A Classic JRPG Celebrated! Star Ocean: The Second Story R Review

First, thank you to Square Enix for allowing me to check this game before the release of the game, and I reviewed this game on PC.

Star Ocean Second Story R is a triumphant return to a beloved classic JRPG. Developed by Gemdrops, Inc. and published by Square Enix, this game is a 2.5D remake of the critically acclaimed original title STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY, originally released 25 years ago in Japan. While it revitalizes the past, it also introduces a fresh gaming experience for both newcomers and long-term fans of the Star Ocean series. It commemorates the 25th anniversary of the original title, bringing to life a world that seamlessly blends science fiction and fantasy. Let's dive into this nostalgic yet innovative journey and explore its features, pros, and cons.

Game Features

Star Ocean Second Story R beautifully combines 2.5D aesthetics with nostalgic 3D environments and 2D pixel characters. This blending of old and new is the game's trademark, capturing the essence of the original while delivering a modern gameplay experience. This style you've probably seen from Octopath Traveler, and I must say that Star Ocean has brought this style to a new level.

One standout feature is the new "Break" system, which adds depth to combat. Each enemy has a shield value, and when depleted, they become temporarily stunned, allowing for strategic opportunities. The combat system also includes an Assault Gauge, enabling party members to execute follow-up attacks.

The game offers three difficulty modes, catering to players of all levels. Additionally, players can enjoy the rearranged soundtrack, offering a fresh take on familiar music while keeping the original tracks intact. You can switch the voice language and soundtrack anytime, which is an excellent feature.

Pros

Visual Charm: The game's 2.5D aesthetic is not just a mere nostalgia trip; it's a visual delight. Fusing beautiful 3D environments with pixelated 2D characters creates a unique and captivating world. It's a brilliant way to pay homage to the original while offering a fresh visual experience to both old and new players. The Event Art style adds a layer of beauty to cutscenes and critical moments in the game, enhancing the overall atmosphere and storytelling.

Full Party Engagement: In most RPGs, characters not in your active party often become underutilized. Star Ocean Second Story R addresses this by making all characters relevant. Surplus characters act as summons that can be switched in and out during battles. This design decision not only keeps all your party members involved but also adds a strategic layer to combat. It's a refreshing take on party dynamics that keeps the game engaging.

Stellar Voice Acting: The game's voice acting is outstanding. It's not just a matter of having voices; many cast members are from iconic anime series, adding a layer of familiarity and excellence to the characters. This high-quality voice acting enhances the narrative and emotional depth of the game, making it a more immersive experience for players.

Soundtrack Redefined: The rearranged soundtrack, masterfully composed by original composer Motoi Sakuraba, is a standout feature. It brings new life to the familiar music, adding depth and emotion to the game world. Some tracks even feature live recordings with a full band, enhancing the audio experience. The soundtrack evolves alongside the game, from the world map to epic boss battles, creating a dynamic and engaging musical backdrop.

Tactical Combat: Star Ocean Second Story R offers a combat system that's both strategic and visually thrilling. Introducing the "Break" system, where enemies can be temporarily stunned, adds depth to battles. The Assault Gauge and the ability to set up special art skills in advance allow players to create unique combos. The real-time action combat, including skills with a simple button push, keeps the battles engaging and dynamic. The combat system evolves with new elements like 'Break' and 'Assault Action,' offering a fresh experience to fans of the series.

Flexible Party Management: The game allows players to customize party formations, manage character abilities, and set up strategies. This level of control adds depth to the gameplay, giving players the freedom to adapt to different situations. The ability to switch party members at any time is a valuable feature, ensuring you can always bring the correct characters for the job.

Engaging Story: The narrative of Star Ocean Second Story R is well-paced and engaging. It keeps players invested in the game world, leaving them curious about the characters' intentions and the unfolding events. The story strikes a balance between the familiar and the new, offering something for long-time fans and newcomers alike.

Replay Value: The game offers multiple challenges and high-level bosses that provide substantial replay value. Beyond the initial playthrough, there are many things to explore and experience, making it an excellent choice for gamers who enjoy revisiting and mastering their favourite titles. The surprises waiting in a second playthrough promise a satisfying and content-rich gaming experience.

The pros of Star Ocean Second Story R are multifaceted, touching upon visuals, gameplay, storytelling, and audio, making it an exceptional gaming experience for both fans of the original and newcomers to the series. These elements come together to create a game that is not only nostalgic but also engaging and memorable.

Cons

AI Behavior: One notable drawback is the AI's lack of a second command for character actions, especially for magic users. While you can instruct the AI on how to fight, it can become frustrating when characters run out of MP. In such cases, they tend to stand idle instead of switching to other actions, like using weapons or items. A second command option for the AI could have improved the overall party dynamics and made battles more efficient.

Paralysis Length: The game features a status effect known as "paralysis." The downside is that the duration of paralysis can be frustratingly long. During intense battles, being unable to move for extended periods can disrupt the flow and hinder the player's engagement. Reducing the duration of paralysis or adding options to mitigate its effects would have been beneficial.

While these cons are noticeable, they do not significantly detract from the overall enjoyment of Star Ocean Second Story R. The game's strengths in visuals, combat, storytelling, and customization provide a compelling and enjoyable gaming experience that far outweighs these drawbacks.

Star Ocean Second Story R is more than a mere remake; it's a loving tribute to a classic that has stood the test of time. Square Enix has done an excellent job of preserving the essence of the original while adding modern touches that make it a joy to play. Whether you're a fan who played the original on the PlayStation or a newcomer to the series, this game has something unique to offer. Its classic JRPG storytelling, compelling characters, engaging combat system, and stunning visuals make it a must-play.

My experience with Star Ocean Second Story R left me eagerly anticipating every moment I could dedicate to the game. Its charming, vibrant world and captivating narrative drew me in, and I wondered about the character's motivations and the mysteries of the game's universe. This is a classic JRPG experience that doesn't disappoint.

If you're a seasonal Star Ocean player, you'll be happy with this celebration of Star Ocean Second Story R, as it offers a lot of quality-of-life updates and a lot of replay value.

If I were to assign a numerical rating, it would be a solid 9 out of 10. The game excels in so many aspects that it's difficult not to recommend it to anyone looking for a memorable JRPG experience. Star Ocean Second Story R is a true gem that will leave you reminiscing while embracing the future of gaming.

Star Ocean Second Story R is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch and PC

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