STAR OCEAN First Departure R (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 30.12.2019 3

Review for STAR OCEAN First Departure R on PlayStation 4

When the original Star Ocean came out for the Super Famicom, it was one of two titles that held the distinction of requiring the largest cartridge size Nintendo would allow. It was 1996 - the same year the Nintendo 64 would be released. A whopping six megs made Star Ocean one of the most impressive RPGs on the console due to its use of recorded voiced audio, lots of text from the "Private Actions," and alternate text for the various story paths. Even the artistry in the sound design, sprites, and animation, was next level, and was comparable to what the PlayStation would put out. Sadly, Enix never localized the original Star Ocean, and the west would never get it in any official capacity until the Square Soft and Enix merging would release the PSP remake in 2007; Star Ocean: First Departure. After being relegated to the maligned portable for so long, Square Enix has sought to remaster this overlooked gem of a RPG, and has finally launched it on a console with the other three Star Ocean titles. Star Ocean: First Departure R boldly goes where it was always destined to go, in this Cubed3 review for the PlayStation 4.

When Star Ocean was originally released, the PlayStation was already out, yet it still impressed due to its incredible presentation. When it got remade as a PSP game, it was totally redone to be consistent with its sequel; Star Ocean: The Second Story. The interconnected world was replaced by a Final Fantasy VII-style world map, and even the backgrounds were redesigned in the pre-rendered aesthetic that many PlayStation games were remembered for. A lot of the original style from Star Ocean was changed, and anyone who played it before First Departure will have a different experience. With Star Ocean: First Departure R expect a remaster of the PSP remake that includes a couple of quality of life improvements.

Just what can neophytes going into Star Ocean: First Departure R expect? It is part Star Trek with elements of a "Tales of" game, but in spite of the obvious influences of Gene Roddenbery's work, it mostly sticks to being a anime style RPG. Much of the hard science fiction elements and futuristic politics are barely touched upon, and are relegated to the earliest parts of the story. There is even a variation of the "Prime Directive;" a Starfleet law that restricts space faring civilisations from exposing developing cultures. Every Star Ocean title has made the "Underdeveloped Planet Preservation Pact" (Tri-Ace's version of the Prime Directive), a main plot point that usually gives the story the excuse to forgo most of the science fiction trappings, and be a standard fantasy RPG. It is too bad it does not embrace the more Trekkie influences as much as it should, since these moments are usually book ended at the start of the quest and again towards the end.

Screenshot for STAR OCEAN First Departure R on PlayStation 4

Anyone who was a fan of Star Ocean: The Second Story or its PSP port will feel right at home here. The combat is a semi action-RPG system with random encounters, with players being able to get the option to map special attacks to the shoulder buttons. Gain levels and allocate points to skills to cause big damage to some bad boys. It is the lost PlayStation JRPG that the world missed out on, even if so much of it is lifted from The Second Story. The whole talent system which was not in the original Star Ocean was taken from the sequel and stuck into First Departure.

This was a skill system that gave each character a huge amount of versatility outside of battle, where they can craft all manner of useful things. Towards the later portion of the game, the skills available can lead to almost game-breaking results, making the heroes into gods. Resources won't be a factor since characters will be able to duplicate things, so the later bosses become total pushovers. The combat is beefy, and somewhat mindless, as the only real strategy is to wail on monsters with attacks, and the occasional special attack, while the party AI will typically exhaust all their MP by spamming their best moves. Keeping them alive is mostly the responsibility of the user - it's utterly ridiculous, yet satisfying.

Screenshot for STAR OCEAN First Departure R on PlayStation 4

What makes First Departure R different from most other JRPGs is how recruiting extra characters works. There are several optional party members, and many of them would be easily missed by most during initial play-throughs - compounded by the fact that recruiting one character will lock out another from being joinable. This makes for excellent replay value, and can make a play-through feel different each time. Certain side events and private actions are unique to certain party members. These flesh out their personality and add more flavour to the overall world.

First Departure R is an unusually short RPG, so replaying it from the beginning and beating it is not an exhausting task. Expect to complete the journey in about 20 hours or less. The only problem with all of this is that Tri-Ace made many of the characters very obscure to recruit. It can be easy to realize a grave mistake was made when trying to get Ashlay to join but won't because Roddick recruited Cyuss several hours earlier, thus locking him out forever. There is no new game plus either, so it might be a good idea to make multiple save files.

Screenshot for STAR OCEAN First Departure R on PlayStation 4

First Departure R boasts some new features; some for the better and others are just confusing. The extra running pace mapped to R2 is a godsend since Roddick ran slower than a distracted snail in the initial PSP version. The original portraits from the PSP edition and some new redraws have been included as well, but with a few caveats. The original portraits were drawn very plainly and looked terribly flat; the redraws are technically better, but they don't represent the character sprites accurately at all. This is also an issue in the poorly transferred anime cut-scenes that also are off-model from the character designs. Roddick's new portrait depicts him with a pony tail yet he does not have one in anime cut-scenes or on his sprite. Illia's depiction is the most confusing, since her sprite depicts her wearing a sexy skirt brown uniform, yet she is dressed like a boy-scout in anime scenes, and in her portrait she wears a weird looking blue... thing. It gets very distracting at times, and might confuse people early on.

Unlike the Super Famicom original, First Departure R has much more voice acting. Most of the time it is pretty good. The only times the voice acting is truly grating is in combat, where the AI partners start spamming special attacks, shouting while the chaotically frantic Matoi Sakuraba music plays - the audio becomes noise vomit. Yuri Lowenthal as Roddick screeches and shrills in the battles, and is the one actor who was miscast in this. The anime cut-scenes look terrible and were not remastered at all. There's some nasty pixelation and some ghosting between frames that does not look intentional at all. The presentation can be a bit rough, but none of this affects the gameplay.

Screenshot for STAR OCEAN First Departure R on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Star Ocean: First Departure R is a remaster of a JRPG from another age that was remade from an older age. It mostly holds up and has all the '90s sensibilities and style that a many of fans of this genre have been missing for 20 years. It is too bad that the original Super Famicom Star Ocean could not be included with this for fans to enjoy and see the huge differences. It's a shame that it may become lost in time, but this remaster of the remake is still the story of Star Ocean. It was never the greatest, but it was always highly enjoyable, and did set the stage for the amazing sequel that one day may also get a conversion to current platforms. It is an unusual situation where a remake is influenced by its sequel.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I really wish S-E would release the original with an English translation. Even on NSO.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

I think what I enjoy most about this is seeing how the series has evolved, and failed to at the same time. I think as time has gone on, things like Private Actions ( which I don't like in First Departure R ) have gotten much better over the years, and battle dialogue is far better in the newer games. It's super weird how they just tell over each other when the battle starts and ends. However,while I haven't played the second one in like 13 years, I think the characters are much more enjoyable here than any of the other games, though that could just be me. Nice review, it's an enjoyable title overall.

I was really interested in this until I found it is almost a carbon copy of the psp minus some new portraits.  I thought the snes version was way better than the psp as well.

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