With a new Star Ocean game on the horizon, be it the distant horizon, sometime late 2016, fans of the previous games like me are getting excited. I came late to the Star Ocean universe, not playing the first two games until they were re-released on my beloved PSP. The first two installments have become favorites of mine and have filled the hole left with the sudden departure of Final Fantasy games, of which I still enjoyed.
I know a lot of people enjoyed the newest installments of FF, but after X, I haven’t felt that same excitement and immersion into the universe as I once did. Enter Star Ocean: First Departure on the PSP. I never had the opportunity to play the original version of the game, but the PSP remake won me over almost immediately. Now, it isn’t the turned based fighting system I have always preferred, and in fact, it is very similar to the newer action RPG fighting mechanics of FF XII and XIII, which I did not enjoy. In SO, you take control of your group leader and have the other members of your party follow some simple rules such as fight with everything you’ve got or heal your party members. There are only 4 or 5 choices to pick from and they are pretty basic, but it works for the most part. Sometimes you will have to take control of another party member to heal or use an item, but for the most part you control the leader of the party and the rest of the group does its job.
The stories are pretty standard save the world/universe, but the characters make the lack of originality worth it. They bicker, argue, make up and converse about all sorts of topics. There are extra scenes that you get depending on what party members you have recruited and you get specific dialog depending on who is in your group. Each member has a back story and most are useful, some more than others, but they all have a part to play in the story.
Another aspect that I enjoy in this series of games, aside from the exploring, is the leveling up system, especially in the first two games. I don’t mind grinding for levels; in fact, I like to know that I can grind for levels. I like being just a tad bit overpowered for the most part. I also like the skill system: using skill points to upgrade my skills and to earn specialities that can help my team. Learning how to make stronger weapons, potions and items is actually still fun to experiment with after all these years.
The graphics of course are dated, but each game in the series has built upon the last in terms of form and function. I for one am more excited for this new Star Ocean release than for any other Final Fantasy other than perhaps the remake of VII.
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