Star Ocean: Second Evolution: Still Stunning After All These Years

By Jenni . February 1, 2009 . 4:04pm


When it comes to Square Enix and its many, many remakes, sometimes incredibly deserving titles still remain trapped on their original consoles. Thankfully, Star Ocean: The Second Story wasn’t one of them, as it has been revitalized and rereleased as Star Ocean: Second Evolution, a port that Square Enix and fans of the series can be proud of.


Star Ocean: Second Evolution stars Claude C. Kenny, son of Ronyx and Ilia and Rena Lanford. Claude ends up stranded on Expel, and ends up being mistaken for a prophesied hero by Rena. The two then decide to investigate the Sorcery Globe that has plummeted to the planet and started causing assorted problems for the population. Best of all, you don’t have to play Star Ocean: First Departure to enjoy Star Ocean: Second Evolution, though it does help.


Like Star Ocean: First Departure, Star Ocean: Second Evolution stands out as an incredible RPG, despite its age. In fact, it could be considered the best game in the series – I certainly think so. You choose at the beginning whether to follow Rena or Claude’s storyline, a decision which not only effects how you see events, but also who you can recruit and how the game ends. It adds replay value to the game, and also sets the title apart as one of the few RPGs that lets players decide who will be the main character.


It also maintains the skill and relationship systems found in the previous Star Ocean games. Characters can learn various skills and abilities, which allow them to make items, perform certain actions or join up with other group members for super specialties that create better items are perform an action that effects the entire group.


The new translation and localization of Star Ocean: Second Evolution is perfect. I’m about ten hours in and I don’t even think I’ve seen any spelling errors. Everything makes perfect sense. Considering how the original translation of Star Ocean: The Second Story had some… issues, it’s wonderful to see that this time around, everything is perfect. I was a bit disappointed that Ashton’s dragons names were changed from Gyoro and Ururun to Creepy and Weepy in this localization, but aside from that, it’s perfect.



Plus, the game is almost entirely voiced. Every story pertinent moment that has character dialogue has voice acting, as well as the Private Actions (PAs) and the side quests. It was wonderful to see how Square Enix went all out to improve the game.


The voice acting is also vastly improved over the original. Yes, there are a few hit or miss performances – I sometimes find myself preferring Ashton’s original voice actor, because sometimes it was so bad and over-emotional that it was good. I feel similarly about Celine, who now sounds much more mature and, sadly, sometimes a bit unemotional. On the other hand, I can now actually stand to listen to Precis, a character who’s voice acting in the original adaptation was incredibly grating. Aside from a few quirks, the majority of the voices are much better, and even the ones that are so-so still have their shining moments.


New PAs have also been added into the game. Most center around Welch Vineyard, who is the newly added Star Ocean: Second Evolution character. You may remember her – she also appeared in Star Ocean: First Departure and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, and is going to be appearing in Star Ocean: The Last Hope. However, there are now PAs for Dias when you play Rena’s route. This will make it much easier for players to secure a Rena/Dias ending, since previously the only way to build up a relationship between the two was to have him in your party.


The new character art and animated cutscenes also help make the game feel new again. The original character designs looked good and everything, but they all look much better now. Plus, it helps tie Star Ocean: First Departure and Star Ocean: Second Evolution together. You can tell by looking at Claude that he’s Ilia’s son. I do wish there were more animated cutscenes thrown in, though.


Also – if you were troubled by the fact that Chisato’s favorite food could never appear in the original Star Ocean: Second Story, don’t worry here. The fruit sandwich is in the game and you can finally make it with the cooking skill so Chisato’s status screen profile can be completed.


The only things that seemed to be unchanged in this remake, for the most part, were the general graphics and soundtrack. That’s okay though, because the character sprites are all detailed and very animated and the background environments look good as they are. Plus, the music is catchy, memorable and situation appropriate. I didn’t even realize it for a moment, but I was actually humming along with the overworld theme song when I first began playing – I didn’t think I’d even remember it after all these years.


Not everything is so perfect in this remake, though. Thankfully, the good greatly outways the bad, and the bad really are more minor annoyances than actual deal-breakers. There were also some consistency issues with character portraits and sprites that just bothered me, because I’m anal like that.


First – Dias and Rena’s character sprites weren’t altered/fixed. It always bothered me that Rena’s hairclip, which is supposed to be on the left, would keep flipping. Also, Dias’ sprite still has sea-green hair despite his official portraits having navy blue hair. They’re certainly small issues, but I still couldn’t help noticing them.


The character portraits bothered me more though – especially Ashton’s and Rena’s. Ashton has two dragons on his back, one with a blue head attached to his left shoulder and one with a red head on his right. But Square Enix got lazy with the character portraits, so when he’s speaking, the dragons are constantly swapping sides. Also, again, Rena’s hairclip magically moves from side to side as well. Since these are all new character portraits, the developers could have at least made a few extras for Ashton and Rena to keep things consistent.


Another puzzling addition is some minor characters get portraits, and yet others don’t. For example, Rena’s Aunt Rachel, innkeeper at Krosse, and Eleanor, the sick little girl in Harley, both get character portraits. And yet, Youle in Harley and Prince Clauzer of Krosse don’t. It just struck me as a little odd.



However, the occasionally imperfect voice performance and some art issues are really the only detractors from this incredibly RPG. As I replayed the story now, I could see why years ago I fell in love with and purchased a PSX so I could play the original. Star Ocean: Second Evolution is a fantastic RPG in a wonderful series, and a great addition to any PSP RPG fan’s library.


Now let’s hope that, while Square Enix is showing Star Ocean some love with remakes of the first two games and the forthcoming Star Ocean: The Last Hope, that we’ll somehow see a remake, re-release and localization of the Game Boy Color game Star Ocean: Blue Sphere – the sequel to Star Ocean: The Second Story/Second Evolution.


Images courtesy of Square Enix.

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  • M’iau M’iaut

    Just looking through the guide also Precises Bohbots get a name change in the localization. Some of the new designs which I know are based on the anime threw me too — Celine does come across a few years too old, Leon now far more emphases the beastman and Rena looks like shes like um 8 or something. But given even in it’s original form Second Story is one of my 2-3 all time favs I’ll live with it.

    As this new guide is not quite as comprensive as the PS1 one, do we know what changes have been made in the endings? Are specials like Celine marrying the Prince of Cross and being able to save the sick girl still available? Is Claude-Welch possible? That one would be interesting since it’s kind of looking like shes being used as a new mascot type character, and several of the original pairings at the end were quite final. (i.e. the one where Rena ends up staying wih Claude).

    • Yup, they’re called robbies. Or one was called Robbie. I chose Bowman over Precis this round, so I’m not sure…

      Yup! I recruited Celine and Ashton my first time around to check that, and have already secured their endings.

      Right now I’m trying to get a Rena/Dias, so I don’t want to have Claude in the party too much till I recruit him. What I’ll try and do is get a Claude/Welch to see if that’s possible. I may not be able to check that out completely until a second playthrough as well though, since Rena’s my main character this playthrough.

  • lostinblue

    I have a question, I heard framerate on Star Ocean 1 remake was bad, seeing that this is (I think) the same engine, was that fixed? are battles constantly fluid now?

    • It was fine to me, but then again I run every game off the memory stick.

    • I haven’t had any lagging or glitching – battles are smooth and fluid for me.

      I have noticed that sometimes, while running on the world map, that the area ahead doesn’t always pop up as quickly as it should, but other than that – perfect. :D

  • ed smith

    Ahhhhh, you taunt me with mention of Star Ocean: Blue Sphere. I still remember how bad I wanted to play that when I was a kid — how I kept hoping it would come over — only to have my dreams crushed lol

    great review!

  • ShadowYuri

    Thanks for the aperçu ^_^
    lostinblue : as far as I know, the framerate issue with First Departure was coming from the new model of PSP… Didn’t have any, with my system bought a year ago.

    It seems that everything I enjoyed in the first PSP remake will be there again (a lot of voice acting during events, mainly), so I should have a good “Private Time”… Although I don’t find the battle system to be as enjoyable as a Tales of, the Star Ocean series seems to be feeling better than ever. Can’t wait to play The Last Hope !

  • Vrakanox

    Very good review, I’ve been rocking this game since it came out. So many choices and so much replayability! I’ve been recommending this one to my friends. It’s one of the best RPG’s I’ve played in a good while. After playing the original and this one for the psp I am very excited about number 4.

  • kelsea

    The first thing that bothered me about the translation was that they pronounce Rena differantly than what I’m used to. In the anime, they say “Reh-na.” In the new translation, they say “Ray-na”
    Whichever is correct isn’t the issue, it’s just not what I’m used to.

    I’m really happy with Leon’s voice though. It sounds very close to his original voice, which is good, because it was freaking perfect.

  • mike

    May i ask a question?

    In the Original 2nd story – ( well if i can remember correctly) if i go for a private action i can select the non-main characters i would like (noel, dias ashton celine etc. -) so i could use them for pickpocket and also edit the endings

    But now in the 2nd evolution – i cant choose the optional characters anymore….. bummer… though… i dont know if the what i am typing here is correct, but it seems to be apparent in my situation… i just want to know if i could ever control the non-main characters, it is what i am mainly after now….. can anyone answer? thanks!


  • mike

    – Hit 3x instead of 1. Good
    – You can now chain skill with your attacks. Good
    – Voices (it is actually okay, because you are given the skip function, AND better private quality time)
    – More PA’s added (some are very funny!)
    – More skills?(Learn skill) i dont know though
    – Pictures with the text + voices add to a rich dialouge
    (and makes you identify what they actually look like)

    – Character Pictures changed at the status screen
    (i like the original i think we all do)

    – some voice inconsistencies and sprites inconsistencies as stated above.
    (Tri ace made a good job at the sprite detail, but square enix got lazy about it.)

    – TAUNT skill removed??
    (i dont know how to use in battle anymore it was important for me!)

    – Flip skill removed (needed it for a good sword dance but at least hitting 3x is better)

    (damn this was my favorite and they removed the distortion animation at 2nd evo, and now it is not. Eruption now does better. Major bummer!)

    – Orchestra was made a lot easier
    (Before, obtaining orchestra was one of the hardest to do in SO 2nd story as you had to find out which character uses which instrument, but this was changed in 2nd Evo, which any char can create music from any instrument. The point being, they removed the original intended difficulty for a very powerful skill now made a bit too cheap.)

    – changing HERALDRY to SYMBOLOGY (kinda sucked, it would have been better if it was like “ARCANE”, but i guess they had trademark issues. But they could have thought of something much much better.)

    – Canvas pictures does not reveal the whole body when you try to look at the portrait anymore… (unlike in SO 2nd story, celine anyone?)

    NOW comparing these… now i dont know.. i guess I like the original better…

  • mike

    oh, yeah i would like to add, they removed the flashback when Dias was blooded with cecille killed by the bandits. (correct me here though, maybe i just missed it, but i was really hoping to see it, otherwise.

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