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Star Ocean 2 - Review

An Ocean of Options

By: pneuma08


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 6
   Plot 2
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 10
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Easy to Medium
   Time to Complete

20-30 hours

 
Overall
pretty good, eh?
Criteria

Title Screen
 

    Star Ocean--the name itself sounds grand, eloquently expressing the vastness of space, the limitless ocean of the stars. Star Ocean 2 is a Tri-Ace RPG, the sequel to a rare 64 meg Super Famicom Enix cartridge. I've heard tales of it's wonders, but, ironically, although the characters were able to span the ocean of stars, it unfortunately was never able to cross the ocean of water to the US. The sequel made it, however, with the help of Sony. It was worth the journey.

   The battle system is all over the map. The way battle works is the characters equip two special moves, called killer moves, that are linked to the L1 and R1 buttons. The moves mature after you use them enough times, and become more powerful, more functional, and sometimes look different. Other than that, players equip a certain type of weapon, and attack at a certain rate. Experience is gained in set amounts by enemies, but can be affected by skills, discussed later. Experience is shared, and is not obtained by the members not in your current party, causing you to constantly rotate the characters, if you have more than four, the maximum allowed in your current party. The next thing worth mentioning is that it is fully customizable. Indeed, you can suit your own desires, whether you crave a little traditional turn-based system, or prefer to control one characterās precise movements and attacks, itās all there. You can even control the AI system of your allies, and the battle formations that the characters are in at the start of the battle. Even so, the battle system is not without its flaws. The pathfinding system is less than stellar, and you cannot cancel an action once it is invoked, which sometimes causes the characters to run around maniacally, or jump into a deadly attack. Also, some jumping attacks may cause you to be in an awkward situation, such as standing on an ally or enemy. This, however, is a two-edged sword. It could cause a crazy situation which the pathfinding system tries to work out, or it could put you in a position out of range of the bosses attacks, allowing you to use a killer move without reprimand. Indeed bittersweet.

   The game moves neither to slow, or too fast, at an average pace. There are many dungeons and towns scattered about the worlds you explore. Although some are a little confusing or long-winded, you will almost always be able to see the character. Movement about the worlds is done either on foot, on a giant bunny (via a super specialty), or on a winged bird. While on the bunny or the bird, there are no random battles. Exploration of towns can be done in two ways: either as a party, traditionally, or by using a private action, which allows you to control only the main character you chose at the beginning, which, if certain requirements are met, allows you to interact with the characters in a special manner, allowing you to manipulate the characterās feelings toward each other, which in turn affects which of the many endings you receive. The menu system is quite filled, however, and to get to a specialty/super specialty quickly, you have to remember the location on the menu. Before the first disk is finished, your inventory will become flooded with a hundred or so items. Just to keep sanity, items must be sorted regularly, and constant cleaning is required. Up to eight characters can be obtained during the course of the game, but if it pleases you, you can keep only the two main characters.


kaboom
It may not blow your mind, but it's still a good game.  

   The item system is by far the most innovative thing Iāve seen in this game. By spending skill points that you receive by going up levels, you can learn skills. Skills affect the game by either giving the character specialties, or a small boost in parameters, or other things, such as lowering the experience needed to level up, or even lowering the skill points needed to level up a skill. Specialties range from making items out of basic ingredients, creating items by spending a few magic points, combining a precious stone and a weapon to make a different weapon or even increase the amount of experience gained in a battle, at the cost of temporarily lowered parameters. The partyās specialties then combine and unlock a super specialty, which is basically a specialty that requires the entire party. Late into the game, all the items you use will either be obtained from a specialty/super specialty or a treasure chest.

   The music in Star Ocean 2 is very good, although not of the humming variety; the songs arenāt that memorable, but they are enjoyable, and if you hear the first few seconds, you might remember the rest of the song, although vaguely. Better than good, but less than stellar, some might even consider buying the soundtrack CD. I know I am. Music is not the only sounds the game emits, either. The game has a vast collection of voice tracks, ranging from battle cries to dying screams to remarks of revenge. Some might find it annoying, but I find it intriguing, for the game keeps track of how many voices youāve heard. Fun and collectable. The downside to this is that the enemies do not have these voice/sound effect features, with the exception of the final bosses. The game very few non-battle sound affects, such as a cheering crowd, which aren't accumulative. Be forewarned if you are annoyed by these things, some just aren't as pleasant to hear, compared to other games.

   Originality is an average; itās not dull, but itās not original either. The item creation system is a big factor here, because there arenāt too many games I know of with that feature, and they most definitely donāt rely on that (most likely, the first time through, youāll be fighting and defending yourself with arms and armor of your own creation), so thatās a plus. The customizable battle system is a plus, albeit small. The story gets clichŽ at the end, too, so, overall, donāt expect anything ground-breaking.

   The plot is one of the weak points of the game, unfortunately. The plot is very thin and faint, and not much is there. Although the character development is there, itās just neither meaty, nor bare-boned. The two main characters have a diverse, yet uninteresting past, as opposed to the other characters, some of which have barely any past at all. Surprisingly, though, the second world has much more development than the characters, but the first world has only 'it was there.' It is still very rough around the edges, and is both confusing and doesnāt flow well, especially near the end. Itās not really that realistic, either. If they worked a little harder, this game could have been much better.


Cutesy or Realistic Name
See the world  

   ā99 SCEA is not known for its localization skills. This game is no exception. It is translated into English, but if they had proofread it better, then phrases like "If I blank my mind..." could be avoided. It's neigh-impossible to go through this game without laughing out loud. Letās face it: Sony is no Working Designs when it comes to localization.

   Replay value is one of the best things Star Ocean 2 has. The game itself thrives off of it. When you first read the back, one of the first thing that catches your eye is the 150+ endings. At the beginning of the game, you choose which of the main characters you want to play as. This decision may not seem significant at the time, but there are parts of the game where the two main characters are split up, and you see only one side of the events folding out before them. To even see all the sides, you must play through the game at least twice. Furthermore, the relationship system is completely different every time you play, using different private actions to influence it. Not only that, the relationship system affects some private actions, and some private actions can only be seen with one character. Moreover, some characters don't join if you already have a certain character in your party, or if you are playing as a certain character. No doubt about it, replay value is the acme of the game. A lot of replay really helps this game.

   Visuals is an arguable department. The backgrounds aren't rendered bad, and the characters are anime sprites. Personally, I prefer anime sprites over Playstation polygons. The FMVs are rendered averagely, but I remember them being a little rough, and not as sharp as FFVIIIās cutscenes. It could be better, but it doesnāt hamper gameplay at all, and not nearly as ugly as it could get to be, which is all I ask.


You know the deal-title it.
Explore the stars.  

   The game wasnāt overly challenging, and there are even some points in the game where the enemies canāt even hurt you, if you have the right armor. It can be challenging, though, if you donāt take the proper precautions. Although the game rarely requires you to think in the battles, the puzzles can be challenging, especially in the secret level. In other words, if youāre careful, the game is easy enough. If youāre not, the game can be averagely difficult.

   Star Ocean 2 is a gem of a game. It was fun, but not the most fun I ever had. Just keep in mind this game is not for everyone. It is far from flawless, but farther from coaster status. Remember this next time it's time to change games. More often than not, it will be worth the time and effort. The replay value alone is worth considering. Just try to ignore the story.





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