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Capsule Review - Star Ocean: The Second Story

Title Star Ocean: The Second Story
Developer Enix
Year 1999
Platform SNES
Capsule Rating
Capsule Review: The game's biggest claim is enormous replay value: it has two separate "scenarios," and though they both cover pretty much the exact same events, they are told through the eyes of two different characters. Furthermore, the game boasts over eighty endings. Sound amazing? Unfortunately, it's not. There are indeed two scenarios, but the second is far less creative and interesting than the first; it's different only because it omits certain sequences from the first and replaces them with more boring ones. (And even the first scenario has a tendency to drag.) As for the endings, there are indeed numerous variations, but they are very small - a couple of different lines, a different scene or two - and hardly worth replaying the game over and over to see. What IS good about the game is the fact that there are about a dozen playable characters, but you can only recruit a maximum of six - this does add replay value and was generally a good idea.

To make matters worse, the game's characterization far from shines, and the plot, while starting out rather strong, quickly descends into a pastiche of events ripped off from countless Square games. The gameplay system, while starting out equally promising, has some fatal flaws: while it's really cool to be able to create what seems like hundreds of different kinds of food items, accessories, etc., a) most of them are useless, b) the success rate of Item Creation is too low, c) half the time you don't even know what you created and need to identify it, d) a good deal of the skills have no relevance to anything. Admittedly, the battle system is inspired - it's in pseudo-real-time, and the combat skills you can learn actually do make a difference, as do the various ways of creating weapons and armor. And for the hardcore gamerzzz among us, there's an enormous, ridiculously difficult 13-floor secret dungeon (complete with ridiculously difficult final boss) that will tack on hours to your playing time with minimal rewards.

Where the game really does shine is the technical department: locales are more colorful and memorable than the ones in, say, Final Fantasy VIII - Enix has, after all, been quite the contender in this regard (as anyone who remembers Terranigma's awesome visuals can attest). The music is a surprising winner - one of the dungeon themes, for instance, boasts a rockin' guitar lick that any aspiring musician would do well to steal. But these things, as most of us are no doubt aware, do not make a masterpiece in and of themselves. As a result, the game is quite playable, even quite enjoyable, but ultimately unsatisfying.

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