The Famicom can be perceived as the birthplace of kusoge. While bad games have existed since the creation of the medium, the origin of the term itself is murky but generally is believed to have been coined in reference to a Famicom game.
Hoshi wo Miru Hito, translating roughly as Stargazer, was one such game that rose to the rank of kusoge no densetsu (crap game of legend). It’s easy to see why. RPGs blew up in Japan following the release of Dragon Quest in 1986, and here is a game that was quick to capitalize on that with one set in a sci-fi environment. It even predated Phantasy Star by roughly two months, but not Ultima, which had been doing sci-fi since 1982. Nonetheless, Hoshi wo Miru Hito wasn’t short on inventive ideas for the genre.
It’s just too bad they’re buried beneath indescribable suffering.
This look comes with the help of the fan translation started by KingMike and finished by brandnewscooby. If it adds any glitches that weren’t present in the original unpatched version, I really wouldn’t be able to tell.
You are dropped, without explanation, in a forest. Having no initial context is hardly exclusive to Hoshi wo Miru Hito, but it’s the sort of situation where your Dragon Quest experience really pays off. You’ll know that your first order of business will be to find the closest town. That town is actually one square to the West, but you’d have no idea just by looking at the screen. It’s invisible. It doesn’t show on the world map. If you didn’t immediately go West, you wouldn’t know it’s there.
This game is about space psychics maybe Hot-B thought you might be psychic too!
There is someone who states that the town is hidden by the combined psychic power of its citizens, and I don’t know if that’s an excuse or if someone actually thought it was a good idea to have an invisible starting city. It’s honestly hard to tell with Hoshi wo Miru Hito, because there are already a tonne of design choices that leave you wondering if it comes down to laziness, poor programming, or just baffling intention.
The hardest part of starting out isn’t even finding the first city. It’s actually surviving the first few battles in order to level up. There are, depending on your definition, three overworld areas, and each one has its own individual shuffle of enemies. In the first area, whether you face off against a foe that your underpowered protagonist can actually take on or a team of three more powerful bullies ready to pound you into the mud is completely random.
In a normal RPG, you’d just be able to run from battles where you were overpowered, but fleeing in Hoshi wo Miru Hito is a skill (Teleport) that you don’t learn until you reach level six or find the second party character. You also need to be cautious, because Teleport is used on each character individually, and it’s possible to leave behind the party members who can’t Teleport.
If you go to the Northern town of Deus, you learn some nonsense, but one helpful piece of information is that your first party member is far to the south. This is where it really sinks in that Hoshi wo Miru Hito isn’t merely an RPG; it’s also an excruciating ordeal.
This begins the moment you leave the second town. Instead of appearing in a tile adjacent to Deus, you find yourself back where you started the game, one tile east of the Mamus, the starting town. You loop back around, then begin your travel South, at which point you’ll invariably fall down a hole into a small dungeon. However, you don’t need to traverse the dungeon. You can just turn around and go directly back out the door. You then find yourself… back at Mamus.
That little trap-door dungeon appears randomly throughout the forest in your path to the southern reaches of the overworld. It’s extremely difficult to avoid it, so you’re constantly just sent back to the beginning to start the journey over. If you’re astute, you might notice that your protagonist learns to jump as they level up. This basically means that if you walk them into an obstacle (what kind of obstacle is seemingly arbitrary), they’ll leap over it for a set number of spaces. In the beginning, this allows you to take a shortcut over the water next to you, which is some sweet relief, however minor.
This doesn’t let you pass the pitfalls, though. I learned to get by them by going slightly north, then moving all the way to the East coast before heading south. There seems to be a shorter path where the trap doors happen.
You go South, and eventually find another dungeon. Within that dungeon, you finally get the second party member, Shiba, who can jump higher than your original party member, Minami. However, I’m a bit confused about how the doors work in that dungeon. If you exit the door you enter from, you emerge from the other side of a wall. If you then go back into the dungeon, you enter from a different door, and exiting from that puts you back where you started. I think that someone got the spawn points wrong, and then never fixed them.
So, that’s the first part of the game. In the second part, you start fighting more difficult enemies, and that kind of takes you back to square one, where you sometimes get into combat against enemies you can easily take, and other times you’re extremely outmatched. Plus, some of them can paralyze your characters, which you can’t heal until far later in the game. If you manage to win with your remaining party member, you can return to a healer, but they take damage for every step along the way and might die. In order to resurrect them, you need to brew a potion, take it to a different healer, and they’ll bring them back. Ugh, I feel frustrated just trying to explain it.
In the second area of the game, you quickly get your third party member, but you’re not done until you get the fourth. To do that, you have to talk to a few very specific people, and they’re all behind locked doors. The locked doors are just kind of incredible. You need a keycard to go through them, but that doesn’t just unlock the door. The keycard is immediately used up, so to pass through it again, you need another. If you’re just carrying one key and you enter an enclosed area, you become perpetually trapped. You have to save and load your game.
And that’s where I wouldn’t want to be playing Hoshi wo Miru Hito on original hardware. Saving just generates a password. That’s not out of line with how the original Japanese version of Dragon Quest saved. However, it starts you off with only a rough approximation of the gold and XP you saved and sends you back to Mamus. Not being able to easily save before going through a locked door would drive me insane. I would just straight up eat the cartridge before too long.
Not that my sanity was entirely safe. To get the keycards to just test a door, you have to buy them, and their prices are completely insane. You’re going to be hammering the save state button just so you don’t waste these precious cards. Even then, you’re still going to have to grind like a stripper for the money you need.
To give you a sense of how much grinding is in Hoshi wo Miru Hito, I initially planned on having this write-up done last week, but I needed more time so I could do more grinding.
It would take me a very long time to explain all the ways that combat is an excruciating chore. From the absolutely atrocious balancing, to the mess of a UI, I feel physically nauseous when I think back to playing it. It… it hurts.
If you can believe it, I actually played Hoshi wo Miru Hito to completion. After endless grinding and talking to random people for a while, you eventually go to the third area. There are, thankfully, a few tricks in this area that enable you to get through it a lot quicker.
You go into space, which is depicted as a few pieces of floating debris against a starry backdrop. But weirdly, you can just walk through empty space. I don’t mean jump, like you can over certain barriers and bodies of water. Your characters just straight up walk normally through the starfield. You can then bypass a lot of combat by walking on walls, and then it’s just a matter of trekking across Hell’s half-acre to talk to some porpoises.
Don’t worry about not being leveled up enough for some grand end-game encounter because there isn’t one. The finale of Hoshi wo Miru Hito gives you dialogue with three options, and then you’re just given an ending based on your selection. You literally just choose your ending.
There’s a lot more that can be said about Hoshi wo Miru Hito and just how horrendously awful it is, but this write-up is already a lot longer than I usually aim for. It’s just… incredible. The best thing I can say about the game is that the music didn’t make my ears bleed.
This is quite possibly the worst game I have ever played, and I’ve been writing a column on bad games for nearly three years. I own Action 52 on the NES, and while that collection of games is equally – if not more – inept, at least the pain is relatively short-lived. Ganso Saiyuuki Super Monkey Daibouken, Japan’s kyuukyoku no kusoge (ultimate crappy game), is at least compellingly terrible. Playing Hoshi wo Miru Hito was a mistake. It’s not just terrible; it’s designed to prolong your suffering. Any merit it may have is drowned out by the screams of its victims. I think it might violate international law.
It was recently ported and re-released on Switch, but only in Japan. Hopefully, we’ll get a localized version in the West, but for now, we can torture ourselves with the fan translation.