Star Ocean: The Second Story R Video Game Review - A Galactic Odyssey Reimagined

Star Ocean: The Second Story R Video Game Review - A Galactic Odyssey Reimagined

PlayStation was a console with a very extensive catalog that lovingly received great exponents of the RPG genre. The best example is Final Fantasy VII , which put Japanese role-playing games on the map, however, there are other success stories that went unnoticed on this side of the planet. Vagrant Story , Xenogears and The Legend of Dragoon are an example of JRPGs that became cult due to their great quality. In this list we can also include Star Ocean: The Second Story , a title developed by tri-Ace in 1998 that combined 3D environments with 2D sprites and a combat system focused on action.

The technical section of this space adventure was not outstanding; in fact, it looked somewhat lagging compared to other games of the time. It seemed that with a little more work, we could finally see the true potential of this RPG, hope reached the hearts of fans with a second version for PlayStation 3, PSP, PlayStation 4 and PSVita with some improvements. It was not until the arrival of Star Ocean: The Second Story R that this tri-Ace gem finally reached the quality it deserves. In this review I tell you how this Remake turned a JRPG condemned to oblivion into a modern classic that you should play.

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2 Stories That Come Together

It all begins when the protagonist, Claude C. Kenny, is on a reconnaissance mission alongside his father, the Galactic Federation officer. On their journey they encounter an abandoned device that activates unexpectedly, transporting Claude to an unknown location. In this new scenario he will meet Rena, a young woman with a mysterious origin who awaits the arrival of the Adalid, a legendary hero who will save the planet from her.

If you are familiar with anime and its genres, you have probably noticed that it is an isekai, that is, the story of a character who becomes a hero in unknown lands. For this reason, while playing Star Ocean: The Second Story R you will notice many recurring elements of Japanese animation; as well-defined character archetypes; predictable situations and linear development. Despite this, the hero's journey is bearable and it helps that you can explore it from Rena and Claude's perspective.

This is told throughout a classic JRPG where we will have to go from point A to point B while we find out the evil that afflicts humanity and solve problems for the inhabitants of each town. Up to this point, there are few surprises because the original experience remains intact and is a full-fledged old-school RPG.

Star Ocean: The Second Story R Video Game Review - A Galactic Odyssey Reimagined

The magic of Star Ocean: The Second Story R is in its characters, who in addition to being very charismatic develop bonds between them through different interactions. These dialogues are part of the main story but there are moments that you must discover to know them better. They are called personal events and you will have to activate them in each town you visit, so you can unlock short missions where you can get to know the rest of your companions better. This way you will be able to know the origin of Rena and Claude; you will be the protagonist of love triangles; you will see confusions that lead to funny situations; You will witness some rivalries and some of your companions will open their hearts to reveal their secrets to you. This gives a special touch to the narrative, since even though the story has a slow start and its development is flat, there are segments that enrich the game and make it more entertaining.

I recommend returning to the places you previously visited when you have new characters. This way you can unlock new events and, in the process, you can strengthen your friendship with your travel companions. You will even find new allies to join your adventure.

Old School In Modern Times

Star Ocean: The Second Story R is a lesson in how a relaunch should be done. In addition to fulfilling the objective of making a game from more than 20 years ago available to us, it adds everything it needed and more. To begin with, the graphic retouching goes beyond a format change because it was practically rebuilt. This gives it a look similar to what we've seen in Octopath Traveler or Triangle Strategy in a 2.5D perspective world. The retouching work is to be applauded as it puts it at the level of these new classics. The improvements are evident in details such as lighting, which is variable. It is also noticeable in the sprites of the characters, the movement of the vegetation and the textures that may seem simple but do their job. The combat was also improved, now everything is more fluid but I will detail that later.

What surprised me the most was that the Gemdrops team carefully and carefully studied the original version and added everything that was missing. The biggest change was the aesthetic part but they also modified the interface to make it more functional and clean. Moving through menus in and out of battle is easier, there's also a fast travel option when visiting new locations, and random combat has been eliminated. All of this together changes the experience completely and makes us believe that this is a completely new game.

Star Ocean: The Second Story R Video Game Review - A Galactic Odyssey Reimagined

As if that were not enough, Star Ocean: The Second Story R includes voices in English and Japanese with the option to choose different versions. You can also choose a language, fortunately it includes subtitles so you can understand all the details of the story without problems. Another minor aspect but that I thought was a good detail is that you can change the illustrations that identify the characters. You can use the new designs or the anime-like look of the original game. The intention is that you can choose the option that you like the most.

In the case of the music (which, by the way, is very good), you can choose between arranged versions or the original pieces. Both options are a delight because they combine a sci-fi space atmosphere with the fantasy feel of an epic adventure.

Preparations Before Battle

You should know that Star Ocean: The Second Story R has a very extensive improvement system in which you will have to distribute points. By assigning the necessary points you will gain important advantages that will affect each character actively or passively. If you play your cards well, the game can be made easier because your characters will increase their hitting power. For example, there is a section of traits, the first of which is determination and by developing it you will spend fewer points to improve other sections. In my case I chose to do this and improve Effort which reduces the experience needed to level up. In addition to this, by developing the right parameters you will be able to obtain specialties with even better benefits. This is how I got Training, a trait that when activated reduces damage, defense and other statistics to gain even more experience. As a result I was able to climb about 20 levels in 10 or 15 minutes.

There is a long list of options, all of them are very different from each other. At first, having so much to do may seem overwhelming, but it is advisable to take a few minutes to understand each of the possibilities. The dangerous part is that if you get the rhythm, the game can become very easy. This is reflected in battles, where you can do monstrous damage by combining very powerful upgrades, weapons and spells. Not to mention that there are also new characters that will help you in battle with a special attack. They are warriors that you will recognize as heroes from other titles in the franchise. Without a doubt, a good detail for Star Ocean fans .

And speaking of battles, these occur in an active combat system where you will have freedom of movement through a limited scenario. You will be able to attack, cast spells or use different skills with the aim of breaking the opponent's 5 shields so that you can punish them while they are stunned. That can also happen to you if you get careless and enemies interrupt your attacks. You still have the option to dodge attacks and gain advantage by pressing a button at the right time in response to an attack. This system doesn't work at all as sometimes your character will circle around the opponent and move erratically. I also had bad times when when I pressed the button correctly, my character just passed by without gaining any advantage. Noticing this I preferred to be 100% offensive and destroy my enemies as quickly as possible without dodging.

Star Ocean: The Second Story R Video Game Review - A Galactic Odyssey Reimagined

In addition to trusting Claude and the edge of his sword, there is also the option to change characters. This system is agile and gives us more options by having a healer, a sorcerer or a character who throws projectiles. This sounds good, but the truth is that you can finish the game with the protagonist. I concentrated my attacks on a single target at a time while the computer supported me. This worked for me throughout the game, although sometimes the artificial intelligence decided to go to rest and leave everything in my hands. At first this was a headache because my characters were weak and some opponents were very strong.

The power of the enemies is another important issue, because most of them function as cannon fodder but will suddenly surprise you with deadly attacks. In some cases, I was in the middle of a battle when suddenly a rash on the floor came out of nowhere and shattered me. I took control of another character just to use a resurrection item and move on. There were also some moments where 2 enemies surrounded me and used me as a punching bag until they drained my life completely. Both of them seemed weak, but using this strategy caused them to completely destroy me. These situations usually occur if you leave certain enemies alive, so you necessarily have to rush after them at the start of the battle.

I was surprised by how variable the difficulty can be, as at times you feel like the mightiest warrior in the galaxy, while at other times you'll be staring at the screen helplessly. There were times where I took out some bosses in seconds, and others where I used loads of potions to try to salvage a losing battle with seemingly weak opponents. Keep in mind that you can choose the difficulty when you start playing, but there are several factors that can affect your gaming experience.

A World Of Distractions

Like any good JRPG, you will have to spend many hours to finish the main story although quality of life improvements reduce downtime. By completing the game you will still have a lot to do, in addition to personal events, you will find guild missions, secondary missions, unique places that when discovered give you experience and much more.

Star Ocean: The Second Story R Video Game Review - A Galactic Odyssey Reimagined

Fulfilling all of this is optional but in addition to giving us more playing time, we will receive important bonuses that can strengthen our team. Some objectives will be unlocked as you go, but others are more specific. We can also delve into every corner of the map to look for secrets, characters and unique objects. All of this adds value to the gaming experience because you can see the developers' interest in offering something more without us having asked for it.

The Surprise Of 2023?

I highly recommend giving Star Ocean: The Second Story R a chance if you're looking for a classic RPG or played the original version. The changes are substantial and cover all the problems of the first versions. Normally the graphical improvements are enough to keep us happy when talking about a remake, but Square Enix decided to go further. The company polished a rough gem to give it a unique shine and turn it into something more valuable. Star Ocean: The Second Story R is a surprise and sets the bar very high for the remakes that are on the way.