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Star Ocean (Super Nintendo) Review

Review for Star Ocean on Super Nintendo - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The Super Nintendo is renowned for its wealth of top class role-playing games, especially those from the heavyweight that is Squaresoft. However, unfortunately some of the more in-depth RPGs only hit the Japanese market at a time when translating them for the West would have been too expensive and not very fruitful due to a reduction in interest for the hardware. Join C3 as we take a look at one missing gem...

Many people tend to look at both Namco’s Tales series and Star Ocean, commenting on how the two are remarkably similar in battle design. Now, here is something you may not realise -- this is because Wolf Team who originally created the Linear Battle Motion for Tales of Phantasia, left Namco to form a new company called tri-Ace, who then went on to develop Star Ocean! And thus the mystery is solved…There are many elements that differ between the two, though, with the cooking element being a Tales trademark and the newly introduced ‘Item Creation’ being linked with Star Ocean. In terms of the actual storyline, though, clearly the language barrier hinders progress somewhat, but what can be fathomed from playing through was certainly a roller-coaster ride of science fiction and humour.

Star Ocean was a graphical masterpiece. Forget everything you think you know about SNES visuals, including the pseudo-3D elegance of Super Mario RPG, discard the moody, grim stylings of Super Metroid and discard the child-like sketch-book approach used in Yoshi’s Island. Sure, all three of those are gorgeous under their own merits, but Star Ocean was the pinnacle of SNES mastery, with breath-taking water reflections as you pass by streams, lighting effects that cast life-like shadows through over-hanging trees and a stable frame-rate that could make several Nintendo 64 games blush! Each character, enemy, building and location were so intricately detailed and majestically coloured that even by today’s standards this could pass as a PSone game!

Screenshot for Star Ocean on Super Nintendo - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

And hand-in-hand with the wonderful visual experience came a glorious soundtrack; orchestration of the highest magnitude, sound effects that are reminiscent of the best RPGs on the market and even a wealth of voice acting. The Super Nintendo was renowned for containing a powerful Sony sound chip, which is how many developers created such splendiferous soundtracks, but Star Ocean takes things one step further. A special sound chip was utilised to squeeze close-to-CD quality out of the humble 16-bit system, with the choice of mono, stereo or even Surround Sound in the options menu. Check out the Sound Test option from the main screen and you can instantly get a wonderful feel of the musical beauty, plus the stack of voice clips! Yes, they may sound slightly muffled, but for the time it was a revolutionary inclusion and still leaves a marked impression of the game, upping the enjoyment factor slightly.

Those that are in the habit of playing through the likes of Final Fantasy games will be used to turn-based battles, where the player chooses an option, acts it out and then must wait whilst the enemy seeks retribution. Then there are the Action RPGs, such as Zelda, where players actively control their characters when engaging foes, being in direct control of how the battles progress in more of a real-time scenario. Tales of Phantasia, though, mixed things up slightly and Star Ocean definitely took matters a few steps further. Gamers are inflicted with the evil that is random battles, but rather than the usual suspects, fighting is much more fun with you being able to actively control your team within the confines of the battle screen. The rest of the team can be given orders beforehand to help the computer control them accordingly during battle, whilst you keep your character on the right path.

Screenshot for Star Ocean on Super Nintendo - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The freedom given in this way leads to exciting, fast-paced encounters that bode well for the entire adventure. And with the inclusion of various different aspects that proved to be quite unique at the time, Star Ocean does not disappoint. There is also the Item Creation where you can not only rush to stores to spend your money on armour, weapons, and so on, but actually build your own depending on how you distribute the Skill Points you gain after each Level-Up. Bumping up a certain aspect of personality or talent can result in major positives later on, even boosting their attributes at times. It may all sound over-complicated, but the tri-Ace got the balance perfect and that is what makes the adventure so special.

Strategy is the key in Star Ocean, as the 'tide' of battles can turn quite quickly if you start to randomly mash buttons. Actually setting up your other team-mates to do relevant actions will more than likely result in victory most of the time, whereas simply putting them all on attack only will leave the weaker healers dead in seconds and ultimate annihilation a matter of seconds away...And you will have to watch specific characters, for you are forced to play through with four default people -- whilst the remaining four places can be selected at will. And with each character interaction there are ‘Private Actions’ that can change the course of the game, leading to a better or worse ending. This is a deep game that will scare ‘RPG Lite’ fans, but one that full-on fans will adore…

Screenshot for Star Ocean on Super Nintendo - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

As with any role-player, dependent on how much you enjoy the exploration of the game in question's world and battle mechanic for the expected slew of random battles (as is the norm in the majority of RPGs from this era), you may play through right to the end, or give up a short way into the adventure. However, it is safe to say that although Star Ocean's battles are all-too-frequent, the mechanic is such that encounters can be swiftly overcome in the least amount of hassle possible. Characters grip you as you try your best to understand where they are coming from and their aims (Japanese, remember? Hinders the understanding of the story somewhat...!), plus there are so many facets to the game that playing through more than once becomes a real likelihood, especially as not all the characters can be recruited in one play-through. Mix in the alternate endings found via the Private Actions, the Skill system to morph your team according to your preferences and the secrets within and this is one LONG game!

Screenshot for Star Ocean on Super Nintendo- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review


The tweaked version of Tales' Linear Battle Motion, the introduction of the Item Creation, the inclusion of titles and 'Private Actions' all helped to make the adventure a well-rounded one right from the start, and the engaging gameplay in general would have made this a must have if translated for the West.


To say that this is the best looking RPG on the SNES does not actually do Star Ocean justice as it is so spectacular that it still holds strong against many PSone titles!


The memorable soundtrack is partnered with some shockingly good voice work that adds a perfect atmosphere to an already stellar title.


With so many potential hours to play with in Star Ocean, even without the language barrier there is more than enough to keep the average gamer going, and that is before the extras that are inclued!

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
Rated 9 out of 10

The Super Nintendo may have been stacked full of first class RPGs, but some of the best just never made it outside of Japan, as is the case with Star Ocean. Those who do not understand Japanese would be best advised to head to the PSone and get the equally sublime Star Ocean: The Second Story...Fingers crossed for the inclusion of this in Nintendo's Virtual Console!

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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (1 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date None   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

The Star Ocean series is such a brilliant one - the PSone and PS2 games are classic RPG goodness, but it is almost criminal that this SNES version hasn't been at least ported to another system yet!!

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Another excellent RPG review Adam!

I am mightily tempted to add this to my ever-growing list of must-have RPG's but the whole Japanese thing is putting me off somewhat. I have a Japanese version of one of the Mega Man RPG's on my GBA and that is just completely unplayable which is a shame as I reckon I would have quite liked it.

Anyway at least you have alerted me to the existence of what sounds to be yet another excellent RPG series. I've heard you mention it before I'm sure but didn't think much of it at the time. Will certainly be looking into those other titles! :D

Cubed3 Staff < Retro Editor :: Previews Editor >
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Thanks Karn, and look at us, posting comments on a story that hasn't even been published yet! :eek: :lol:

I get quite passionate about RPGs from the SNES era...many would think me sad for doing so, though :-( Playing through RPGs in Japanese is very difficult. I'm currently plugging through Brownie Brown's Magical Vacation on the GBA with the help of an FAQ to explain the story...

Star Ocean, thankfully, has been fully fan-translated and is an absolute dream to play through now!

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Ooh, I wondered how I had managed to miss the news article, it all makes sense now. :lol:

You're the RPG king, it's what you do! That's like people saying footballers are sad for playing football, actually bad example. Smilie

Wooh for fan translations! To the list it goes, I'm slowly getting there

Cubed3 Staff < Retro Editor :: Previews Editor >
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Well, now the article has gone 'live' I'm hoping more people will read about this brilliant game. Any fans of the Star Ocean series out there? Galvanizer perhaps?

Just like Tales of Phantasia and Seiken Densetsu 3 it's got spectacular graphics and an amazing soundtrack and really SHOULD have been translated. Ah, the pain...

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Hopefully games like these will get ported to the GBA, or i might have to play it the naughty way. :D

Excellent review, another fantastic SNES RPG that i need to play.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Much appreciated D_G. If this and my SD3 reviews are popular enough, I plan to cover some other forgotten SNES RPGs like Bahamut Lagoon, Robotrek, Treasure Hunter G and Dragon Quest VI... :Smilie

There's a wealth of superb SNES games out there that the (Western) world just completely missed out on!

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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