Steven Universe: Save the Light Review – A Shiny Little RPG
Based on the animated series Steven Universe, Steven Universe: Save the Light is a turn-based RPG by Grumpyface Studios that is so much more than a video game adaptation of a Cartoon Network show.
Before getting into the review, I want to quickly share the show’s premise just to give you some context for the game (don’t worry, no spoilers here). Created by animator Rebecca Sugar, the show is a coming-of-age story about a boy named Steven Universe and his family of magic aliens called the “Crystal Gems”, consisting of Pearl, Garnet, and Amethyst. Steven and the Crystal Gems frequently go on adventures to protect the Earth from Gem monsters and other malevolent Gems. Since its release, Steven Universe instantly made waves with audiences, myself included, becoming renowned for grappling with mature themes like LGBTQ relationships whilst simultaneously maintaining the lighthearted charm characteristic of any children’s show.
Steven Universe‘s massive popularity inevitably led to the production of other media like comics and video games, which is where Save the Light enters the picture. The game is a sequel to Steven Universe: Attack the Light, a mobile game that I never played because I don’t own an iOS or Android to play it on, but when Save the Light was revealed to be a console exclusive my interest in it began to stir. You don’t not have to play Attack the Light to understand the plot of Save the Light; as a matter of fact, Save the Light‘s opening cutscene summarizes the events of the previous game for you.The game begins with Steven and his best friend Connie playing with the Light Prism (an item from the first game) when it is suddenly stolen by a Gem named Hessonite. Now Steven, his friends, and the Crystal Gems must track her down in order to recover it.
Save the Light‘s gameplay mainly focuses on exploring and solving puzzles in colorful, lively environments. In addition, Steven can talk to other characters from the show who will give him side quests to complete. You’re not limited to playing as Steven either, you are free to switch control over to other characters in his party so you can use their abilities to solve puzzles, some of which are critical to progress. For example, Greg, Steven’s dad, can play his guitar in special locations to open pathways, and Garnet can use her massive gauntlets to obliterate large rocks to reveal new areas. I loved every part of the exploration in the game because there are always numerous routes to roam and loads of secrets to uncover.
The combat system is what really makes Save the Light shine (no pun intended) because it blends elements of both real-time and turn-based actions. During a battle, a star meter with a fixed number of points dictates the number of abilities that Steven and his party can use. Once the meter exhausts, the party cannot perform any more actions until it regenerates. The real-time parts of combat come into play when the party or enemies attack. When you attack an enemy, a yellow star will appear underneath them. If you hit the attack button right when the star appears, you will do normal damage, but if you hit the button right when it turns purple, you will do extra damage. The same rules apply for when you are defending against enemies. Pressing the attack button right before an enemy attack connects will let you block it, but if you press it right when the purple star appears, you will perform a perfect block that will restore some of the star meter. If all of these quick time button presses sound familiar to fans of a couple of Mario RPGs then it should because Save the Light‘s combat system draws a lot of inspiration from Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.
I loved how Grumpyface went the extra mile by giving this game more stylized graphics to distinguish it from the show. It makes the game stand on its own as an individual entity. Moreover, Save the Light draws influence from Paper Mario again in its art style, with 2D characters superimposed over 3D environments. All visual stuff aside, another big part of Save the Light‘s gameplay that I liked is relationship building. At certain points, you can have Steven say something in response to a situation which will in turn influence the approval of his party members. Relationships play an integral role in combat too. Whenever you perform a perfect attack or block, characters can compliment each other and build-up their relationship meter. Once the meter maxes out those characters can perform special team attacks during battle, which adds more spice to your ability repertoire.
The game does have one big problem that hinders it from being a strong game: glitches. Yes, a staple in almost all video game to certain degree has creeped its way into Save the Light as well. These glitches range from being minuscule to borderline game breaking. Some of the most frequent glitches I experienced during my playthrough was characters getting stuck on things and the music stopping for absolutely no reason. The biggest glitch I encountered occurred during a battle where the game wouldn’t let me do anything. I mashed all the buttons on my controller tirelessly until I finally gave up and quit, forcing me to explore the level I was in all over again. Another issue is that this is a Steven Universe game rife with references to specific episodes, which means that its appeal will mostly extend to people who have actually watched the show. Regardless of these setbacks, Save the Light is a well executed RPG that will certainly give Steven Universe fans plenty of satisfaction.