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.