Star Ocean: First Departure - Reader Review  

How Many Stars Are in an Ocean
by Dorothea Hauk

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Very Easy
20-40 Hours
+ Easy to use crafting system.
+ Nice visuals
- A Messy ending for a good start
- Press X to win
- Only a drop from the ocean
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   Star Ocean: First Departure is the PSP remake of the original Star Ocean for the Super Nintendo. Having never been released outside of Japan this is the first time we have seen the game here in the west. Now we get to see where the series began. Apparently, with Roddick Farrence, a member of a small group of fighters who protect their town. When the residents of a near by town are turned to stone by an unknown disease Roddick and his friends search for a cure, only to find that it lies three hundred years in the past. Being the first game in the series lets find out just how vast is this ocean of stars really is.

   The battle system is real time like the other Star Ocean games, the player has control over one of the party members while the other members are controlled by an AI. What combat really comes down to is, you press X, your character runs to the enemy and attacks. Battles are mostly devoid of challenge till the very last dungeon. Besides the complete lack of challenge battles are still fun and fast paced with a few minor glitches; though, after hundreds of battles it is bound to get boring.

Battles get old fast. Battles get old fast.

   Of course, there is a lot more you can find then battles. Star Ocean is far more customizable then your average JRPG, you can only get up to eight characters letting you chose and customizes your party, of course some character will not join you unless certain requirements are met. Like in all games of the series there are what is called "Private Actions" which add more depth and personality to the characters. There are also several character skills to add to the customization as well as an item crafting system, plenty of side quests, and hidden dungeons that you can spend your time on. The item crafting system is not only easy to use, but also expansive. Many of the crafting skills are useful, like weapon and armor crafting, then you have skills like cooking which is almost completely useless.

   Despite The title "Star Ocean" you will spend most of you time in a fantasy world on the quest to defeat the archfiend. Although the story is very typical it's a well done typical, that is, until you get to the end, which is an tacked on mess. although the story is not a strong focus and it has a out of place ending there is a simpleness to it that can be refreshing compared to some the more story focused games.

There There's lots of stars, but really only one planet.

   Surprisingly the voice acting is good; though, it can be a little over the top or flat when it doesn't need to be. The cut scenes will change depending on the character you have with you and considering most of the cut scenes are fully voiced there is quite a bit more to this game then first play though. The music; however, is average, it's not very memorable, but it is far from bad. It does its job of filling the silent void, but not much else, in fact you might not even notice it. Of course there is a few songs that stand out.

   Unlike the music you have vibrant visuals of crisp, clean 2D graphics. The beautifully detailed prerendered backgrounds and colorful sprites work well together, but the world map is very bland. The animated cut scenes, though few in number, give life to the characters like the sprites never could. Production I.G is a animation studio that has always done quality work, and is no exception.

   Star Ocean is an enjoyable game with vibrant visuals, easy, but fun battles, voice acting that isn't annoying, a good translation, far more customization then your average JRPG. Then, of course, there is no game without flaws and there are a few, like the battles being devoid of any challenge, some minor glitches, a terrible ending, forgettable music, and a star ocean with one or two stars. Despite being flaws they are minor flaws and do not take much away from the overall experience.

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