Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Evolution of The Star Ocean Series: 1996 To 2016 1#

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Star Ocean: First Departure
Developer – TOSE
Publisher – Enix
Release date – October 21, 2008

Star Ocean: First Departure is an enhanced remake of the original Star Ocean that was only in Japan in July 1996. Star Ocean: First Departure uses a slightly altered version of the engine used for Star Ocean: The Second Story with similar features, including prerendered backgrounds, 3D battle fields and hand drawn facial animations. Production I.G provided new artwork and animated cutscenes for the game. New playable characters have been added as well. New voice actors and extensive amounts of new, fully voiced dialogue were included, with even some non-player characters being voiced over as well.


Star Ocean takes place in S.D 346 and tells the story of Roddick Farrence, a young Fellpool living in the town of Kratus on the underdeveloped planet of Roak. Roddick is part of a group called the "Defense Force", a small organization that defends the town from thieves and robbers, which is composed by himself, his best friend, Dorne Murtough and the healer Millie Chliette. One day, a strange and very contagious disease begins turning people in the northern city of Coule to stone, and Millie's father, Martoth, heads to the town to try and use his Symbology to defeat the disease, but ends up becoming infected himself. When this news comes to Millie, Roddick, and Dorne, they set off for Mt. Metorx, located north of Coule, to recover the Metorx Herb, a legendary herb said to cure any ailment. With this, they hope to cure the disease and save Millie's father, as well as the population of Coule.

While climbing Mt. Metorx, Roddick and Millie find out that Dorne as contracted the virus himself, and hasn't much time before turning to stone. When they reach the summit where the herb grows, mysterious lights burst from the ground and a man and a blond woman wearing odd clothes appear before them. They introduce themselves as Ronyx J. Kenny, captain of the Terran Alliance starship Calnus, and Ilia Silvestri. The pair explains the three Fellpool that they are from another planet, Earth, and after seeing Dorne's state, they invite them to help them finding the cause of the plague, and offer them help on healing Dorne's state. Aboard the Calnus, Roddick and Millie learn that the disease was actually a bio-weapon used by Lezonia, a civilization that has waged war against the Terran Alliance. However, it is a mystery as to why Lezonia would even launch such a biological attack on an underdeveloped world.


Star Ocean is a role-playing video game that is played from a top-down perspective. The player navigates a character throughout the game world, exploring towns and dungeons and interacting with non-player characters. Unlike the original game, the PlayStation Portable remake includes a world map for the player to navigate.

In progressing through the game, the player is able to recruit up to eight additional characters to travel alongside the protagonist; some recruitments happen automatically, while others only happen depending on the previous actions and options taken by the player. Though only 8 characters can be recruited in a playthrough, ten characters are available to be recruited, and as a result not all characters can be recruited in one playthrough of the game. Certain characters cannot be recruited unless the players party is a specific size, or the players has made specific story decisions. In First Departure, players have the option of recruiting characters they did not previously have the option of adding to their party.

When players move their party in the game's dungeons and paths, random battles occur. Combat is done in a 3D isometric point of view. Unlike games in the Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest series, the battles are not turn based, but play out in real time. Players also do not directly control all of their characters actions, but instead chose battle strategies beforehand for all but one of their characters who then move and attack their closest enemy automatically. Added to First Departure was a combo attack system where special attacks stack to become more powerful. Players can equip characters with four special abilities with "ranged" and "distance" slots, whereas the remake reduced that number to two. Up to four characters can participate in battles, but the player is only able to control one character at a time, leaving the others to be controlled by the computer's artificial intelligence. The player can switch which character is being controlled in battle. All characters have a standard "attack" option, in which the character's equipped item is used to attack whichever enemy the player has locked on to. Additionally, special techniques called Symbology can be used as well, which have the potential to deal more damage, but cost MP (Mental Points), of which each character has a finite amount. Special attacks are assigned before combat begins.

Special Points (abbreviated "SP" in game) are also rewarded from battles, and are used to customize the character's abilities. For instance, allotting SP to the cooking ability grants or improves a given character's ability to make consumable foods out of raw materials in order to heal characters from damage taken in battles. Item creation can allow for characters to be able to create weapons and equipment that are stronger than those available to be bought in stores and towns. Individual items have a 20 item limit.

Star Ocean has a game mechanic called "Private Actions" that plays a role in character development. While entirely optional, they often reveal additional backstory of particular characters or have other varying effects on gameplay. Upon arriving in a town, the player can opt to have all the characters in the party to temporarily split up and go their separate ways within the limitations of the town. The player retains control of just Ratix, and is able to look for the other characters. Upon finding other party members, various events may happen; sometimes only small talk results, other times, larger events happen, that may even require a choice to be made by the player.Depending on the results, this can cause characters to either gain or lose "affinity" toward other characters in the party. For example, if one character loves another, the affinity level will be high, but if the former is mistreated, it will lower their feelings for the latter. A character's affinity towards one another can have effects on the rest of the game. Affinity also affect which character's endings players see. While the game's overarching plot always largely ends the same, various parts of the ending are changed, added, or left out, depending on characters' affinity at the end of the game.


The scores for Star Ocean and First Departure were composed and arranged by Motoi Sakuraba, who’s arranged soundtracks he also performed on. The Japanese music group Asunaro composed the first song of the album entitled "Heart", which is the games theme song. The album Star Ocean Perfect Sound Collection was released after the original soundtrack in both an arranged and drama album format.

Critics praised Sakuraba's progressive rock style, and highlighted his musical experimentation throughout the original Star Ocean score and Final Departure. Tracks added from Star Ocean: The Second Story received mixed reviews on the First Departure album, adding some familiar Star Ocean themes but also some lesser known songs to the mix. Several musical pieces were missing from the original album and were added to the remakes release.

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