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Star Ocean: The Second Story

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Publisher: Sony
Category: Role-Playing
Platform: PS1
ESRB Rating: Everyone    Release Date: June 1999

Overall Rating: 4 Stars out of 4

Review by Tom Allen
4 Stars out of 4

Here it is June, and Sony's Star Ocean: The Second Story is only the second overall "A" we've given out for 1999 so far. It was a close call, folks. This is right between a B++ and an A-. What pushed it over the edge was the absolutely stunning art direction. I mean stunning.

This game is an Enix masterpiece, an appealing title from a high quality game company that has been absent from the U.S. market for too long. Once again Sony brings a smashing RPG into the limelight with its powerhouse marketing.

Every town in this luscious game is twice as beautiful as the last, leaving your jaw progressing further and further downward until it hits the floor after 50 hours of play.

You begin the game by choosing from one of two characters whose stories are closely intertwined. While each story is from a different perspective, both are fundamentally the same. However, we prefer Rena's story over Claude's, so pick Rena when you play.

The story will remind you of The X-Files at one point. Bits of an alien meteor have strange physical effects on animals and humans, much like Mulder's head-aches were brought on by that slab with alien writing.

This tale of earthly beauty and cosmic adventure has over 80 endings, all of which are, presumably, very similar. The ending is affected by your characters' emotional levels, which in turn are affected by Private Actions. Favored by interns and chiefs of staff alike, Private Actions are little moments in the story where decisions are made that affect character growth.

In addition to Private Actions, characters will acquire skills to create items from raw materials through cooking, alchemy, metalwork, compounding, and more. Yes, we did say create items. Throughout your quest, you will find random deposits of iron ore and other raw materials that will be useful in item creation.

Many items are discovered in treasure chests, sometimes in someone else's house. You can even pickpocket people later in the game; just don't bring this habit into the real world, or all the post-Columbine socialists will have a hissy-fit.

The battle system in Star Ocean is also of note. Actually, you have a choice of three battle systems. The standard mode is turn-based, allowing for old-school game play. The semi-auto mode offers automatic targeting unless specified. The full active mode allows for completely automated targeting, and character movement does not require the Square button as it does in the other two modes.

In battle you can use standard attacks, items, spells, and killer moves. What's nice about the killer moves is that they are executed with the L1 and R1 buttons, so there's no over-sized menu system during battle.

The triangle button opens up the circle commands, one of which is an escape option… but we wonder why the circle button was not assigned to circle commands. While this idiosyncrasy only SOUNDS odd, you can change the button assignments to your persnickety tastes in the options screen.

Star Ocean is a very complete RPG, but no present-day RPG is perfect when it comes to story development. Again, dialogue is excessive and appears only as endless text without voice acting. Even the fastest message speed is too slow. Some of us like to SKIP dialogue.

When Final Fantasy III is re-released, it will be interesting to see if that classic feels as text-heavy as today's RPG's. Is it just us or are we getting too damn chatty in video games these days?

Speaking of Final Fantasy III, a lot of the music in Star Ocean is clearly a rip-off of that classic. No question about it. The main theme of Final Fantasy appears almost note for note in this game. This is not a coincidence, but hey… if Square doesn't care, we don't care.

Before we move on to our next game, sit back and relax. We want you to EXPERIENCE the world of Star Ocean. We'll accomplish that by rolling some cinema scenes as well as footage of us exploring some of the game's amazing environments. Keep an eye out for reflections of barns, puffy clouds, and even yourself whenever you see water. Now that is some major attention to detail. Way to go, Enix! You deserve a pat on the back. Could this be an award winner for Art Direction? We'll find out in 2000….

In Clik, there are two kids in the bottom middle of the screen on the edge of the pier. Because they're not walking you don't really see them. You have to talk to them to advance the game. Once you start a conversation (which is only possible after talking to most everyone else in the town first), Ketil will have some friends, and an incredibly cool FMV earthquake event will be right around the corner.

When you don't have a lot of money, buying skills is often the smartest thing to do. These items will last forever, unlike weapons which can become outdated.

To purchase Star Ocean: The Second Story from use the button below, or use the search box at the top of the left column

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