reviews\ Jan 15, 2009 at 7:00 pm

STAR OCEAN: Second Evolution - PSP - Review

As far as Japanese RPGs go, the Star Ocean series has long been one of the most underrated franchises to come out of Square-Enix. The series, which draws its roots way back on the Super Famicom (the first game never saw a formal release in the US until Star Ocean: First Departure hit the PSP last fall), hasn’t really enjoyed the same runaway success as other “Squeenix” franchises like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, but has still managed to be a pretty compelling series with great story elements and fun gameplay. Now, keeping in line with the publisher’s recent policy of updating their classic games, Square-Enix has updated and launched the second title in the Star Ocean universe on the PSP with Star Ocean: Second Evolution.

While not exactly a full-on remake of Star Ocean: The Second Story (which debuted on the PS1 in 1998), Second Evolution is really more of an update, taking advantage of the PSP’s high-resolution widescreen display with sharp graphics, anime cutscenes, and full voice acting while still retaining most of the gameplay elements from the original PS1 release. While the game is not perfect and has many of the same issues that plagued the original, this is still a pretty solid remake and a fine addition to any PSP-owning RPG-lover’s library.

STAR OCEAN: Second Evolution PSP screenshots

Star Ocean: Second Evolution begins by having you choose between two different characters: Claude C. Kenny and Rena Lanford. Claude (the son of Ronyx J. Kenny, the hero of First Departure), finds himself transported mysteriously to Rena’s home world of Expel, which is far less technologically advanced as Claude’s world. Therefore, Claude embarks on a journey with Rena to find his way back home while helping Rena discover the mystery of a meteorite that had recently landed on Expel, known as the “Scorcery Globe”. While the two characters will spend the majority of their journey together regardless of which you choose, your choice will have different effects on the storyline, and even give you different endings depending on your interactions with other characters that join your party.

For players who played through the recently released Star Ocean: First Departure, the overall layout will be immediately familiar. The game uses the same updated interface as its predecessor, and is stylistically very similar. The game has all of the familiar trappings of old-school RPGs, namely big towns, dungeons to explore, a world map, random battles, and so on.

STAR OCEAN: Second Evolution PSP screenshots

The combat unfolds in real-time, having your characters navigate the battlefield and then attacking your enemies using the face buttons to perform special combos. You can use melee attacks, magic, or a variety of Special Arts. The combat is pretty fast and doesn’t drudge along, but unfortunately falls a bit short by feeling overly simplistic and repetitive.

Graphically, the game looks pretty good, and is a marked improvement over the PS1 version thanks to some high-resolution sprites and environments courtesy of the PSP’s big, beautiful screen. While the game won’t tax your PSP’s graphical prowess with detailed 3D graphics (the game is mostly 2D sprites on pre-rendered backgrounds with the occasional 3D areas), it still retains the original feel of the game on which it’s based while providing a pretty solid aesthetic.

STAR OCEAN: Second Evolution PSP screenshots

The music in Star Ocean: Second Evolution is very well done, with some nicely implemented pieces to the score that stand well along other entries to Square-Enix’s franchises. The voice work in the game is fairly plentiful, with tons of written dialogue. The majority of the voice acting is well done, but there are quite a few instances of awkward deliveries and some poorly written lines.

Star Ocean: Second Evolution is a solid update for a title that many RPG gamers may have missed out on the first time around. While the game doesn’t really bring a lot new to the table (a lot has changed in the genre since Star Ocean 2 first hit the PS1) and the combat is pretty simplistic and repetitive, it’s still worth a look for hardcore RPG purists.

Review Scoring Details for Star Ocean: Second Evolution

Gameplay: 7.0
The game plays out like any number of traditional RPGs, with the same conventions that the genre has seen for years now. The updates to the gameplay are Spartan at best, meaning the game does feel somewhat dated, albeit still pretty fun. The combat is somewhat disappointing, feeling quite simplistic and repetitious.

Graphics: 8.0
Second Evolution doesn’t really receive much of an upgrade in the graphics department, but still looks pretty good on the PSP’s screen.

Sound: 8.0
The music is still great, and the voice acting is good for the most part, save for some awkward and poorly-written lines.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 8.5
The game’s sweeping storyline and multiple arcs make for a pretty compelling adventure.

Overall: 7.5
While there are a few issues here and there, Second Evolution is a solid update of a compelling RPG from the past.


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