Star Ocean: Second Evolution  - Review

Star Ocean: Second Evolution
Ages: Teen

Second Evolution, like First Departure, is a remake of a classic Tri-Ace RPG - in this case the source material is 1998ís Star Ocean: The Second Story. In my review of First Departure, I was disappointed by the lackluster story and cookie-cutter characters underneath the gorgeous visual presentation. Second Evolution, is almost exactly the reverse; the original Second Story was released on the Playstation (one), and this modified portís backgrounds and cutscenes retain the muddy, polygonal look typical of its generation. But the plot and characters, the deep skill system, the episodic advancement of the story, the length and replayability - all shine through, making this a very worthwhile experience despite a few minor hiccups.

From the start of the game, you are given the choice of playing as one of the two main characters, Claude and Rena (for the purposes of this review, I chose Rena). Not only do the two offer different approaches to combat (Claude is a fighter, Rena a healer/mage), but each has exclusive plot points and the events of the game are seen through their unique points of view - a feature which instantly adds depth and dynamism to the characters and their relationships.

The story, in which Claude (the son of Ronyx, a character from First Departure), finds himself an unwitting visitor to the planet Expel, which has been experiencing devastating natural disasters and monster attacks ever since a bizarre object called the Sorcery Globe landed on the planet from space, is well crafted. The pacing feels natural, and is interspersed with character development. Rena, the other main character, is a local girl who sets out with Claude to investigate the Sorcery Globe as they discover the larger forces at work behind the strange occurrences. The supporting characters are eccentric and interesting, although being optional they tend to feel interchangeable and somewhat irrelevant.

The game suffers from some of the same flaws as First Departure; the combat is still frantic and without strategy, the grind is still a bit cumbersome, the difficulty curve is erratic, and the procurement of additional characters, skills, and items is a bit too esoteric for the first-time player. But the skill system, which felt overly complex for the simplistic FD, is right at home here and works much more intuitively. Second Evolution is much more recommendable than its precursor; if you play just one of the Star Ocean games, it should be this one.

Fun Factor: A great story that will make you forget about an ugly presentation and a less-than-perfect battle mechanic.
Female Factor: Rena is determined, she is firm in the face of the presuppositions seemingly every person she encounters makes based on her sex, and that added a lot to my association with her as a character. Celine is interesting, but itís hard to take her seriously when her outfit is a shower-curtain.
Player Friendly: The game always makes sure you know where to go, the skill system is intuitive, but the grind is a little on the heavy side. This is a harder game than First Departure, but worth the extra effort.

Reviewed by: Alex Lewis - 03/09

  • Star Ocean: Second Evolution
  • © Square Eniz
  • Platform(s): PSP
  • To Order: PSP $36.49