Star Ocean First Departure R – Easy Allies Review

Star Ocean First Departure R – Easy Allies Review


During the 1990s, numerous Japanese-developed RPGs
would go on to become timeless classics, leaving an undeniable mark on the legacy of the genre. Many of these would also spawn series
that have endured until today. One such game is 1996’s Star Ocean
for the Super Nintendo, which was developed by the then newly-formed tri-ace, a studio comprised mostly of staff who previously worked on Namco’s
Tales of Phantasia. Unfortunately, this version never saw a release
outside of Japan, but its sequels would find their way to western markets. In 2008, Star Ocean: First Departure
for the PlayStation Portable finally introduced western players to the origins
of the series in the form of an enhanced remake. Now with the release of Star Ocean: First Departure R, Square Enix gives us another chance to dive back
into the past to experience the game that started it all. It offers a few minor bells and whistles
and updates the visuals to HD, but it largely remains the same as the PSP version. Enhanced graphics look decent on a modern TV, but definitely benefit
from the smaller screen of the Switch in portable mode. The sprites and pre-rendered areas still impress, but the 3D overworld map disappoints with large,
barebones environments that are hampered by short draw distances. Both versions run well for the most part, too. The PlayStation 4 version runs smoothly
with no noticeable issues, while the Switch version only suffers from minor
framerate drops when traversing the overworld and a brief stutter at the start of some battles. The character portraits also receive a facelift. These fantastic illustrations invoke the original designs
of the characters from the 1996 version of the game. The increased detail gives them more personality
when compared to the flat nature of the PSP portraits. There is a small problem, though. These new portraits don’t match the in-game sprites
or cut-scene renditions as well. It’s jarring enough that it takes you out of the game
every now and then, but you can toggle between the new portraits
and the PSP versions at any time in the options. Star Ocean’s combat mechanics
offer total freedom of movement on the battlefield, and you’re able to execute basic 3-hit attacks
along with up to two special abilities that can link together into simple combos. The AI settings for your other party members
are competent enough to get the job done, so you don’t have to worry too much about
micromanaging them except in a handful of tougher encounters. This battle system was fairly unique back in 1996, but it’s somewhat simplistic by today’s standards. More recent entries,
as well as several other contemporaries, offer up more complex and diverse
real-time combat systems that feel far more satisfying
than what you find in First Departure. There’s just not much depth to the combat
outside of careful positioning and determining which enemies to target first. Contributing to the battle system’s lack of depth
is the game’s relatively easy nature. Though there are slight difficulty spikes
on a few bosses, it’s nothing a few attempts
or a slight tactical adjustment won’t solve. The only real challenge presents itself
at the end of the game. Much like other RPGs of its time,
First Departure prides itself on its final gauntlet of punishing fights
and boss encounters. Even then, the difficulty of this sequence
is merely a symptom of the game expecting you to be at a certain level by this point, so if you’re underleveled,
you’re going to be in for a rough time. While it’s easy to gain levels virtually anywhere, nothing really demands any significant amount
of grinding to advance aside from the final areas. Though the basic combat is lacking, the skill system compensates
with its comprehensive nature, which holds up even by today’s standards. As you level up,
you earn skill points to spend on certain attributes. These fall into one of four categories,
and each category has three tiers of skills available. In order to unlock these skills, you first have to purchase each type from shops
in certain towns. Once unlocked,
you use your skill points to level up each unique ability, and each ability caps out at level 10. You can spend points on traditional stuff
like improving offensive, defensive, and spell casting abilities,
but also on one of several special abilities like crafting, scouting, or even playing music. The range of elements you can influence
by leveling up certain skills is impressive. However, some of these mechanics
could have benefitted from a bit more explanation, or at least, a better feedback system. For instance, the crafting system
largely feels like a matter of trial and error. Further complicating the matter is the fact
that certain characters have special latent abilities that make them better suited
towards certain types of crafting, so you need to be careful about
which skills to level up for each party member. Another minor complaint with the skill system
is that once you make a choice, there’s no undoing it without reloading a save. Once you’ve spent your skill points,
you can’t undo the choice. There’s no confirmation prompt, so if you hit the button
and spend points on something by mistake, you can’t get them back. There really should be a confirm prompt at the very least,
or better yet, an option to re-spec at any time. It would go a long way to aid a system
that appears to thrive on experimentation. The overworld is rather bland with little to do
other than traveling between marked destinations, so there’s not much incentive to explore. That doesn’t mean
there’s a lack of extracurricular activities, though. Several towns and dungeons
include secondary tasks to tackle, like fighting through the ranks of opponents
in a battle arena for various prizes. There’s also a handful of secret dungeons
that provide extra challenge with irresistible rewards. Getting around to all of these destinations
is made even easier courtesy of another new addition. In the PSP version,
it felt like you moved at a snail’s pace, but First Departure R’s new speed up option
definitely helps improve the pacing. Perhaps the most distinct aspect of the original
Star Ocean is the ability to recruit optional characters. You come across some of these individuals naturally,
while others take more detective work to uncover. What makes character recruitment so appealing
outside of their abilities in combat is that your party makeup at certain junctures
determines how you progress. Some unique story elements
can only be seen with specific party compositions, not to mention there are lots of variations of the ending that play out based on who you recruited and the strength of relationships
with different party members. Witnessing more of each character’s story,
as well as strengthening your bonds with them, is possible via Private Actions. When you’re near major landmarks, there are often on-screen prompts
to begin these special sequences. However, to see the entire private action,
you need specific characters in your party. Recruiting new characters and engaging with them
in private actions is completely optional, but it adds so much more to the character arcs
and the overall lore. It’s not possible to see everything on a first playthrough, though. That requires a minimum of three playthroughs, which is a tall ask of anybody when it takes
roughly 20 to 25 hours to complete each one. However, a single playthrough still feels satisfying,
since you’ll always get a proper conclusion, no matter who joins your party. First Departure starts off
with a really intriguing sci-fi premise, but soon gives way to an all-too familiar fantasy setting
for the majority of the game. It ultimately feels like a bait and switch, kind of like looking forward
to a new episode of Star Trek only for it to be set on an underdeveloped planet that looks like an average renaissance faire. As the heroes search
to uncover the source of a mysterious disease, your journey is rife with mysteries
that eventually culminate with a satisfying payoff
that delivers on the science-fiction. However, it’s not unreasonable to expect some more space-themed elements
in a game called Star Ocean. On the surface, First Departure’s soundtrack shares
a lot of similarities with other RPGs of the time period, but what’s most impressive is the presence that many of the tracks command
without being overly bombastic or too chaotic. Instead, many of the best tracks,
including the battle theme, manage to carry themselves despite their lighter tones. The only real downside is the new theme song
and opening, which don’t sync up as well
as the ones found in the PSP version. In addition to the combat, Star Ocean initially
drew attention for its inclusion of significant voice work which wasn’t common for games yet. Carrying on that legacy, First Departure R
features the PSP’s English and Japanese audio, as well as a brand new Japanese dub
based on the original Super NES version. Each offers its strengths and weaknesses,
so it really comes down to preference, which is perfect since you can quickly toggle
between them in the settings menu. Star Ocean: First Departure R
is the best way to experience the original entry in a historically important series
that often gets overlooked. It offers moderate quality of life improvements
over its PSP counterpart, and retains the portable appeal with the Switch version. There’s a solid RPG here full of unique mechanics,
charm, and lots of originality, but its age is definitely starting to show. Easy Allies Reviews are made possible
by generous viewers just like you. If you like what you see, check out
patreon.com/easyallies to help us make more. For just $1 a month, you can gain access to weekly
updates, spoiler discussions, and exclusive shows.

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50 thoughts on “Star Ocean First Departure R – Easy Allies Review

  1. I ate my soup while it was too hot and burnt the top of my mouth, then dropped the spoon next to the cat, who got splashed and startled and darted into a vegetable hamper. The moral of the story is don't be a pet owning vegetarian soup eating weeb

  2. When I see rubbish like this getting ported, it makes me wonder why we don't get stuff like Suikoden II or Xenogears on PS4.

  3. Square enix and tri Ace need to hurry and port Radiata Stories to ps4. One of Tri-Ace's best games. And a criminally underrated game in general.

  4. Rem body pillow?
    Hugged.
    Anime tiddy mouse pad?
    Squeezed.
    20 nyaa torrents?
    Leeched.

    Yup. It's weeb time.

  5. Love this game glad to finally have a chance to beat it. Not near as good as 2 or 3 but a wonderful old jrpg all the same

  6. Thanks for the review Damiani
    . I'm glad they ported this game, but I think ultimately I will skip it. Doesn't seem like it has aged as well as other RPGs of the time. Hopefully the series gets some new releases though and/or remakes like Trials of Mana. The setting seems like it has a lot of potential.

  7. Really glad they ported this game but will probably give it a skip. This at least gives me hope they're gonna do the same with 2. Would get 2 in a heartbeat

  8. Bad and uninformed review.
    – Fixated over issues that could literally be applied to say, Chrono Trigger if not every SNES/PSX era jrpg.
    – Laughable incompetence at using a menu screen.
    – Glossed over, if ever perceived in the first place, the presence of combat skills and their synergies and what the ramifications are depending on who you recruit.
    – Failed to understand that replaying the game time and time again is the ENTIRE POINT of the game, because you can only experience so little of it in one playthrough. The Private Actions are a very small part of it. The game changes significantly depending on who you recruit and when, piecing together their stories as well as figuring out the conundrum behind a certain character that more often than not ends up dead or in despair. The fact that so much of Cyuss is in the review footage reveals exactly the kind of playthrough the reviewer went with (braindead critical path) and how little of the story or characters they actually experienced as it is required that you DO NOT recruit him in order to get anywhere near the bottom of things.

    Easily among the worst reviews EZA have ever made, right along that of Starfox 2 and the Fire Emblem Heroes one. It's almost as if it's being fueled by some agenda, rather than actual desire to put a game through the wringer and see what it is about.

  9. while this psp remake of star ocean 1 is cool it will always pale in comparison to star ocean 2. please give us star ocean 2 on ps4

  10. Glad the old portraits are in the game. Much prefer those designs to the new ones. My buddy replayed Star Ocean 2 this year and that got me to dust off my PSP and install the remake. PlayStation Portable is GOAT!!!

  11. I am playing it right now and love it, it looks good on my TV screen and I was even surprised by english voices I think they are decent. The only thing that I do not like is that random encounters are just to frequent like you take 2-3 steps and you are already in combat. It is annoying.

  12. Seems like a enhanced port of the psp game. Guess if I ever feel the need to replay it or someone never played it this games fine.

    (Remembers Star Ocean 5 happened.)
    If this is a market test let 6 be nothing like 5.

  13. I could only ever get into Second Story. I played all the way through the SNES translated version, and I couldn't tell you a thing about any of the characters (Except that one was Ronixis). I'm not sure why the other entries failed to compel me, but I think 3's dumb plot twist played a huge part in that.

  14. Good review. Looks and sounds like a cheap Star Ocean 2 modification of a remake, but I'm happy it's here and localized. Ignore the existence of Star Ocean 5 (unskippable cutscenes & conversations + forced playtime extending geometry design + bafflingly poorly designed many times + 18-26 hours to beat in a bad way), get Star Ocean 4 Last Hope International remaster instead if needing a sci-fi element JRPG fix.

  15. Star Ocean 3 is the only one I've played, and my biggest complaint was the one you make here – ostensibly a sci-fi game, but you spend the entire thing on medieval planets. So what's even the point of it being sci-fi?
    When you crash on the first medieval world, I took it like a tutorial kinda thing, then you leave and crash on another medieval world? Come on.

  16. I remember feeling cheated back when star ocean 3 was being marketed thinking I was getting a big sci fi jrpg, only to spend majority of time on fantasy DnD planet. And when it gets to the sci fi bit it had a twist so lame it hurt past and future games with it.

  17. I've only ever played one star ocean game and it was on ps4, called something like end of time? I remember really enjoying it.

  18. METEOR PALM!!!
    METEOR PALM!!!
    METEOR PALM!!!

    I swear thats what she alwaysused despite al the skills i've had for her back then :/

  19. Btw you still can't pair Roddick up with anyone but Millie. Only canon pairings work out, so the affection levels really are pretty useless. You get some extra scenes and dialogue, look it up so you get the ending you want.

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