Title: Star Ocean First Departure R
Developer: tri Ace/Tose
Release Date: December 5, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Square Enix
Traditional JRPGs tend to enact a sense of discovery on the player. The stories that unfold before the player’s eyes appear to be exclusive to only them. Elements such as choice and exploration leading to rewards are something that is taken into account. When looking back, the Star Ocean series was crafted in a way to provide that to the player, and while some of the recent entries didn’t quite hit their mark, there are some solid adventures to be found in this series.
Thankfully for modern players, Square Enix has released Star Ocean First Departure R and with it a considerable adventure that only gets more prominent depending on the player’s actions. Still, this is a remastered game directed at introducing new fans to the series to provide them with a more refined experience than those who have played the game before.
Star Ocean First Departure R introduces our hero, Roddick. He lives in a town that doesn’t see too much action and craves something more. Well, he probably wished too soon as his whole life changes once a virus that turns people into stone began to infect those he loves. In an attempt to save them, he encounters two humans, Ronyx and Ilia, from a planet called earth. They’ve just informed him that there’s nothing he can do to help them, but they may be able to find a cure. However, if he leaves with them, he’ll never be able to return. So with his friends Millie and Dorne, they set out on an adventure.
Now, the quest becomes a little more complicated and dives into the realm of time travel, but that’s all a part of this adventure, and I’d hate to spoil it too much for players. Still, the story is relatively straightforward and takes the player on a mission to save a planet, even when the odds are stacked against them. The cast of characters only grows more abundant, and each new member of the party adds a layer of personality to the group that shines during the story scenes.
In many ways, Star Ocean First Departure R is not a linear experience. Sure, you’re tasked with the generic hero quest of collecting emblems and defeating a powerful boss, but the journey getting there will be different for each player. In dialogue, players decide if they want to add a character to their party or not. The story then adjusts to the characters who are in the player’s party at the time, but unique scenes are available to players through what is as Private Action. When approaching a town, players can split up the party to go around and talk to the other members and get to know them better. This can even add new characters to the party.
Star Ocean First Departure R relies heavily on the player investing themselves in the story and characters. During the game, events will take place, and it’s up to the player to decide whether or not they’ll investigate or continue with the adventure. It works out great, and those who do explore every inch of the world map and go on the side-quests offered will benefit most from this game as everything is rewarded with extra story content or items.
The battle system in Star Ocean First Departure R is more action focuses where players will find that they are mashing the attack button a lot. Each character can generally hold their own in battle, but I found that I mostly just played as Roddick throughout the entire game. Magic users require casting time to unleash attacks, so strategy comes into play when coordinating how to protect them from being interrupted.
Furthermore, skill points are gain that can be used to customize a character. Players will read books that provide various new abilities and skills for each character that can each be leveled up. Characters can learn things like cooking and item crafting to be able to benefit the party outside of battle. It gives each character a sense of individuality and a place in the group. I found myself getting more and more attached to them as I improved their musical abilities and writing skills.
Star Ocean First Departure R is pretty much the same adventure found in Star Ocean First Departure. The visuals have all be updated, but the character’s pixel designs have always been beautiful. One helpful feature added allows players to move faster on the world map and in dungeons, making getting from point A to point B easier. Additionally, the battle system has been a little refined. However, I never had any real problems with it before, but it’s definitely more approachable now with less random jumps of difficulty.
The audio in the game includes three tracks for the original English and Japanese audio along with newly recorded Japanese audio. Character illustrations have also been remade, but the game allows players to use the old illustrations if they wish. One thing I wished the developers updated were the animations as I’d like to have seen the character’s new animations in the opening scenes of the game. A feature that isn’t found in this remastered port is an auto-save. Yes, you better save often because you never know when you’ll encounter a group of powerful enemies who’ll wipe out your party.
Star Ocean First Departure R turns out to be the best way for newcomers to discover the Star Ocean series. Those returning to the game won’t find too much new here, but hey, if you’ve never added Pericci to the party, then now is a perfect time. I mentioned the Private Action events before, but I should stress that they are all continually entertaining and provide the player with a great experience. Through player choice, this adventure can be as grand or as direct as you’d like. Rest assured, there are plenty of battles ahead of you, no matter which route you take.
Sure, there were some missed opportunities, but Star Ocean First Departure R stays true to the original game, and I had a great time replaying this adventure.
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