Here is my Star Ocean: The Second Story review. Iíve included many different categories into the review. Iíve also on many occasions drawn comparisons to tri-Aceís other titles such as Till the End of Time; as well as other RPG titles to further emphasize the games traits.
Story Overview: The Second Story provides a unique culmination of two persons stories, Claude C. Kenni & Rena Lanford. While unique these two characters are heavily intertwined in ways they would never originally imagine. At the beginning of the story Claude is basically messing around with his fathers work colleagues until he unwillingly stumbles across a mysterious energy field which despite orders from his fellow colleges to stand back from it he chooses to inspect it further. This transportation ends up sending Claude to an underdeveloped world known as Expel. Shortly after these events he comes across Rena which from there unearths a struggle to see whether Claude try find a way hope while attempting to shake claims on been a ďHero of LightĒ and getting wound up in the events of Expel, will Claude ever see his father again?
Story Review: Out of the Star Ocean series to date many will agree that The Second Story has the best story of them all, certainly compared to Till the End of Time I couldnít disagree. Having the luxury of witnessing a powerful story from two different, yet similar points of view is truly amazing. Watching Claude develop as a leader and having a relationship build with Rena is just part of what makes the story so fantastic. For RPG fans that want to witness a quality powerful story shouldnít be too disappointed with this title at all. 9/10
Graphics: Well, itís a 1998 game so itís folly to expect state of the art graphics in todayís language, however if you can recall what PSX games were like this is no doubt one of the best graphical displays you will find on the hardware, in itís day it would be well worthy of a 9. In todayís scene however the fact it used sprites in particular is a bit of a joke for a 3D environment, otherwise it does the job without looking too great. This is an area where Second Evolution improves on. 5.5/10
Battle System: Oh the beautiful Battle Systems of Star Ocean, while of course it doesnít come close to the speed and quality of Till the End of Time, for a game of itís age however the Battle System is state of the art; perhaps even more so then Till the End of Time when new. Here you have a full action style battle system, where you can interchange between your four active characters as you please, while the other three will fight based on AI to try helping you achieve victory.
In my opinion the open environment style battles of Star Ocean exceed that of the linear style witnessed in the Tales of games; while you donít have a defend button you are duly compensated by free movement which can allow you to move in any direction to avoid enemy attack.
Another great aspect of the battles is the mild interactive environments with them, in some battles for example there will be mine carts passing thorough which can damage you if hit. Although of course you could try cause the enemy to stand in line with it to get damaged by them, it just adds a nice slightly more interactive feel and the third party aspect which you can use to your advantage, if youíre clever enough!
The one major issue I have with the battle system however is the freezing of the battle to perform spells, the fast paced action battles have to take a back seat during this process which basically defies the fast passed action. If you can put this aside or simple not use Runology often it shouldnít be too much of a hassle, and you might even appreciate the short time out in battle...maybe. 8/10
Battle Difficulty: One thing Iíve come to like from the Star Ocean games is adequate difficultly in battle, without been impossible. You simply cannot neglect opportunities to train if you expect to walk through battles without any issues. Enemies can be tough, and bosses at times are extremely difficult. But as with most RPGís persistence is the key to further success! One annoying thing in battle though is while you roam a 3D environment you cannot attack in any other direction then left or right. So youíll perhaps find the additional movement requirement to be both a pain and make the battles more difficult at times. 8/10
Voiceovers: Oh god this is unfortunately probably the worst part of the game, unless you played it while new and didnít know any batter youíll absolutely hate them. They are short, sound poor and are very repetitive. Unfortunately the great soundtrack of the game is slaughtered when in battle by these. I guess the only good thing is you will only have to endure these during battles. Thankfully Second Evolution brings new voiceovers with it...boy do they need them! 2/10
Characters: The characters in the game are rather unique and work rather well together, which in particular is witnessed during the various Private Actions you can witness throughout the game. From Claude trying to hide his feelings of affection to Rena, to Ashton falling in love with...barrels, Dias trying to befriend no one and Precis trying to make friends outside of Bobot provide a number of angles which allow for a great range of characters. Also typically with the Star Ocean series is the ability to have some choice over which characters form your final party, at times you can choose to allow one to join or not etc which allows for some freedom in your preferred party. 8/10
Item Creation: This is what I feel one of the stronger areas of the game, while item creation like with Till the End of Time can be quite random at times itís far easier to get the ball rolling. Simply by been able to activate your menu you can start any item creation process, far better then having to move to exclusive locations just to make one item! As always the result can be quite random, of course however boosted by your various talent levels. 9/10
Replay Factor: The story itself will take you around 30-35 hours on a first attempt, although thankfully beyond that there are additional dungeons to explore and the massive voice collection (for LOLz at the least) to try complete as well. Add this with the two sides of the story and characters you may not have recruited the first time itís very worthy of at least two play throughs, and even more for dedicated Star Ocean fans. 7.5/10
Final Thoughts: If you played this in itís day you will be very pleased with the product and probably think this is one of the worst reviews you have ever read as this is one of your all time favorite games. However if you played it for the first time much after it's release date you will notice a number of flaws, some due to aging mixed in with the fantastic story the game presents. If you havenít played it yet and canít easily get a copy you might want to look to Second Evolution instead, as it improves on some sore points - and won't burn your wallet either. Having said that it is still a quality game, particularly for something which is over 10 years of age now!
Overall Rating: 7.7/10
Opinion by Fayt.