Star Ocean The Second Story
|a game by||Program Ace|
|Editor Rating:||8/10, based on 3 reviews|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
|Rate this game:|
Second Story is Enix's 32-Bit followup to their popular Super Famicom RPG, Star Ocean. Developed by tri-Ace (the developers of Namco's Tales of Phantasia, the prequel to Tales of Destiny), Star Ocean 2 is somewhat of a departure from the first title.
At the start of the game you select one of two characters: Crawd or Rena, and depending on who you choose, the story begins in separate locations. Your choice only affects the direction of the story line though, since you ultimately meet up anyway and progress together throughout the game. Marking Enix's first major RPG undertaking since the last Dragon Quest, SO: Second Story represents a testing ground of sorts, and it shows.
16-Bit in nature, but 32-Bit in execution, Second Story is a conservative step forward in RP6 gaming that comes across like a combination of Grandia and SaGa Frontier. The backgrounds in the game are prerendered (like SaGa Frontier), while the characters are all sprite-based. Unlike SaGa Frontier however, the citizens of Star Ocean 2 actually blend well with their environments. Little touches such as seeing your reflection on smooth surfaces (like water) or having your character become darker whenever he/she walks through shady areas are very cool. Battle scenes, on the other hand, switch to a fully polygonal backdrop where the sprite-based characters duke it out in real time. Depending on your familiarity with Star Ocean, you can choose from one of three different settings during battle: Standard, Semi-active or Full-active. Standard is for those who are new to the series, since the battles are fairly fast-paced, while Semi-active and Full-active are for gamers who want more control over every aspect of the battles.
During battle scenes, players can choose Specialty Attacks which are learned during the course of the game. Once you have multiple characters in your party (which can number up to eight, with four on the battlefield at once), you can combine specials to create a Super Specialty. Other cool features in the game are things like: Item creation, Skill learning (which, after learning an appropriate amount of Skills, can then be combined to acquire Specialties) and more.
Already released in Japan, a number of publishers are rumored to be interested in bringing Star Ocean: SS to the States, and reportedly a deal is being finalized as we write this. With Dragon Quest VII looming over the horizon, it would certainly be a good place to start.
Download Star Ocean The Second Story
It may look traditional and cutesy, but this sequel to a Super Famicom classic is actually a complex and rewarding RPG. For starters, your characters can learn an enormous variety of Skills--everything from cooking to machinery operation--and you can tweak these talents to build Super Skills only two characters can wield together. By honing your machine-building skill, for instance, you can supposedly create all 300 items in the game (although this is the trickiest skill to use). Star Ocean also includes an in-depth character-interaction system. By engaging in "Private Actions," your characters can either bond or build grudges and thus react to each other differently on the battlefield. You even have the option of playing as one of two characters, which determines who will join your party during the game (this feature doesn't change the game enough to make it worth playing through the so-hour quest a second time). Star Ocean also scores points for being non-llnear, although battles can get frustrating if you play the game too out of order. Combat itself Is innovative--even fun-if you switch it to full real-time mode. Above all, this stunning RPG Is packed with odd items to collect and more than a few cool plot twists. At one point I thought I'd reached the end, only to find the game was barely half over.
Even though I'm giving Star Ocean the same score as Lunar, I like it for entirely different reasons. Star Ocean's got a lot more going for it in terms of game-play (Item Creation, Private Actions, etc.) and the music is just fantastic. One of the best RPG soundtracks I've ever heard. On the downside, the writing is awful. How hard is it to get some talented writers? If you play this after Lunar, you'll really see what I mean. Otherwise though, a great RPG.
Star Ocean offers the full laundry list of things I like in an RPG: great music, a lengthy quest, rich graphics (even if the characters are a bit cutesy for my tastes), and quite a few plot twists. And then it goes beyond the call of duty with its complex character skills system and item-creation options. You get a lot of room to tweak your party. It even eschews the linear story line of most RPGs, giving you freedom to visit many towns in any order you wish.
This gamers initial sci-fi setting got me excited at first, since I crave RPGs that avoid typical fantasy-land locales. But--too bad--it turns out much of the quest is set in a traditional swords-and-spells world. No big deal, because Star Ocean is a polished RPG distinguished by its deep combat and character-development systems. The multiple paths and option to play as two different characters almost made me want to beat the game twice.
Enix, the legendary RPG developer of the Dragon Quest series, hasn't been a presence in the States for several/ears. Will its Star Ocean: The Second Story float in the U.S., or sink like Leonardo DiCaprio? Depends on what kind of RPG gamer you are.
Swimming in Star
Star Ocean lets you play as one of two main characters, Claude or Rena (both stories intertwine)--along the way, you'll flirt with your companions, unravel Rena's heritage, deal with Claude's paternal issues, and search for a mystical object called the Sorcery Globe. You'll even learn skills such as cooking and weapon design, and craft your own equipment To make the story even more interesting "Private actions" or personality-defining moments, pop up along the way, helping determine which of the game's 80 possible endings you'll see. With its intriguing multilayered characters and genuinely surprising plot developments, SO is truly an epic quest.
Beauty or Brains?
Star Ocean won't appeal to everyone, however: RPGers who revel in the mind-boggling visual stylings of Final Fantasy or Parasite Eve will be disap pointed by SOs awkward combination of blandly textured polygons and super-deformed, pre-rendered characters. The squat, misshapen bad guys never convey a serious threat, and the battles shine only during uses of advanced magic. Luckily, SO's very impressive full-motion video cut-scenes will remind you that this is indeed a 32-bit game.
Psst...wanna hear a stinker? Crank-up SO s audio. The hideous character voices are melodramatic, repetitive, and sound like they were recorded through a seashell, while the disappointing score is overly familiar and bland. There's v nothing but pain from them thar speakers, so turn the volume off.
Fortunately, SO delivers solid gameplay on the shoulders of its dubious audio/visual package. User friendly menus put a humongous inventory at your disposal, while the unique battle system offers three levels between turn-based and real-time fighting. The interface's only stumbling point is its lack of directional indicators on the world map--the spinning camera will leave you guessing which way is north and which way is south.
Although it's far from perfect, Star Ocean: The Second Story is a remarkably expansive game with a complex, immersive plot and highly compelling characters. RPG gamers big on technical flair will see this as a dud, but story-driven players will have found their vehicle en route to Final Fantasy VIII.
- In Alen's mansion, look for an item in this library that will reveal Rena's hidden location.
- Make sure to investigate Cross Castle thoroughly-there are weapons, armor, money, and a new ally to be found!
- The Heraldry Forest Is an extremely tough siege-make absolutely sure you're stocked up on blueberries and blackberries!
- You'll find the blue-haired boy near the warehouse in the center of the port town.
- In the Cross Caves, be prepared for danger striking from above-when you enter the star chamber, make sure Celine's attack strategy is to use Heraldry.
- When charting potentially dangerous territory, stick to the main roads on the world map.
- Rena's healing powers are very important early on-make sure her magic points are always stocked up when heading toward danger.
Star Ocean's stubby pre-rendered characters, goofy polygonal outdoor environments, and overly cartoonish bad guys are hardly eye candy, but some highly detailed areas and impressive cut-scenes keep this buoy afloat.
The strange, overlapping battle dialogue sounds terrible and gets mind-numbingly repetitive, while the boring score plays on and on and on. Because most of the dialogue is conveyed through onscreen text, you may prefer to play with the sound off.
The real-time battle system is easy enough to learn, and navigating through the onscreen menus is a snap--even the cut-scenes take excellent advantage of the dual shock controller. But why aren't there directional pointers on the map to show you where you're going?
Star Ocean succeeds on the strength of its compelling characters and a winding plot that makes you feel like you've entered a real world. There are some confusing navigational elements, however, and the audio/visual package is a disappointing mess.