Pros: It's complex, 80 hours long, and extremely addictive.
Cons: Bad sound, horrible translation, lack of storyline.
Star Ocean: The Second Story is an RPG produced by Enix, which recently merged with Squaresoft, in 1999. It follows the story of two teenagers, Rena and Claude, who are trying to save the universe from the evil Ten Wise Men.
You can play the game with either Rena or Claude as your main character. Who you choose does not affect the course of the game in any way except what characters you get to choose and what Private Actions you get to play.
Rena is a nature-loving girl from the planet Expel at the edge of the universe. Claude is a human space ensign who works for his father. He is accidentally teleported to Expel, where he immediately encounters Rena. Cheesy, huh?
Reviews of this game have been mixed - it's almost like you either love it or you hate it.
Looking at it from the grand scheme of things, I guess you could say it's a mediocre game. The translation is horrible - almost as if it wasn't edited. The voice acting is barely comprehensible, and some of the voices are dummied out, so you can never get them (Star Ocean has a voice collection sidequest that allows you to do special things, like make the game difficulty more intense or listen to any music from the game, when you get a certain amount of voices. There are 1278 in all).
Battle is pretty boring. As one of my friends put it, "Star Ocean's battle system makes me think 'Me Tarzan. Me KILL YOU NOW.' He says this because Star Ocean's battle system is not the typical turn-taking system you find in most RPGs. Instead, you can approach your enemy and hit him as many times as you want. As long as you don't slow down, you can easily kill him without him touching you. However, battle still provides a moderate challenge.
There are about 12 of what the game calls 'specialty commands', and eight 'super specialty commands', in which you can create items, weapons, and armor to help your characters throughout the game. Following is a short list of some of the things you can do:
Metalwork - Make jewelry, which gives your characters special powers in battle.
Alchemy - Make stones to use in metalwork.
Reproduction - Make copies of items you already own.
Blacksmith - A super specialty skill which allows you to make your own armor.
Customize - Turn your old weapons into stronger ones.
Orchestra - The uber-specialty which allows you to do everything with an almost 100% success rate (yes, you'll fail quite often and make such fine objects as rocks, crumpled paper, and rotten sashimi) - for about 30 seconds.
You must earn skill points to perform these specialties. Skill points are earned through leveling up in combat. For some abilites, such as pickpocketing (VERY HELPFUL), you must have certain talents, like dexterity.
Star Ocean also features around 80 different endings you can achieve after you beat the surprisingly challenging final boss. Achieving certain endings requires immense manipulation of your characters. Each character has a set romantic value for each other character (Star Ocean features 12 characters, but you can only have eight in your party. Who you are able to choose depends on what character you start out as and what paths you take during the game),but those values can be changed through Private Actions. PA's allow your characters to perform mini soap operas in whatever city you choose. Battle also affects these romantic values.
The graphics for this game are decent - the characters are 16-bit sprites just like the ones in the prequel: Star Ocean 1 for the Super Famicom (There is currently a project going on to translate a ROM version of this game into English).
Overall, all these factors and complexities add up to make this a very entertaining, though sometimes tedious game. I have spent probably about a month of my life trying to get through the extremely challenging bonus dungeon (ssshhh!) at the end of the game. Bad graphics, bad storyline, good gameplay, very complex. Fun, even.