Star Ocean: First Departure is, of course, a remake of the first Star Ocean game which was released on the Super Nintendo. It is not unexpected that Square Enix once again did a good job at remaking an old game since they have been gathering as much experience as they possible can in it.
Talking of course about games such as Final Fantasy III & IV and even I and II.
This is not the best game they have ever made and it is highly reminiscent of the Tales of Phantasia game, which was also first released on the SNES, with it’s main difference being that Star Ocean employed an eagle-eye (now isometric) view of battles.
Both these games seem to start out very similarly too, since you are just hanging out in your peaceful village when, out of nowhere, bandits (or other evil people) show up and start trashing the place. But that is where similarities end.
Compared to the old SNES system these graphics look like an impossible improvement, I’m a big fan of actually re-writing a game for a remake. It would have been fine for them to do the same as they did with Final Fantasy I & II, just update the pixelated low-res graphics a bit to be less pixelated high-res screens, but apparently this was not enough for them.
Even though they did this it still looks like it predates even the first 3D playstation games, which is kind of shameful after presenting a game like Crisis Core, which looked almost like it could have been one of the better looking PS2 games (FF XII), but then again you don’t want to spend too much money on an easy money-maker, do you?
Gameplay is nice. The battles are never really hard as long as you train enough and the idea of specialties and skills (not to be confused with special abilities) has always been a nice addition in my opinion. These skills, when used properly, can very easily make your characters very strong in the usual way of nicely upgrading your stats, but also by giving you skills to get more exp and find more/less enemies and gain more skill points per level. These come in handy in almost any situation. Walking around an easy area where you only get 7 exp? Just avoid enemies. Need a copy of an accesory so that you won’t be petrified all the time? Make one. Very nice.
Sounds are quirky. During battles there is a lot going on at the same time, which is not unusual of course, but the things they choose to play and keep out seem far too random to be intentional. When 2 people cast a spell only one can be heard, for example, but after every battle 2 people always have a little victory speech.
The music is nicely done though, in my opinion, it suits the game and during the somewhat more exciting parts of the game it will slightly elevate your adrenaline levels if you are susceptible to such things.
The FMVs they made are awesome. It has the perfect anime look and feel and it suits the game very well, my only regret and complaint about these clips is that there are not nearly enough of them. And they started out so very promising with the entire first scene having transformed from a gameplay scene to an FMV.
The characters really come to life in these in my opinion, kudos.
The game isn’t tough. It is not even really annoying at any point. Though of course you can increase difficulty for yourself by not training as much as I did (I had train and look for enemies on almost all the time), or trying to solo it with your main character.
Private actions are another nice thing. They show funny/nice/intruiging/sad scenes between your party members, it is fun to watch them sometimes and they will affect certain scenes in your story.
All-in-all this is a very nice game and it is a nice distraction from your everyday dealings. If you are a star ocean fan then you can’t allow yourself to leave this one and if you just like RPGs then your should most definitely give it a try. If you neither like Star Ocean or RPGs then you are probably better off not bothering.
These are some 30 hours that I have enjoyed very much.