Ahead of the launch of the Square Enix and Gemdrops action JRPG Star Ocean The Second Story R, we interviewed director and producer Yuichiro Kitao and composer Motoi Sakuraba.
We discussed what gameplay and design elements have evolved from the original game, challenges with development, and other topics like a new Valkyrie Profile entry.
You can view our full interview below:
Azario Lopez: Did your team face any challenges when implementing action combat into the HD-2D-style title since it’s normally used for turn-based games?
Yuichiro Kitao: Star Ocean Second Story R is not an HD-2D title. The game was originally released on the PlayStation One platform. Star Ocean Second Story had implemented a real-time combat battle system. So one of our challenges or one of our goals was to kind of replicate this as closely as possible. Putting that into consideration, we wanted to inherit the good parts of the real-time elements from the original title and add new systems so we could create exhilarating battles in 2D.
There are also some limitations where if you have a 2D system, characters won’t be able to move diagonally. It’s basically only horizontal, and that’s the case for this game as well. So in that sense, there was a lot of work involved with completing the 2D visual where characters are facing each other sideways. That being said, we never felt any challenges or difficulties with the 2D visual style, and we do believe that the end product for the battle system came out well.
AL: Has the combat system changed or evolved during development compared to the original?
YK: In the original release on PS1, when characters were using symbologies or magic attacks, time would stop. For the player, it wasn’t real-time, but for this Release, Star Oceans Second Story R is going to be real-time. The focus on that part was to make sure everything in terms of battle was real-time for players, which hopefully relieves the stress from a player’s perspective. On top of that, there are also new systems being implemented into the battle, like the Assault Actions or Break systems, but also, again, keeping the good qualities from the original release in mind as we introduce these systems. So yeah, there’s a lot going on. It was a tough process, but we do believe that it ended up as a good game.
AL: When approaching this challenge, was there ever a time that you asked yourself, “What did I get myself into?”
YK: When I mentioned that it was a challenge, it wasn’t like a crunch where there was a lot of overtime involved or anything like that, but it was more of focusing on keeping the good qualities of the original release and making sure we keep as much as we can. So in that sense, that was a challenge because we also had to, again, add new stuff on top of these qualities from the original. For Star Ocean Second Story R, we’re going to have to make sure that we please the fans of the original release. But also, we have to understand that there are going to be new players at the same time. So, we did what we could to make sure that both of these players and both of these fans would enjoy this game. But we do believe that it ended up being a good game, so we’re excited to see how they react.
AL: Sakuraba-san, your previous compositions actually make up some of my favorite adventures. I’m curious to know, when you join a remake project, does your approach to the composition change?
Motoi Sakuraba: If it was any other game or any other project, or if it was a completely new title, then I could just create a composition from scratch, from the ground up. But if it’s a remake project, I have to make sure I keep the core concept and image of the tracks. For example, I can certainly arrange these tracks to make them sound more extravagant, but if I were to do so, I would have to do it in a way that doesn’t drift too far from the original tracks.
AL: When approaching this remake project, what was your thought process like?
MS: I’ve worked on many different Star Ocean titles in the past, and it’s not the first time that I’ve rearranged or recomposed a pre-existing track. I’ve had the experience of doing this numerous times, so what I can tell you is that I felt that when rearranging the tracks for this title, I began the process by trying to understand how I would approach it this time around.
AL: On that note, I believe that the evolution of technology for gaming is easier to see because it’s visual, but we’re not so well informed on the evolution of audio technology when approaching game compositions. Do you find the process easier now? Or do you tend to find yourself sticking to older tools?
MS: So the short answer to your question is, to be honest, I can’t really answer which one I find easier. Like the old-school way or the newer way. Because personally, I do like the old sounds are fine, but there are also people who prefer to only work or compose tracks in this way. It’s especially difficult to answer this question in relation to this title since my focus was to make use of both older sounds and newer sounds for this game.
AL: Are there any plans to also bring Star Ocean Blue Sphere west? In this series, this game acted as a sequel to Star Ocean 2 but was never localized.
YK: I’m not officially a member of the Square Enix company, although my company, Gemdrops, is the developer. That being said, I do want the Star Ocean series to continuously succeed into the future. However, in order to achieve that, I think it’s important that we hear the voices of support from our players and fans. So it would be appreciated if we can get your support.
AL: Out of curiosity, are there any plans for maybe looking at titles like Valkyrie Profile to receive a new entry or maybe even plans to port Valkyrie Profile 2 to modern platforms?
YK: This is kind of a difficult response to a difficult question. Because, again, it’s not something that I can decide or give a firm response to by myself. But that being said, I personally want the Valkyrie series to continue and succeed. Maybe it’ll be great if there were to be a new title from that series, and I hope I have the opportunity to develop or create that new title. That’ll be great. But again, this kind of depends on how much support we can get from fans.
I am aware that there are a lot of fans in the West who are fans of the Valkyrie Profile series, and I am aware of how many fans we have for that series, and it’s really great to see that. But again, to release a new title or to have a port from the series or not, it kind of depends on how much support we can get from these fans, but it will be great to see that.
AL: Is there anything you’d like to tell fans awaiting the release of the Star Ocean Second Story R?
YK: So it’s been 25 years since the original release in Japan, and with the remake title Star Ocean Second Story R, we wanted to make sure that everyone who played the original game 25 years ago relive this experience with the memories and the feelings that they experienced back then.
On top of that, we also wanted to make sure that the newcomers to the Star Ocean series get to experience this game to understand the feeling and new discoveries this series offers while also having the older generation of players play and experience a definitive version of this Star Ocean game. We are looking forward to seeing all generations of players play this game. And we hope to see that they enjoy it. It’s a 2D game, but we featured many systems that we feel players will enjoy. It’s awesome to have the chance to see different generations of players enjoy a 2D game such as this.
But what I want to tell the players is that if they enjoy the game and if they ever feel like they want to play a sequel, please make sure to tell Square Enix so that we can get the opportunity to develop one. Thank you.
MS: Star Ocean Second Story R is a title that features the best qualities of the original release but also, at the same time, implements newer features and newer systems. So it’s kind of a rare example that we don’t get to see in other titles. On top of that, we also wanted to make sure that the newcomers and new players get to have an enjoyable experience with this game and the soundtrack compositions. For this title, I was able to use live instruments and arrange the tracks for this remake. So just by looking at the music alone, the quality shines, but, on top of that, the game is fun to play. So I hope that a lot of people play and enjoy it.
Star Ocean: The Second Story R is releasing for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam on November 2, 2023. A free demo is now available, with progress carrying over to the full release.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.