For many, Star Ocean: The Second Story is the best game in tri-Ace’s long running series. While a small part of that is due to it being the first game to get localized, I think a bigger part is how ambitious, creative, and enjoyable each component of the game came together to create something unique for PlayStation owners. It’s not my favorite, personally, but I appreciate it since it lead to other entries. One of my issues with The Second Story, and Second Evolution by extension, is that it’s a slow burn. It takes a long time for things to get going so you can fully enjoy everything the game has to offer. That issue, and a plethora of others, have been remedied in Star Ocean: The Second Story R. This remaster is decimal points away from perfection. It’s like tri-Ace listened to all the complaints from over the years and fixed them to create a masterpiece.
Second Story R’s version of the story is basically, word for word, the exact same as Second Evolution. So, if you played that, then you know what you’re getting. If your experience was only on PlayStation, then you’ll still have a general idea of what to expect. Now, if this is your first voyage, then you’re in for a story that’s more high fantasy than sci-fi. The “ocean of stars” only makes a few appearances. Claude C. Kenni, son of intergalactic hero Ronix Kenni, gets suddenly transported to the underdeveloped planet of Expel after a recon mission goes awry. In Expel’s village of Arlia, he meets a young girl named Rena Lanford. Rena believes Claude is the Hero of Light from legend, sent to Expel to put a stop to the terrors being caused by a meteorite dubbed The Sorcery Globe. This is a story that has a lot of familiarity at the start, and then takes players for a spin with interesting twists and revelations around the halfway point. Claude and Rena are the stars of the show. Along the way, they have the chance to recruit up to six adventurers from across the galaxy to solve the mystery of The Sorcery Globe.
This leads me to two of the best improvements in Second Story R: the ability to quick-jump to previously visited locations, and map markers indicating important events. In other words, you don’t have to trek tirelessly to recruit some of the more elusive characters like Opera, Ernest or Ashton. The mini-map also displays when a Private Action, a unique event between your main character (Claude or Rena) and another. Private Actions help build relationships among the characters. Which leads me to a third improvement: we can now see how characters feel about each and how the choices made from Private Actions impact those feelings. There’s no more guess work. There’s no more waiting for the credits roll to see if that relationship built between your favorite characters was strong enough to see their exclusive ending. Oh, and the game keeps track of every ending AND lets you rewatch them.
These are little improvements that make a world of difference. You can imagine how impactful the big improvements are. I’ll just sound them off. First, you see enemies on the field. Second, a new skill called Bodyguard grants a chance of you instantly killing enemies weaker than your party. Weaker enemies appear in green, whereas enemies at your strength appear in purple. Third, Item Creation got a massive glow up. You start with all skills acquired; no more spending your hard earned Fol to buy packs of creation/battle skills. Fourth, special attacks and spells are now powered up with Battle Points instead of constant usage in battle. The best example I can give is Opera’s Healing Star. Simply improving it with BP in this version gives it the same efficacy as it would at max usage in other versions.
I’m just getting started. I realize how sporadic this review is reading, but these features happen all at once. For those that paid their dues since 1999, these improvements are beyond welcome. So, carrying on. Fifth, most spells don’t stop combat. The ones that do can have their animations skipped. Sixth, every skill and spell got a graphical glow up. Seventh, there’s a remixed soundtrack. The original soundtrack can be switched to at any time. Eighth, there’s a dodge/counter attack feature that makes the real-time battles all the more exciting. Mastering this helps deplete enemy shields. Doing this means causing them to enter a “dazed” status, allowing the damage to pile on. There are many, many more features I want to gush about. I’ll conclude with this final one that’s featured in Item Creation. This system is back in full force but it has become 100% more user friendly. You can make multiple items at a time AND the game keeps track of what you have/haven’t made. New Item Creation abilities were added just for Second Story R. The rich level of depth is addictive, intuitive, and important to fully take advantage of since it meshes so well with combat.
I’d be remiss to not gush about how gorgeous the game looks. I played on PlayStation 5. I can’t fathom a situation where it wouldn’t look any less stunning on PlayStation 4 or Switch. The same sprites from the game’s advent were polished and cleaned, and given some new animations. The many locales and vistas were given the “Octopath Traveler” treatment and cranked to an eleven. They are a sight. Seeing towns and dungeons and fields that I’ve seen countless times before but with a new look adds to the game’s overall excellence. I already mentioned the different versions of the soundtrack, but I didn’t mention the voice acting. Sadly, the original English voice acting from the golden era is not an option. Instead, you have the original Japanese voice acting and the modern (PSP) Japanese/English voice acting.
Thanks to the ability to skip scenes, Star Ocean: The Second Story R doesn’t take long to finish if you’re familiar with it. The official time was 35 hours. That was with some scene skipping and plenty of fiddling with Item Creation. I took advantage of the improved Item Creation to quickly see new endings. And naturally, I dove headfirst into the The Maze of Tribulations and battled the legendary super-bosses. When I finally had enough of my first playthrough, I had a time of 50 hours. Obviously, my next file (which will be for trophy collecting purposes) won’t be nearly as long. My point is that it’s easy to sink hours into the game no matter your familiarity. This is the definitive version of The Second Story. The PlayStation and PSP versions have their merits, but this remastered take on it is perfect for longtime fans and newcomers. I can’t recommend it enough.
Overall, 9.5/10: Dive into an ocean of fun, adventure, and secrets in a game that stands as the paragon of remakes.