. Because of that, it is highly recommended to go through the whole story at least three times to see how each of the leads sees the world and what kind of backstories they have.
Interpersonal relationships on an interstellar voyage
Temperance, Risty and Viiflidi all serve on the ADFSS Shooting Star with Temperance being newly reassigned from a Mars base to lead the two-man crew as their captain. From there on out the girls get into all kinds of events and adventures that bring them close together as they all try to solve their prejudices, shortcomings, and personal indiscretions to finally come together as a team. While the overarching narrative mainly focuses on the interpersonal relationships between the girls and their struggles to grow closer to one another, the writers did a good enough job in establishing a fictional world of the future that even a sci-fi junkie like myself can get interested in. It is a bit disappointing some of the concepts like what seem to be sentient robots engaging in romantic relationships with each other weren’t properly explored or explained, it could have served as a really engaging bit of fluff.
A classic design with a modern spin
By far the most enticing parts of The Stargazers, and all Lupiesoft games for that matter, lie in the audio-visual department. Taosym’s character designs are always unique-looking, thanks to his distinct art style and high attention to curvature, shadowing and color palettes. Given that most of the female characters in the game are either scantily clad or sport tight-fitting bodysuits, you can expect a lot of room for those glorious curves and muscle tones to be thoroughly engraved into your mind. The few brief lesbian sex scenes and CGs present in the title make most of the quality of the art style, even if they really could have been a bit longer as far as the narration itself is concerned.
The Stargazers does a really good job capturing classic technological designs that were ever so present in science fiction of the ’50s and ’60s. The ship designs look smooth and pleasantly rounded, the mechanical designs for the robots Tem and her squad pilot may look a bit goofy, but they are, at least in my mind, a short love letter to those cheesy, overacted (or underacted) sci-fi shows and movies of the past century. What brings all of this up to a modern level is the limited, but still exciting musical score, chock full of modern electronic beats. This is sadly the point where my praise ends and where I have to focus on the areas The Stargazers has a few bolts loose.
Too many cooks spoil the space broth
While there are plenty of ideas that work in the favor of The Stargazers there are equally as many that bring the whole production down a few pegs. Firstly, for such a short visual novel, the game is full of technical bugs that would never be there if the game was properly tested. Missing sprites, followed by errors that lead to unexpected crashes and worst of all, the soundtrack and sound effects completely vanishing from existence when you read the game through Tem and Risty’s perspective. The dynamic and somewhat intense fight in the casino during the latter part of the story could have definitely used fitting, powerful tunes, and sound effects to make the whole scene a lot more engaging to the reader. Unfortunately, that’s not the only missed opportunity.
As I mentioned before, the story and buildup are very strong in the beginning portions of the game, but that quickly changes towards the middle and almost completely loses track at the end of it. A lot of plot points are introduced halfway only to be dropped and never mentioned again in the end. Hastily introduced characters appear briefly to serve as talking heads to a troubled main character, only to vanish just as soon as their usability expires. The resolutions to each of three separate narrative outlooks seem weak and rushed, especially in the case of Temperance. While she gradually warms up to the antics of her teammates and starts to develop some feelings for them — which frankly seem to stem from sexual frustration rather than anything else — the way she changes her mind about them in the end still feels way too fast for my liking.
The few choices the player can make (that don’t involve switching character perspectives) are ultimately pointless and do not change anything of importance to the unfolding story. The game would be much better without them, as instead of focusing on how the plot is shaping up, the player ends up wondering what significance those choices even had in the first place.
Too many ideas and too little time to properly introduce them into a cohesive whole. Perhaps with a few more months in development, The Stargazers would have turned out to be a much different animal; one that you wouldn’t feel the need to jettison out of an airlock on a spaceship.
Missing game asset spotted on the port side cap’n!
In space, no one can hear you scissor
What ultimately bogs down The Stargazers, apart from all the technical glitches that are supposed to be taken care of in a future patch (according to the developer), is a story with good potential that has soared a bit too close to the Sun. While some of the interpersonal aspects between characters are interesting, I feel that they could have used a bit more time and care to make them truly shine by adding a proper conclusion to each separate arc. Instead, what we got is an adventure that ends way too abruptly with little payoff despite some good buildup in the early portions of the game.
I cannot, in all honesty, recommend The Stargazers to anyone looking for a nuanced and refined read; however, if style is more in-line with what you’re looking for, the art and sound (whenever present) direction do a very good job portraying a somewhat interesting sci-fi world full of cute ladies who are either banging or wanting to bang other cute ladies. If that’s your cup of Space Elf tea, then by all means, venture to MangaGamer and grab yourself a copy of the digital adult version. The asking price of less than $15 is fair for the amount and quality of content you get.