Star Ocean: The Second Story R Review – A Shining Example of a Remastered Classic
Star Ocean: The Second Story R appears to be a dream come true for someone like me, who has been captivated by the Star Ocean series since the significant plot twist in the third installment was released on the PlayStation 2. Although the recent entries in the series have had mixed receptions, the classic Star Ocean games undoubtedly hold a revered and special place within the JRPG genre. Notably, Star Ocean 2 is often hailed as the pinnacle of the franchise. While the series has not reached the heights of success of Final Fantasy, this game represented a significant leap, comparable to transitioning from Final Fantasy VI to Final Fantasy VII.
Upon launching the game, the first thing that struck me was its stunning appearance. The developers have masterfully balanced modernized graphics with the preservation of the original’s retro charm, creating a sense of nostalgia, yet within a thoroughly modern gaming environment. The characters maintain their sprite-based aesthetic, yet are rendered in 3D, while the backgrounds and other environmental elements are entirely in 3D as well. While this combination might seem inconsistent initially, it results in a visually spectacular experience when witnessed in action on the screen.
Square Enix previously released the original Star Ocean on the PS4 and Nintendo Switch, but it never made its way to the PC. The sequel, however, seems set to launch on PC, alongside all other modern platforms, potentially introducing a new audience to the series. It’s worth noting that the stories in the Star Ocean series are standalone, so missing earlier games isn’t a significant disadvantage. While the games share some thematic elements, each is set in a different world with its own unique story and characters.
Star Ocean: The Second Story R offers players a choice between two protagonists, Claude and Rena, each leading to a different narrative experience. The choices made at the game’s outset are consequential. Claude is portrayed as an ambitious and energetic young man, embarking on his first mission under his father’s supervision. An encounter with a mysterious machine unexpectedly teleports him to an unknown planet. There, he meets Rena, a young girl fleeing from a monster, whom he rescues. The game skillfully presents contrasting societal views through its characters. Claude hails from a technologically advanced society, equipped with high-tech gear, while Rena’s world is less developed, rooted in more traditional ways of living. This juxtaposition offers a rich backdrop for the game’s narrative, deepening the player’s immersion in the story.
Upon his arrival on this unfamiliar planet, Claude learns from the locals about a meteor crash coinciding with his teleportation. This event seems to have caused an infestation of monsters, disrupting the lives of the inhabitants. Teaming up with Rena, Claude embarks on a quest to uncover the meteor’s origins and find a way back home. Meanwhile, Rena has personal goals, including uncovering the mysteries of her past. She possesses healing powers, the origin of which is unknown to her. The game’s narrative shines in its simplicity, focusing heavily on character development. This is particularly evident in the evolving emotional bond between the two lead characters.
For those new to the Star Ocean series, the combat system may appear unconventional compared to typical JRPGs. It features a fully action-oriented combat style that allows control over multiple characters. While Claude and Rena are the primary characters in combat, as the story advances, new characters join the party, each bringing unique abilities to battles. The game’s dynamics change significantly based on the choice of the main protagonist, whether Claude or Rena, meaning not all characters are available in every playthrough. This aspect of the game opens up opportunities for replayability, offering different experiences and outcomes in subsequent playthroughs.
Star Ocean: The Second Story R takes exploration to a new level, but it’s the combat where the game truly excels. The action-based combat system is visually impressive, enhanced by a range of special skills and particle effects. This system struck me as particularly outstanding, even surpassing other HD-2D games like Octopath Traveler. The game introduces a unique feature where characters can learn special skills through Private Actions, which are triggered automatically under specific conditions. Discovering these skills unexpectedly as part of the storyline adds an element of surprise and depth to the gameplay.
The game introduces new mechanics, such as the Assault Actions, which provide shortcuts in battles and reference previous titles in the series. Along with the main storyline, there are also new sidequests that add depth to the gameplay and unlock guest characters for Assault Actions. Players can call upon inactive party members for support in battles. To prevent the game from feeling monotonous, a bonus meter has been added. The meter rewards players with passive benefits, such as increased experience or enhanced offense, which keeps the gameplay engaging and adds an extra layer of strategy.
Star Ocean: The Second Story R stands out as a remake that excels beyond its original version in every aspect. The addition of new content revitalizes the gaming experience, making it more engaging and enjoyable. Quality-of-life improvements have been thoughtfully implemented, alleviating some of the rigidity often associated with older JRPGs. This modern reimagining has been executed with a focus on visual refinement, yet it skillfully preserves the charm and nostalgia of the original game. The experience of playing it anew resonates with those fond memories from the first playthrough.
The success of this remake reflects positively on Gemdrops, the development team behind it. Their approach and execution in Star Ocean: The Second Story R set a high standard and naturally elicit excitement at the prospect of them undertaking remakes of other classic games. In particular, a remake of Chrono Trigger by Gemdrops would be eagerly anticipated, given their demonstrated proficiency in revitalizing classic games while honoring their legacy. Their ability to blend modern enhancements with the essence of the original games makes them an ideal candidate for reimagining such beloved classics.
Star Ocean: The Second Story R Game Information
- Price: $49.99
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Gemdrops
- Platform: PC (Reviewed)
- Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher