Gaming Review: Star Ocean: First Departure

Now, this is interesting. I played these games in the wrong order, but I didn’t actually expect what I got.

First Departure and Second Evolution are Star Ocean’s highlighting games of how the franchise got, and they’ve been gloriously remade on the PSP.  However, there is one thing that bothers me about both games, and that’s that the two games are rather unbalanced.

I’ll get onto that issue in a little while, but there’s something to cover first. The story. First Departure has a pretty awesome start to it’s story, with a biological weapon being launched upon an underdeveloped planet, and some explorers from Earth appearing to study the virus. It’s a pretty exciting and wonderful start, and the characters are actually really nicely developed during this start. The development of the characters continues on and on into the start of the actual gameplay, and whilst it does appear to hit a little bit of a lull at one point,  all of the characters are constantly expanding and growing, and dare I say it, are actually pretty awesome.

See, the character’s make a huge part of Star Ocean, considering you can recruit a large amount of them. In this game, however, there is a super hidden character which you can recruit which ties heavily into some of the characters and their story, and I really, really, realllllly love features like this in the game.  A hidden dungeon with a hidden character which needs hidden requirements? That’s awesome and all, but to top it off, all the characters actually join at different times depending on who you’ve recruited and what you’ve done. It’s an amazing way of doing things, and when you constantly have the thriving world which is constantly upgrading and growing, well…you’ve hit the mark.

I mentioned the world, and whilst this world is just a little on the small side, it’s constantly alive and constantly evolving, with people and events changing in all the different worlds, and thanks to the private action feature where you can interact with your characters in the towns and cities, they feel even further alive than ever before. If you haven’t figured out that the world is pretty glorious, it is. Infact, the only problem I have is the ridiculous amount of backtracking that you’re pushed into going through, and truth be told, these backtracking quests actually derail the story by a large amount.

So whilst First Departure does have a more polished character system and some slightly more creative towns and locations, it’s missing a large potion of polish. A lot of the skill system, the real in-depth system of Star Ocean has actually been gimped and/or removed, and I just can’t approve of doing that to them. Things like the Pickpocketing and the Item Creation features are all changed in one or more drastic ways and it’s not something I like them doing. It’s more that they evolved these things for the second game, but they also devolved other things, and I just…well, I just don’t like it.

However, my personal gripes aside, nothing changes the fact that Star Ocean’s first game is an amazing JRPG and something that’s more than better than the large amount of games that actually exist in the world nowadays, thanks to the almost flawless gameplay style ad battle style, and the way that it rewards the player for doing the extra little things just adds onto the level of polish that this game boasts. With a fantastic plot to boot, any faults with the game really are just nitpicking.

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