Star Ocean First Departure R | RPG Classic Now In HD


Thanks to Square Enix for providing this game
for us to cover. They are the sponsors for this video. I’ve put 10 hours into Star Ocean First
Departure R for the Switch and I’ve really enjoyed it. So today I wanted to share some thoughts with
those of you who might be looking at picking it up to give you an idea of what to expect. I’m going to go over the game itself a bit,
but I’ll also talk about the quality of the port and how well it translates from the
PSP to this HD version. I think the best way I can describe Star Ocean
is to say that it feels like a classic “Tales Of” game with the premise of a Star Trek:
The Next Generation episode. It was originally developed by Tri-Ace in
1996 for the Super Famicom and was only released in Japan. There’s a good reason I say it feels like
a “Tales Of” game—the development team was actually made up of estranged Namco staff
members who worked on the original Tales Of Phantasia. They ended up leaving the company to form
Tri-Ace because of creative disputes regarding the generic nature of Tales of Phantasia’s
level progression system and wanted to make something that provided players with a more
in-depth and rich gameplay experience. Unfortunately, the game never saw a release
outside of Japan on the Super Nintendo, but we did finally get a chance to play it after
it was remade for the PSP as Star Ocean First Departure. This version of the game saw a number of changes,
most notably a complete graphical overhaul to match the look and feel of Star Ocean 2,
which had been released in the west on the PlayStation and was considered one of the
genre’s great classics. This new version of the game is a remaster
of that PSP title and is available now for the Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4. First, let’s talk a little bit about what
you can expect from the game itself. Again, the best point of comparison I can
make is to that of classic “Tales Of” games. The combat mechanics, general character interactions,
and tone of the story are all very similar to that series, and if you’re a fan of the
“Tales Of” games I imagine that you’d dig this one as well. If you’re not a fan of “Tales Of” games,
it might be good to know that I’m not either—but I still really love this game. That’s primarily for two reasons. First of all, I’m a big fan of Star Trek and
this game’s inspirations from that series are a welcome homage for me. Secondly, I was hooked by the game’s character
progression system. While the general storytelling and tone aren’t
necessarily my cup of tea, the core premise is one that I actually find pretty fascinating;
and while the combat mechanics and exploration aren’t anything to write home about, Star
Ocean has it where it counts for RPGs—building up your characters is a lot of fun. Let’s talk about the story a little bit
first. If you want to know absolutely nothing going
in feel free to skip to the time code posted on the screen. I’m just going to be talking about the basic
premise which you learn in the first hour or so, but admittedly it might be better to
learn this information blind on a first playthrough. It follows the main character Roddick who
works as a watchman in his town’s militia alongside his friends Millie and Dorne. Soon they learn about a strange malady infecting
a town to the north, one that turns people into stone within three days. Millie’s father—who is a doctor—goes
there to try to provide treatment but is infected himself, as is Dorne after coming in contact
with the carrier pigeon who delivered the message. This leads the party to the top of Mount Metorx
to retrieve an herb that is said to cure the disease. Upon arriving, however, they are met by two
strangely dressed people who explain that the herbs are useless and claim that they
have come to help. This is where the Star Trek similarities begin. Their names are Ronyx and Ilia and they are
actually the captain and science officer of a starship called the Calnus. Interacting with the party in this way is
a violation of the prime directive—I know that’s not what they call it in the game
but that’s what it is. Since this case is special though, they felt
they had no choice. The disease ravaging the people of the planet
is actually a pathogen created by another space-faring civilization who have been at
war with the Human Federation and Ronyx and Ilia were sent to try to find a cure before
the people are wiped out. Going with them to the ship means our heroes
would not be allowed to return to the former lives—part of the rules of the prime directive—but
if they don’t, the world would essentially be doomed by this disease. Reluctantly, the party agrees to go in order
to save their planet but soon learn that the virus mutates too quickly for an effective
vaccine to be produced. However, if a blood sample from the original
host could be obtained then it would be possible to produce the cure. Unfortunately, the original host was a demon
king who lived 300 years in the past, so the Federation decides to quarantine the planet
and give up on its inhabitants. Dorne then falls victim to the disease and
turns to stone. Ronyx and Ilia, however, refuse to give up. In direct disobedience to their orders, they
take Roddick and Millie to the Time Gate—a relic of an ancient advanced civilization
that is very poorly understood and therefore off-limits—and are able to travel to the
past to search for the demon king and collect the serum they need to produce the vaccine. While this premise is simple, I also find
it to be captivating. It serves as a great motivator to move the
player forward and gives this fantasy world a sci-fi element that makes it feel unique
from its contemporaries. The character progression system is what really
hooked me into Star Ocean though. I find it interesting that this was the key
point of contention between the higher-ups at Namco and the developers who worked on
Tales of Phantasia because it seems to be the center point of this game and its most
defining feature. I’m actually planning on making a longer
video on this topic soon, but to me, the most important feature of any RPG is its character
progression system. Combat, exploration, and storytelling are
all important as well, but none of these things are at the heart of what defines an RPG. RPGs are about role-playing—taking on the
part of a character or company of characters, building up their attributes, and customizing
them to your playstyle. In this regard, Star Ocean is a lot of fun,
providing an intricate skill system that feels reminiscent of table-top role-playing games
like D&D. So while combat can sometimes feel like you’re
just spamming the attack button over and over again—especially against common enemy mobs—there
are lots of other interesting ideas happening here that to me make Star Ocean a worthy game
to check out. Let me say first though, before moving on,
that combat is definitely more interesting when you’re at the appropriate level—as
is always the case with JRPGs of this kind. When you aren’t over-leveled, you have to
be a little more careful about positioning, and putting your combat skills to use becomes
more imperative. Because of this, my recommendation is to NEVER
grind if you want some semblance of challenge in the combat. The way the character progression works though
is that you have to buy skill books in towns, which then make the skills contained within
them available in the skills menu. At this point, the player spends skill points
which are earned after leveling up, completing specific story sequences, or found in dungeons. These skills, when leveled up in conjunction
with one another, then unlock specialties that give the player some really interesting
abilities. For example, by putting SP into item knowledge,
mineralogy, and herbology, you unlock the appraising specialty which will then allow
you to identify unknown items indicated with question marks. The more you continue to level up those three
skills the better the character becomes at appraising and will able to identify higher-level
items. Similarly, if you level up the knife, recipe,
and keen eye skills you’ll unlock the cooking specialty that will allow you to make recipes
that provide healing and party-buffing consumable items. There are TONS of these specialties to unlock
and many of them are super creative. For instance, the familiar specialty allows
you to send an animal out to grab items and ingredients from a town if you’re stuck
in a dungeon and have run out of healing items. The writing specialty allows you to write
books about the skills a character has learned which can then be transferred to another character
who reads it. On top of this, there are also super specialties,
where a group of characters who are all skilled in a certain area can each contribute. This means the group can appraise items, write
books, craft armor, or perform music together. I’ve played a lot of JRPGs in my time, but
I’ve never seen a skill system like this outside of western RPGs that tend to be closer
to a true table-top experience. It’s this aspect of the game alone that
makes it worth playing in my opinion. Again, Star Ocean might not have the best
combat or exploration I’ve ever seen in an RPG, but it has it where it counts. The character progression is really fun. That being said, I want to close this video
by talking a little bit about the quality of the port itself. Essentially this game is identical to the
PSP remake with very little being added or improved upon. The obvious one, of course, is that the game
is in HD now, which can be both good and bad. For the most part, it looks beautiful—I
am such a huge fan of this particular visual presentation that has been lost after the
transition from the PS1 to PS2. The pre-rendered backgrounds blend really
well with the character sprites, and I love the way the camera pans with the characters
as they move across the screen. There are one or two spots though where it’s
obvious that the backgrounds have not been upressed, and while your main character sprite
will look crisp and clean, the NPCs are obviously baked into the background which is being displayed
at a lower resolution. The anime cutscenes are also still being displayed
at a lower resolution and look pretty fuzzy. This, of course, is far less noticeable on
the Switch when in handheld mode—where the characters blend perfectly with the backgrounds
almost 100% of the time. This arena area is the only exception to that. Where this version of the game is truly lacking
though, is in settings and options. The only thing that has been added here is
the ability to select new character portraits that were added to this remastered release—drawn
by the character designer of the more recent Star Ocean titles. You can still use the original portraits from
the PSP version if you want, but the option for the new ones is there for those who prefer
them. There’s also a new Japanese voice track,
but not one for English. To me though, what I would have really preferred
is the option to turn the voices off altogether. I’m not the biggest fan of voice acting
in most JRPGs, and the voices here are especially grating in the battles, where characters repeat
the same phrases and talk over each other in the most obnoxious way possible. I really, REALLY wish I could just turn them
off. Another peculiar missing feature is the lack
of an option to turn off the subtitles for the anime cutscenes. There’s a movie menu where you can turn
them off when viewing these scenes separately, but it doesn’t seem—as far as I can tell—that
you can turn them off when they actually appear in the game. It’s this strange lack of features and options
that makes this a fairly bare-bones port, and that is a little disappointing, but I
have to say that I’m happy at least that Square didn’t try to change the font or
force a smoothing filter over the game, something we did see in ports of Final Fantasy V and
VI on mobile devices and also the original release of Chrono Trigger on Steam—which
has fortunately been patched since. Ultimately, the game looks beautiful for the
most part, and performs flawlessly, but is without question lacking options and features
many would want to see in a port to modern consoles—which each of you will have to
take and decide for yourselves whether that makes this game worth picking up. As far as I’m concerned, it is absolutely
worth getting. Star Ocean is a great retro RPG that stands
on its own with an interesting story and an amazing character progression system. I’m having a ton of fun with it, and the
convenience of having it in HD on a modern console is awesome. I give it a full recommendation. If you haven’t played this game—especially
if you’re a “Tales Of” fan—Star Ocean First Departure R is something you’ll want
to keep on your radar. It’s available digitally from the Nintendo
eshop and PSN. As a final note, I’d love to see this game
sell well because it would be great to see Star Ocean 2 come to the Switch as well. Make it happen people! Thanks for watching and let me know what you
think of Star Ocean First Departure in the comments.

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