Star Ocean The Second Story R brings classic RPG action to PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 on November 2. This is a complete remake of the RPG Star Ocean the Second Story (SO2), which was released on the original PlayStation in 1998, critically acclaimed for its Dual Protagonist system, 3D combat, deep skill systems, Private Actions, multiple endings, and much more.
In this remake, the game’s visuals and playability have been further refined while retaining the excitement and charm of the original release, complete with beloved 2D pixel character sprites roaming through the stunning fields and dungeons in full 3D. The exhilarating real-time action combat system is designed to be easy for anyone to pick up and is enhanced by additional new features.
I had a chance to play the PS5 version of the game ahead of Tokyo Game Show 2023.
An epic remake of the beloved RPG after 25 years
For the hands-on preview, we were able to experience the exploration and combat in the Lasgus Mountains and Hoffman Ruins. I was most interested in how the 2D pixel characters and the 3D environment/dungeons were fused together.
Before playing, I imagined it would feel strange to see 2D pixel characters roaming around in a high-res 3D environment, rendered using the latest graphics technology. However, I was surprised that it felt much more natural than I expected. The lighting on the characters changes according to the situation and environment, such as the difference between brightly lit and darker areas, so the characters do not appear out of place.
For those who played the original PS version of SO2 or the PSP version of Star Ocean Second Evolution, the familiar pixel characters may bring back memories and nostalgia. We could only experience the Lasgus Mountains and the Hoffman Ruins this time, but we are excited to explore the lively towns and lush green fields in the full version of the game.
The new break and assault action features delivery exhilarating and flashy combat
The basic controls for combat were: Circle button for normal attack; X button for backstep; Triangle button to bring up the battle menu; Square button to change orders; L1/R1 shoulder buttons to activate techniques; L2 trigger + left analog stick to switch targets; R2 trigger + left analog stick to switch controlling characters; and the d-pad for the new Assault Action feature.
In this game, battles begin when players encounter enemies in the overworld or dungeons. The controls are fairly simple, with the player launching a series of normal attacks by mashing the circle button and activating special moves or Symbologies by pressing the L1 and R1 buttons. Allies you’re not currently controlling will automatically move based on your strategy.
Most of these elements are familiar to those who have played the original SO2. Still, Star Ocean The Second Story R has evolved to feature more strategic and dynamic battles with a variety of brand-new additions.
If you perform a well-timed backstep with the X button when the enemy attacks, a flashy lightning bolt effect will occur. You will then automatically evade the attack and, move behind the enemy and be given the opportunity to deliver a hit. If you succeed, your MP will be restored, making it easier to use your skills. When it’s the enemy’s turn to strike, there are warning signs, like their body beginning to glow red. If you don’t miss those, this maneuver is relatively easy to pull off.
In addition, enemies now have a Shield Value, and when this gauge Breaks with an attack, the enemies stop in their tracks. While the enemies are temporarily incapacitated, the amount of damage dealt increases, providing you with an opportunity to strike at once and deal massive damage. Each character possesses various skills, and Claude, the main protagonist in the demo, uses the Head Splitter skill, which is effective at breaking enemy shields. Throughout the game, the main tactic will be to use character skills to trigger the Break feature. When the leader of an enemy group breaks, other enemies will break in a chain. It is thrilling to see the word “Break” appear across the screen one after another, combined with flashy effects.
Another key combat element is the new Assault Action feature. Although only four battle members can participate in a battle, Assault Action also brings in other allies to attack. In the lower-left corner of the screen, an Assault Gauge corresponds to the non-active characters, which increases as time passes. When the gauge becomes full, pressing the corresponding directional key activates the Assault Action. This will be useful in a variety of situations, such as when you are striking an enemy whose shield has been broken, or when you are in a pinch when your character has been incapacitated, and you need help. The Assault Gauge fills up faster than you might expect, so you want to take advantage of it as much as possible.
The already delightful combat of the original SO2 is enhanced with new mechanics and strategic components in this remake. However, if you are not careful, one of your characters could be targeted and killed instantly. Paying attention to your party members’ health, distance from enemies, and standing position is always a good idea. The explosive combat and simple controls are major elements that define this game.
The effects and animations of the various skills have also been revamped, making them even more spectacular. The new slick effects are sure to liven up the battles even more. It is also nice to know that animations for Symbology skills, like Shadow Flare, are now skippable with the Options button.
I cannot wait to set off on an adventure in the ocean of stars, and take my time to enjoy the stunning, exhilarating, and fast-paced battles that are accessible for all levels of players. Star Ocean The Second Story R hits PS5 and PS4 on November 2.