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Photo copyright:Square Enix ®

Star Ocean: The Second Story R

Amazing PS1 remake done right

2 months ago
2024-01-05
gaming
JRPG

Game review

Release date2023-11-02
PublisherSquare Enix
DeveloperGemdrops, Inc. (OG: Tri-Ace)
PlatformPlayStation 5
Playtime82 hours
ProgressCompleted + Platinum trophy

I take notes as I play the game for things that I think deserve a mention. If something was not mentioned, it is considered "fine" and not noteworthy in any sense.


Star Ocean: The Second Story R

This is one of the best Star Ocean games by far. This remake strikes a perfect balance between what a remake needs to achieve to be true to the original work without straying too far.

Pros

  • Remade cutscenes
    New intro animations, cutscenes with smooth cinematics, and new character portraits. All done right compared to upscaled based on a low-res version such as Crisis Core Reunion.

  • Random encounters
    The way this game does random encounters, chaining encounters, leveling up outside of combat, blocking encounters, etc. is an amazing modernization of the old-school random encounters. It goes way beyond just a value you set as in Bravely Default.

  • Menu/UI
    The menu and UI overall in this game are fast, has a good size and is responsive. Not overly complex or insane like other games or even just the most recent Star Ocean: The Devine Force.

  • Voice acting
    New voice acting adds a lot to the game. You have the option of using the Japanese and older voice tracks.

  • Skill system
    The whole skill system and party skill systems were implemented in a great way and you felt you gained a lot more than just some stats or combos inside battle. It mixes up the combat and you can enable and disable them however you want.

  • Healed after battle
    When battle is over, depending on multiple factors, you most of the time end up with full a heal. It's not guaranteed you'll get all healed, but what is always guaranteed is that after every battle, your status elements are removed. This, however, made most Inn's pretty useless for non-story purposes.

  • Soundtrack
    Great soundtrack. It is very varied, depending on the song; it may be very orchestral or something that sounds like a more classic Yamaha synth. It's very good where it excites you more about the game than being a downer.

  • Assault Actions
    Something recent Tales of games also done is where passive party members who are not in combat can come in with a special attack during battle.

  • Personal Actions
    This is a system from a story perspective that I completely adored. It adds much story and character growth because you get to see characters own personal sides and side actions outside of the party. This system is superior to the skits that's in Tales of which is saying a lot. And compared to Tales of, it's not that missable as long as you check the map for actions that's only available during a short period of time.

  • Level cap
    If you're level 70 you can easily beat the game, but what I found great is that this game had an "unlocked" level cap by design since the technical limitation was 255, so the max level in this game is 255. Instead of capping it at 99 or 100, they made extra optional content with it in mind. Such a final boss without a limiter is a very fun challenge, compared to something like Disgaea, where its pure artificial level cap of 99,999,999 is just a huge negative.

  • Mounts
    You get a bunny and, later on, a flying mount. Both are great travel methods to get to places fast and explore the world. You could argue the bunny call is somewhat of a cheat mechanic in other games since you can scale mountains within seconds. However, it's fun gameplay-wise and makes replays of the game so much faster.

Neutral

  • Equip wizard
    This was a good addition, making it faster to notice when you got better equipment in terms of stats within a dungeon. However,  since so much equipment in this game has additional effects and factors, there was no good comparison unless you went in to the menu afterwards and compared.

  • Only 20 item stock
    Compared to many other games, this one has an unlimited inventory of different kinds of items, which is awesome; however, it's limited to carrying only 20 of each. 20 is also a common amount in example 'Tales of'-games, but in terms of any crafting materials that have the potential to fail, I would have liked 99 because it caused a constant buying loop.

  • Staggering mechanic
    This remake adds a staggering mechanic known as BREAK, and for me, it's always been a neutral thing. Since this remake is easier than the original, it makes sense they added it to at least provide a little challenge and something that would make the battles more dynamic and tactic.

  • Not enough space story
    As with basically all Star Ocean games, even with the most recent game. Even when you play Claude's story, I feel there's way too little of a space game, even for such an old game. I would have liked a section of the game that was more about the space story and universe.

Cons

  • Multiple playtroughs
    To experience the whole game, you need to play through this game at least twice so you get both back stories. If you want all characters personal stories, you need a third playthrough with a mixed party. Since NG+ makes the game a cakewalk on your second or third playthrough and becomes mostly story-related.

  • Only 2 shortcut attacks
    In combat, you can assign two shoulder buttons to one skill each, yet each character has like 10 attacks. So when you need something else, you need to open the fast menu, scroll through, and select the skill. This could have been improved a lot if they had combined the triggers and face buttons instead, where if you hold one shoulder button, you have four different attacks assigned to each face button, making a total of eight fast shortcuts instead of two.

  • Background graphics
    Overall the pixel sprites and the scenery look artistically great, but it does have some lower graphics quality in terms of the world and backgrounds. It's noticeable on a 4K display, but if you're playing the switch version, you'll probably not notice on 720p.

Final thoughts

This is the best Star Ocean game I've ever played. As a remake, this gets super close to perfection. Make sure to play Rena's story and recruit Dias if you decide to only play it once. Some of its graphics are on the lower side, but nothing that hurts the game it self. Fantastic gameplay and story.


Final score: 9.8/10