Square Enix Star Ocean: First Departure
The original Star Ocean was a groundbreaking debut for newly formed developer Tri-Ace.
- Beautiful graphics, little to no loading times, fantastic voice acting
- Dense AI, story tends to drag, Roddick... walks... so... slow...
The original Star Ocean finally comes to US shores and gamers on this side of the world are in for a fantastic RPG experience.
Price$ 69.95 (AUD)
Initially released in 1996 for the Super Famicon, the original Star Ocean was a ground-breaking debut for newly formed developer Tri-Ace. Both critics and fans praised the effort and it became evident that established role-playing franchises such as Final Fantasy and the Tales series suddenly had a new rival to compete with. Unfortunately, US gamers never got a chance to experience Star Ocean, a crime that's being rectified with the release of First Departure on the PSP. It's been twelve years but man was it worth the wait.
On the medieval planet of Roak, a young man named Roddick dreams of excitement that his patrol with the city's defence brigade just can't satisfy. Once the citizens of Roak begin to suffer from a strange and deadly disease, adventure quickly finds Roddick as he sees himself taken to the stars by a pair of technologically advanced humans, and sent on a quest through the timeline of his home world's past in order to save its future. Star Ocean boasts a clever and innovative story that's held up well over the years. Even though the main plot tends to drag a few hours in, the sheer amount of personality found in each hand-drawn character, beautifully pre-rendered city, or the superbly animated cut scenes courtesy of Production I.G. (Ghost in the Shell, Jin-Roh) are more than enough to pick up the slack.
One of the major distinctions between Star Ocean and other conventional RPGs of its time was its unique real-time battle system — a mechanic that has aged rather gracefully for First Departure. Battles are fast paced and fun, allowing you to switch between any of your party members on the fly for plenty of variety, as well as giving the player the ability to assign spells or special attacks to the PSP's shoulder buttons. The biggest complaint I have with the battles is the games less-than-stellar AI. Party members will often dash towards enemies outmatched and unprepared or use costly and unnecessary spells on the simplest of foes. Thankfully the game gives you quite a bit of leverage over what your characters can and can't do in battle with the addition of a Tactics menu, allowing you to order your party to pull back, lay off of the magic, or if the situation calls for it, simply run!
All in all, Star Ocean: First Departure has aged very well, and remains a unique and innovative RPG full of life and personality. For every played-out gaming convention the twelve year old story offers, there's always a new and fresh idea right around the corner to make up for it — from hidden cut scenes accessed through character driven Private Actions to an extremely deep Skill/Specialty scheme. For both jaded role playing veterans and newcomers alike, Star Ocean: First Departure is a journey full of life and character that's absolutely worth embarking on.
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