PSP Review: Star Ocean – First Departure

Can this remake of the original Star Ocean be as memorable as the first?

Space Date 346: A Terran Federation ship touches down on the planet Roak. Assisted by a stalwart band of local heroes, the crew must investigate a mysterious phenomenon and halt a galactic war.

With stunning graphics and audio, an action-packed combat system, movie sequences from world-famous animation studio Production I.G, and a galaxy-spanning storyline, Star Ocean: First Departure represents Europe’s first opportunity to experience the original chapter of the hit Star Ocean series, in completely re-imagined form, exclusively for PSP.

  • First Contact. For the first time in Europe, you can discover the origins of the hit Star Ocean series, re-imagined exclusively for PSP.
  • Epic Adventure. Explore the stars with a cast of charismatic characters.
  • Action-Packed Combat. Vanquish your enemies with real-time battle and magic commands.
  • Peerless Production Values. High quality graphics and music coupled with awesome movie
    sequences created by Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell) immediately immerse you in the Star Ocean universe.

  • Your Story. The unique Private Action system lets you influence how the story proceeds via your interactions with other characters.

    Recently I’ve had to go through many remakes of Square-Enix’s backlog of RPGs, from Final Fantasy IV to Dragon Quest. Now comes the latest one, a remake of the original Star Ocean. Now I can’t claim to have ever played a game in the series before, I guess it was before my time and since I was a Nintendo nut during the Playstation/PS2 days, I sadly missed out on the other games so I cannot compare them without being a liar, so I won’t bother with that nonsense.

    Like Dragon Quest, we in Europe never got the original Star Ocean…so this is a first for many of us and while the gameplay will definitely feel dated compared to today’s RPG games, it’s the cornerstone of any good RPG and since then they have improved dramatically through voice-acting, story-telling and great cutscenes. First Departure does offer voice-acting, although it’s not the best. What I found odd was that the game let you name your character, yet every bit of voice-acting that refers to you uses your standard name of Roddick, so why they included the choice is beyond me.

    Now, the remake isn’t to the same dramatic standards that Final Fantasy IV made on the DS. Instead the characters are sprites set across pre-rendered backgrounds, some are 3D while others are plain 2D. In either case, they both look very pretty and make good use of the screen on the PSP. Combat seems a bit gimmicky as its merely button-bashing more than anything, all I did was keep hammering the X button and win fights. But I’m sure that was the norm back then, so it’s acceptable to a point.

    The Star Ocean series has been overlooked because of some bad decisions with its other titles and it ultimately depends on The Last Hope for the 360 to decide if the franchise has a future. I’ll reserve judgement for now, but I do wish it well because I’ve really enjoyed playing First Departure. Yes its old-school, but those type of games are well loved and respected. Oh sure, it won’t appeal to every RPG nut out there…but it should appeal to most of them, the ones that like classic gameplay, no matter how dated it appears.

    The Verdict

    Despite appearing dated, Star Ocean: First Departure is a fantastic RPG that was probably ahead of its time when it was first released. Europe finally has a chance to play the first game in the series and it’s a worthy addition to any PSP library.