75Square-Enix has become a repackaging machine of late, as the “old generation” (like in their 20s and early 30s) that grew up on the origins of the modern console age yearn to play the classics once again.‚  We’ve seen various re-makings and re-packagings of Final Fantasy and well as other classics (hello Chrono Trigger) re-branded on the handheld market to various levels of success.

With one of the more hyped (at least for RPG lovers) games of 2009 being the new Star Ocean game, the good folks at Squeenix have given the faithful a chance to play the first two versions once again on the PSP.‚ ‚  While Star Ocean: The Last Hope will be an Xbox 360 exclusive, these remakes have been strangely given to the underutilized PSP platform.‚  Bad marketing, fanboy service or something in-between?‚  Who cares?‚  These are classics that deserve another play.

Jan. 20, 2009

The re-release of Star Ocean: First Departure was of more interest originally, as it was originally only available for Nintendo’s Super Famicom, (Japanese Super Nintendo) and never got a stateside release.‚  Unfortunately, while the game was new to most, it did not especially age well.‚  For most older, hardcore RPG players, Star Ocean: Second Evolution on the PS1 was the first exposure to the Star Ocean universe, but finding a copy these days involved either a fantastic old collection, or an ebay account and a hefty amount of disposable income to acquire the rarity. ‚ ‚ Now it’s back, with some improvements (although some are questionable), portable, and affordable.

So: Second Departure follows your basic RPG clichƒ©s on a story level.‚  Boy suddenly finds himself in strange new world, boy meets girl, boy is seen of some sort of prophetic hero, and adventures and childish romance ensue.‚  This is the way things work in old-school games, but luckily when playing the game, you’re looking at one of the road maps for this base storyline, and it’s very well done and consistently compelling.‚  In addition, the game provides a unique twist that gives the game nearly unparalleled replayability, as you can begin the game as either the male or female protagonist, which significant differences in storyline, experience and even additional party members in each play-through. ‚ ‚ Adding even more game play, most characters have their own mini side stories which provide additional insight to their personal story, and it would be nearly impossible to see everything the first time though the game, while the second time can be a completely unique experience.

One slight complaint about the setting, however.‚  In Star Ocean: Till The End of Time (or Star Ocean 3, depending on how you look at it) on the Playstation 2, one got a full realized sci-fi world with you know … space, and gleaming spaceships and the kind of things one expects from the genre.‚  In these early games, developer Tri-Ace never fully committed to the genre, so while you are told it is space, and you are on another planet, it’s still mostly swords, magic, and castles and towns with shops that sell weapons, armor and potions, giving the game more of a re-skinned feel than a futuristic one.

It is within the story where Square-Enix made two significant upgrades (although one is debatable) to the game.‚  The first is in the voice-over work.‚  The initial Playstation release had some of the most laughably bad voice over work in RPG history.‚  We’re talking laughably bad, but that was in some ways part of its charm.‚  With a new script comes new voice-over work, and it falls flat of the mark.‚  For the most part, it just sounds like actors reading lines without having any context in the where the story is at the moment, so they often seem a little too excited or sad for the situation and it just doesn’t ever really gel, while also being a bit too wordy at times when the player has a full understanding of what is going on and where to go to next, but the game insists and adding about five more minutes of chatty dialogue to explain it again.‚  That is balanced by the frequent (but never unwelcome) anime-style cut scenes, which are absolutely glorious on both a sound and visual level and by far the best single addition to this new version; almost worth the price of admission themselves.

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