The PlayStation 1 period was brimming with JRPG gems within the Nineteen Nineties. Whereas Remaining Fantasy or Chrono Set off stole the present, different franchises introduced novel concepts. Star Ocean: The Second Story R might intimidate gamers, but it surely’s an sufficient contribution to the ’90s JRPG legacy as famous in my evaluation.
Ensign’s Log: House Date 366
It’s practically 20 years after the story of the unique Star Ocean, the place we’re dropped at a quasi 32-bit, HD-2D rendition (developed by Gemdrops) of the sequel. It’s the second mainline entry within the spacefaring science fantasy motion role-playing sport franchise that emerged because the brainchild of former Wolf Crew devs. This story follows twin protagonists Claude and Rena when the previous winds up on the latter’s planet, Expel, amid an rising monster disaster attributable to the mysterious Sorcery Globe.
So far as JRPGs go, it’s fairly customary, and for followers of old-school ‘Tales Of’ video games, you’ll be happy. That’s no shock given the builders had a hand in Tales of Phantasia, but it surely helps boost the battle system and maintain it from feeling too just like the plethora of turn-based JRPGs of this period.
You get an assortment of recruitable allies with branching paths resulting in completely different characters in every playthrough. Every has a fairly attention-grabbing persona, however they’re doomed to be supporting characters with out a lot bearing on the plot, save for a couple of exceptions. All in all, that is fairly customary, with solely a handful of by-product characters (Summary is actually Lucca from Chrono Set off whenever you meet her). In distinction, some facet characters are absolute standouts like Ashton.
However the place it feels actually by-product is in its setting and sci-fi subgenre. The sport units such an annoying first impression as ‘weeb Star Trek‘ to the purpose of the sport reciting the “last frontier” monologue at the beginning. It’s not till later that it finds its footing, however you possibly can see the parallels, with Claude’s father an admiral of the Pangalactic Federation, a “House Date” calendar, and a transparent reference to the Prime Directive as examples.
However I digress: I like Star Trek, and seeing this as a playable JRPG is a promoting level, all the way down to you being despatched to a extra primitive planet solely to find an rising, universal-scope plot beneath the floor.
To Say You Have No Alternative is a Failure of the Creativeness
One in every of Star Ocean: The Second Story R’s strengths which it retains from the originals is the liberty it offers you to construct your characters up, stat-by-stat. I wished to expertise the fruits of this within the purest type, by cranking the battle problem to ‘Universe’ from the beginning, to see how shortly I might adapt.
You degree up like in some other JRPG, however you additionally achieve SP and BP permitting you to customise talents like merchandise creation and overworld interactions together with summoning touring birds who do your looking for you and enhancing expertise level yields from battle.
It’s an influence gamer’s dream, and it feels empowering when issues click on for you and also you’re capable of basically ‘soft-break’ the sport. When gamers would run into tough conditions in JRPGs, the everyday go-to reply is to grind till you’re over-leveled.
Whereas this reply doesn’t change at its core for Second Story R, you’re not pressured to grind with out making the grind yield superior outcomes. To say you haven’t any alternative is a failure of the creativeness, as Jean-Luc Picard would say. Make investments your SP rigorously, chain your battles, and watch out which fight expertise you give characters. However whenever you’ve carried out all the pieces proper, and also you’re seeing a stream of expertise always activating mid-encounter and enemies buckle to your may, this sport can really feel mighty rewarding, such as you’ve solved the puzzle to unlock limitless energy.
To Be Alive is a Accountability as Nicely as a Proper
A lot of the plot focuses on the world of Expel as they struggle again the approaching tides of monster threats. Nonetheless, as you strategy the top of this preliminary plot, your world is opened up and issues turn out to be extra attention-grabbing, with a society so superior they wield the facility to inflict and even halt entropy. It’s fairly cool, and whereas it presents dated real-world hypotheses just like the Large Crunch, it feels plausible, and the notion of villains who would twist that to their means is intimidating.
Nonetheless, these plots have been explored earlier than, and even simply lately on the time. The principle characters combating again in opposition to a menacing, extremely highly effective foe posing an existential risk to their world as an idea is thrilling however generic.
What Second Story R brings to the desk is how its explicit characters modify to the story, equivalent to Claude strolling out from behind his father’s shadow and self-actualizing as a hero and defender of life. To be alive is a duty in addition to a proper, as Picard would say. You wish to root for these characters struggling to guard their dwelling and, particularly in heartbreaking moments equivalent to how Rena finds out about her previous.
Story-wise it doesn’t discover too many novel concepts, but it surely feels extra cerebral than lots of Sq. Enix properties these days. It’s loaded with previous science fiction chestnuts like universe-spanning empires and explores narratives and themes like coming-of-age and finishing up your
It’s Attainable to Commit No Errors and Nonetheless Lose
One of many greatest points I’ve with the sport is the absurd, nearly merciless depth it might probably deal with gamers who aren’t prepared for battle challenges. That’s not even going into the nonsense that’s the last boss battle’s infinite, fast chain of apocalyptic-scale spellcasting. I’m speaking about even easy issues like going into an enviornment battle, being given a handful of berries, and getting paralyzed and stunlocked into oblivion with no warning. It’s potential to commit no errors and nonetheless lose.
However to that finish, whenever you overcome these challenges, the excessive is tough to place into phrases. I spent 80 hours on this sport absorbing the range of talent and crafting choices, being excited by how way more enjoyable grinding is on this whenever you get snug with Scouting/Coaching battle-chaining. There’s quite a bit to love in case you’re a hardcore participant, however for individuals who wish to take pleasure in this for the story, informal gamers will really feel overlooked of an admittedly considerably difficult system.
The Endings Are the Greatest Difficulty
So I completed a playthrough feeling empowered and like I’d solved the sport, and skilled a couple of of the promised 99 endings and I used to be instantly disturbed. The friendship scores you construct up can lead to romantic relationships, and in case you don’t plan or prune development for sure characters, it might probably create some bizarre pairings. The primary one I noticed after I beat the sport backpedaled from outright being a sexual relationship, to as an alternative being a creepy one which feels quite a bit like grooming.
The endings are the sport’s greatest difficulty and instantly soured my satisfaction upon beating the sport. Think about you get your characters to bond so nicely that an 18-year-old and a 12-year-old baby get collectively accidentally, and no quantity of different cute pairings (Ashton and Summary was an enormous win) would win me over. The truth is, within the later phases of the sport, an NPC straight mentions age variations and the way they shouldn’t cease individuals from getting collectively. It’s bizarre, and creepy, and is continually current as the sport’s plot typically circles again to sure characters’ chemistry.
Star Ocean: The Second Story R is a product of its time as each a hardcore-adjacent PS1-era JRPG and as a bunch to a number of problematic romance mechanics. Its plot is thrilling but generic and is wildly insistent about how sure characters ought to find yourself collectively. However past that, you’ll discover a sensible and modular character stat-building system, wonderful battles, some fabulous character portrait artwork, and an exquisite 32-bit-inspired world so that you can discover.
– This text was up to date on November twentieth, 2023