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Star Ocean: First Departure

By S.A. Renegade on November 18, 2008 in Reviews

Final verdict: C+
Final playtime: 45 hours

So I’m a fan of Star Ocean, and I think Tri-Ace is one of the coolest developers around. Having never played the first SO, I obviously couldn’t pass up this remake.

Five hours into the game and I was quite unimpressed. First of all, none of the characters in this game are very likable. I mean, I don’t hate any of them, but I don’t like them either. They’re just…there. They don’t do a really good job of making me care for them. Second of all, the character art is also pretty unimpressive. It actually reminds me a lot about the character designs in Tales games. That is to say, the art isn’t bad per se, but it just feels so stale. It doesn’t really do it for me.

And Jesus christ man, I know the game is supposed to be old, but I still couldn’t help but facepalm when I met the half naked catgirl party member. What the fuck is it with the Japanese and catgirls? I just can’t understand it. It’s like every other anime or Japanese videogame needs to have an obligatory catgirl. Fuck.

Then we have the story. Urgh. The painfully simple and generic RPG plot and dialogue really show the game’s age. Hey, just because it’s a remake doesn’t mean I’ll go easy on it. Because guess what, I’m playing it in the present. 2008, bitch.

So ok, the game starts and I’m living in generic lazy town with only my mother for some reason. Yeah, real fucking original, guys. Then oh noes, the town gets attacked by bandits! Holy shit, what a plot twist! You guys are trippin’! And oh, I’m from a planet where the people have tails! I have definitely not seen this shit before.

And to make things worse, apparently the game has affection points between characters like SO2 and SO3, but it only has one fucking ending so it’s basically pointless. What the fuck.

But ok, enough about that. You get the idea. SOFD was feeling very mediocre to me for a while. I kept going but I wasn’t finding it particularly enjoyable or worthwhile. But then something happened. Something that turned the thing around and suddenly made it fun for me. It’s kinda funny because I don’t think it’s something the developers particularly intended.

I got to a city that had an arena where you could fight progressively tougher monsters. I was raping them without much trouble. That is, until I got to the highest rank. Suddenly the monsters were obliterating me, almost one-shotting me, and even turning me to stone with their attacks (which effectively is like dying). I thought to myself “Hmm… well, obviously the game intends for me to leave this optional thing for now and come back once I have a higher level, better equipment, something that prevents stone, and am able to make my own armor and weapons.”

But then I was like “You know what? Fuck you. I know can do this shit before advancing any further in the game.” And so it was that I had to get serious. Not because the game demanded it, but more because I was bored enough that I’d take any challenge I could find in the game, even if I had to impose a few arbitrary restrictions myself. But anyway, it was fucking hard, but after many hours of leveling, crafting (accessories, which was the only thing I had access to at this point in the game), tweaking, twinking, strategy, tries, and a bit of luck I was finally able to beat the rank A arena. It was pretty fun to do this, but more than that, it got me to appreciate the system they had in place here. And that brings me to the good things about the game:

First, the skill system is nice, and second, as is the case with SO games, item creation is a lot of fun. But to really get into it, you first need a challenge worthy of it. For me it was that arena challenge, but like I said, it was something I decided to do myself, more than something that the game wanted you to do. Sadly the actual game doesn’t do a very good job of challenging you. Almost all of the game is a joke difficulty-wise. Even the ultimate boss Gabriella wasn’t all that challenging. Of course, I didn’t know that arena challenge would be the full extent of the game’s difficulty, so there I was happily item creating and twinking myself. Only to later find out there was nothing out there that could pose a threat to me. What a disappointment. But oh well, at least by the time I found out, the game was already over.

I think the main reason boss battles aren’t very satisfying is that the battle system isn’t very good. It’s similar to SO2. The battles take place in real time and for the most part take no effort at all. Seriously, here’s the key to winning almost every battle in the game: set Dragon Roar to the R button. Then spam the fuck out of it. Instant win. That’s right. You don’t even need to move. Just mash that R button. Even against the ultimate boss that’s seriously all I did. Just spammed Dragon Roar for a couple minutes and I won. Even a monkey could do it. So yeah, can’t say I’m a huge fan of this battle system. It’s too chaotic and button mashy for my tastes. I killed the final boss in 5 fucking seconds. What is that shit? I didn’t even have time to enjoy it. And that’s how most boss battles in this game go.

Another thing I hate is how a shitload of the swords you can use have elemental properties, and a surprising amount of enemies take zero damage from your attacks or even get HEALED by them. Then you kinda just have to sit around not doing anything while you wait for your retarded party members to slowly kill the enemy. That’s not cool, that’s just annoying.

And then, of course, we have the fact that the PSP sucks unbelievably. Like chronic migraines, you get used to the horrible control stick and D-pad after a while. But that still doesn’t make it acceptable. And the load times, like all games that run on UMDs, are the stuff of nightmares.

But I guess that’s enough bitching. Let me make a final point by saying that Tri-Ace makes some of the coolest bonus dungeons ever. Though the one in this game could’ve been better, it had the trademark Tri-Ace things, like breaking the fourth wall and putting the developers in as characters. That’s awesome. They treat games like what they are. Games. It’s the kind of thing I’d do if I made a game. Which I never will. I’m sick of snobby developers acting all “oh, you gotta immerse the player in the game world” even going so far as to make tutorials in line with the game world. Come on. No one cares if you just say things like it is. Press X. Press Start. Whatever. Just make the game entertaining. I was also glad to hear the Mission to Deep Space song playing in the bonus dungeon. Something they forgot to put in Valkyrie Profile Silmeria for some retarded reason. Let’s hope it makes a comeback in SO4.

Anyway SOFD has its enjoyable things, but most of all it just shows how much the series has improved over time. It’s alright, but not a must play or anything.

Final Verdict: C+

Final Playtime: 45 hours

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