Living the life… Review

Star Ocean Info

genre

  • N/A

players

  • 1 - 1

Publisher

  • Sony

Developer

  • N/A

Release Date

  • 12/31/1969
  • Out Now

Platform

  • PS

rating

Living the life…

It would be great to live in a RPG. Everyday I’d be on some “hero’s journey”

– falling in love, collecting money from slain enemies, saving the world, and

stealing from the local villagers. Normally, you would think that in order to

keep something safe, the best place to keep it would be in a safe or a chest.

Well, that just makes it easier for me to steal. And if they don’t like it,

I just won’t save their world. Take that, ungrateful townfolk!

Of course, I would never

do that in real life, as I wouldn’t be able to handle the prison time. So, playing

RPG’s like Star Ocean will have to do.

Star Ocean is a multi-tiered game. You experience the story through

one of two characters: Claude or Rena. Through an intervention of fate, these

two cross paths to set the stage for the story.

Claude is the son of Ronixis Kenni, a famous admiral. On an exploration mission,

Claude accidentally activates a portal that transports him to another world.

This other world is Rena’s homeworld. She’s an orphan with strange healing powers,

trying to find the truth about her past. In this world, the presence of evil

has grown, and it becomes your task to find out what’s behind it.

For those wondering why it’s Star Ocean The Second Story, here’s

the deal. Ronixis was the hero of the first Star Ocean game released

on the Super Famicom in Japan, but not in America. While there are references

to the first game, it isn’t that important.

When you begin, your immediate goals are unclear. There are plenty of deviants

and tangents to your quest. Options arise that let you choose to accomplish

other things, like recruiting new members to your party or perform “Dragon exorcism"

(you’ll see…).

The story starts out great, but it begins to fizzle out after the second disk,

focusing less on character development and more on generic RPG archetypes. The

clearest sign of the game losing its cohesiveness is the lengthy plot synopsis

right when you get to the second disk. From there, your objectives proceed more

linearly.

Before you begin the game, you have your choice of three play modes: turn-based,

real-time action, or a mix of the two. Having tried them all, I suggest going

for real time. It’s a good change of pace from the traditional turn based affair,

with a style somewhat close to The Secret of Manna. Once battle starts,

you control one character out of your party. You can then freely move around

the battle plane, using either a basic or stronger attack. There are also spells

at your disposal, but unless the character is a strong magic user, it’s easier

to whittle the enemy down with the weak attacks.

The other members of your party are computer controlled, but you can switch

to them or set them to fight a certain way. In some of the early action scenes,

you can simply switch to Rena (the consummate healer of this RPG) and simply

have her heal up the other characters, letting the computer control the dirty

work. Later on, it takes more skill and level building to get through battles.

There also some pre-battle strategy, such as spells to set and formations to

plan. Once you have it down, it’s a lot of fun.

Unique to this game is the Private Action command. At certain times when you

approach a city, you can select to split off as individual members. Then, depending

on whether you chose Rena or Claude, you proceed to wander the city by yourself.

Sometimes you get to talk one on one with another member of your party. Sometimes

there’s some mini-task for you to accomplish. The strength of this feature is

that it allows for character development that would seem too muddled if you

were still playing as a big group. It’s also the factor that determines how

many of the 80 possibles endings will show up at the end. The only awkward

part to this is having to exit and re-enter the cities in order to bring your

party back together.

The backgrounds in Star

Ocean
are stunningly beautiful, bringing back memories of an age before

polygons. The overworld map is polygonal and looks out of place in contrast

to these backgrounds. Character designs are well done; each character’s personality

resonates in their drawn images. Unfortunately, your character appears too damn

small. While it does have that 8 bit charm, it’s a bit cheesy in this day and

age. I’d like to see the character take up fat screen space.

Another gripe is the tendency to reuse graphics. Hotel rooms and castle staircases

(among others things) all look the same. The number of general character images

also seems somewhat limited. At one point, you find yourself on another planet.

Yet this “other” planet has the same familiar enemies but with a different color

scheme. Ooohh, fancy.

The animated cut scenes feel lifeless. While it works in the opening, the

other FMVs look dead. When an eathquake and a tsunami are going to destroy a

town, I want to see little anime characters running in abject terror, wetting

their pants, and screaming for their lives. All I got were buildings tumbling

down.

I haven’t heard music that I’ve liked this much in a long time. Most of the

Village themes have this great ballad quality to them. In moments where the

music needs to establish the drama, the game delivers. However, the battle music

falls somewhat short of the other music; it seems too run of the mill, with

a repeated set of tones and beats. And then there are the voices, which are

lousy. I supppose there’s something about mismatched sounds yelled out while

fighting that adds more to the old school charm, but this is pushing it.

Star Ocean looks to be the best of the summer RPGs (among Lunar

and Shadow Madness). While it doesn’t provide the graphical flash of

Final Fantasy 8, it delivers a different graphical beauty that feels

warmer than the all too familiar polygonal experience. It’s got a good story

that sadly weakens at the end; though there’s just enough steam left to get

you through. However, whether you’d want to replay 30-35 hours of it again just

for a slightly different ending scene is doubtful. While not the perfect RPG

I’ve been waiting for, it’s not a bad choice.

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

3.5
Rating
Beautiful backgrounds
Great music
First half of the story
Second half of the story
Tiny character graphics
The voices! The voices!