Tri-Ace's upcoming Star Ocean: The Last Hope jumps back to the beginning of the series to describe how humans made their way to space. We thought we'd also travel back in time to look at how this series began--on a little system called the Super Famicom, way back in 1996. For those who are new to the series, The Last Hope takes place before the events of the original game, so it makes a good starting point if you're curious about this space saga. There are several other games in the series to check out as well, and we're here to provide a quick overview in this series retrospective.
Released: July 19, 1996 Japan
System: Super Famicom
Remake: Star Ocean: The First Departure
System: PlayStation Portable
Released: October 21, 2008 North America
Science fiction fans will recognize that Star Ocean borrows many elements from Star Trek, given that some of the developers were huge fans of the show. This game was not released outside of Japan until the remake came in 2008. The original Star Ocean follows Roddick Farrence and his friend Millie Chliette, members of the Fellpool species from the planet Roak. Fellpool look similar to earthlings, except that they have tails and pointy ears. Members of their village start contracting a strange disease that turns them into stone, so the two young Fellpool decide to go off in search of a cure. They eventually meet up with Ronyx J. Kenny, captain of the Terran Alliance starship Calnus, and Ilia Silvestri, earthlings who beam down Star Trek-style and offer their assistance.
Guts?! Ahh... 1996.
Star Ocean's battle system stands out with its real-time, fast-paced battles in which you control one character (at a time) in your party. Another feature that stands out in the series is "private actions," which can change the storyline depending on how your characters interact with one another. Crafting is also a major part of the series and a great way to pass the time while benefiting from new items. These features carry over from one game to the next, with minor changes, so once you've played one, the rest should feel familiar.
Less guts, more action!!
Star Ocean: The Second Story
Released: May 31, 1999 North America
Remake: Star Ocean: Second Evolution
System: PlayStation Portable
Released: January 20, 2009 North America
The original Claude Kenni.
The Second Story was the first Star Ocean game to come to North America, taking place 20 years after the original game. It begins on planet Expel, and you can choose to play as Claude C. Kenny (son of Ronyx) or Rena Lanford (a Nedian, which is another pointy-eared race). Claude somehow gets himself teleported to this underdeveloped planet, and he arrives just in time to save Rena from getting pummeled by a wild beast. A bizarre globe had landed on her planet, so the two of them decide to head in that direction in hopes of finding some answers. Claude needs a way home, and Rena wants to find out more about her past.
It may be tough to track down a used PlayStation copy, but the remake includes new content that is worth checking out on your PSP.
Claude C. Kenny... with a Y.
Star Ocean: Blue Sphere
Released: June 28, 2001 Japan
System: Game Boy Color
Note: Don't read this if you don't want to know any details after The Second Story.
Good ol' Game Boy Color graphics.
The one game that will probably never be seen again (but you never know!), Star Ocean: Blue Sphere was a direct sequel to The Second Story and was released only in Japan on the Game Boy Color. The story takes place two years after The Second Story, and Claude and Rena are now living on Earth. All the characters from the previous game have moved on, but Ernest and Opera manage to get into some trouble when their ship crash-lands on planet Edifice. There's something fishy going on, but it's unfortunate that most of us will never find out what, unless you can read Japanese.
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
Released: August 31, 2004
System: PlayStation 2
Jumping ahead about 400 years in the Star Ocean timeline will bring you to Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, which follows Fayt Leingod and begins on Hyda IV. Fayt and his childhood friend Sophia Esteed are on a family vacation when a hostile alien barges in on their lovely holiday. Fayt is separated from his family and friend and lands on an underdeveloped planet (notice the trend here?) and must find a way to reunite with his loved ones. The battle system doesn't evolve too much over the series, but in this game, instead of random battles, you can see the enemies onscreen and run into them to initiate a fight. Till the End of Time is worth a look since this is the game that wraps up the series. The developers have stated that the story can't continue from here, so here's a game where you can get some closure--assuming you aren't completely confused by the twist.
Back in 3D.
This game made it to the greatest-hits list for the PlayStation 2, so if you're lucky, you can probably find a copy floating around somewhere.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope
Release: February 24, 2009
System: Xbox 360
Fans may be wondering why it's not on a Sony console, but the developers have stated that there are currently no plans bring it to the PlayStation 3, though that doesn't mean never. Regardless, The Last Hope goes back in time to when humans messed up big time and nuked the entire planet. The remaining survivors band together and look toward space because Earth cannot sustain them after so much destruction. You play as Edge Maverick, a member of the Space Reconnaissance Force, whose mission it is to explore new planets and find a new home for humankind. The Last Hope makes a few minor adjustments to the battle system, private actions, and item creation; however, it's really just more of the same only better.
And now in glorious HD.
For more info on the upcoming Star Ocean: The Last Hope, please see our latest hands-on as well as our video preview(or see below). If you want to know what the developers have to say, take a look at the latest Q&A. Be sure to come back soon and look for our full review when the game is released on February 24.
Feel free to leave your thoughts about Star Ocean below. Let us know what you love about the series, where you hope it's going and whether or not you think the name "Edge Maverick" is totally awesome.