RPG Index: Single player Role Playing Games

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Star Ocean: First Departure

Taking a franchise back to its roots is rarely a bad thing. The most recent Star Ocean games on the Playstation 2 and 3 were good, but they were more linear and lacked some of that charm gamers loved from the initial titles. You couldn't recruit a different party on your second playthrough. However, Star Ocean: First Departure brings back the love. It has adorable 2D graphics backed up by cutesy anime cutscenes; and all the other wonderful quirks that we've missed since Star Ocean made its debut on the Famicom.

The local defense force, Millie, Roddick, and Dorne.

Genre: Action, JRPG
Release Date: 27th December 2007
Platforms: PSP
Score: 7/10
Similar Titles: Grandia, Final Fantasy, Tales of Phantasia

Roddick, Millie, and Dorne are teenagers working as a local defense force for their small town, Kratus. They undertake tasks such as repelling bandits and rescuing cats from trees. When visiting the nearest village they discover a mysterious plague has begun spreading among the populace; turning everyone who comes into contact with it into stone. When no cure can be found to stop the illness, Roddick and company venture up the nearby mountain to find a rare herb as their last hope. What they don't realize, is that their journey will take them through time and space to reveal the truth because the virus and the history of their planet.

The combat is really fun.

If you weren't already aware, Star Ocean: First Departure is a replica of the original game on the Famicom. Many of the features have been enhanced to accommodate the modern era of gaming, the graphics and the engine have essentially been updated to Playstation quality. There are a few new characters and scenes, but it's mostly the same as the original. The lore from the Star Ocean universe is rich and filled with unique stories, and this game marks the beginning of it.

I really enjoyed playing First Departure, the combat is different from your typical JRPG. Instead of being turn based, you control your character on the field. Four team members can chosen for battle. You decide which party member to play as, and each character works a little differently. Symbology is the Star Ocean version of magic, which can be used for healing or damage. Not everybody can use magic, but every character learns a plethora of various skills as they level up. Skills can vary, such as a long range nuke, or an AoE knockback. 2 skills can be assigned at any one time, and the more frequently you use them the more powerful they become. I found fighting monsters and other enemies addictive, and intentionally sought out battles. However, the random battle mechanic doesn't kick in frequently; so if you want to progress through the game quickly it's entirely possible.

Roddick and company meet people from Earth.

As for the story, it covers many things. It starts out like your typical RPG, except the characters have tails. However, it quickly gets confusing and even a little overwhelming. Time and space travel, galactic wars, and even demon lords. For a very old game, it's actually original. My favorite part was being able to recruit different characters each time you play it through. On top of that, there's a relationship system in the game that changes the ending based on which allies you favor more. Another unique and very intriguing feature in Star Ocean: First Departure is the item system. Each shop has countless stuff to buy, and it can all be fused to create new weapons, or armor.

Roddick is the main character, and compared to everyone else he's a little boring. Personally, I thought the dialogue was a little lacking. But the plot itself is good. Every so often after you make a fair bit of progress you get to watch an anime cutscene, which looks good but feels like it's tacked on as an afterthought.

Out of all the games you can get on the PSP, First Departure is easily one of the best. You can easily sink 30+ hours into it, and enjoy every second. If you ever feel like revisiting the game, you can do it with a new party and experience a new ending. Star Ocean: The Second Story has also managed to port itself onto the portable as well. Certainly a title worth purchasing, especially since it's cheap.

Check out the top 5 PSP RPG titles here!

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