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A.P.I Review: Star Ocean: The Second Story
Developer: Enix OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Sony Computer Entertainment America 1 Player
Game Type: Classic RPG Memory Card
Review Date: June 1999 Dual Shock/Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

For those of you that have ever owned a SNES and have liked RPG's, the name Enix should be no stranger to you. Their Dragon Quest series of games is almost legendary in stature and in Japan ranking them right up there with Square (well, almost).

For their first US RPG release on the Playstation (we are still waiting for Dragon Quest VII) we are treated to a nice little classic RPG tale called Star Ocean: The Second Story (SOtSS). The game is actually two intertwined tales that can be played out individually depending on the character that you choose in the beginning of the game.

The main plot is set around a mysterious meteorite called the Sorcery Globe that has landed on the planet Expel. Ever since the landing occurred the once peaceful, lush planet has now become a place to fear. Monsters began to appear and word quickly spread throughout the land of strange happenings. People began to fear for their safety and choose to not venture outside of their towns for risk of being attacked and killed.

Naturally, it's going to be up to you to step in and save this ravaged world from its present fate and restore order and peace. Just how you go about accomplishing this is part of the charm of a good RPG…ah, the story…

Sound & Vision

One of the nice things about RPG's graduating to the 32bit platforms is the step forward they have taken in the presentation department. While I believe that the story is the most important part of an RPG, the visuals have the potential of adding that extra punch. As far as SOtSS is concerned, it is a bit of a throwback to the 16-bit era with a lot of things thrown in that only today's consoles can produce.

The characters for instance are of the super-deformed sprite based variety so popular in the 16-bit days. Granted they look cleaner and more colorful, but they still look dated. Now in direct contrast the backgrounds are all pre-rendered ala Final Fantasy VII or Resident Evil style. Incredibly enough, the two mix together very well and give the game an overall polished look that reminded me of Saga Frontier only prettier. Little details like flocks of birds flying overhead or being able to see your reflection in a stream of water add a nice touch of realism of the world.

The battles switch to a polygon backdrop, which moves with the characters. The overworld is also polygonal and can be rotated 360 degrees in either direction while you are walking through it.

The music is terrific, yet slightly redundant. The melodies and orchestration are grand in nature with one of them reminding a little bit of a tune from a Star Trek movie soundtrack (in parts). In general terms, I have no complaints in the music department except to say that there could have been a bit more variety.

The sound effects are generally good throughout, but are a little hollow sounding. The voiceovers during battle also need some work. Make them legible or leave them out.


SOtSS is really two separate tales that have been finely crafted and joined together to seamlessly overlap the main storyline. When you begin the game you are presented with of choice of two characters to select.

The first character is a boy named Claude C. Kenni who has just attained the rank of Ensign in the Earth Federation and is about to begin his first assignment. There is a mysterious energy field that is emanating from the planet Milocinia and he is dispatched to the Federation Starship that his father commands to investigate. Once there, Claude bravely steps into this mysterious looking machine and suddenly vanishes right before the eyes of his father and crew.

The second character is a girl named Rena who lives on the planet of Expel in the still peaceful town of Arlia. As previously noted, Expel has just been struck by a mysterious meteor and people are afraid to leave their towns. Strangely enough though since the arrival of the Sorcery Globe Rena has begin to venture into the Shingo Forest alone, ignoring the warnings from her mother about the monsters that have started to appear in the woods.

One day when Rena is in the forest she is ambushed by a monster and then out of nowhere a boy appears and saves her life by killing the monster with his laser pistol. The boy happens to be Claude of course and this is where the two meet and the storyline begins to intertwine.

We learn that the world of Expel have a belief that a hero wielding a "sword of light" will arrive whenever the world is in danger and save them. Not surprisingly, they mistake Claude as their hero and think the laser pistol is the sword of light. At this time Claude is able to investigate the town of Arlia and obtain some helpful information from the townsfolk and herbs from some unopened chests. Rena's mother then prepares a large meal of celebration and thanks to Claude for saving her daughter and Claude then learns of the world's belief. After Claude does some explaining to the villagers of Arlia that he is not the prophesied hero, he learns from the town mayor that Rena's mother is not her real mother and that Rena had mysteriously appeared in the forest of Shingo at the tender age of two.

It seems that even thou this secret has been kept from Rena, she is aware that her real mother is elsewhere. It is now decided that Rena and Claude will venture out into the world to try and unravel the mysteries of the Sorcery Globe, free the world of the monsters and attempt to find Rena's real mother. The story is filled with twists and turns that include kidnapping, deceit and a nice little love story. It is also quite comical that whenever Claude uses his Laser his is mistaken for the world's hero at some of the villages he visits.

SOtSS plays out in the classic RPG fashion where you gain experience points each time you win in a battle. Attributes that are increased include HP and MP, Skill Points and new Specialties. The game also has some new innovative features such as giving players the ability to learn skills. This in turn allows you to fashion weapons and such from the skills you learn and certain items that you can find. I found this feature to be pretty useful and amusing as you can eventually learn to craft all sorts of neat stuff.

Battles are played out in a unique manner. There are actually three modes of battle that you can choose prior to starting the game and then you have the ability to change between the three options at any time except during the actual battle. The options are:

Standard - Your basic turn based attack mode that enables beginners to become familiar with the game with the targeting mode set to manual.

Semi-Active - Allows for your character to roam the battlefield. The targeting mode is set to semi-auto.

Full Active - Allows you to select and move any member in your party during battles. This opens up many different types of strategies that you can use during fights. The targeting mode is set to Auto.

You can also go into your menu screen and choose from a large variety of battle tactics that will situate your squad in strategic formations during each battle. This kind of variety and freedom made the battles much more interactive and exciting when compared to most RPG's that just allow you to attack when it's your turn from a stationary position. You really feel like you are in the center of the action!

There are also different types of attacks that you can utilize. The first is your basic attack that delivers rather low damage amounts to your foe. You can use this attack as often you like as it doesn't drain any power from you character. The second and more effective moves are the Killer Attacks. These moves require the use of items that you have made from your specialty skills or from objects such as the laser pistol that you were given. These killer moves get stored in the L1 & R1 buttons and can also be linked to give you the ability to execute some pretty devastating attack combo's.

To allow for all of these wonderful options there better be a damn good menu system…well luckily there is! Called the Camp Screen, from here you can access all of your battle strategies, character status, equipment selection, Specialty and Skill allocations, item selections, etc. There is also a sweet little equipment wizard that you can set that will automatically equip your characters with the best weapons as you find or purchase them. The overall menu system is quite comprehensive and very impressive!

The game is also quite long, boasting over 100 hours of playtime. Now, the actual game can certainly be finished in less time than that, but you have the option of playing through it again with whomever you didn't select for the first game (Claude or Rena). It was interesting to watch the story unfold differently between the two characters and the different actions that take place that you miss by playing with the other character.

There is also something called Private Actions that players can choose to participate in. Depending on which Private Actions you choose and how you complete them, you will be rewarded by one of 80 different game endings! This adds an almost unheard replay value for an RPG style game and is a great idea to extend the life of these types of titles.

Along your journey you will meet a good deal of characters to interact with and some that will actually join your party. Parties can consist of up to eight members at once, with four actually being displayed on the battle screen at any given time.

The storyline is long and complex with a lot of areas to cover, place to visit and things to do which brings up my only real criticism of this game. The conversations that take place are way too long for my liking. There are times when you can get caught up in a ten or twenty minute discussion that will have you wanting to rip your eyeballs from their sockets. The dialogue could definitely have been streamlined here, but hey that's just me. I know that some people rather enjoy the long drawn out discussions, and for those of you that do this will undoubtedly make your day complete.

I can honestly say though without reservation, if you are an RPG fan you will want to pick up this game. It is presented in a very classic RPG style, yet upon further investigation contains a plethora of innovative little things to make it quite special. Enix has done a wonderful job bringing their first stateside RPG to the Playstation and it makes me now hunger for the ultimate release of Dragon Quest VII.

GRAPHICS: 17/20 A throwback to the classic RPG's of old, Star Ocean the Second Story will have you RPG'ers grinning from ear to ear with it's gameplay. While it does in fact play like an old style RPG, there are a lot of neat little innovative ideas in there just waiting to be used. I liked the way you could acquire skills and specialties and use them to make your own special equipment. I also like the completeness of the menu system.

Graphics and sounds won't win a gold metal but they are certainly solid and won't disappoint you either.

As with all RPG's, it's really all about the story and this is where Star Ocean really succeeds. Besides being an incredibly long game to play, it's also interesting and has characters that you want to root for and see victorious. So if you have time on your hands and really want to be treated to a fine RPG, grab yourself a copy of SOtSS and enjoy…I know I did!
SOUND: 7/10
VALUE: 18/20


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