Review by b9bomber

"Proof that games and anime donít always mix"

When it comes to anime role playing games, the Star Ocean series is a series that helped flesh out that genre. The original Star Ocean was released in Japan in 1996, and it sold over 200 000 copies without a North American release. This was a unique RPG in the sense that it was the one of the first console RPGs to introduce real time combat instead of the basic turn based combat that the Final Fantasy series used. Now they remade the game, enhancing the graphics and sound, for a PSP release in both Japan and North America. The only problem is, this game has a hard time fitting in with a basic North American audience.

The story begins with three people with tails hanging out in a defense post in a village on another planet. The cutscenes at the beginning are pretty lame since the voice actors are pretty dull and the animation sketchy. You then wander around town like an idiot not knowing what to do and at this point you then have the basic idea of what the game is going to be like. Lame annoying story, boring gameplay, and ugly graphics.

Since the game is an RPG, one core aspect of the game is to worry about leveling up and improving your characters. In order to get from each plot point in the game, you have to level up quite a bit in order to survive and doing this involves fighting boring and easy random encounters at the area before.

One interesting thing about leveling up is that at each level you get skill points to allocate to certain abilities that help you boost your combat skills or let you make items. By using the item creation system, you can continue to make very expensive stuff for virtually nothing removing all challenge from the game. You can use this system to make a kick ass weapon that will obliterate everything or an expensive item you can sell for a load of cash. I found that some skills were useless such as the “Oracle” skill which was expensive in skill points and gave you useless information about the game.

The battle system is too simplified. During battle all you have to do is smash the attack button and occasionally the special attack buttons or use the item menu. Doing this combination constantly throughout the game is an experience that is truly lacking.
As for presentation, this game looks ugly. The animation is bad, the sprites are ugly, and the music is just annoying. Maybe if you like the anime kind of feel you would like it but even so this would probably be stretching it.

This game is good for replay value though. If you liked this game and want to play it again, you always have the option to recruit different characters, choose different skills, and visit different locations. You can even treat the characters differently to effect a hidden “affection” score. These factors help you choose one of man different game endings.

All in all, I would not be surprised if this game fails to attract a North American audience. Its story and presentation are too much like an anime movie, and this usually doesn't attract that many people. The gameplay also needs a major tweak to actually make it fun and the item creation system needs some work as well to make it unbalanced.

I can see why they did not release the original Star Ocean to the North American markets in 1996 if it was like this.

Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 02/23/09

Game Release: Star Ocean: First Departure (US, 10/21/08)

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