Star Ocean: First Departure R

released on Dec 04, 2019

An improved remake/remaster of the 2007 PlayStation Portable game Star Ocean: First Departure, which was a remake of the first game in the series, Star Ocean, released on the Super Famicom in 1996.

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The level grinding was waaaaay too ridiculous. :(

This game is very neat and has a lot of interesting ideas, but it has some problems. The gameplay shifts between braindead and annoying. All you really do is mash and grinding can solve any wall you hit.
The skill system is really unique, being able to train people to fulfil roles outside of combat. I do think there are tons of nitpicks you could get into with it. For example, if you get someone with the customization skill, they can only customise the weapon they use, which can be really annoying, especially when your party is mostly using different weapon types. Meaning, you would need to give multiple people the customization skill to get party-wide value out of it.
I love and also despise the limited party gimmick, I think it's a cool idea to personalise your experience and encourage replays. But it's the worst feeling when you see a new character that you think looks cool but you have a full party, so you're screwed. (BTW my party was Roddick, Milie, Ilia, Ronyx, Cyuss, Ioshua, Mavelle, and Pericci)
Private actions are, again, a cool idea that could have been executed better. The issue is that it is handled in a very inconvenient way. You can only view one of the unquie party interactions per activation of a private action, meaning that you have to repeatedly go in and out of the town repeatedly to see them all. Also, when you are in a private action, you cannot rest at an inn or leave a town via ship, nor can you regroup the party without leaving a town.
The story is fairly bare bones; you never feel the presence of an antagonist, and there are no recurring villains, which is disappointing. What carries the game is the characters you have in your party, because this game has limited party slots, which makes seeing party members interact interesting because you are seeing something you couldn't see if you made a different choice. I do wish there was more character development, as Ronyx and Ilia are the only ones I consider fully fleshed out, at least in my party.
I do wish this game had more sci-fi stuff because with a name like Star Ocean and the first couple hours, I expected more. But in truth, Star Ocean is almost pure fantasy for 90% of it.

A lot of things about this game are almost good.
The story is almost an interesting biological warfare space story, until that plot becomes an afterthought.
The characters, both optional and mandatory, are almost good until you realize that even after doing all a character's PAs (read: extra character building scenes) and viewing their character ending scene, most of the characters remain incredibly undeveloped and shallow. Ilia and Millie fall prey to this same issue, but I ended the game liking those two characters well enough, so it's not all bad.
The gameplay is almost good until you realize there's no manual battle setting, so once you press the attack button your character will chase an enemy around the field until they finally line up directly in front of or behind said enemy. The difficulty also fluctuates wildly, and there are several ways to totally break game balance and become significantly overlevelled if you choose to do so.
And the last thing I'll talk about here, although there're plenty of other aspects that fit the almost good ticket, is the Specialty system. I really, really like the concept of this. Essentially there are like 10-15 specialty skills that range from everything to creating and performing music, to pickpocketing NPCs, etc etc. And it's almost so cool! Unfortunately only a few of these are useful and some shouldn't even be used as they'll decrease your party member's affection ratings, potentially ruining your endings without warning you you'll do so.
All these almost good things--combined with a few strictly bad ones like the constant backtracking which only gets worse if you want to see all the PAs--land Star Ocean First Departure R somewhere just on the border of not being worth playing.
If you're looking at this as your first Star Ocean game, I sincerely hope you'll start with a different title instead. First Departure might be worth playing once you're a fan who wants to be able to say they played/beat the whole series, but it won't win over anybody trying to get into the series for the first time.

This is by far the best way to play this game. Voice acting is top notch, art direction is amazing, and the story is the best of its era. The original game was archaic in a lot of ways and this fixes every issue I ever had with it. The blending of fantasy and sci-fi is wonderful and in my opinion better than FFVI or Chrono Trigger. Although I played a little bit of Til The End of Time when I was little, this is the first SO game I really sank my teeth into, and it is stellar.

Misserable, one of the least intuitive RPGs I've ever played. Frustrating battle system, half baked characters, random battles every couple steps that kill you in a few hits