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Game review: Star Ocean: First Departure R

17 Dec 2019

Star Ocean originally released in Japan for the Super Famicom back in the mid ‘90s. While the game was critically acclaimed, it was never released outside of Japan.

To make sure the game became available in more countries; Square Enix re-released the game worldwide for the PSP console back in 2008. This version included English voice-overs for the very first time and better enhanced graphics for its time.

Now Square Enix has decided to yet again re-release the game for a second time by releasing Star Ocean: First Departure R. The R in the title is telling gamers that this version of the game has been remastered.

Star Ocean: First Departure R is the most accessible version released because the game is available now on more popular consoles such as the PS4 and Nintendo Switch consoles. Sadly though, it looks like there won’t be any versions of the game on PC or Xbox One anytime soon.

I never played any version of Star Ocean before, so Departure R is my first foray into the series. Since the original game was released back in the ‘90s, Star Ocean: Departure R is a very old-school style of JRPG. If you are into more modern RPGs, you may not like playing this game at all.

Don’t expect to see fancy 3D graphics because this game was made for the Super Nintendo generation. That being said, this remaster does improve the 2D graphics quite a lot by using higher resolution sprites and a 16:9 widescreen presentation.

The cutscenes of the game also look pretty cool as they are in anime form. Dialogue scenes also have cool illustrations and full voice-overs as originally seen in the PSP version.

Another cool thing about the game is that it gives you the option to choose between English and Japanese voices. While the English voices sound pretty good, hardcore fans may like the authenticity of the Japanese voices instead.

In terms of its premise, I found the story of Star Ocean: Departure R to be both unique and very enjoyable. The game has a humble beginning because the player assumes the role of a young man named Roddick Farrence from a small planet called Roak.

Things seem to be going well until the planet’s citizens contract a strange yet powerful disease that turns people into stone. Roddick and his friends then meet up with some people from another planet and they explain why the disease has infected Roak in the first place.

In order to cure the disease, Roddick and the gang have to travel 300 years in the past to kill the original source. I liked the science fiction element of the story and it’s interesting to play through until the end just to see if everyone has a happy ending.

As for its gameplay, Star Ocean: Departure R is actually slightly different compared to the older Final Fantasy games. For one thing, the combat isn’t slow and turn-based because all of the characters can attack at the same time!

You control only one character in battle, while you can determine the actions of your AI partners before a certain fight ensues. For example, you can tell you AI partners to attack all of the time, or you can tell them to be the healer if you’re running out of health.

The main thing I did not like about the combat is the fact that you don’t have full control of the character’s actions. Most of the time while I was playing the game; I would just be spamming the X button just to attack the enemies.

However, there are skills you can use that somewhat diversify the combat system. Using special skills are fun, although you cannot spam them all of the time because they use up your magic points.

Another annoying thing is that you have limited items that you can use.  In this game you can only attain 20 blueberries to replenish health which is miniscule compared to the 99 potions you can collect in Final Fantasy games.

The one thing that makes this game feel too old school is that it features random battles. Random battles are frequent and annoying, and I wish they did not exist. There’s nothing you can do to avoid them though, but you can run away from certain fights if some of the enemies are too tough for you.

Anyway, Star Ocean: Departure R is a competent JRPG although its outdated gameplay mechanics and visuals won’t be appealing to everyone. The story great, but it can be a bit of a slog to play through thanks to all of the random battles you have to endure. This game is only recommended to hardcore JPRG fans!

Verdict: 7/10