Star Ocean is a series that has only just recently started to gain notoriety in the West. The first Star Ocean game was released for the Super Famicom in 1996. However, it never came to the US until it was remade on the PSP in 2008. The first Star Ocean that we got was its sequel, The Second Story, released in North America in 2000. One can only imagine how confusing it was to play a game called The Second Story and not be able to find the first story. Like the rest of the series, this game combines Science Fiction with Fantasy to tell a unique and unforgettable story.
Star Wars Meets Final Fantasy
When you start the game up, you are given a choice between two characters. The first character is a young Rookie in the Galactic Federation named Claude. The other is a young girl named Rena who lives on an underdeveloped planet and has mysterious healing powers. Regardless of who the player chooses, both characters’ stories meet up very quickly. A meteorite that the locals have begun calling the “Sorcery Globe” has crashed into Rena’s home planet of Expel. Claude and Rena are tasked with learning the origins of this mysterious object and why monsters began appearing after its arrival. The story is good, but very, very slow-paced and sometimes it seems like the characters are constantly getting distracted from their main goal. The slow pacing isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. It allows the player to spend a lot of time with these characters and get to know them.
Sci-Fi RPG Action
Like any other good JRPG, the gameplay is split into combat and exploring the world, towns, and dungeons. While most games of this type around this time were using turn-based combat, the Star Ocean series has always used real-time combat. While in combat, you take control of one character while AI controls the other three party members. You control your chosen protagonist by default, but you can change which character you control at any time. While you are in control of a character, you can freely move around the battle and attack or use spells abilities at any time. So, none of that old cliché where everyone is standing around and politely waiting for their turn to attack.
When your characters level up they are awarded SP which can be used to level up various skills. Leveling up a skill can have a wide variety of effects. These range from giving you new ways to create items, to changing the rate of random encounters. Many skills will also increase your character’s stats or how many experience points they’ll need to level up. You gain access to new skills by buying them in town. Once you buy a skill, all characters will have access to it. Once you buy enough skills, each character can be completely customized to the player’s heart’s content.
2D Graphics In 3D Space
While exploring the world map, when you approach a town you’ll see a prompt to enter a “private action”. During these private actions, the party will enter the town and split up. This will give the player a chance to interact with the characters in ways that will have an effect on their relationships with each other. This also allows the characters to interact with each other outside of the context of the main narrative and sort of just be themselves for a little bit. Much like the slow pacing of the main narrative, this allows the player even more chance to get to know the characters.
The PS1 is known for revolutionizing 3D graphics, but Star Ocean: The Second Story goes for a different approach. Much like how the story combines Sci-Fi and Fantasy, the graphics combine 3D environments with 2D character sprites. This combination has aged much better than most fully 3D games on the console, and it still looks decent by today’s standards. The soundtrack by Motoi Sakuraba, who also did the music for the Tales series, Golden Sun and Dark Souls also stands the test of time. The progressive rock sound really takes advantage of the PS1’s newfangled CD technology that they keep saying is going to be the new hotness for video games someday.
VIBE Score 7/10
Star Ocean: The Second Story is often considered to be the best in the series. The action-based combat is a nice change of pace from the usual turn-based combat that other JRPGs around this time were using. However, it does have one problem that many other JRPGs have, it is very heavy on grinding. Progressing through the story becomes a pattern of sitting through a bunch of exposition, then grinding out a few levels to prepare for the next dungeon. In addition to that, many of the dialogue scenes go on for way too long to the point where they become boring, and the story takes so many detours that it’s easy to forget what you’re trying to achieve. At the end of the day though, it is still a very well-made JRPG and it is still worth playing through.
32, living in Arizona with a passion for video games, music and movies.