Well I’d say that’s almost worth 10 out of 10!
Square Enix have pretty much been on the ball when it comes to HD-2D styles of RPG’s lately and since copyrighting the use of HD-2D specifically they have now got quite a few games under their belt from Octopath Traveler and Triangle Strategy along with the remake of Dragon Quest III that has yet to release. One game however that came as a surprise to many is the latest release of Star Ocean known as Star Ocean: The Second Story R, a remake of Star Ocean the Second Story on PS1, also known better as Star Ocean: Second Evolution on the PSP with the latter being the one I am most personally familiar with.
Star Ocean: The Second Story R lets you play as one of two characters who depending on you choose will become the main focus of the story even though they will both be playable to you no matter who you pick. Playing either as Claude C. Kenny or Rena Lanford. Playing as Rena she is saved early on from a monster thanks to Claude and believes him to be a God. The general premise and Story changes depending on who you recruit to your party in the game but the end goal remains largely the same.
Being a HD-2D remake Star Ocean: The Second Story R has a big emphasis on its visual aesthetics. It has highly detailed 2D sprites on a highly detailed 3D environment with some incredible lighting effects and it makes exploration of towns and villages much more visually appealing. Keeping with the familiar themes of Star Ocean “Private Actions” can be activated in towns and allow you to find and trigger cutscenes with your party members and allows you to deepen your bond with them. These are all completely optional but are definitely recommended as they will have an effect on the games endings, on top of this the game does warrant several playthroughs and your guaranteed to have a different experience each time.
Battles consist on a battlefield and play out in real time action, random battles are no more and replaced with pixelated ghost orbs that can spawn and by gathering several together you can easily chain several battles together making grinding much easier. Spamming the attack button will serve you well in the easier difficulties certainly but the harder difficulties can ramp up and quickly bring you to your knees. Battles are very fluid and you can switch targets on the fly and switch between your characters also. While you can control each character you can also set up AI should you wish one character to focus on healing, you can still issue commands as you wish though at any time where your characters will return to their AI once commands have been issued.
A new lease of life has been added to battles where enemies drop orbs which add to an overall Bonus Gauge that gives passive buffs to your party at certain thresholds, this can be disrupted should enemies get the jump on you so if you tend to run away a lot the game will punish you for doing so. Another incredible feature that becomes available is Assault actions which allow you to use a powerful burst such as a buff or an attack which will give you an edge, these are based off of past and even more recent Star Ocean games as Laeticia from The Divine Force makes an appearance early on. What’s really refreshing to see is characters from modern games make an appearance on a remaster of a game that is decades old.
The skill system is something anyone familiar with Star Ocean will be aware of and allows you to distribute points within one of many skills which will give you a desired trait or ability. Essentially these will allow you to do things such as mixing herbs into potions, creating accessories, fishing and creating skill cards, these give a lot of depth in expanding gameplay options, my only issue with this is how overwhelming the feature is at first. With many points to distribute at the start it feels over encumbering and almost pointless especially as all characters will eventually be able to learn all of these eventually anyway. Star Ocean The Second Story R also features a semi in game achievement page that unlocks Money and even more Skill points once certain conditions are met, this essentially takes the grind out of almost any part of the game and sure you never have to use it but the fact it flashes up on the main menu it makes it hard to do and only adds to making the game more easier than it needs to be.
On top of the visual aesthetics the game has received a musical overhaul with a fully remixed soundtrack and it sounds fantastic. Strike your Mind the battle fanfare being a particular standout for me as it has a rock theme to it which just suits it so well.
Star Ocean: The Second Story R overall is a fantastic JRPG set in the Star Ocean universe and is easily one of the best in the series. With a an overhaul to its graphics and battle system it allows for a more immersive experience and is one that I can recommend to anyone.
A PlayStation 5 Review Code was provided by Square Enix