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                       Star Ocean: The Second Story
                      Skill System Guide (US version)
                               version 1.13
                  written by Sherwin Tam (sct8@cornell.edu)
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---CONTENTS---
Introduction
Version Changes
Skills
Talents
Specialties
Super Specialties
Skill Guild Offerings
Miscellaneous
Disclaimer
Credits



---INTRODUCTION---
This is a guide to the skill system in the Playstation game Star Ocean:
The Second Story (US version).  It is intended to be a general overview of
what skills and the associated abilities are, how they interact, and what
you can accomplish by learning them.  Note that this guide only covers
the skills, talents, and specialties in the game.  For a more comprehensive
look at the game, please check the links at the bottom of the guide for
other people's contribution to the workings of the game.



---VERSION CHANGES---
1.13 (4/19/00): And more formatting corrections.

1.12 (1/11/00): Minor formatting corrections.

1.11 (12/2/99): Silly me, didn't add it to the table of contents.

1.1 (12/2/99): I got a good suggestion to add the cities where one can get
certain skills, so it's now been added under Skill Guild Offerings.

1.03 (8/29/99): More minor corrections.  Change of e-mail address.

1.02 (7/27/99): Minor addition to Comprehension comments.

1.01 (7/26/99): Corrected some typos, added extra comment to Sixth Sense.

1.0 (7/22/99): Revised comments on Piety, Strong Blow, Cancel,
Body Control, Counterattack, Provocation. Added Float skill. Added talent
comments.  More miscellaneous tips.  Lots of people to thank.

0.93 (7/12/99): Submitted to www.gamefaqs.com.  All later versions (not
that a whole lot of people saw these versions) will be posted there.

0.92 (7/7/99): Changed more comments.  All I need is that Float skill
now...

0.91 (6/25/99): Corrected various comments, added notes for stat building.

0.9 (6/24/99): First version.  All new!  Probably still some stuff to add,
so suggestions are welcome.



---SKILLS---

DESCRIPTION
Skills are learned abilities a character can acquire and improve through
the accumulation of Skill Points (SP).  Skill points are given as
characters rise in level or through other occasions.  Each skill is rated
on a level scale of 0-10, with 0 representing no ability and 10
representing mastery.  However, none of the skills start off as visible
except the ones your characters begin with until you start buying skill
sets at Skill Guilds.  One combat skill is not available at a guild and
must be found.  Skills are used to build up Specialty levels. Certain
skills also increase particular character statistics, and, in the case of
combat skills, may add new abilities for the battlefield.

SKILLS LIST
The skills are listed in their respective groupings, with the following
format:

Name
Skill Point Progression (the number of SP needed to raise a skill's level)
Game Description (taken from game text)
Statistical Benefits (taken from game text)
Related Specialties
Extra Comments (if any)


--Knowledge 1--
Mineralogy
1 / 2 / 4 / 6 / 9 / 12 / 16 / 20 / 40 / 70
Description: Knowledge About minerals and gems.
Benefits: Skill Level x 3 INT increase.
Related Specialties: Identify, Metalwork, Alchemy
Comments: A cheap skill, good INT increase for spellcasters.

Herbal Medicine
2 / 3 / 5 / 8 / 12 / 17 / 23 / 30 / 38 / 47
Description: Knowledge about medicinal herbs.
Benefits: The amount restored by blue and blackberries is increased by
  Skill Level x 3%.
Related Specialties: Identify, Compounding, Survival
Comments: Another cheap skill, with good benefits.

Recipe
1 / 1 / 2 / 2 / 3 / 3 / 5 / 5 / 10 / 20
Description: Knowledge about cooking ingredients.
Benefits: Effects vary according to whether favorite items are eaten or
  not.
Related Specialties: Cooking
Comments:  Makes a huge difference in the restoration power of each
  character's favorite food item.


--Knowledge 2--
Musical Notation
2 / 4 / 8 / 16 / 32 / 90 / 40 / 50 / 70 / 90
Description: Knowledge about musical notation.
Benefits: Skill Level + 1 AGL increase.
Related Specialties: Musical Talent
Comments: Musical Notation and Musical Instrument are the only skills that
  contain a (large) "bump" in their SP progression.

Biology
12 / 22 / 32 / 42 / 62 / 80 / 82 / 85 / 90 / 95
Description: Knowledge about the science of life.
Benefits: Skill Level squared x 10 HP increase.
Related Specialties: Compounding
Comments:  The only skill that raises max HP.

Tool Knowledge
1 / 5 / 9 / 13 / 17 / 21 / 25 / 29 / 33 / 37
Description: Knowledge about different tools and weapons.
Benefits: Item selling prices increase by Skill Level x 3%.
Related Specialties: Identify
Comments: One party member should have a high level for this skill, as the
  highest is taken for selling purposes at shops.


--Knowledge 3--
Mental Science
8 / 14 / 20 / 26 / 32 / 52 / 62 / 82 / 90 / 95
Description: Knowledge about the mysterious powers of the mind.
Benefits: Skill Level x 5 MP increase.
Related Specialties: Compounding
Comments: The only skill that raises max MP.

Piety
5 / 7 / 9 / 11 / 13 / 33 / 43 / 53 / 63 / 80
Description: Knowledge about faith and the gods.
Benefits: Skills increase somewhat.
Related Specialties: none
Comments: The benefit is somewhat misleading.  The actual effect of raising
  Piety is a random increase in one of the character's statistics, ranging
  from no increase to 5 or more.  Piety may also increase item creation
  chances.

Fairyology
40 / 41 / 42 / 43 / 44 / 45 / 46 / 47 / 48 / 50
Description: Knowledge about fairies and the origins of life.
Benefits: Skill Level + 1 INT increase.
Related Specialties: Alchemy


--Sensibility 1--
Courage
1 / 2 / 4 / 5 / 7 / 28 / 30 / 31 / 43 / 55
Description: With courage you won't be nervous even in front of a large of
  people.
Benefits: none listed
Related Specialties: Pickpocket

Patience
2 / 4 / 7 / 11 / 16 / 22 / 29 / 37 / 46 / 56
Description: The willpower to endure difficulties and sadness.
Benefits: Skill Level x 2 CON increase.
Related Specialties: Practice, Survival
Comments: The only skill to raise CON.

Esthetic Sense
10 / 20 / 30 / 40 / 50 / 60 / 70 / 80 / 90 / 99
Description: A feeling, the degree of maturity that enables an
  understanding of love and beauty.
Benefits: none listed
Related Specialties: Art, Metalwork

Good Eye
2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 10 / 20 / 22 / 24 / 26 / 28
Description: The ability to choose good cooking ingredients.
Benefits: HP restoration amount increases.
Related Specialties: Cooking
Comments: Allows for greater effect when a character eats a food.


--Sensibility 2--
Playfulness
12 / 14 / 16 / 18 / 20 / 22 / 24 / 26 / 28 / 30
Description: An open mind to forgive the God of Creation for thinking up
  silly things.
Benefits: A gift from heaven!
Related Specialties: Oracle
Comments: The "gift from heaven" in this case results in an increase in Fol
  for each level of the skill.  The exact formula for the amount of money
  is determined by the recursive formula (previous payment) + (Skill Level
  - 1) x 600, with a starting base of 100.  Thus, Playfulness pays 100 Fol
  at level 1, 100+(2-1)x600=700 Fol at level 2, 700+(3-1)x600=1900 at level
  3, and so on until at level 10 Playfulness pays 27100 Fol.

Danger Sense
2 / 3 / 5 / 7 / 10 / 13 / 17 / 21 / 26 / 40
Description: A feeling, high sensitivity to murderous intent.
Benefits: Skill Level x 3 STM increase.
Related Specialties: Scout
Comments: A good skill for all to learn, as STM is important for HP and MP
  recovery after each battle.

Perseverance
8 / 8 / 8 / 8 / 8 / 8 / 8 / 8 / 8 / 8
Description: The willpower to continue effort.
Benefits: Reduces the number of SP required to learn skills.
Related Specialties: Practice
Comments: Each level of Perseverance reduces the amount to learn every
  skill by 2, down to a minimum of 1 SP (with the exception of Perseverance
  itself, which always costs 8 SP to learn.  This is probably the most
  powerful skill as well as one of the cheapest, and all characters should
  devote their SP to this skill as soon as it is available.

Poker Face
5 / 7 / 9 / 11 / 13 / 33 / 43 / 53 / 63 / 80
Description: The ability to keep a straight face under any circumstances.
Benefits: Skill Level x 3 GUTS increase.
Related Specialties: Pickpocket
Comments: A more suitable name for this skill might be Stoicism.  The only
  skill to increase GUTS.


--Sensibility 3--
Functionality
15 / 25 / 35 / 45 / 55 / 65 / 75 / 75 / 85 / 85
Description: A feeling, the ability to balance beautiful form with function.
Benefits: Skill Level x 6 STR, DEX, AGL, INT increase.
Related Specialties: Customize
Comments: The only skill that raises more than one statistic, and has the
  highest rate of increase for DEX, AGL, and INT.

Radar
20 / 30 / 40 / 50 / 60 / 70 / 80 / 90 / 90 / 99
Description: Supernatural powers that enable reception of messages from
  unknown beings.
Benefits: A gift from heaven!
Related Specialties: Oracle
Comments: The "gift from heaven" this time is a random item that appears in
  your inventory.

Effort
20 / 30 / 40 / 50 / 60 / 70 / 80 / 90 / 90 / 90
Description: The willpower to achieve one's goals.
Benefits: Lowers the needed experience to gain levels.
Related Specialties: Practice
Comments: Each level reduces the needed experience by about 4%.  A great
  skill to learn, the earlier the better.


--Technique 1--
Whistling
1 / 2 / 4 / 6 / 12 / 20 / 25 / 30 / 35 / 40
Description: The ability to put fingers to mouth and whistle loudly.
Benefits: none listed
Related Specialties: Familiar

Copying
40 / 50 / 50 / 60 / 60 / 70 / 80 / 90 / 90 / 99
Description: The ability to grasp the true characters of things and make
  them your own.
Benefits: none listed
Related Specialties: Reproduction

Sketching
5 / 10 / 20 / 30 / 50 / 70 / 90 / 90 / 90 / 90
Description: The ability to grasp and reproduce the forms of objects.
Benefits: none listed
Related Specialties: Art

Kitchen Knife
2 / 4 / 8 / 16 / 32 / 40 / 50 / 55 / 65 / 90
Description: The ability to use a kitchen knife, essential to any
  respectable chef.
Benefits: Skill Level x 20 STR increase.
Related Specialties: Cooking
Comments: Apparently everyone starts martial training with a kitchen knife,
  as this skill is the fastest way to increase your STR and attacking
  power.  Fighters should invest in at least a few levels.


--Technique 2--
Mech Knowledge
6 / 10 / 14 / 18 / 22 / 32 / 42 / 52 / 62 / 80
Description: Knowledge about machines.
Benefits: none listed
Related Specialties: Machinery

Craft
2 / 4 / 7 / 11 / 16 / 22 / 29 / 37 / 46 / 56
Description: The ability to do jobs that demand manual dexterity.
Benefits:  Skill Level + 2 AGL increase.
Related Specialties: Customize, Metalwork

Animal Training
20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / 30
Description: The ability to tame and train animals.
Benefits: none listed
Related Specialties: Familiar

Writing
3 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 11 / 14 / 20 / 25 / 40 / 60
Description: The intellectual ability to create literature.
Benefits: Skill Level + 2 DEX increase.
Related Specialties: Authoring


--Technique 3--
Musical Instrument
2 / 4 / 8 / 16 / 32 / 90 / 40 / 50 / 70 / 90
Description: The ability to play a musical instrument.
Benefits: Skill Level + 1 AGL increase.
Related Specialties: Musical Talent
Comments: Musical Notation and Musical Instrument are the only skills that
  contain a (large) "bump" in the SP progression.

Metal Casting
3 / 6 / 12 / 24 / 48 / 58 / 68 / 78 / 88 / 98
Description: The ability to cast metals.
Benefits: Skill Level x 2 DEX increase.
Related Specialties: Customize

Scientific Ability
6 / 10 / 14 / 18 / 22 / 32 / 42 / 52 / 62 / 80
Description: The ability to use laboratory equipment such as a still.
Benefits: Skill Level x 10 STR increase.
Related Specialties: Metalwork
Comments:  Another good skill for fighters to learn a few levels.

Mech Operation
12 / 22 / 32 / 42 / 62 / 80 / 82 / 85 / 90 / 95
Description: The ability to operate machines successfully.
Benefits: none listed
Related Specialties: Machinery


--Combat 1--
Note: combat skills differ from the other skills in that they are solely
for battlefield purposes and don't contribute to specialties or
statistics.  Each combat skill has a certain probability for it to work,
and raising skill levels increases that probability, but none of them are
guaranteed to work 100% of the time.  Most combat skills, when used
successfully, will be indicated during as part of a message on the side of
the screen.  As you may not want to use certain skills at all times, all
combat skills can be toggled on the skills screen by selecting a skill and
pressing Square.

Spirit Force
20 / 30 / 40 / 50 / 60 / 70 / 80 / 90 / 90 / 99
Description: Increases defensive powers.

Below the Belt
40 / 40 / 50 / 50 / 60 / 60 / 70 / 70 / 80 / 80
Description: The ability to ignore the enemy's defenses while attacking.

Strong Blow
20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / 30
Description: The ability to blow the enemy away.
Comments: When Strong Blow succeeds, the enemy will be knocked back,
  possibly preventing a follow-up attack or combo.  The enemy may be
  instead knocked in the air for certain Killer Moves.

Cancel
10 / 20 / 30 / 40 / 50 / 60 / 70 / 80 / 90 / 99
Description: The ability to eliminate the gap between normal attacks
  and immediately use a killer move.
Comments: Hit L1 or R1 to execute the killer move immediately after you hit
  an opponent to catch them while they're still recovering from your first
  attack.  Cannot be used with aerial attacks.


--Combat 2--
Flip
12 / 14 / 16 / 18 / 20 / 22 / 24 / 26 / 28 / 30
Description: The ability to flip around the enemy and attack from behind.
Comments: Use of this specialty is potentially dangerous, as the extra time
  your character takes while running behind the opponent leaves  you
  vulnerable to attack from another opponent.

Gale
5 / 7 / 9 / 11 / 13 / 33 / 43 / 53 / 63 / 80
Description: Increases one's combat speed.
Comments: Everyone can use some extra running speed...

Feint
12 / 22 / 32 / 42 / 62 / 80 / 82 / 85 / 90 / 95
Description: The ability to improve aim.

Mental Training
4 / 7 / 14 / 21 / 28 / 35 / 42 / 49 / 56 / 63
Description: The ability to increase attack power.


--Combat 3--
Counterattack
5 / 10 / 15 / 20 / 40 / 50 / 60 / 70 / 85 / 99
Description: Increases the probability of counterattacking when attacked by
  an enemy.
Comments: Similar to Cancel.  Attack by pressing X as you're hit and you'll
  counter, but you still take the damage.  Note that this skill can also
  work when you parry, so getting hit doesn't necessarily mean that you'll
  have to take damage to counterattack.  Also note that counterattacking
  will make your character move within normal attack distance to counter,
  which may or may not be a good thing.

Parry
12 / 22 / 32 / 42 / 62 / 80 / 82 / 85 / 90 / 95
Description: An increase in the ability to parry the enemy's attack.

Body Control
10 / 20 / 30 / 40 / 50 / 60 / 70 / 80 / 90 / 99
Description: Prevents fainting.
Comments: Besides preventing fainting (on rare occasions), Body Control can
  prevent dizziness ("peeping") and status ailments.  While it doesn't
  happen often enough to ditch those Stone Checks, this skill is quite
  useful for any character.

Motormouth
40 / 50 / 50 / 60 / 60 / 70 / 80 / 90 / 90 / 99
Description: Reduces the time it takes to cast Heraldic spells.
Comments: The only combat skill exclusively for spellcasters.

Provocation
20 / 30 / 40 / 50 / 60 / 70 / 80 / 90 / 90 / 99
Description: The ability to use the SELECT button to taunt an enemy during
  combat.
Comments: Can only be done once per battle.  A successful taunt may focus
  the enemies' attention on you and raise your stats a little, depending on
  your skill level.  Each character has up to 4 different taunts.


--Combat (special)--
Float
20 / 30 / 40 / 50 / 60 / 70 / 80 / 90 / 90 / 99
Description:
Comments: Only available as a special item from the bonus dungeon.  Float
  only works on normal attacks.  A successful Float will pop the enemy into
  the air, leaving them temporarily defenseless.  The time span of this
  float is quite short, and only fast cancels will be guaranteed damage.
  However, this skill can also be combined with the Strong Blow skill,
  resulting in some truly silly air times for the enemy.



---TALENTS---

DESCRIPTION
Talents represent the natural abilities of a character.  To use some
specialties effectively, a character must know the right talent.  Talents
are inherited when the character joins the party.  Thus, when a new
character joins the party, check his or her talents.  If you don't like the
number or type of talents and have a recent save, you can keep reloading
and re-recruiting the character until his or her talents suits your tastes.

Talents can also be discovered.  To discover a hidden talent, have a
character that doesn't have a wanted talent repeatedly use a specialty that
requires that talent.  They may eventually discover the wanted talent
(although it might take a lot of time and money).  The one talent that
can't be discovered is The Blessing of Manna, which all spellcasters begin
with and no fighters can discover.  Discovering a talent also has the added
benefit of giving the character an immediate 100 Skill Points as a reward
for all that hard practice.

TALENT LIST
This list can be used to gauge which specialties each character might want
to develop (although they aren't necessary to start with, if you have
enough money, patience, or certain Super Specialties).  The format is as
follows:

Name
Description (taken from game text)
Related Specialties (* denotes specialties that can be used to discover
  the talent)
Extra Comments (if any)


Originality
Description: The ability to modify things with one's own creativity.
Related Specialties: Customize, Metalwork*

Dexterity
Description: The gifted talent of being able to move one's fingertips
  exactly as one wishes.
Related Specialties: Metalwork*, Compounding, Pickpocket, Machinery*
Comments: The most used talent; cannot be learned by using Pickpocket, so
  don't bother wasting chances by trying if you don't have Dexterity.

Writing Ability
Description: The talent of being able to put one's thoughts into words.
Related Specialties: Authoring*

Pitch
Description: The ability to grasp musical tones well.
Related Specialties: Musical Talent*

Sixth Sense
Description: The primitive ability to sense things that cannot be
  expressed with words.
Related Specialties: Danger Sense*
Comments: Sixth Sense is one of the hardest talents to learn.  I've been
  able to learn it by switching the Scout settings repeatedly, sometimes
  with the help of Orchestra.

Sense of Taste
Description: The gift of judging what tastes would please anyone
Related Specialties: Cooking*

Sense of Design
Description: The creative talent for the arts
Related Specialties: Art*, Machinery*

Sense of Rhythm
Description: The ability to grasp musical rhythm.
Related Specialties: Musical Talent*

Love of Animals
Description: Animal Lover.  More than anything.  More than anyone.
Related Specialties: Familiar*

The Blessing of Manna
Description: The innate magical power.
Related Specialties: Alchemy
Comments: The only talent that cannot be learned.  Either you start with it
  or you don't.



---SPECIALTIES---

DESCRIPTION
Specialties are special abilities acquired by learning 1-3 related skills.
Their level is determined by averaging the levels of the related skills,
rounding down.  Thus, it is easier to raise the level of the Scout
specialty, which has only one related skill, than it is raising the Alchemy
skill, which has three.  All specialties have an upper level limit of 10.
Specialties allow the characters to do such activities as cooking food,
playing music, and other actions that can affect various aspects of the
game. The level of the specialty determines the chances of success.  Note,
however, that without the needed talent, the specialty is virtually
guaranteed to fail.

SPECIALTIES LIST
The format for this list is as follows:

--Name--
Description (taken from game text)
Accessed from (which menu)
Needed Skills
Needed Talents
Needed Items (needed but not consumed)
Consumed Items (consumed as specialty is being used)
Support Items (increases chances for success, sometimes enhances abilities)
Extra Comments (if any)


--Art--
Description: Make items by investing a soul into pictures and statues that
  you make.
Accessed from: Item Creation menu
Needed Skills: Esthetic Sense, Sketching
Needed Talents: Sense of Design
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: Magical Canvas, Magical Clay
Support Items: Graphics Software
Comments: An expensive item creation technique.  Using a Magical Canvas
  creates various cards or paintings to be used in battle, or portraits of
  one of the characters in the game.  Using Magical Clay creates various
  dolls, balls, cards, and other items that can be used.  The usefulness of
  this skill depends on whether you prefer using items during battle.  The
  powers of these works of art can range from reviving fallen comrades to
  doubling experience to random items.


--Oracle--
Description: Gives you helpful(?) messages from Tria, the Goddess of
  Creation.
Accessed from: Specialty menu
Needed Skills: Piety, Playfulness, Radar
Needed Talents: none
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: none
Support Items: none
Comments: Basically a frill specialty, the Oracle will cycle through
  various messages that range from completely useless to quite useful.  The
  number of messages increases as the level increases, but there is no
  actual need for this specialty at all.


--Musical Talent--
Description: Compose and play music.
Accessed from: Specialty menu
Needed Skills: Musical Notation, Musical Instrument
Needed Talents: Pitch, Sense of Rhythm
Needed Items: instruments (Piano, Harmonica, etc.)
Consumed Items: Feather Pen, Conductor's Baton
Support Items: Musical Software
Comments: A complicated but powerful specialty, Musical Talent is done in
  three stages: first, an instrument must be found or bought.  Only one of
  each type is necessary.  Then, a character uses the specialty to attempt
  to compose a song for that instrument, using up a Feather Pen at each
  attempt.  Each instrument in the game has two songs associated with them,
  all of which have various effects in the game, such as increasing defense
  or calling monsters to fight.  (Note that since there are only two songs,
  once both are composed for an instrument, any extra attempts are a
  waste.)  After a song is composed, a character may use a Conductor's
  Baton to play a song written for a selected instrument.  This song will
  temporarily replace the normal background music, and while it is playing
  the abilities of the song are used (unless the song sounds out of tune,
  in which case you character is missing a required talent).  The
  effectiveness of the song is determined partly by the character's talent
  level.  Also, each character has a preferred instrument that can enhance
  that instrument's effectiveness.


--Customize--
Description: Modify weapons into your own original type.
Accessed from: Item Creation menu
Needed Skills: Functionality, Craft, Metal Casting
Needed Talents: Originality
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: weapon, ore, metal or gem
Support Items: Magical Rasp
Comments: One of the most interesting specialties and the hardest to
  catalog, customize allows you to combine a weapon and an ore/gem into
  something new. You lose both the weapon and the ore/gem, and,
  unfortunately, don't always get a more powerful weapon or even a weapon
  at all (I occasionally get food?!), so save your game before testing
  things on a treasured sword that you might want to keep after all.  The
  number of weapons and available ores, along with the fact that you can
  continue to customize the resulting weapon, allow for multiple
  possibilities, so just keep trying it yourself.  Note, however, that each
  character can only customize their own weapons, so to create weapons for
  each character requires that each has the Customize specialty.  The
  weapon made is determined by the strength of the weapon along with the
  rarity of the ore or gem being used.  In addition, certain weapons
  require a specific weapon and/or ore/gem be used to create them.


--Identify--
Description: Identify unknown items indicated by a question mark(?) at the
  start of their names.
Accessed from: Item Creation menu
Needed Skills: Mineralogy, Herbal Medicine, Tool Knowledge
Needed Talents: none
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: Spectacles
Support Items: Element Analyzer
Comments: One of the first specialties obtainable, the Identify specialty,
  while not being flashy, is a necessary specialty.  There are invariably
  going to be unidentified items either made through item creation or
  found, and these items are unusable until they have been identified.
  Each try at identifying an item uses up a Spectacle, which is fortunately
  quite cheap.


--Metalwork--
Description: Make jewelry and equipment out of jewels and precious metals.
Accessed from: Item Creation menu
Needed Skills: Mineralogy, Esthetic Sense, Craft
Needed Talents: Originality, Dexterity
Needed Items: none
Consumed items: ore, metal, or gem
Support Items: Soldering Iron
Comments: This item creation skill allows you to create your own
  accessories to equip.  There are 7-8 possible items that can be created
  from each ore or gem. However, each character can only create around half
  of these items.  Thus, to ensure that all possible items can be made for
  each ore or gem, multiple people should be proficient in this specialty.


--Authoring--
Description: Maintain a guidebook that gives you the details of your skills
  as they increase.
Accessed from: Item Creation menu
Needed Skills: Writing
Needed Talents: Writing Ability
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: Fountain Pen
Support Items: Text Software
Comments: The specialty allows you to create a guidebook on a skill that a
  character has a level of 5 or greater in, using a Fountain Pen in the
  attempt.  Any character that reads this guidebook will automatically gain
  a level in the written skill without having to expend the SP normally
  necessary. However, you can only raise a skill to level 5 using a
  guidebook (thus, the writer cannot use it, for instance).  Early mastery
  of this skill can be useful to beef up skills that normally require a
  large amount of SP to learn.  However, only certain skills (around 20)
  can be authored.  This specialty is especially recommended for Leon; his
  use of books as his weapons allows him to author special books for him to
  bash over opponents' heads.


--Practice--
Description: Increase your experience points by going through combat with
  lowered abilities.
Accessed from: Specialty menu
Needed Skills: Patience, Perseverance, Effort
Needed Talents: none
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: none
Support Items: none
Comments: Turn on this specialty to go through battles weaker in exchange
  for more experience.  I originally thought that only the practicing
  character would get the extra experience, but after repeated testing
  I've found that all the characters in the battle party get the extra
  experience.  Furthermore, the more characters that practice, regardless
  of whether they are in the current battle party, the more experience the
  battle party gets for battles!  I'll have to experiment with this more,
  and I'll be happy for someone to prove me wrong, as it seems like another
  huge bug in the US version of Star Ocean 2. Note, however, that, as the
  description states, practicing characters do have their stats lowered in
  battle (but if they're not in the battle party, it doesn't matter).  This
  seems to reduce a little the intended idea for speeding up your lagging
  characters' leveling, though it does speed up the battle party's
  leveling.  The penalty for practicing makes the specialty more useful for
  beating on weaker enemies rather than taking on new, more dangerous
  opponents.


--Scout--
Description: Allows the user to increase or decrease the probability of
  enemies appearing to a certain degree.
Accessed from: Specialty menu
Needed Skills: Danger Sense
Needed Talents: Sixth Sense
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: none
Support Items: none
Comments: Great for leveling or traveling unhindered between places.  Note,
  however, that only the current leader (first person listed) of the party
  affects scouting, so your party makeup should affect who should learn
  this specialty.  Also note that Sixth Sense may be the hardest talent to
  acquire in the game, so don't bother Scouting if you don't have it.


--Compounding--
Description: Make medicines by mixing two types of herbs.
Accessed from: Item Creation Menu
Needed Skills: Herbal Medicine, Biology, Mental Science
Needed Talents: Dexterity
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: herbs (Rose Hips, Mandrake, etc.)
Support Items: Antiseptic Gloves
Comments: This specialty allows for creation of a variety of medicines and
  items through the mixing of two herbs.  Each possible mixture (including
  mixing the same herb with itself) can create up to 4 different items.
  Note, however, that though some are extremely helpful, some have nasty
  side effects, and a few can be hazardous to your health, depending on the
  properties of the herbs being mixed.  In general, however, this specialty
  is quite useful.


--Cooking--
Description: Make drinks and food with cooking ingredients.
Accessed from: Item Creation menu
Needed Skills: Recipe, Good Eye, Kitchen Knife
Needed Talents: Sense of Taste
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: ingredients (Seafood, Grain, etc.)
Support Items: All-Purpose Knife
Comments: One of the more interesting skills, this specialty allows you to
  make a dish or drink out of a cooking ingredient.  These items will
  restore HP and/or MP when eaten, and some of them sell for a good price,
  as well, making this a viable way to make some extra Fol if you're a good
  cook.  There are also special ingredients you can find which make more
  exotic (some would say weird) foods.  Also, each character (with the
  exception of Chisato) has a favorite dish that can be made with this
  specialty that, when ingested, restores their HP or MP to their maximum
  levels (think Popeye and spinach).


--Familiar--
Description: Send animals to shop for you when you're deep in a dungeon or
  other such place.
Accessed from: Specialty menu
Needed Skills: Whistling, Animal Training
Needed Talents: Love of Animals
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: Pet Food
Support Items: none
Comments: This useful specialty allows you to shop for certain basic items
  at any time, anywhere - as long the carrier bird responds to your call.
  Carry around a lot of Pet Food. Also, this may be the only specialty
  that you may not want to increase to level 10 immediately.  There are 4
  different birds, each able to shop for a different set of items.  As you
  advance in level, the bird changes.  The problem is, you cannot go back
  and choose the previous bird!  Thus, it is advisable to have a few
  members of your party with this specialty at varying levels to get
  different birds in case you like more than one bird's selection of
  purchasable goods.  A higher level in this specialty does increase the
  chances of the bird arriving.


--Alchemy--
Description: Transmute iron into valuable materials such as metals and
  jewels.
Accessed from: Item Creation menu
Needed Skills: Mineralogy, Fairyology, Scientific Ability
Needed Talents: Blessing of Manna
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: Iron
Support Items: Erlenmeyer Flask, Lezard Flask
Comments: Why pay for that diamond when you can make one?  This lucrative
  specialty can both produce extra Fol or more exotic minerals and gems to
  use in Customize or Metalwork.  Note that because of the talent
  requirements, only spellcasters (Rena, Celine, Leon, Noel) can use this
  specialty.  As the level of specialty increases, the alchemist can
  transmute more exotic materials.  The highest levels of ores and gems are
  only available after Lezard's Flask has been obtained.  This skill
  becomes increasingly more important as the game continues, and is a
  wonderful complement to Customize and Blacksmith to make the game's most
  powerful weapons and armor without having to search for the rare minerals
  needed.


--Survival--
Description: Find useful items when in the field.  Consumes 4 MP.
Accessed from: Item Creation menu
Needed Skills: Herbal Medicine, Patience
Needed Talents: none
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: none
Support Items: Survival Kit
Comments: This specialty might more aptly be named "Scavenging" due to its
  random nature.  The items you find while expending the 4 MP on this
  specialty range from the useless to the rare, and it's all random.  The
  range of items differs depending on where the skill is used, whether in a
  building, a dungeon, the forest, whatever.  Certainly not a necessary
  skill, but sort of amusing.  You can use it to expend all of your MP
  before resting at inns.


--Pickpocket--
Description: Skill used in conjunction with special gloves to steal items
  from people.
Accessed from: special
Needed Skills: Courage, Poker Face
Needed Talents: Dexterity
Needed Items: Bandit's Glove
Consumed Items: none
Support Items: Magician's Hand
Comments: Walk down the path of crime and steal from townspeople, even your
  own party members.  To pickpocket, you must have the Bandit's Glove or
  Magician's Hand equipped.  Walk up to a person and press the Square
  button within speaking range and you'll receive an item if your
  pickpocketing was successful.  Regardless of your success or failure, you
  can only attempt to pickpocket a person once.  There are a couple of
  special notes for pickpocketing.  One, since you only get one shot at
  stealing items, you should never attempt to pickpocket if you don't
  already have Dexterity as a talent.  Two, each time you attempt to
  pickpocket with a character, any other character currently in the party
  will have their Emotional Levels reduced towards the stealing character.
  Thus, it is best to attempt this specialty during Private Actions, when
  the only character in your party is either Claude or Rena.  If you plan
  to pickpocket, then, Claude or Rena should be the main characters to
  learn the skill, unless you don't care about a character's Emotional
  Levels.  It is, however, a useful specialty to learn early due to the
  many opportunities to get powerful items that aren't normally available,
  as well as special items only gotten through pilfering.  It's all for a
  good cause...


--Reproduction--
Description: Make an item identical to another.
Accessed from: Item Creation menu
Needed Skills: Copying
Needed Talents: none
Needed Items: Magical Camera
Consumed Items: Magical Film
Support Items: Ririca
Comments: This specialty allows you to make a duplicate of items in your
  inventory.  To do so, you first need to select the Magical Camera (or the
  Ririca, which is more powerful) to take a picture on a piece of Magical
  Film.  The result will be either a copy of the item or a blurry picture.
  Also note that most rare or items can't be copied using this specialty,
  although most items bought in stores and many of the more useful
  accessories and items can be copied, making this a great money
  saver/maker -- if you succeed.


--Machinery--
Description: Make machines that help with your adventure.
Accessed from: Item Creation menu
Needed Skills: Mech Knowledge, Mech Operation
Needed Talents: Dexterity, Sense of Design
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: Material Kit
Support Items: none
Comments: This useful skill allows you to make a variety of items,
  including bombs for use in battle and the support items for many of the
  other specialties.  This specialty is especially important for Precis and
  Opera, who can create their own unique weapons and Killer Moves through
  this specialty.



---SUPER SPECIALTIES---

DESCRIPTION
Super Specialties (I just refer to them as supers most of the time)
represent the pooling of different party member's abilities to accomplish
major tasks.  All supers have two related specialties.  One, which I'll
call the major specialty, determines the level of the super.  The other,
minor specialty, puts the name of the super on the list of specialties
when any character learns it. To learn a super specialty, two characters
must have reached level 4 in the major specialty, and one character must
have learned the minor specialty.  The level of the super is then
determined by the sum of the major specialty levels of all the members of
the party divided by 3, rounded down.

For example, the super specialty Orchestra has a major specialty of Music
and a minor specialty of Art.  Thus, when a character first learns Art,
the name of the super appears on the specialty list.  If two characters
were to reach level 4 in Music, the party would acquire Orchestra at level
2 -- (4+4)/3, round down.  If one of the two raised their Music level to 5,
or if a third character learned Music at level 1, Orchestra would rise to
level 3.  Since skills and specialties are easier to raise at lower levels,
super levels rise faster when more characters learn the major specialty at
low levels rather than a few characters raising the specialty to high
levels.  Super specialties have an upper level limit of 10.

SUPER SPECIALTIES LIST
All Super Specialties can be accessed from the Super Specialty Skills menu.
The format for this list is as follows:

--Name--
Description (taken from game text)
Major Specialty (determines level)
Minor Specialty (shows on specialties list)
Needed Items (needed but not consumed)
Consumed Items (consumed as specialty is being used)
Support Items (increases chances for success, sometimes enhances abilities)
Extra Comments (if any)


--Master Chef--
Description: Make elegant dishes and drinks with everyone's powers.
Major Specialty: Cooking
Minor Specialty: Compounding
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: 2 ingredients (Seafood, Grain, etc.)
Support Items: All-Purpose Knife
Comments: Use two normal ingredients to make a special food.  Only one food
  can be made with every combination of ingredients.  These foods are
  special in that they are more powerful in HP/MP recovery and/or sell for
  a much higher price than food made through normal cooking.


--Orchestra--
Description: Make beautiful melodies and play them according to the time
  designated by a conductor.
Major Specialty: Musical Talent
Minor Specialty: Art
Needed Items: instruments, songs
Consumed Items: Conductor's Baton
Support Items: none
Comments: One of the most powerful supers and one of the hardest to
  acquire. To use Orchestra, there must be enough distinct instruments for
  party, and each of these instruments must have already had a song
  composed for them.  Using Orchestra also consumes a Conductor's Baton,
  just like Musical Talent.  The benefits, however, are substantial.  While
  the song is playing, item creation and supers almost never fail,
  regardless of talent.  Furthermore, talents have a much greater chance of
  being discovered while using a specialty (with the exceptions of Pitch
  and Sense of Rhythm, since using Musical Talent changes the music).  Once
  learned, however, Orchestra makes Customizing, Alchemy, Blacksmithing,
  and any other item creation much more successful.


--Comprehension--
Description: Everyone tries to combine his or her power during combat for
  increased skill points.
Major Specialty: Practice
Minor Specialty: Survival
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: none
Support Items: none
Comments: When comprehension is in use, characters may gain extra SP when
  they reach a new level, up to around 2% per level of Comprehension.
  Normal SP gains are around the level of the character, i.e. a 40th level
  character can expect to gain around 40 points when they gain a level.
  Note, however, that the chances depend on the level of the super, and a
  failure might mean less SP than normal for a character.  Also note that,
  similar to its associated specialty, Practice, there is a downside to
  Comprehension in the form of reduced combat speed for everyone while
  this super is active, making Comprehension dangerous to use around
  powerful enemies.


--Come on Bunny--
Description: Everyone sincerely calls the name of a cute little rabbit to
  have it come to you.
Major Specialty: Familiar
Minor Specialty: Scout
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: none
Support Items: none
Comments: It may seem like a cute little thing, but in reality the bunny,
  whose name is apparently "Barney," is actually quite large and mean,
  since he is big enough to carry around your entire party without any
  enemy attacking you.  Barney can travel through any terrain except water,
  and is slightly faster than walking.  Best of all, nothing is used up in
  calling him, so you can have a relatively low level in this super and
  just keep calling until the bunny decides to come and take you somewhere.
  If you plan to get this super at all, however, get it early, as the
  latter stages of the game provide you with transportation that makes
  Barney obsolete.


--Publishing--
Description: Use everyone's abilities to write a book that is good enough
  to print.
Major Specialty: Writing
Minor Specialty: Machinery
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: Fountain Pen
Support Items: Text Software
Comments: An interesting super, this allows each character to write one of
  two possible stories that they want to tell.  These books can be sold for
  some extra Fol.  If sold to a publisher, they will publish the book for
  public reading, and you can pick up some royalties from sales.  The book
  also has the effect of changing the Emotional Levels of any character
  that reads the book towards the author.  This can be good or bad,
  depending on how good the relationship was between the characters before,
  as reading a book resets the character's emotional levels towards the
  author to a set number (8).  Each character can publish two books, one
  for friendship and a rarer one for romantic levels.  An important skill
  to learn early for those that want to make sure they get the character
  endings they want...


--Identify All!--
Description: Use everyone's powers to identify and appraise the value of
  items correctly.
Major Specialty: Identify
Minor Specialty: Metalwork
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: Spectacles
Support Items: none
Comments: This super is really more like bartering.  Using Identify All!,
  you can affect the prices of items at store by Skill Level x 3% that
  lasts until the next time you buy or sell at a store.  This affects ALL
  the prices, so if you decide to discount, you should only by items, and
  vice versa for raising the prices.  Each use of this specialty uses up
  one spectacle.  You can cancel the price adjustment, but you won't be
  refunded the spectacle you used.  A highly useful skill, one that can
  also be used in conjunction with the Familiar specialty to lower the
  prices during remote shopping as well.


--Blacksmith--
Description: Use everyone's powers to make magnificent armor from ore.
Major Specialty: Customize
Minor Specialty: Alchemy
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: ore (Iron, Damascus, etc.)
Support Items: Magical Rasp
Comments: The counterpart to customizing weapons, this super creates
  powerful pieces of armor with the used ore.  The supporting item (Magical
  Rasp) is unique in that it changes the Blacksmithing possibilities
  instead of giving you a better chance at succeeding, as different items
  are available from this super once the Rasp is in your inventory.


--Reverse Side--
Description: Use everyone's powers to make dangerous items.  Is it ambition
  that fuels crimes?
Major Specialty: Pickpocket
Minor Specialty: Copying
Needed Items: none
Consumed Items: Vellum Paper
Support Items: none
Comments: The most dangerous of the supers, and also potentially the most
  rewarding.  All the items made with this super are "illegal" but most are
  also quite powerful, allowing you to raid stores, stay at inns for free,
  cheat on you experience, and so on.  However, there are a few risks.
  First of all, failure in this super results in creating and owning the
  worst item in the game.  This item, the "Bounced Check," will not only
  continuously drain your money by the second, but COSTS money to get sell
  at a store (and the more you write, the faster your money drains...).
  The second risk is that the use of Reverse Side lowers the Emotional
  Levels for all the members of your party.



---SKILL GUILD OFFERINGS---

DESCRIPTION
While it's nice to know what all the skills are and how the specialties relate,
it does no good if you can't get the skills you want.  To help you plan ahead,
here is the list of the skill sets followed by the cities that offer those sets.
Sets with an asterisk aren't available until you reach Lacour.

Knowledge 1 (Mineralogy, Herbal Medicine, Recipe): Cross, Clik, Linga,
  Central City
Knowledge 2 (Musical Notation, Biology, Tool Knowledge): Herlie, Hilton,
  Linga, Central City
*Knowledge 3 (Mental Science, Piety, Fairyology): Linga, North City

Sensibility 1 (Courage, Patience, Esthetic Sense, Good Eye): Cross, Clik,
  Central City
Sensibility 2 (Playfulness, Danger Sense, Perseverance, Poker Face):
  Herlie, Hilton, North City
*Sensibility 3 (Functionality, Radar, Effort): Lacour, Armlock

Technique 1 (Whistling, Copying, Sketching, Kitchen Knife): Cross, Clik,
  Herlie, Central City
*Technique 2 (Mech Knowledge, Craft, Animal Training, Writing): Hilton,
  North City
*Technique 3 (Music Instrument, Metal Casting, Scientific Ability, Mech
  Operation): Linga, North City

Combat 1 (Spirit Force, Below the Belt, Strong Blow, Cancel): Clik, Herlie,
  Lacour, Armlock
*Combat 2 (Flip, Gale, Feint, Mental Training): Hilton, Lacour, Armlock
*Combat 3 (Counterattack, Parry, Body Control, Motormouth, Provocation):
  Lacour, Armlock



---MISCELLANEOUS---

STATISTICS AND BATTLES
One of the side benefits of skills is the pumping of a character's
statistics and battle power.  Here's a quick primer of what you should do
to make your character have a little more oomph:

- Raise your Perseverance level!  Doing so allow you to pay minimal amounts
  of SP in a variety of skills to supplement the use of lots of SP to
  specialize in a few skills.  Raising your Effort (after Perseverance)
  will allow you to advance faster so that you have more SP to spend.  Also
  raise your Danger Sense early; after Perseverance, the first 8 levels
  will be quite cheap, and the extra STM will greatly help battle recovery.

- Each statistic relates to your abilities in battle:
  STR (strength)     increases ATK (attack)
  CON (constitution) increases AC  (defense)
  DEX (dexterity)    increases HIT (chance to damage enemy)
  AGL (agility)      increases AVD (chance to block attacks)
  INT (intelligence) increases MAG (magical power)

  LUC (luck) affects HIT and AVD, as well as item creation and other
    "lucky" things.
  STM (stamina) determines your chances of recovering HP and MP after
    battles.
  GUTS will sometimes increase your attack/defense in battle, and might
    give you a chance to survive otherwise lethal attacks.

- Cater to the abilities of the characters.  Spellcasters don't need lots
  of STR or DEX, and fighters don't need lots of INT.  Everyone, however,
  can use more of the rest of the statistics.  This is, of course, subject
  to how you play.  If, for instance, you decide that you want your
  spellcasters to run out and kick some booty anyway, then go ahead and
  pump them up...

- Remember that there are two skills, Biology and Mental Science, that can
  raise your max HP and MP, respectively.  These become less important as
  you rise in level and your HP and MP continue to increase (9999 HP and
  999 MP is the maximum you can get in each statistic).

- Don't forget about combat skills, either.  Combat skills can be quite
  useful, and (with Perseverance) can also be cheap.  Most combat skills
  are geared towards fighters, although the defensive skills can be useful
  for spellcasters.  Cancel is completely useless for spellcasters, as is
  Motormouth for fighters.  Also, Cancel, Counterattack, and perhaps
  Provocation are only useful if you intend to spend a lot of time
  controlling that particular character in battle.  Note, however, that the
  skills Strong Blow and Flip might actually be harmful for characters to
  use, depending on the situation.  A successful Strong Blow may prevent a
  follow-up combination, while characters with longer range attacks may
  spend an inordinate amount of time running behind the opponent and
  getting to the required range when Flip succeeds.  All other combat
  skills, however, don't have any negative aspects (but you can still turn
  them off if you want to inflict less damage or take more damage).

- Why spend precious SP when you can just use cash?  Take note of which
  skills can be Authored, and make sure someone with high levels in such
  skills also can write books so that future character don't have to spend
  their points learning the same skills.



---DISCLAIMER---
(c)1999,2000 Sherwin Tam
This is my personal handiwork, and I took a lot of effort to write it.
Please do not use this commercially or alter it in any way.  Also, please
ask me if you plan to feature it on a web site or something of that nature,
as I'd rather not come across it one day and go, "Hey, how did that get
there?"



---CREDITS---
Thanks go to:

Ian Kelley, whose excellent FAQ on the Japanese version of Star Ocean 2 and
willingness to answer questions greatly helped my understanding of the
game.  His web site is at http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~ikelley/SFC.html and
his FAQ can also be found at www.gamefaqs.com.

GameFAQs (www.gamefaqs.com), one of the greatest places to find information
on any game out there.  There are a whole bunch of FAQs on SO2 now, so
anything you might ask is probably there.

Tri-Ace (www.tri-ace.co.jp) and Enix (www.enix.co.jp), for making a great
game.

Elizabeth M. Hollinger and James M. Rantkos, writers of Prima's
(www.primagames.com) strategy guide for Star Ocean 2.  Their guide's visual
walkthroughs were immensely helpful in getting me through the game quickly
while gathering more information.

All you people on rec.games.video.sony, esp. Laura Parkinson, Sean Chang,
Tetsuya, Robert Geiger, and the esteemed Ian Kelley for the SO2 discussion.

All of you who have sent in comments or corrections to my guide.  There are
too many people to really fit and keep the size down, but if you have sent
me info, thank you!