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Star Ocean: The Second Story - Review

The sleeper hit of 1999

By: Jade Falcon


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 10
   Plot 9
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 10
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Moderate to Extrememly Hard
   Time to Complete

40 hrs. (basic)
80+ hrs. (Cave of Trials)

 
Overall
9
Criteria

Star Ocean 2
 

   Enix released a hit in Japan called The Star Ocean a few years ago. In 1999, they released The Second Story to the US also. The game is extremely imaginative in many aspects, and just wickedly fun to play. I have played it through many times in the year I have had it, and you will too.

   The battle system is a true real-time system in which you control one person out of the max of four on the screen at a time. While you control the one character, the others do their own things on their own, but don't fear! Another great addition is actually intelligent AI, where if you have a healer, and someone's low on HP, they'll immediately cast a healing spell on that person. There are also "killer moves" for the fighters. If you press L1 or R1, they'll execute an awesome move, similar to the mages' magic. Also, regular items do not take up a character's turn, but there is a significant waiting period between item uses. When you enter a battle, generally you start on the right and the enemies start on the left. However, they may start on top of you, surround you, or start behind you. The battle system is awesome.

   There are lots and lots of menus in SO2. Sometimes you can get lost in the multitude of menus, especially in the item creation screens, that it can be quite annoying at times. However, if you look at them closer, the game really needs that many menus due to the many different items you can create.

I think he meant to do that.
Help, I'm falling and I can't get up!  
The battle menu is found by pressing the cancel button (whatever you set it as) while on a character. You can run, cast spells, use an item (mages only), or change strategies. The menus are good, but plentiful.

   I love Mr. Sakuraba's (sp?) music. It has lots of feeling in it. There's only one track I absolutely abhor (Hoffman Ruins, of course, I hate that whole place) while everything else is great. The sound effects, however, are funny. There are voice actors dubbed in on SO2. Each action your characters do, they make a sound. Some are just plain stupid (Woah, very red! :P) while others are just plain corny. If you can't stand bad voice acting, DO NOT get SO2. Otherwise, sound effects are good.

   SO2 also shines through in its originality. First, many items you use you have to create. The ultimate weapons in the game must be created through item creation. Granted, it doesn't have much of a use except for getting ultimate weapons in the game, but it's still very original. Also, Private Actions you complete between characters will hook them up for endings, like a romance novel. Also, there are many different end clips depending on who you hook up in the Private Actions. This game reeks with originality.

   The plot is like a novel. You start on one of two worlds with different characters who meet up early in the game. What it turns into is a storybook love. The game draws you in right away, after the about one hour of almost straight dialogue. Sometimes, however, the plot can get confusing, especially by the time you get to the Hoffman Ruins.

Bunny Shoes!?!?
Despite the corny name, they're the best in the game.  
For most of Nede, you will probably be quite confused. When you get done on Expel, you'll feel like the game is over, but you have a whole new world to discover. You save two worlds from destruction while defying your parents. Kids could learn lots from SO2. >:)

   I wish they would have localized it better. Many of the foods you create still have Japanese names, and we have no clue what those foods are. Also, Ashton's dragon friends have Japanese names (Gyoro and Urunun (sp?)). My head was getting the workout when I heard those names. Many people in the US will be like that. Besides that, the translation is excellent.

   A large compliment of characters (some you can choose not to join) and the ability to play through the game as two of the characters adds to the replay value. The game has been hailed as having eighty-some endings, but these are just small clips added to the ending credits depicting what the characters do in their future lives. Plus, the game is just plain fun to play through.

The graphics in SO2 are both good and okay. The backgrounds are lush and colorful, while the characters are flat and anime-style. Especially when the game gets zoomed in, the characters are very badly pixellized. The FMV, though very sparse, is excellent also. I love the ending FMV. The graphics, overall, are good except for the character sprites.

SO2 isn't the hardest game in the world until you get to the Cave of Trials at the end of the game. I couldn't even complete the first level until I was at least level 100!

Zap!
Some battle graphics.  
You have a max level of like 255, and you'll need most of those to get through the Cave of Trials. DO NOT TURN OFF THE LIMITER!!!!!!!!!!!! If you do, the final boss is darn near impossible, even at max levels.

SO2 is cheap enough now, like $10 off the internet, that you can buy an excellent game without excellent loss of cash. This game is excellent, but as said before, if you can't stand bad voice acting, this game is not for you. Otherwise, SO2 belongs in any serious RPGamer's library.







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