Cidolfas's RPG Reviews: Star Ocean (SNES)
You Are: Ratix Farrence, a boy with a monkey-tail from the planet Roak.
Your Goal Is: To find an antidote for the disease which has ravaged your world.
General System: Star Ocean works like a regular RPG, but includes several intriguing additions. First are Skills: you buy sets of these at a store, and you level them up by expending SP (which you get by gaining levels in battle). Skills can raise your stats, raise selling prices, or can have effects in battle (like increasing chances of critical hits). They're also required to learn Abilities (known as Specialties in Star Ocean 2), which are primarily ways to create items, but also include things like calling a bird for an instant shop, or playing music. Abilities require innate Talents, which each character starts with and can also learn by repeated Ability usage. In a departure from most RPGs, SO doesn't have a "world map", but requires you to run around outside villages and dungeons the same way you do inside them.
Battle System: Battles take place in real-time on a 2D battleground which has a few 3D elements. Your four characters line up against a bunch of enemies, and you go all out. You can only control one character at a time; the rest are controlled by AI (except for Ratix, who has no AI and can't be out of the party; if you want to control another character, Ratix will be a sitting duck). Each character can have four moves equipped: two long and two short. You can also string moves together using "link combos", but the advantages of this are often outweighed by the disadvantage of losing a lot more MP if you're knocked out of the combo. You learn new moves by leveling up; also, by using existing moves over and over (and over...) again, you have a tiny chance of learning "Secret Techs", which are powered-up versions of the original and require obtaining a "Secret Skill" first. Spellcasters have no moves, but a repertoire of spells, which take a few seconds to cast. Unlike other similar games, there is almost no lag after using items or spells; however, battles are much faster-paced than usual, and your character can't move while actually using the item or spell, which can be dangerous.
Graphics: Very high-tier SNES graphics, with a lot of nice animation. Unfortunately, it lacks the style of FF6, the big cartoony goodness of Chrono Trigger, or the crispness of Bahamut Lagoon. It just seems to be a bit crowded, and you can't see enough of the big maze-y dungeons at once.
Music: There are a few excellent tracks, but mostly it's mediocre.
Story: Not particularly interesting. The characters are fun, but there really isn't enough dialogue to get to know them. As for the translation... well, I'm a bit biased, considering that the final script was edited by me. ^^; There are a few places that sound stilted, but overall I feel the script sounds very natural, far more so than many professional releases.
Length: About 20 hours, 25 if you want to do the extra dungeon
My Thoughts: SO has some great ideas, and many of them were refined and expanded for its sequel. Unfortunately, their execution here is pretty awful. Skills require so much SP to level up that most of your abilities are useless for the majority of the game - and even when you've got the highest level for your Ability and the right Talents, many will still fail an astronomic amount of the time. The battles are fun and probably the best part of the game, but wandering around is a right pain, with random battles occurring too often and the dungeons being too easy to get lost in (screens all look the same). There's a decidedly unfinished feel to it; there are doors that don't open, plot twists that aren't explored, and a final dungeon that comes out of nowhere. (Think Necron in FF9 but with a whole level.) After hacking the game, I found dozens of dummied-out items, monsters, and even a character that wasn't used. SO could have been an excellent game, but unfortunately it was rushed out of quality and into medocrity.
Overall Rating: 7.0/10