PlayStation Classics: Star Ocean: First Departure

Star Ocean is one of those series that does something you don’t often see. It fuses the idea of medieval magic, complete with dragons and elf-like characters, with space travel and sci-fi. Even more amazingly, it started all of that way back in 1996 on the Super Famicom. But, that’s not when we all got to experience it. It wasn’t until 2008, long after the release of its sequel, that it finally appeared worldwide. And now, it’s getting yet another shot at life with a remaster.

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Two Races Working Together

What happens when people from two different worlds meet? Well, in Star Ocean, they work together toward the greater good. Rodderick and Millie are two Fellpools on Roak dealing with a plague turning people to stone. Ronyx and Ilia are two humans traveling the stars who end up visiting the planet.

They discover they have a common enemy, an alien race called the Lezonians. The humans can help make a vaccine for the disease by time traveling, while the Fellpool blood can be used to help the humans in a war they’re fighting.

(Also, to help make it more appealing to longtime fans, Ronyx is the father of Claude, one of the two protagonists in Star Ocean: The Second Story.)

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So Many First Departures

You would think an Enix Super Nintendo JRPG would have been a natural to receive a worldwide release, given how well known the system was for such adventures, but the first Star Ocean was an odd game that worked its way through the cracks. It came out after Enix stopped publishing games outside of Japan and right when Nintendo was focusing on the Nintendo 64, so it never had much of a chance. It remained landlocked for the longest time, just like Tales of Phantasia, and its S-DD1 chip requirements made it difficult to emulate for a while. (This chip and its Flexible Voice Driver meant it was one of the better looking and sounding Super Famicom games.)

This means that first game never actually appeared outside of Japan. When we did finally get Star Ocean worldwide, it was the First Departure remake. This used the Second Evolution engine, remade the game and gave it a world map, a Mastery system, new endings, more private actions, fresh and full voice acting, new prerendered backgrounds, and Production I.G. cutscenes. It also lets people add Erys as a party member and brings in a little more continuity with other titles by making Welch Vineyard a playable character here.

As for Star Ocean: First Departure R, which will be showing up worldwide, it makes even more alterations. It’s an HD remaster, which means things are going to look better than before. But, it will also have the ability to choose between the original Super Famicom voice actors and First Departure ones. Katsumi Enami, Star Ocean: The Last Hope’s character designer, made extra character portraits you can choose to use. It will even be possible to double movement speed, to help get around areas quicker.

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Sailing Through an Ocean of Stars

It’s going to be easier than ever to keep up with Star Ocean’s storyline, thanks to Star Ocean: First Departure R. What was once a series trapped in Japan, then limited by no digital release, has received the respect it deserves. If you have a PSP, then by all means you should keep an eye out for a UMD copy. If you have a PS4, you might want to make sure you don’t miss out on this game when it launches on December 5, 2019 for $20.99.

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