TGS '07: Star Ocean: First Departure Hands-On

We get a first glimpse at the PSP version of this RPG classic.

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TOKYO--We recently got some hands-on time with Square Enix's upcoming PSP role-playing game, Star Ocean: The First Departure, and the game seems finished. Of course, depending on how you look at it, it's been finished for 11 years. First Departure is actually a remake of the original Star Ocean, which was released in Japan in 1996. However, it never made its way to North America, so there's no better place for it to show up than on the PSP, where it will also be the first Star Ocean on a current generation portable system.

The first thing we did upon starting a new game was name our blue-haired hero. Of course, we aren't sure what we actually named him, because all the characters were in Japanese. Next, a cutscene began aboard a big spaceship helmed by a grizzled captain. Something seemed to go horribly wrong, and then out of nowhere an entire planet exploded, during which the ship was caught in the blast. Apparently disabled, the ship floated through space before crossing paths with a blue planet, where down below...

A cute, purple-haired girl runs down a forest path in an anime-style cutscene. Meanwhile, two boys sit chatting in a living room--that is, until the girl bursts in and dragon-punches one of the boys, in slow motion no less. The boy who got hit is kind of a GI Joe-looking blond kid, and his buddy is you, the blue-haired hero. Everyone has tails, and we don't mean back stories. The two boys have thin brown monkey tails, and the girl has a bushy purple fox tail.

Unusual appendages and shoryukens aside, the three of you team up and head into town to investigate whatever has gotten your purple-haired friend so excited. If we didn't know better, we'd say it were the town itself, which looks outstanding. The game features 2D sprite characters on 2D backgrounds, which are flawlessly drawn and complemented by ambient lighting effects nearly everywhere you go. Star Ocean will be a very good-looking PSP game.

After talking to townspeople and gathering information, we set out to investigate, entering the fully 3D overworld. After just a few steps, we were ambushed by thugs in a random encounter. They were sad-looking creeps, dressed in brown with wimpy swords. Our blue-haired guy, on the other hand, had a huge katana. We controlled him in real time while the CPU controlled our two mates. We simply ran up to the thugs and hacked them to pieces with our friends. While we aren't ever crazy about random encounters, we do like the fact that these battles are so interactive, and potentially so quick.

After fighting a few more foes, we arrived at another town that looked much older than the one we started in, as if it were built on ruins. Unfortunately, that was all the time we had with what is shaping up to be a solid RPG for the PSP. When we know more about Star Ocean: The First Departure, we'll make sure to tell you.

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