Star Ocean: First Departure R – Review
Follow Genre: RPG
Developer: tri-Ace
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PS4, Switch
Tested on: PS4

Star Ocean: First Departure R – Review

Site Score
8.0
Good: Unique fantasy world and creatures, Fun dungeons
Bad: Sound design is a bit lacking, No in-game tutorials
User Score
6.3
(3 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 6.3/10 (3 votes cast)

Back in 1996, developer tri-Ace and publisher Square Enix first introduced us to the world of Star Ocean. Back then, the game was only available in Japan and while several sequels got an international release sooner, it took until 2008 before the first game was finally rereleased for PSP under the title Star Ocean: First Departure. Another decade passed and today we’re looking at the HD-remake that hopes to bring this series to a new audience.

Story

Star Ocean starts with a fully animated cutscene, much like an anime opening. On the planet Roak, humanoid creatures called Fellpools live in a technologically unadvanced society, a sleepy town where nothing more interesting than the occasional bandits happens. Roddick and his two friends, Millie and Dorne, defend the town from these bandits but everything goes downhill when the neighboring town gets infected with a mysterious disease that turns people to stone. Millie’s father becomes infected and the three decide to climb a nearby mountain in search of a herb that is said to cure all disease. There they encounter strange humans, who claim the disease is caused by their opponents from an intergalactic war. Roddick and his friends will have no choice but to involve themselves in this war and uncover the truth to save their town, meeting new party members of various races with colorful personalities along the way.

Mostly the game gives you short cutscenes in its regular art style with the character portraits and text superimposed on the screen, but sometimes you do get fully animated cutscenes as well and they’re worth the wait.

Graphics

The art in this remake of Star Ocean remains mostly unchanged from the 2008 version, except for the character portraits. Most of the game consists of pixel art, though the environments look really good when it comes to the background details. There’s not a lot of variety in the enemy design, but the characters themselves look nice and different. The animated cutscenes are beautiful and look like they could come straight out of an anime. The new character portraits have a similar style, but you also have the option to play with the 2008 character portraits if you prefer them. This setting can even be changed mid-game.

Sound

With exception of the main theme song, once again something that sounds like it belongs in an anime, the sound design of Star Ocean doesn’t exactly blow you out of the water. It’s not bad, but it’s pretty standard RPG fare. A big bonus is that the game lets you choose between three different options for voice acting: the Japanese voice acting used for the 2008 version, the newly voiced Japanese version made for this remaster with the original voice actors, or English. The voice cast did an excellent job and just like with the portraits, you can change this setting at any point without restarting the game.

Gameplay

Star Ocean: First Departure R is an RPG of the old-school kind. Traveling through various places with your party, you will encounter towns, dungeons and scattered enemies on your way to your goal. In contrast to most games of this genre, the battles are not turn-based but instead play out in real-time. You can choose your ‘strategy’, which determines how the computer’s AI controls your teammates, while you control your character, though you can always change characters during battle.

Both normal attacks and special abilities, called Symbology, are at your disposal, though you only have a limited amount of slots and they use mental points. At the end of the battle, you are awarded money as well as special points, which you can use to customize your character’s skills, mostly used for various forms of item crafting. Do keep in mind that characters also have talents, meaning they aren’t naturally inclined to do just anything.

The money you earn can be spent in shops to buy new equipment whenever you come across a town, as well as healing items like food and special potions. Towns also allow you to interact with your party and get to know them better, often giving you choices in dialogue which change their relationships. A small downside is the lack of an in-game tutorial. Mechanics aren’t explained and it feels like you’re just thrown in the deep end a bit, so beginners unfamiliar with the genre might be confused about what to do. The gameplay during random encounters also tends to get just a bit tedious, though they have altered the running speed when moving around the world, making it easier to ignore.

Conclusion

Star Ocean: First Departure R is just a little rough around the edges, with sound design that could have used an update much like the art got and not enough directions for newcomers. Still, for those who enjoy big-scale adventures with amazing animation, fun dungeons and lots of originality in its storyline, this first installment of the Star Ocean franchise is exactly where to get it.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 6.3/10 (3 votes cast)
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Star Ocean: First Departure R - Review, 6.3 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
Jessica
Jessica


Games are my escape and writing is my passion.

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