The long-running Star Ocean series has been playing on gamers’ consoles for 30 years. Ever since its introduction in 1996 on the Super Nintendo, there has been a steady release of titles over the years (nine in total, not including remakes or remasters) from acclaimed RPG makers Square Enix. Still, this year was probably one of their most impressive remakes, which comes in the form of Star Ocean: The Second Story R.
Immediately after I chose my character at the start of the game, my initial thoughts of what was presented before me was ‘WOW’. The graphics and art of this game really jumped out, showing a visually pleasing 2.5D presentation that mixes 2D-pixel characters and 3D environments. I was honestly taken aback by how fantastic it all looked. I had to jump back into the 2019 remaster of The First Departure R as I believed this was a sequel, ultimately it is, but the love and attention they gave to the overhauled graphics of Star Ocean: The Second Story R was completely different.
You start the game by selecting one of two characters, Claude C. Kenny or Rena Lanford. Depending on which protagonist you opt for you will ultimately get a different introduction to the story. The two characters are destined to meet up and interact with each other throughout your time in Star Ocean: The Second Story R, but there will be times when the two are separated, and you will play out a different scenario during these instances.
The story isn’t anything groundbreaking. Rena is a small-town girl from a planet threatened by chaos from something simply known as the Scorcher Globe, producing pure demonic energy causing earthquakes and cataclysms, turning the docile animals of the planet into fearsome monsters.
Claude is a Federation Agent and son of The First Departure’s main protagonist who is on a mission in space and is suddenly transported to another planet by accident, where he suddenly runs into and ultimately saves Rena from one of the previously mentioned ‘fearsome monsters’ with his laser gun.
After returning to the small town, you are heralded as the ‘Hero of Light’. It was foretold that when the lands were under the threat of impending doom, a hero would appear in garbs of foreign make. Well, Claude does seem to fit the description pretty closely. You then get a rundown of what’s going on and head off on your epic adventure.
Not to be outdone by the graphic overhaul, the soundtrack in Star Ocean: The Second Story R is a delight, with many different tunes to enjoy in each region and city you visit. It never gets stale. Well, that is apart from the battle sequences. This is where you will spend the majority of the game, too, so it would have been nice to mix this up a fair bit.
Combat itself is relatively simple, relying on four main moves: three attacks and a dodge button. This grants players the ability to chop and change to their delight as well as being able to switch to any character on the field with you. The many status effects and impressive moves you can perform are definitely a feast for your eyes, with varying explosions that will consume your screen.
Many of the battles will take place while travelling between towns or dungeons, where you will be confronted by many clouds. They were very easy encounters at the start, and it was common for me just to avoid them on my way to the next destination. This ended up being a colossal mistake on my part. There is a huge level spike once you enter a new region a few hours into the game, where it’s not uncommon to be surrounded by five clouds at a time and require you to battle them all out over five rounds (depending on how many are linked up to attack). It was then I realised that there would be a bit of grinding required to proceed in the overall story, which I wasn’t too thrilled about. One of the first dungeons I had to investigate took me just a bit over an hour to complete as you were required to go from one end of the cave to the other and back again, all along being swarmed by enemies.
Although I didn’t love the required grind, I have to admit one thing: when I started off on this epic quest, I was truly not prepared for the sheer depth and scale of what this game would be, considering this is a remaster of a PS1 game from over 20 years ago. While you will spend plenty of time in the menus of Star Ocean: The Second Story R, it is definitely the one part of the game you will want to pay the most attention to.
There are so many different options on how to level up your character. Not just basic levelling up of character skills, moves and weapons, but there are also specialty skills to improve upon, which not only bolster your stats but also level up your crafting, cooking, appraising skills and so forth. There are a good 20 or so to level up and then master. These not only improve your stats and skills but also play out as a side quest for guilds, as you will be required to craft and create so many things for extra resources, money and experience.
The overall experience I’ve enjoyed from Star Ocean: The Second Story is something I didn’t really expect. From the initial moment of its wow factor, from the stunning visuals to the easy-to-battle, hard-to-master combat and its near-flawless voice acting. I would put this in the category of must-play Star Ocean games.
STAR OCEAN: THE SECOND STORY R REVIEW
Star Ocean: The Second Story R reinvigorates a classic game with a beautiful blend of 2D and 3D graphics. While the game requires a bit too much grinding to progress in the story, the narrative and core gameplay make it all worthwhile. Square Enix has delivered one of their best remakes with Star Ocean: The Second Story R.
Combat is great once you understand the levelling system
Overall presentation of the world, characters and hand-drawn characters are beautiful
Music is great for most parts of the game
The characters are fun and well-voiced
Maybe need to spend too much time planning in the menus (if you don’t like that kind of thing)