We Are the Crystal Gems
Steven Universe is one of the most popular cartoons on the air right now, boasting a dedicated fanbase and a strong team of writers and artists. It’s a show that was inspired by the look of games like Yoshi’s Island and references others like Final Fantasy VII. With how much respect the show pays to video games, it’s important that a video game adaptation be well-made.
Steven Universe: Save the Light is a sequel to the mobile game, Steven Universe: Attack the Light. It’s been out on other consoles for a while and has now found itself on the Nintendo Switch. Is this the game Steven Universe fans have been waiting for?
We’ll Always Save the Day
I want to stress that, right from the start, it’s clear that the developers behind Steven Universe: Save the Light have a clear love for the show. Everything from the locations to the characters are on point. All of the voice actors return to their roles for the game, and the writing is everything you’d expect from the show. Even the dialogue that appears in text boxes sounds exactly like something Greg or Amethyst would say.
The same can be said for the story. Continuing the events of the previous game, the mysterious Prism has now been captured by a powerful Gem called Hessonite, and it’s up to the Crystal Gems to save it. The way the Gems have to travel to other strange locations looking for Hessonite and fighting all sorts of monsters along the way feels like the kind of episode one would see in the show.
The environments in the game are given a similar level of care. Everything from a fully explorable Beach City to the Strawberry Battlefield is recreated with grace. I was stunned when I took the first steps out of Steven’s house and onto the beach. Recreated with a simple yet gorgeous art style, some of those locations felt amazing. They looked like they were ripped straight from the show and feel properly scaled. Other environments, though, like the ice and forest worlds, don’t feel all that unique, but that’s mostly because they’re based on generic environments. They were bland and mostly blended together.
Surprisingly, the only area that didn’t fully win me over was the soundtrack. Some of the tunes were good, but there were plenty that just fell flat. The opening theme and credits song are probably the best in the whole game, but they were the minority.
And If You Think We Can’t
Most games based on children’s shows aren’t very good. The property is placed above game design, and the result is a bland attempt at cashing in on a franchise. That’s not quite the case with Steven Universe: Save the Light. After playing through the entire game, it’s clear that the developers set out to not only make something that paid proper respect to its source material, but to make a good game. Having played all sorts of cartoon games before that disappointed me, I was impressed with how solid the mechanics of Save the Light were.
The game structures itself as a real-time RPG. Players use Steven and up to three other characters including Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, Connie, Greg, and Peridot in a series of worlds that offer exploration and plenty of battles. Each character has their own strengths, weaknesses, and unique abilities, and I found it fun to mix and match which ones worked best with each other. Steven has a defensive support character while Pearl was the attack-heavy glass cannon. Each character was built with a certain playstyle in mind, and that amount of care is something I respected.
What was fun about the battling in the game is that there were plenty of options. Each character learned multiple moves, Steven had full access to items in his Cheeseburger Backpack, and then there are team-up attacks for every pair of characters. The success of each battle depends on how well you utilize your Star Points to distribute with each attack. It brought a level of pleasing strategy to each fight that I didn’t think I would’ve found in the game. I was constantly learning new ways of using my party’s attacks, and it was a pure joy to get a rhythm going.
On that note, I will point out that the game wasn’t totally balanced. Some characters were objectively better than others, and the Fusion team-up attacks were far superior to anything else.
That said, every part of the battles is given a strong level of detail that the rest of the game had. Steven and Greg can play their instruments to support other characters in battle. As they play, the soundtrack adds whatever instrument to its current arrangement. Pearl has her Holo Pearls at her side and Amethyst can shapeshift in her attacks. Fans of the show are certain to love all the references hidden in the game.
We Always Find a Way
Now that I’ve addressed where Steven Universe: Save the Light shines, I have to address the elephant in the room: the game isn’t polished. I’m not talking minor complaints either. The game was full of several glitches that practically ruined some of the game. One boss glitched the sound until I rebooted the game, characters would constantly clip through boundaries, and even the final battle suffered a glitch that nearly broke the whole fight.
Honestly, Save the Light is a contradictory game. On one hand, the developers seemed to take a lot of care to ensure that everything was well-designed while properly referencing the show. On the other, there seems to have been a lack of testing, which leads me to believe that the game was rushed for a release. I’m aware that the game had several glitches on other consoles when it first released, so it’s disappointing that the developers wouldn’t take the time to fix those bugs before its re-release on the Nintendo Switch.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Steven Universe: Save the Light was provided by Sandbox Strategies.