Star Ocean: The Second Story - Retroview

Woe Is The Battle System!


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 3
   Interface 3
   Music/Sound 6
   Originality 9
   Plot 9
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Hard
   Time to Complete

35-75 hours


Title Screen

   Enix has had a bumpy road over the last few years. Without DQ being a major player in the American market for some years now, they have quietly fallen away from fandom. A good many of their reclusive fan base avidly awaited Star Ocean 2 and the chance that it gave for the company to return to the spotlight. To say the least, there is a pretty wide array of variations on the subject of how Enix did in their comeback. Although I'm not biased against Enix for any reason (in fact, I think that Dragon Warrior 3 might be the best NES RPG), SO2 has left me wondering about that position...

   I generally try to give every battle system the benefit of the doubt before passing as harsh a judgement as I sometimes do. But, even in replaying the first portion of the game before writing this review, I could barely stand the darned mess. Although it has various setting of 'Active' that can be moved through, there is really not an especially good setting, in my opinion. It either moves too slowly or allows the enemy too much freedom while you're incapacitated selecting your next maneuver. When you combine that with the half-@$$ed 'Emotion' system that makes characters supposedly go on a berserker rampage that increases damage, you have a right good pile of glop to sort through.

   Aside from the general setup of combat, comes the actual act itself. Fighting tends to turn into a 'who can wallop who the most' situation. This is especially true later in the game (like with the 8th and 9th Wise Men) and is extremely boring. The only alternative to this would be to spend countless hours levelling up your characters past the 200 mark (at which point the game would be pointless). Super moves are sorta drawl and the basic attack and defend stuff is from the same old hat as other 'action-based' combat systems. The two things that really tear down the battle system are the incredibly obnoxious voice samples sprinkled every where that could make a deaf man wail in horror and the incredibly long magic animations that do nothing but make your eyes grow weary and the DualShock controller rue the day it was incepted.

What Is It With Space And Energy Ribbons?
What Is It With Space And Energy Ribbons? 

   As if the battle system wasn't enough, the menu system leaves much to be desired, as well. It is overly complex and not that intuitive. A lot of things can be partially hidden if you don't actively read the instruction manual before you play. Not only is it a serious problem out of combat but it sadly transfers over to battling, too. Alternating between characters and actively coordinating everything is a monumental task that is not helped by the PSX's retarded AI controls that you can set on your friends. Using items - which is normally a really simple function - is complicated by leaps and bounds, too. Overall... I'd say that the information menus are the least well developed of any RPG I've ever played.

   This is truly a game where the difference between the music and the sound effects is astronomical. On the one hand the music is melodious, beautiful, calming, and just generally everything that an RPG should have. Motoi Sakuraba gets a button for his efforts. The sound effects on the other side of the tracks, are a horrible collage of mutant voice acting and overly dramatized clinks-n-clanks that are supposed to sum up the sounds of combat. Don't get me wrong... I've heard worse voice acting and native sounds... But that was on the IntelliVoice...

   When you get into the plotline, my bad mouthing finally ends. Of all the aspects of the game, it is the most highly developed. It is told from two points of view depending on which character you choose to play as in the beginning. The fairly obvious choice is Claude so here's the run down:
Having won your way into the Earth Federation and onto the flagship of the fleet - commanded by your father - your 'away team' investigates a weak beacon coming from an abandonded dome-like building. In an accident that sends you hurtling across space in some sort of teleportation device, you end up on an undeveloped planet where the the citizens worship you as a Hero because of your weapons. After discovering that an object very similar to the orb-shaped building you had just finished exploring had crashed into this planet a very few days ago, your quest to save the galaxy begins and will take you to places that aren't possible, steal everything you cherish, and force you to decide between your home and your love...

Rena Or Earth? Who Needs Da Stinkin' Urth?!
Rena Or Earth? Who Needs Da Stinkin' Urth?! 

   There are some minor grammatical errors in the game, just as in everything ever translated from one language to the next. I cannot stress enough the horridness of the voice samples. If I ever found someone unfortunate enough to have completed the 'Voice Sample Puzzle', I would have to seriously recommend them for therapy (no disrespect intended to anyone...). After hearing all of them, a person would have to be totally mad and foaming at the lips.

   Replaying Star Ocean 2 is just like replaying every other RPG. They're simply not made for playing over-and-over unless it's for a very good reason. The battle system and the sound effects of the game should deter you rather than encourage you to play it more than once.

   The graphics pose an interesting problem. I'm a Mega Man fan at heart and have spent countless hours listening to the simpering fools in the online Mega Man community twitter over sprites and their supposed usefulness. Having been exposed to that rigmarole and the fantastic quality of 2D sprites in CastleVania: SOTN, I have to shudder in revulsion at the blotchy, poorly animated quality of Enix's work with them in this game. The saving grace is that all the locales are very detailed and attractive... Except for the battle scenes, that is. But, I won't tirade about the battle system any more today; three paragraphs is enough.

Yoda Never Taught Qui-Gon This Move!
Yoda Never Taught Qui-Gon This Move! 

   The battle system makes everything hard. If you can easily manipulate everything in combat (by some grace of Fate...) you shouldn't have that much trouble with the game. And - if all else fails - just level up like a mad man. The upper limit in the game is some sick thing like 250 levels.

   I have played a good number of RPGs worse than SO2; most of them have been made by Capcom. I won't go any further in that line of speech because of the hate mail I'll probably already be getting about this review. I'll just finish in saying that the future of Enix looks bright... So long as you don't look past Dragon Quest.

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