Star Ocean The Second Story R | REVIEW | PS5
''ITS A LONG TITLE''
Genre: Role Playing
Release Date: Nov 2nd,2023
*Review copy provided to me by Square-Enix
Star Ocean The Second Story R is a remake of a beloved title and it is developed by Tri-Ace and published by Square-Enix. With Star Ocean trying to get back into the spotlight and rejuvenate its overall image, Tri-Ace and Square-Enix decide its time to bring out the bigger guns and give the greenlight to remake one of the more beloved entries into the Star Ocean franchise. But, was this a wise decision overall? or should they have focused more on fixing issues with the mainline series? Only one way to find out, so lets go!
Space Date 366 - A Federation officer finds himself transported to a mystical planet. While searching for a way home, an encounter with a young girl draws him into a quest to save her people, just as an ancient prophecy foretold
''SHINRA HQ HERE WE COME''
Star Ocean: The Second Story for many players who have loved the game since the days of PS1 in 1998, consider it to be the best title in the series, and for very good reason. Second Story at the time of various Dragon Quest releases and the ever rising popularity of the Final Fantasy brand at that time due to the release of Final Fantasy 7, sort of got under looked overall, while it grew to have a cult following due to how well it flourished in capturing the essence of everything that embodies the Star Ocean franchise by perfectly mixing classic fantasy themed elements alongside the more futuristic side of RPGs, it was still one of those titles that you had to tell your friends about due to the off chance it got lost in the shuffle. Why did it get lost in the shuffle? well like I just stated, it could've been due to Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy, but the real culprit? BUBSY 3D. When you have a juggernaut like that on the market, it's just so hard to get the spotlight. Jokes aside, while the original 1998 version still holds up well, even with modern standards, fans have been anxiously awaiting to see if this title stays true to the original games vision or is it more of a train wreck than Barret crashing into Corel. Luckily I can answer that for you and say it is the former and then some. Second Story R is a true to form reimagining, re-work, and could be considered the definitive version of this title, depending on if you're a purist or not. However that doesn't mean everything is a net positive either because while its a positive that its so close to the original, it's also a negative because it also means some of the original games shortcomings are back and rear their ugly heads again. Thankfully though, even with the bad, it's still not as ugly as Konami's attempt at remastering Silent Hill several years back, yikes.
Visually this game is absolutely stunning, moving from the original title's great 2D aesthetic and now upgrading it to a brand new sleek and stylish 2.5D art in conjunction with fully realized 3D landscapes that uses state of the art lightning techniques, similar to those you have seen in the Octopath Traveler series. Its basically gaming's version of She's All That, I'm willing to bet someone at Tri-Ace was like ''bro I bet I can take an ugly duckling game from the 90's and make it prom queen... I mean game queen'' then there was a back and forth argument about who can kiss her before midnight at the school dance, before they realized after 10 hours of debate, there wasnt a queen, there wasnt a school dance, there wasnt a prom, they were just making an actual game. I bet they felt pretty silly, but even if they did, they gave us our prom queen in the end by adapting the smooth 3D style by keeping main characters, allies, adversaries and other monsters true to their 2D sprite art, but with a beautiful coat of paint. Lightning Mcqueen would be proud. KAH-CHOW!. But graphics aren't the only aspect of this game that has got its fair share of updates, as you have the games interface upgraded to a more modern feeling style that makes it easier to manage by having better menus and less cumbersome conversation boxes. That may seem like small additions but trust me, when you're playing 30 hours plus in a game like this, you want the level of detail and rich smoothness of all major and key components. Come on, its like asking someone, hey you want to play some good ol FMV quality title or do you want that beefed up great looking graphical upgrade that gets you amped up like the days of believing ''blast processing'' was a real thing. That's right, you want that modern day blast processing, although there's always that random kid in the corner who's just like ''WHO WANTS TO PLAY SOME JAG!?''. Bro go away, no one owned an Atari Jaguar. Even if you did, majority of them were faulty anyways, just like Quest 64's attempt at being a ''REAL RPG''. Stupid Quest 64.
Here in Second Story, the core aspect and foundation upon which it was built in relation to the games combat is fully intact, albeit maybe a tad bit out of date if you try to compare to modern day standards, but they can still hold their own. Combat in this title remains engaging as it ever has been, however, like I stated earlier, with the good, so keeps the bad and that means the unbalancing issue is still in the forefront. What I mean by this is the games difficulty spikes still wind up showing themselves, which messes up the games balancing quite a bit. As you start in the game, fights can be fairly easy, some taking a minute to even 20 seconds to fully complete, however upon facing a boss battle or major boss fight, the difficulty level of the battle system goes from 1 to 20 without any warning. This will make the majority of newcomers and veterans of the game feel unprepared and have to grind further to make up for it. Same issue happens to be with certain dungeons you encounter on your long and thrilling journey with most of them not getting too much of a touch up, leading them to feeling a tad bit on the monotonous side. Basically it can be the same level of ''oh come on, get on with it'' as listening to a villains entire monologue about how evil they are and their master plan. Indiana jones had it right, show off and monologue all you want, I'll just shoot ya and be done with you, chump. As you begin your game, as in Star Ocean tradition it seems, you play as a young astronaut who has been stranded and marooned on a weird planet that seems a bit on the primitive side. Thankfully you do not have to eat your own poop to survive like Matt Damon. As the player, you get your own choice on whether you wish to pick Rena or Claude. Rena being from the planet Expel that is shrouded in mystery and events related to it and then Claude, an officer who focuses on bravery that is from the Earth Federation. Be careful who you pick though however, because just like titles similar to SaGa Frontier, who you pick out of the two, affects scenes each partake in and their encounters, and much like SaGa Frontier, the overarching story connects in the end with each other when the timing is right. So just make sure you pick the right character the first time, otherwise, its time for a second playthrough. Although, that's not really a bad thing, it beats having to replay Ratchet and Clank again after you've spent EIGHT HOURS STRAIGHT doing a playthrough, only to finish the game, find out the capture card corrupted your playthrough and then you have to re-do it again IMMEDIATELY afterwards!. Ok.. ok.. I'm calm, just a tiny bit of PTSD, I'm good now. Where were we?
As you travel the world, meet new characters, uncover the many mysteries this game has to offer you, you attempt to fulfill the duties of aspirations each unique character has, such as Rena wants to figure out the issues going on with her planet due to the descent of a very strange and weird meteorite. Now either its the end of the world and Nibiru is falling down on them or someone screwed WAY up and converged the timeline and now Sephiroth is on the way, either way, that's not a good situation to be in, you got a 50/50 chance of surviving, but sadly, there's only a 10% chance of that. Huh?. Claude on the flip side of this wants to establish some kind of contact with his spaceship, by any means necessary, and while they're both on their respective journey's, much like all other classic RPG's of that genre, their individual growth as people and as reliable characters keeps the main narrative intriguing and engaging, while building up to its inevitable convergence of both characters meeting each other and journeying together. That may sound a tad bit weird or confusing to some, wondering how are we going to connect with each character when we don't spend the whole allotted time with them. Simple, this is done by this version of the game having you as the player experience new side quests that dive way deeper into each's characters unique backstory that evolves the original games format to give you more of an understanding of the characters you play as, which by doing this, adds a ton of new layers to an already stacked storyline, giving you more insight into characters, motives and their emotions. By separating from your group with your chosen hero, it allows you as the player to delve further with interactions with your allies and makes every characters presence feel significantly more substantial than ever before, which means they're already more valuable than Yamcha from Dragon Ball. What a loser.
In the original version of Second Story, there was a big issue that occurred that gave you as the player the possibility of not being able to recruit or find certain characters, due to not being able to read the map right, things not being as explanatory as it should be and a little too confusing, or menu's that just made things more cumbersome than they needed to be. But here in Second Story R? all of this is solved for the most part by now finally introducing actual map markers and menu icons that clearly show when a side quest is ready, areas that should be checked out and when its time for specific character interactions, this way you don't have to be me like I was in Final Fantasy 7 when I'd purposely find ways to ditch Yuffie or Caith Sith - which is something till this day I'll never regret because.. I HATE THAT JERK FACE CAIT SITH. My point being is that these additions help the game to be more accessible and less of a chore to player who just wants to experience everything this grand adventure has to offer you. Instead of a fun game that's filled with stagnation or hard to decipher clues, which can lead to annoyance or broken controllers, you now have a more than competent RPG get even better than it was before, thanks to this remake, which is amazing in itself. Combat wise? which I know we've distanced ourselves from so far, due to it being a wee bit on the simplistic side, is well... simplistic. I mean its not as cut and dry simplistic as the original version was, no, but even with enhanced mechanics like breaking the barriers of enemies defenses to multiply attacks on them, which attacks their weak point for massive damage like you are attacking a Giant Enemy Crab in Genji, having side lined party members join your battles and using their special moves and buffs to try to turn a no win battle into a hail marry victory - even with all that, combat still feels like a simplistic little frenzy pace. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad, I'm just saying don't expect it to be overly engaging like a modern RPG made for todays climate. Keep expectations in check. Like Taco Bell level in check, you see a commercial, tell yourself the food looks delicious, know your bad history after eating it, but your expectations for this time is? ''Maybe it will be different''. Yeah... no, like I said, keep those expectations IN CHECK.
''THIS IS OUR TOWN NOW''
At the end of the day, Star Ocean The Second Story R is a superb remake of an old classic that makes an already great game even better than it was before. Although its not perfect, far from it, with characters getting lost in the shuffle due to the over reliance of visual effects that make your teammate AI look remarkable dumb at their jobs, surges in difficulty that comes out of nowhere at times that throw you off guard and leaves you unprepared, basically throwing you to the wolves with boss fights that can one shot you, questionable design technique that shouldve been refined more in this remake, and some tedious dungeons at times. However, even with the bad, the gorgeous visuals, amazing music, great addition of side quests that helps you learn more about characters, improved icon and menu system that ensures you see everything the game has to offer, fun and simplistic combat - it all just adds up to one big mesmerizing experience the keeps a smile on your face from beginning to end. If you've never played a Star Ocean game before or looking to find a good RPG in general to get your fix in with, then you can't go wrong with Second Story R, you're in for an awesome ride. So now with that having been said, my verdict is clear, GameNChick says BUY NOW