Several months ago during a Nintendo Direct, a remake of Star Ocean the Second Story was announced, and I lost my fucking shit. Why? Well. I could just leave it at “It’s one of my favorite psx era JRPGs” but then again there’s a lot of those (the Playstation was stacked) For anyone that doesn’t know the game, it probably doesn’t do a good enough job on selling it. And while I don’t feel obligated to sell it, it’s one of those games I want to sell because of how underappreciated it is.
First, a little bit of context on my original experience. Star Ocean is a series that is made by Tri-Ace, a group of developers that split off from the original group who made the Tales of games. If you’ve ever played a tales game before, it will become immediately evident with some of the same systems (even the items are similar, just different terminology)
The first game was released only for the Super Famicom, at first, and didn’t have much of a presence until the 2nd story was released in the west. Why the second story was brought west, I could only say is probably thanks to how well Final Fantasy 7 performed.
I don’t think I ever bought the game myself. Rather, I had an online friend at the time I would exchange RPGs with that I think let me borrow it. Though I did buy my own copy later I know (because I think I ultimately sold it like an idiot)
The game features a dual protagonist system (which I thought was neat) but I only ever ended up playing the guy my first and only time back then. Why? Well I think I indentified more as a man back then and was more interesting in the potential romance relationships.
You see Star Ocean 2 has over like 100 endings (you get multiple of them per beating the game) and they’re all based on which of your characters have the most affection with other characters. For someone like me who was just getting heavily invested in romance VNs, I found that aspect really appealing and incredible ambitious
That’s actually the running theme of SO2. It’s incredibly ambitious. There’s like an overabundance of shit you can do and while it’s not all implemented flawlessly, it’s still all pretty fun. You can, as one example, pickpocket any NPC(even your friends) for rare items. Or you can craft incredibly powerful things and easily break the game as early as the first couple of hours. The game possibilities seem endless.
Combine that with the private action system where you can see special events with characters you travel with. There was a lot of stuff that made the game feel a lot BIGGER than it actually was. For people in the west who had never experienced the first game, I think it carved out a huge niche for itself to live up to..
The plot, while nothing incredible(still enjoyable), was still fresh as most JRPGs were fantasy based. Again, I think it was FF7’s success that convinced them a futuristic RPG like Star Ocean could do well.
Unfortunately, the subsequent entries weren’t as great. Partly because they made some odd directional choices with the story (the story of the Star Ocean games are all in the same universe) and partly because they didn’t quite expand enough on what the second story had set up. Of course, I’m mostly speaking for myself here, but ultimately while I didn’t hate any of the subsequent games (even 5 which everyone seems to hate) I found them incredibly lacking in comparison to SO2’s glory
Replaying the remake, and playing the game for the first time in over two decades, I definitely enjoyed experiencing a lot of the stuff I never did in the original (starting with the girl character, recruiting a lot of characters I never played with before) Though I do admit that a lot of the initial excitement I had for it (both when I played the original and when I heard about the remake) fizzled out. I think because I knew that even though it was a good game, that there wasn’t a lot of of hope the Star Ocean series could ever be that again
Like it’s most recent game, 6, isn’t bad at all, but now I’ve mostly forgotten it. It was more of a filler game while waiting for other big releases. Telling people who like the 2nd game to play it or any of the other entries just feels wrong (even though I don’t think they’d be as impressed given what they have available today)
So yeah, In short the original SO2 was godly. The remake is also good. It could have used a bit more quality of life in the form of things like being able to fast forward everything (you can only ff scenes) and by incorporating some kind of cursor memory/last item used system for some of the crafting. I also kind of wish they had included the English voices from the original PS game for nostalgia..
OH Yeah speaking of voices, if you do JP voices, I highly recommend you do the SE voices rather than R voices. Much much better.
In terms of other recommendations, I see a lot of people recommend Rena these days, but I think the best protagonist is still Claude. True you miss out on ONE exclusive character who can be pretty good, but he’s not THAT important (especially considering he’s outclassed by other characters) The reason I suggest Claude is that I feel like the game is kind of designed around his perspective more. Ultimately it doesn’t matter that much, but if you’re facing choice paralysis, I’d say go Claude