Star Ocean: Second Evolution (PSP)

The gaming world quakes again!!! not really, but there is some interest in this old Square Enix title vamped up for the PSP and the modern market.
Read my review of it over at Square-Go

Star Ocean: Second Evolution

2/5
Star Ocean: Second Evolution

You know those cartoons you used to watch as a kid?  The sort where a band of plucky and unlikely teenagers wander round, getting into adventures and winning through using only naivity, their wits and a good dollop of luck?  Well the Star Ocean games seem to be modelled entirely on that sort of series.

Set about twenty years after the end of Star Ocean: First Departure, the story picks up with Claude C. Kenni, only son of Space Fleet hero Admiral Kenni, setting off with his father and crew to investigate a strange anomaly on a barren rock planet. In true cartoon style, Claude forsakes all caution and winds up being zapped across space to the medieval world of swords and sorcery, Expel. Once there he saves a local teenage girl, Rena; who after seeing him off a monkey with a lazer-gun, instantly decides he is the legendary ‘Hero of Light’ sent to save them from the evil of the Sorcery Globe.

Claude and Rena make up the playable main characters in the game. With either selectable as the lead, giving a welcome alternative for a second play through, should you have that sort of time handy. The pair of them set off to discover the origins of the Globe, and travel across various continents, having chats with locals and getting side-quests from randoms eager to join their party. Before eventually getting walloped across to another planet to do more of the same. Trouble is, it’s such damn slow going.

Being that Star Ocean 2 is an update of a game originally out ten years ago on the first Playstation, it’s not surprising it’s graphically a bit retro. Not that it’s a bad thing. The cutesy pixelated graphics add to the feeling that you’re playing an old game with surprisingly modern turns.  There are a whole host of anime’ cutscenes which are not only well animated also quite entertaining. The rest of the adventure is either in blocky 2D or faux 3D while travelling between cities and fighting the nefarious beasts of Expel.

The biggest trouble with the game is that despite having tweaked the graphics, sound and design of the game to modern standards, there has been little done to help the utterly plodding dialogue and geriatric pace of the story. Before you can even leave the first village, Claude and Rena have been subjected to a dozen inane and usually pointless conversations, where each line has to be skipped manually before the next appears. Considering most of these chats add nothing but minutes to the game, more often than not you’ll find yourself shaking the PSP hoping it’ll speed them up.

The interface itself isn’t bad; the customisable party is simple to navigate making it easy fun to pimp your party out with weapons, armour and other fancy maguffins. However the game shoots itself in the foot by not only having a massive map to traverse, with no names for cities and few signs to follow, and precious few save-points.  In fact they’re so randomly dotted around that you’ll end up leaving the PSP on stand-by most of the time just to avoid losing your progress until you can find one; meanwhile traipsing around the map in hope of finding whatever place generic character #93 has told you to seek out.

Fans of the original will probably lap this up like sugar-dipped cake-meat, but newcomers looking for something to get hold of would be advised to look somewhere else.

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