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Star Ocean

Publisher: Enix Developer: Tri-Ace
Reviewer: Mista Kefka Released: 1996
Gameplay: 100% Control: N/A
Graphics: 95% Sound/Music: 98%
Story: 83% Overall: 99%


When someone says "Star Ocean" the first thing that probably comes to your mind is Star Ocean 2 for the Playstation. However, in the immortal words of Yoda, "There is another..." Star Ocean was developed by tri-Ace who had recently developed Tales of Phantasia for the same platform and is published by Enix, of Dragon Quest fame. It was released late in the 16-bit era, and was fairly unnoticed even in Japan. It was a cult hit however, despite being beaten out by Dragon Quest 3 Remix for the best RPG of the year in a poll.

Technically speaking, Star Ocean is a masterpiece. The graphics were probably the best of any RPG on the SNES, and the sound was unrivaled in all of cartridge games up to that point. When first looking at Star Ocean's graphics, you might not be impressed. When it comes to the backgrounds, the early scenes in the game, such as in the first town, are less than amazing. As you progress further in the game and travel to more interesting places, you get to see a wide variety of backgrounds such as mountains, deserts, forests, sea port towns, etc., and you'll find that the graphic quality, while not amazing, gets the job done. Also, the graphics are always solid, never better or worse than the rest of the game.

The sprites are where Star Ocean's graphics really shine. The movement of the characters is splendid, and their actions in battle will dazzle the player. They flow perfectly, never seem awkward, and are always impressing. My only real complaint with the graphics is the fact that the sprites sometimes seem to have dull colors, and it's sometimes hard to distinguish who is who.

Star Ocean was clearly not meant for storyline purposes. This is obvious when viewing the intro, which is nice, but is a little too close to a scene from Star Trek to be considered original. Star Trek was the obvious inspiration for the game's story, but once you get over that, it isn't too bad. I'll summarize: A deadly disease, contagious by touch, is spreading on the planet Roak. Young Ratix's best friend is turned to stone, and his friend Milly and he will stop at nothing to save him.While traveling they are terribly frightened to find a space ship who's captain, Ronixus, is convinced he knows how to cure it. Ratix's only hope is to trust Ronixus and pray... While the story might seem cheesy, the characters are enjoyable and the plot moves at a nice pace. Once you experience the battles of Star Ocean, however, you'll forget all about its unoriginal story.

Star Ocean's music is slightly above average. It sets the mood for the game and, once again, gets the job done. The main reason the Music/Sound category got a high rating is the voice. Yes, VOICE! In a SNES game! Granted, it's not nearly as smooth as a CD based game, it's still very cool, indeed. The characters have battle cries, shout out the names of spells, and even talk during some important scenes! This was a great innovation for the SNES, but it's a shame that it happened so late in the console's life.

Gameplay is the only reason to play Star Ocean. The great graphics, ultra-cool voice, and sci-fi story mean nothing after you get used to the battle system. Once you get your first set of skills and really get a feel for the battle system, you'll be hooked forever. The battles are just like Star Ocean 2, or so I've heard (I haven't had a chance to dig in to the sequel). Real time, not turn based, is the style for Star Ocean, and you have to watch every character on the battle field or else someone is gonna be toast! You control only one person, Rati, all of the time. However, you can use your menu to command another character to cast a spell. You press the A button to open the Target Menu, and from there you can either use a physical attack or use on of the Hissatsuwaza you've assigned to the L or R buttons.

The Skill system also plays an important part in the game. There are probably 50 skills in the game, all of which you must spend Skill Points, which you get when you level up, to buy. Each skill has TEN levels for you to gain, so it takes a lot of Skill Points to master. By the time you are able to master all of the skills for any character, he or she would be almost to level 250 (yes, 250!). Each character can learn certain Skills and combine them with the Talents, randomly generated when you first get a character that can only be added by a difficult process, to learn Abilities, such as Mixing Items or Creating Items. Say, if Rati has the talent "Arm Strength" and he learns the skills "Football Knowledge" and "Throwing," he can learn the Ability "Get Chicks!" Obviously, I made that up, but you get the idea. ^_^ The Skill/Talent/Ability system is hard to understand, but once you get it, you'll never want to go back to older systems again!

Star Ocean also has a lot of other innovative aspects that have little to do with the battle system. Private Actions are optional scenes where you can explore towns away from your party. You can get secrets, have quality time with townsfolk and your characters, and increase/decrease Approval Ratings. Approval Rating (AR) is a way for the game to have a sort of social system. For instance, Millie has a crush on Rati, so her AR is high for him. However, if you treat her badly, it will go down. It makes the story slightly different each time you play, and the way a battle goes can be greatly influenced by AR. There are lots of hidden characters as well, and you can only get a certain amount per game, so the story is different for several play-throughs!

All of the latter features, plus the Skill system and very fun battles, make Star Ocean fun to play over and over again. It also has lots of secrets and pretty challenging bosses, including a VERY hard bonus dungeon. While it isn't as long as most RPGs, that's also a good thing, because if it was very long, you wouldn't replay it a thousand times like people already have!

Star Ocean is an amazing game. While it might not be moving like Xenogears, Lunar, or a Final Fantasy game, and it isn't quite as long or challenging as, say, a Dragon Quest game, it's easily the most fun RPG, gameplay wise, I've ever played. I got SO for $30 with box and instructions, but I don't know if you'll be so lucky since I've heard of people paying $130 on Ebay for a loose cart. If you're a hard-core RPGer who wants a game you can spend a lifetime on and can find it for a decent price, get it.

Mista
Kefka

The story might be out of this world, but character interaction is down to earth.

Star Ocean's graphics are solid, and the sound and voice is really impressive.







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