(Super Nintendo)

Star Ocean (Super Nintendo)

Game Review

Star Ocean Review

Japan Japan Version

Posted by Corbie Dillard

The Super Famicom version of Star Ocean might feature a lot of flashy technology, but it's the game's epic storyline and unique combat system that's made it such a beloved classic among 16-bit RPG fans over the years.

The Super Nintendo is well known for sporting a rather large and outstanding library of RPGs, but there were several of these outstanding titles that never made an appearance outside of Japan. Star Ocean would have to be at the top of that list, but thanks to the kind folks at Dejap, a translation patch has been created for this amazing Super Nintendo title and now English-speaking RPG fans can finally enjoy this outstanding adventure in its original form.

Star Ocean's biggest distinction comes from the fact that it's the culmination of several developers who originally worked on the Namco hit Tales of Phantasia, which explains why the game sports so many similar features and stylings. Having said that, it's worth emphasizing that Star Ocean is a distinctive RPG experience that features a very unique battle system and some of the most cutting edge technology available for the Super Nintendo console at the time of its release. It's also why the translated game took so long to become fully playable on an emulator. But for those who've played the game, it was well worth the wait.

Visually Star Ocean is one of the best-looking Super Nintendo games ever created. The original game used a special graphics compression chip inside the cartridge that allowed the developers to use complicated sets of graphics throughout the game while still fitting it all inside the cart's ROM size limitations. This is one reason the game was so difficult to emulate and for a long time required the use of a separate graphics pack in order to play. It won't take playing the game long to realize just why these graphics needed to be compressed. Every area in the game features lush surroundings and the type of detail you don't normally see in a mere 16-bit title. Every area is very distinctive and has its own unique look and feel and you'll rarely see the same area twice which has the effect of making the universe of Star Ocean feel incredibly immense. It's clear that the developers put a lot of time and energy into bringing the game's visuals to life and spared no expense in doing so. Star Ocean is easily one of the best looking titles available on the Super Nintendo system and a true testament to its sheer visual capabilities.

As if the impressive visuals weren't enough, the soundtrack in Star Ocean never ceases to amaze. There's honestly not a bad musical track in the entire game. Now how many games can you honestly say that about? The music is a bit reminiscent of the Final Fantasy titles, but it also seems to have a melodic touch that sets it apart from other Enix releases of this same time period. Much like the visuals, there's a lot of variety in the various musical tracks, so you'll hardly ever the same track twice. The battle music is one you'll get used to hearing quite often, but it's so catchy and fits the action so well you'll welcome it no matter how many times you've already heard it before. One particularly unique feature of Star Ocean's aural presentation is the use of audio samples. During battle you can hear the fighters yelling out spoken dialog and making battle sounds just like you would hear in a real battle. By today's rpg standards it's not anything overly special, but at the time this game was released, there was nothing else quite like it. In fact, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to say that the overall audio experience in Star Ocean ranks right up there with some of the best the system has to offer.

Now here's where Star Ocean gets really interesting. The game features a very unique real-time combat system that's somewhere in between an action-style battle system and a more traditional turn-based combat engine. You can still carry out attacks in real-time, but instead of actually swinging a sword, you select an attack command. You can also target specific enemies, as well as use items and special magical attacks that can be assigned to the "L" and "R" shoulder buttons on the SNES controller. You only control one character at a time, but you can toggle through the available characters and change which one you're currently controlling at any time during a battle. The other characters are controlled by the AI of the game and are helpful, but can be a little troublesome at times when they just sit back and watch you do all the work.

As with most rpgs, you'll spend a lot of time exploring the many areas of the game and occasionally squaring off against a boss at the end of most dungeons and caves. Star Ocean even features a "Private Action" command that allows you to play out certain side-quests at various times throughout the game. They're not required to complete the game, but they do add a bit of additional detail and depth to the plotline if you choose to carry them out. They also make the game feel a little less linear, as well. And while the combat system takes a little getting used to and might seem like nothing more than a button-masher at first, once you get the hang of it all you'll come to appreciate the unique game play aspects the battle system brings to the table.

Conclusion

It's easy to understand why so many diehard RPG fans have held this game is such high regard for so many years. It's also easy to see why it was one of the first games to be translated into English by the talented group at Dejap. Now that the game's graphics have been decompressed, there's no reason gamers shouldn't patch the game rom and give this one a try. Star Ocean is easily one of the best role-playing games available for the Super Nintendo console and that's making a pretty strong statement considering how many fantastic RPGs the system has in its vast catalog of games. While the new updated PSP version of the game is a solid enough rendition of the game, there's still nothing quite like this original Super Famicom RPG masterpiece.

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User Comments (17)

Bahamut_ZERO

#2

Bahamut_ZERO said:

RPG? Check.
Square-Enix involved? Check.
Good graphics? Check.
Chance of it ever coming to us? Unfortunately absent :(

Adam

#3

Adam said:

Wow, this hardly looks like an SNES game. I know the series is still going and has releases in America now. No official ports of this to other systems?

Starwolf_UK

#4

Starwolf_UK said:

I remember playing this when the emulation was first worked out (you had to use seperate graphics files since nobody had figured out how to emulate the graphics decompression in real time) and using Ian Kellys translaiton FAQs to play through. Good times.

While it felt rough round the edges (some parts seemed unfinised and the glitchy) I enjoyed it a lot. I loved its replay value due to having 12 characters but only being able to recruit up to 8 (the 4 main characters are manditory) and of course this lead to dozens of different possible endings...

No official ports of this to other systems?
There is a PSP remake called Star Ocean First Departure. I know it changes the graphics to resemble the second Star Ocean game.

Terra

#5

Terra said:

I wish we'd gotten this originally, as i do like Star Ocean and i'm not paying for a PSP just for one game.

Those graphics sure are amazing for a SNES game.

CorbsAdmin

#7

Corbs said:

The only thing I didn't like about the PSP version was that they changed the combat system. The inserted the battle system that was used in its sequel that I didn't like nearly as much. Other than that, the PSP version is solid.

Objection

#9

Objection said:

Wow, now I really want this. Maybe S-E could take the translation from the PSP remake and just paste it in? (Not literally of course.) Surely it wouldn't take that long and they could easily charge 900 and I would get it, among many others.

Terra

#10

Terra said:

@Objection_Blaster
You could argue that for a large number of SE titles they've remade over the years but let's face it, the chances are slim to Zero of that idea ever happening for VC. Of course, thats not to say it can't happen but i wouldn't count on it. More likely on XBLA if anywhere.

soniczelda_dude

#11

soniczelda_dude said:

Ah... here's another SE rpg that may never come to these shores. It's a shame, because this game would be worth the extra 100 or 200 points.

CanisWolfred

#12

CanisWolfred said:

I've never been fond of the Star Ocean series, especially since I consider Star Ocean 3 one of the worst games I've ever played. I do have the ROM of this game, though, so maybe I should give this a try.

EDIT: Oh, right, the ROM doesn't work anymore...
EDIT again: Aaaaand I got a new one.

G-d, this game is so boring! I don't really give a s*** about the story, and the characters seem pretty lame. The combat is especially boring, with it being so boring that I could play it in my sleep! And I don't see the point of using magic when all I have to do is spam the sword attack. I'd honestly say that this is worse that Star Ocean 3: at least that game was a genuine challenge.

Well, actually I suppose there is one good thing about it: at least it doesn't force you to care about the characters with hours upon hours of hours of characterization and dialogue, the way Star Ocean 3 does.

EDIT thrice: They changed the combat in First Departure? Nice! I might get that one...or I'll just get Star Ocean 2, since that one might have a more interesting story.

You know what? Screw Star Ocean 2 as well. Screw this whole damn series, with the possible exception of Star Ocean 4, which is the only game in the series that looks any good.

Ski_Deuce

#13

Ski_Deuce said:

I tried this game out last year, and I didn't like it. I think the gameplay has aged poorly. It's been so long though that I can't remember my big complaints with the gameplay. What I can pull out from my memory is that the graphics were among the best ever on the SNES (nothing ever topped the DKC series) but that the foundations for the battle system were on shaky ground. This game, if I remember correctly, came off as almost a button masher when the battle system was involved. The fact that there was voice acting was cool though. There's some good music in the game too.

Star Ocean 2 is much better. Unfortunately, it suffers from poorly scaled difficulty like many other JRPGs (aka, pretty good pacing with leveling until final boss).

CorbsAdmin

#14

Corbs said:

I went to great lengths to purchase an English version cartridge of this Super Famicom classic and I still play through from time to time. One of my top five RPGs of all time out of the hundreds I own. But to each his own. :)

WolfRamHeart

#15

WolfRamHeart said:

I want an opportunity to try this game out for myself. I see that opinions differ about the quality of this game but I hope that one day we may see this on the Virtual Console. I know I could just play the PSP version but I no longer own a PSP and don't plan on getting one again. I love SNES RPGs and I never really experienced any of the Star Ocean games so I think this might be a good place to start!

Ragnor

#16

Ragnor said:

The best SNES game I ever played, and the only emulated game Ive been able to stomache. I pretty much enjoy every tri-Ace game there is, but this is one of their best imho. Sadly the PSP remake is flawed a lot to me, I consider the worst change to be removing the old world map and putting in a boring overworld and map in it's place. Also removing the ability to go back to the past after youve beaten the game? Ack.

Kadaj

#17

Kadaj said:

@Mickeymac

O.o You're missing out, like, bad. Star Ocean: The Second Story and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time are amazing games, with a very in depth character advancement system, as well as involving stories.

Anyways, I just DL'ed the Star Ocean Rom, and it's pretty awesome so far. Combat system threw me off at first, I expected to be able to move around, free run. Got the hang of it now though, and sword spamming will NOT carry you through the game, that is, unless you like 0 strategy and unnecessary challenge.

Great game, as is every game in the series.

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