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Star Ocean

Developer: Tri-Ace | Publisher: Enix
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 05/31/99 | Genre: RPG

Star Ocean: The Second Story is Enix's long-awaited sequel to the their elusive Super Famicom title, Star Ocean. Although I know little about this game's predecessor, the follow-up has easily made a name for itself as one of the most unique RPG's on the Playstation.

You can begin the game with either a precocious young explorer or a curious female mage. The explorer, Crawd, hails from a futuristic dimension where laser guns are common place and people fill their vehicles up with plutonium. The latter hero, Rena, is just a down-home country gal with the ambition to see the world. Each character's story is unique yet closely related. You actually meet up with each other during the game. From here you follow a pretty nondescript RPG storyline, but it's the execution of the game that deserves kudos.

16-bit in nature, like Saga Frontier and Tales of Destiny, Star Ocean: The Second Story may seem a bit aesthetically dated. It wonderfully blends in and utilizes 32-bit techniques like pre-rendered backgrounds, ala Final Fantasy VII, and detailed lighting effects. The game looks great, and the little nuances like reflections and interactive background elements totally immerse you into the game.

The battle system is innovative and fun. Melees pan out across a huge fully polygonal backdrop with sprite based characters on the screen. You fight in real time using three battle styles: Standard, Semi-active, and Full-active for beginners, intermediate, and experienced players, respectively. You then proceed to bombard the enemies with a fine medley of attacks, Specialty Attacks, and Super Specialty Attacks. Battles go by quickly to eschew tedium, and the special effects are varied and stunning for a deceptively 16-bit looking game.

Along with being able to customize you Specialty Attacks, creating items, learning skills, cooking, making machines, and fashioning weapons are a handful of the other things you can do. Much of the game is spent tweaking with the skill system. Every character has certain innate abilities, and you must teach them skills that would best suit their talents. Teach the person who is good at discerning taste how to cook, while making the person whom is animal-friendly your familiar caller.

Star Ocean: The Second Story is replete with extraneous events. Not only can you pick and choose your surplus party members, which in turn effects one of the game's 86 different endings [you heard me, nigh 90 different conclusions, but you can go on numerous side quests as well to improve your emotional rating with your teammates. Later on in the game there is an arena zone of sorts that lest you battle up a ladder of 50 enemies, increasing in difficulty in each rung. These sorts of goodies make playing the 60+ hours long adventure all worth while.

My main gripe with Star Ocean: The Second Story is the writing. Many of the lines are trite, abstruse, or just plain pointless. Since an RPG really is like an interactive novel, this is unfortunately quite an egregious design flaw. Other than that, the game is fun to play and should keep you busy for a while.

By Ira Humphrey - 08/08/00
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Screenshots for Star Ocean

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