Star Ocean

The Rezonian race has unleashed a biological weapon on the planet Roak, gradually petrifying its population. Captain Ronixis J. Kenny and one of his assistants, Iria Silvestoli, set out to investigate this incident, allying with Roakians named Ratix and Milly to find a vaccine for the plague. Star Ocean, developed by tri-Ace, was one of the last RPGs for the Super Famicom, released only in Japan in 1996, and proves to be a solid beginning to the company’s series.

Random encounters feature real-time combat, with up to four party members starting on the field in a formation the player selects in the menus. In battle, the player must quickly select an enemy to attack it with a normal attack, although once available, players can assign short-range and long-range special skills to the L and R buttons. While the player controls one character, the A.I., with several options available in the menus, controls the others, which works alright for the most part, although there are some shortcomings, such as the tendency of characters at times to cast spells that heal enemies; players, however, can disable spells in the menus.

Playing a significant part in combat is Star Ocean’s item creation system, with characters, upon leveling, receiving a certain number of points players can distribute among various innate skills, with some increasing stats and/or allowing for item creation, which requires certain items players must purchase from shops. Item creation has the potential to create powerful items, weapons, and armor; in fact, players can only acquire the best equipment through item creation. Although item creation can be taxing at times, mastering it, thankfully, isn’t completely essential to completing the game, and overall, combat is one of the game’s highlights.

The interface is clean for the most part, aside from the taxation of item creation at times, with stackable items, easy menus, efficient shopping, and so forth. There is no overworld of which to speak, but instead vast fields interconnecting dungeons and towns. Finding out how to advance the game, moreover, is hardly problematic, given the game’s relative linearity, and overall, interaction hardly detracts from the game.

Star Ocean was fairly original for its time, even if the game menus are fairly reminiscent of those in Tales of Phantasia (which people who would form tri-Ace developed), and the story is similar to an episode of Star Trek. The plot itself, thankfully, isn’t all that bad, though it does lack development and backstory for many characters. Still, the plot was still a decent break from typical fantasy plots in its time, and there are multiple endings allowing for good replay value. All in all, while the story isn’t spectacular, it does contain decent appeal.

The soundtrack was one of Motoi Sakuraba’s first efforts as a composer, containing some decent, catchy tracks as well as voice clips, though the sound effects could’ve used a bit more diversity. The visuals were also some of the best on the Super Famicom, with sprites and environments containing nice detail, though a few rooms in certain dungeons look annoying similar. Other than that, the aural and visual presentation in Star Ocean was among the best for the Super Famicom.

Finally, Star Ocean is by no means a lengthy game, taking as little as twenty hours to complete, more if players decide to mess around with item creation, with endless possibilities to discover. Overall, Star Ocean was a fine swan song for the Super Famicom in Japan, and it’s sad that it would be the only installment of tri-Ace’s series not to reach American shores. In this reviewer’s opinion, however, it would make a fine remake for a modern system such as the Playstation Portable or Nintendo DS.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License