is a funny body of developers; from what I've played of their RPG's,
they mostly use the same basic game engines from title to title whereas
Final Fantasy sees fit to radically alter control schemes between games
that are vaguely in the same series.
start by dwelling on the bad. I'm good at that.
Tri-Ace model of combat is as follows: You control one character directly,
in real time combat, while the others are on crude AI. Fighters usually
have two attack techs equipped at a time (one invariably being a ground
blast), spellcasters cast spells more or less at random depending on
whether you've told them to "conserve MP" or to "Attack
Until All MP Are Gone!" Unfortunately, MP-conservation mode is
translated as "cast only the most powerful and wasteful spells
available every five seconds." The fighters are even worse to leave
on their own on all-out attack mode since their moves have next to no
preparation time. The overall game engine feels a lot better than I
make it sound- it's nice to be able to chase down an enemy, corner them
and wail on them nonstop. But
something feels a little off about the Star Ocean battle system at times.
If you played the Tales games, it's essentially that with an added plane
of movement. The hit detection wants your character to attack from just
the right spot, which often leads to the fighter you're manually
controlling running around in circles, totally out of your control,
trying to get in their favorite spot with no way to cancel out of the
selected action. A particular thing that bothers me is the jumping atack
in this game. When fighting an airborne enemy, Claude jumps and swings
his sword upward.
there's the matter of the voice acting. While fully-voiced battles are
cool and all, four characters chirping away attack names gets a little
annoying after a while. Playing with a party of Rena, Claude, Chisato
and Precis forced me to mute the game during a session of dedicated
said, Star Ocean: The Second Story is, as it sounds, the second in the
Star Ocean series. If the Tales of... series of games are their version
of Final Fantasy (in that they are separate games that have only the
slimmest of connections to one another), the Star Ocean must be their
answer to Phantasy Star. The original SO was a Super Famicom title,
and the hero (or at least that's what we're going to call him for the
sake of summary) of SO2 is the son of a character from it. And Star
Ocean: Blue Sphere apparently takes place after that and features more
grown up versions of the kid characters as well as some returning faces.
Earth Federation ship Calnus (which sounds like a skin disease or something)
is exploring an odd spherical artifact on the surface of an alien planet.
Legendary admiral Ronixis Kenni and his son Claude(!?) lead the expedition.
Ensign Claude is going through a personal issue and feels the need to
prove that he's different from his father by stupidly poking at a teleporter.
As unknown alien devices are prone to do, it zaps him to a random planet
light years away called Expel. There he meets the painfully adorable
Rena Lanford being attacked by a monkey thing. He uses his father's
phaser to fry the monster, and since this is a medieval-styled world,
she immediately jumps to the conclusion that he is the Warrior of Light
from the village legend. After a few dozen mentions of the Sword of
Light, I rename Claude to Gourry, the braindead swordsman from the anime
Slayers. A name he lived up to at almost every chance he got.
Claude and Rena become the star-crossed lovers/core of a rag-tag band
of adventurers, fighting to save a world that they didn't create, etc.
I can't really harp on them too much about the main plot being pretty
generic, since these Tri Ace games always have such great characterization.
Independent Actions let the party split up in town and have all sorts
of scenes set up. Most of your actions affect how other characters think
of you, and the game gets away with its brag that it has over 80 endings
because it's the same main ending with little variations depending on
who likes who.
are a lot of recruitable characters, so many in fact it gets a little
aggravating having to be in the right place at the right time so you
get the right person. Ashton, who's about the best fighter in the whole
game (despite NOTORIOUSLY awful luck) requires you to backtrack to the
second town in the game at just the right juncture in the story to find.
And Chisato Madison, the black belt reporter requires you to, in a certain
town, exit one screen to the right. Apparently if you exit the bottom,
you'll miss her. The rest of the cast includes Celine, a chronic flirt
of a sorceress with a craving for treasure and trouble; Precis, who's
basically this game's underage genius who fights with out of place technology;
Opera, a three-eyed alien with a BIG gun and her absentee lover Ernest;
Bowman, a Hadouken-firing pharmacist (what's with that?); Leon, the
prerequisite kid mage/scientist who's a little too full of himself;
and Dias, Rena's childhood friend turned ice-hearted wandering swordsman.
Oh yeah, I also forgot Noel, a tree-hugging hippie of a mage who is
the only healer in the game besides Rena yet is hell-bent upon casting
his stupid attack magic.
the secondary cast, Ashton stands out since he's such a goofball.
He arrives in a mining town when a reward is placed on the two-headed
dragon dwelling there and while battling it (it's hard to tell exactly
how well he's doing since the game does this fight by bonking his sprite
against the dragon repeatedly) our heroes decide to cheer him on since
the cave is too small to join in. Distracted by them, Ashton makes the
mistake of turning his back on it, which leads somehow to the dragon
imbedding himself in his back. And not only is he stuck with a pair
of dragon's heads sticking out of his back, a side effect of Rena (adorably)
naming the heads is they develop separate personalities and thusly start
arguing. And that's not even counting his odd, unnatural interest in
story of the hunt for the Sorcery Globe is riddled with mishaps and
detours, and amusingly littered with medieval-era buerocracy. (How many
Final Fantasy games actually require you to have a passport to meander
from country to country, or actually try to keep you out of the king's
chamber?) And once they reach it, as might be foreshadowed by Claude
and Rena's otherworldly natures, the Sorcery Globe ends up being Something
Else and before you know it, the game changes tone from your party acting
like errand boys to more of the rag-tag world-saving machine the genre
is so fond of.
skill system is one thing that will probably make or break the game
in the eyes of the player- you have to distribute skill points among
various abilities not unlike in Neverwinter Nights or any number of
those other pen and paper RPG systems. You can use them to learn abilities
to fight better, create items, customize weapons- the skills and how
you maintain them make a big difference in the experience. For example,
my first time through the game was an agonizing, painful struggle that
took over 40 hours, and my second game is about there at only around
15 hours, with more items and higher levels.
basically, if you're looking for lengthy RPG experience with interesting
characters, and a high degree of customization and you're willing to
wade through sarcastic menus, trial-and-error item creation, pitched
battles with odd voice bites laced in, and number crunching, SO:SS is
right up your alley. It's actually better than I make it sound, and
you can find it for the usual $19.99 in most electronics stores.
Claude's a moron, but you don't HAVE to have him in your party in this