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Thread: Game Review: Star Ocean, First Departure (PSP)

                  
   
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    Default Game Review: Star Ocean, First Departure (PSP)


    Platform: PSP
    Developer: TOSE
    Publisher: Square-Enix

    Ratings:

    PEGI:










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    Star Ocean: First Departure is a remake of Star Ocean on the SNES. It has received a large graphical update, including some FMVs, as well as extra characters. Other than that it stays very close to its original on the SNES. The SNES version was never officially released to the West, so this is the first time Western games can experience the original Star Ocean.

    The story is an unusual concoction of sci-fi and fantasy, it is based upon the planet Roak, a undeveloped planet of elf like creatures with tails. It involves the people of this backward world, the human race exploring on space ships, demon kings, global pandemic diseases and lots of monster fighting.


    Your party can consist of a maximum of eight characters, of which four participate in combat. Four of these characters are storyline characters and will always be in your party, the other four are your choice. Some of these extra characters you encounter as part of the story and are given the option to invite them to join you, others require a lot of backtracking and side quests and some more are mutually exclusive to the others, you get one or the other. As each character has their own skills and story and quests, these leads to extra dungeons and story segments depending on who is in your party. The main quest however is unaffected regardless of party.

    Story speech is mostly done through voice acting. Unlike many games which include voice acting Star Ocean's actors convey emotion. In a panic filled situation you can hear the panic and urgency in their voices which is a welcome change from monotonous speech. This is to be expected since most of the actors have experience in voicing other computer games or anime.


    Star Ocean features a real time combat system, you control the party leader who is the character of your choice, whilst the other three follow a basic AI, you can give orders such as “avoid the enemy” and “attack with all your might”. The controls are very fluid and natural, the techniques are easily performed by use of the L and R buttons. The loading times for combat is also very quick and most non-boss fights can be won simply by mashing the X button. This is both a good and bad thing. It's great if you don't want to have to think too deep and just want to kill some monsters, on the other hand its lack of any kind of tactics leave the item and AI system a little redundant. It's possible to beat the entire game using only a handful of items and having no character die.

    The levelling is very well balanced in that grinding is almost non-existent. While it is beneficial to gain a few levels before a boss it's generally unnecessary due to the low difficulty level of the standard difficulty setting. Unfortunately, unlike other Star Ocean games there are no harder difficulty settings available. This means the standard game will little challenge to an experienced role player and even less to those familiar with the Star Ocean series.

    A common feature of the Star Ocean games is a crafting system and First Departure is no exception to this. Every time a character levels up they gain so many skill points. They can use these skill points to increase their levels in crafting skills or combat skills. Some of these crafting skills have a combat side-effect. For example the cooking specialty requires knowledge of Recipe, Keen Eye and Knife. Increasing your skill in Knife will also increase your Strength by 10 for every level of Knife you have. This means that even dedicated crafting characters are combat capable.

    The crafting system allows access to very powerful weapon and items, unfortunately it's completely random what you end up with. It's possible to use hundreds of raw materials without once ever getting a useful item. This leads to constant loading of save games so as not to waste rare components.

    After completing the story, you can reload the save file and find a post-game dungeon called the Cave of the Seven Stars. It's a 30 floor dungeon with monsters much much harder than anything in the regular game. There is also a summonable monster named Gabriella who can be called using the Music specialty. Due to the low difficulty of the game even this isn't very challenging. Overall the entire game including hidden dungeon can be completed in 20 to 30 hours.

    Despite all the attention to detail in the game it becomes obvious early on that the interfaces weren't given as much love. The inventory screen is broken into a variety of categories such as 'One use only', 'Weapons', 'Armour' and 'Newly Acquired'. It is possible for an item to be in multiple categories at once and sometimes what you think is the right category is the wrong one. The really poor interfaces are the shop selling window and crafting screens. Unlike the inventory screen you can't break these down by category, so in the case of selling items you must scroll through every single item in your inventory to find the one you want to sell. This becomes tedious very quickly. This same flaw applies to some of the crafting screens, finding the item you want to modify or create can be annoying.

    Star Ocean is a good RPG. It has an interesting crafting system and a very fluid and intuitive combat system. The story is interesting enough to hold your interest to the end and the tie-ins to earth mythology are welcome, but the path through the game itself is glaringly linear. Overall Star Ocean is worth a look but if you've played its successors don't be too surprised by how superior they are to First Departure, which after all, is an upgraded version of the original Star Ocean.

    Last edited by skynes; September 1st, 2009 at 13:48.

  2. #2
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    nice review, don't forget to use [center] [/ center] to centre the pics

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    Ooo good thing I plan on picking up the second SO game then.

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