Star Ocean: Second Evolution
Developer: tri-Ace | Publisher: Square Enix | Release Date: 2009 | Genre: Action / RPG | Website: n/a
Despite being a remake of an ancient Super Nintendo game, Star Ocean: First Departure turned out to be one of the most engrossing and addictive PSP games I have in my collection. This combination made me very eager to get my hands on this title, but unfortunately I came away with mixed feelings.
You play as the son of one of the lead characters from the first game and within the first few minutes of the game while investigating a mysterious artifact inadvertently get teleported to a strange world. The people of this underdeveloped planet promptly decide that you are the legendary hero of light that their prophecies have foretold and waste no time in expecting you to save them. With no other option available your only hope is to investigate an unexplained phenomenon that the people have dubbed the “sorcery globe” and which might be your only clue to finding your way back home. Things start to get a bit more complicated later on and predictably enough the fate of the universe ends up resting on your shoulders.
In many ways Second Evolution is the victim of the attention lavished on the first game. By polishing everything in First Departure to the standards this game originally set (this being a remake of a Psone title) it makes Second Evolution look less impressive by comparison. The fact that this game, unlike the first one has already had an English release means that a lot of players may have already played and completed it a few years back.
But enough with the gripes, if you are new to the Star Ocean universe, then you are in for a treat. The same lush pre-rendered graphics are used for backgrounds, while 2D sprites represent the characters. There are some nice graphical effects like your characters’ reflections showing in water or flocks of birds flying overhead, but overall the game looks virtually identical to the last one. The sense of déjà vu when fighting the same enemies you fought in the previous game makes this one feel more like an expansion at times but things start picking up after a slow start. Even more concerning is the occasional slowdown that sometimes occurs on the overhead 3D map.
I found the story and characters a bit less engaging this time round, but once the story has you hooked you’ll definitely want to see it through to the end. The voice acting is once again of high standards, although as in the last game the noisy battle cries start to grate after a while. Some of the characters even shout out exactly the same things that you had to endure for 20+ hours in the previous game which is not nice. The music is at least quite cool and never becomes a bore to listen to even after extended play. There isn’t that much full motion video sequences, but the ones that are present look stunning.
While the plot felt somewhat weaker to me than the first game there are still plenty of interesting twists. It won’t be long until you are flying around on a “Psynard” or testing your might in Fun City Arena. Combat is once again real-time but it feels like the difficulty level has been increased a bit for this game. The skill system is still present, but the lack of any new skills is disappointing.
With two different lead characters and plenty of events during the game that can influence the ending, there is a lot of replay value, but with all the similarities to the last game I recommend you take a break between the two. If you are a Star Ocean fan or have yet to play the Psone version of this game then I can heartily recommend Second Evolution. If not you might want to try something fresh and new.
*Review originally published in 2009.