Star Ocean: The Second Story R Review | To infinity and beyond

Star Ocean: The Second Story stays true to its roots but modernizes the experience in the right places.

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Star Ocean: The Second Story holds a special place in the hearts of PlayStation 1 players due to its multifaceted appeal. Its enduring popularity is attributed to several factors, primarily its outstanding storytelling and character-driven narrative. The game left an indelible mark on the JRPG genre and continues to be cherished by fans for its timeless qualities. However, with it being a certified classic, younger players like me didn’t have the chance to experience the magic for themselves. Luckily, Star Ocean: The Second Story R is everything the game needed to be reimagined for modern times. Despite all the new visual, performance, and quality of life changes, The Second Story R stays true to the original in all the right ways.

Remastering a classic game like Star Ocean: The Second Story for today’s gamers is like giving a beloved old book a fresh, vibrant cover. It’s all about preserving its heartwarming nostalgia while making it shine anew. When this happens, you get a game that looks and sounds even better and plays smoother, all while staying faithful to its original spirit. Remasters like this one connect the dots between gaming generations. Folks who enjoyed the game way back when can relive those fond moments, and a fresh batch of gamers can discover why it’s a timeless classic. It’s not just about keeping a piece of gaming history alive; it’s about making it look and feel at home in the modern market. It also helps that the original is commonly considered to be the best in the series.

Out with the old, in with the new (and old)

The Second Story R offered players the unique choice of two main characters, Rena and Claude, each with their own perspectives, and recruitable party members but the core narrative stays the same. The richly developed characters and their interactions with one another further deepened the emotional connection between players and the game. Its intricate fusion of science fiction and fantasy elements, combined with a vast and immersive world to explore, added layers of depth to the gameplay.

You’ll be meeting a handful of different personalities throughout the story. Some of them provide a number of optional missions that are a bit more intimate in scale but provide so much more value and depth to the larger narrative. It’s very easy to miss out on meeting some of what is potentially some of the best characters in the game. I do urge you to go out of your way to go off the beaten path. You will not regret it.

The beauty of this game is that despite the connotation that this is a continuation of a pre-established narrative, you don’t need to play other Star Ocean titles to enjoy The Second Story R. For me, it worked beautifully as I was spending hours just so invested about this brand-new world and the lore behind with. The original was one of the first few games at the time that leaned into having different endings based on the choices you made and the relationships you’ve built with other characters. The Second Story R takes that into a whole new world. There are possibly hundreds of different ways the story can end here. So if you’re worrying about replayability, this game’s got it.

The game’s greatest strength is in its story. The less you know about it, the better. Star Ocean is an amazing mix-match of the sci-fi and medieval genres. What more convincing do you need? The story goes to places you don’t expect and it lets you dictate the outcomes more than you’ll initially realize. It was impressive back then, it continues to be today.

Nothing beats the classics

The Second Story R

The Second Story R provides a sizeable visual overhaul. It still keeps the pixel art designs for the characters but the world they inhabit are now fully rendered environments. Instead of keeping the same sprite art-style, the world design hits a sweet spot between realism and stylized aesthetics. Because of the visual contrast, the sprites stand out with phenomenal animations while the locations feel much more tangible and satisfying to look at. It’s an amazing looking game.

The soundtrack that accompanies it all is really just chef’s kiss. It sounds beautiful. The Second Story R does feature new arrangements of the classic tracks, which may turn off some purists, but I’m here to reassure you that it is a beautiful audio experience from start to finish.

Looks good. Sounds good. But what about the gameplay? Aside from the usual exploration, which is already made better by the much improved map system, the battle system sees a number of changes that saves the combat from feeling like a mess of a button masher. You can now break enemy defenses which can stagger them for massive damage. It’s now faster and hits much harder which can cause a lot of things to just fly across the screen. There were times where I had no idea what was happening anymore but I didn’t mind it because it was a visual treat to witness the chaos unfold.

A very small gripe is how wonky your party AI can be at times, walking into obvious danger, standing around, or failing to execute certain tasks. These don’t happen commonly enough to be major dealbreakers but they are bummers when they show up from time to time. If you’re worried too much about party management, you can summon those who aren’t part of your core 4 to help you in battle as well, making them feel more relevant rather than just a forgettable sprite that was set aside.

Progression is about what you can expect from a JRPG. Leveling up, getting new skills for you and your party, crafting, etc. Despite some difficulty spikes, The Second Story R is a great game to just kick back and play. I will admit to being a bit overwhelmed at the start, as I normally do with JRPGs, but sticking around and being more patient about developing my party members made me appreciate the finely tuned systems The Second Story R has.

Star Ocean: The Second Story R Review Final Verdict – 9/10

Star Ocean: The Second Story R proves its worth as a certified JRPG classic in the modern era, providing memorable characters, compelling storytelling, and satisfying gameplay mechanics. The remake takes strides to polish what was already a solid experience while holding onto a  the original’s essence.

2023 has been a massive year for major AAA games. The Second Story R feels like a perfect palette cleanser to just sit back and experience in at a relaxed pace over the holidays. This is not a game that asks a lot from you. It’s an experience that will leave you yearning for what’s next. The Star Ocean franchise has a place in today’s gaming landscape and The Second Story R is a triumphant proof point of what the series can do and the incredible potential it has moving forward.

This review was made using a PS5 game code provided by the publisher.

9

Star Ocean: The Second Story R stays true to its roots as a faithful revival of the classic PS1 JRPG, delivering an refined adventure for modern systems Boasting a fantastic visual facelift, improved quality of life features, and expanded battle mechanics, it stands as a near-essential play for those craving an authentic old-school journey. Despite retaining some rough edges inherent to its PS1 origins, the level of quality and effort put into this remake is not something to be ignored and should be closely looked at by other legacy franchises looking to have a comeback of their own.