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PSP  header logo

Star Ocean: Second Evolution

For: PSP

Neat but no missing link

Product: Star Ocean: Second Evolution | Developer: Square Enix | Publisher: Square Enix | Format: PSP | Genre: RPG | Players: 1 | Version: US
Star Ocean: Second Evolution PSP, thumbnail 1
If it's difficult to do sequels (look at The Godfather Part III), and remakes are even more of a minefield (look at The Avengers).

At least when it comes to games, you're not dealing with a new script, a confused director and your daughter pretending she can act. At its simplest you just tweak the old artwork and whack everything into some sort of magical emulation black box.

Not, of course, that we're suggesting Square Enix has taken such a crude sausage machine approach with this PSP-remake of PlayStation role-playing game Star Ocean: The Second Story.

Actually its efforts to improve upon the original release are reasonably significant, even if they have little effect on the game's portable accessibility. New animated cinematics fill the widescreen and overhauled voice recordings fix a long-standing criticism.

These only make the game more pleasant to watch, though. Nothing substantial has been done to improve gameplay, generally speaking or with respect for the new platform. Essentially this is the same game that appeared on the PlayStation in 1998.

Of course, this is a good thing when considering how few worthwhile role-playing games are available on PSP.

Star Ocean: Second Evolution
brings immense depth in terms of its character development, compelling plot, unique characters, exciting combat, and tangible replay value. No question about it: you get your money’s worth here in hours alone.

The issue, however, lies in how you play through those hours. Due to the game's porting from console, Star Ocean: Second Evolution doesn't enable you to easily drop-in and drop-out. This isn't a partitioned experience that’s conveniently organised into bite-sized missions.

Square Enix’s Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII featured such a design, catering to portable needs with loads of quick missions and frequent save points. But remaking a console game rather than starting from scratch forgoes such a luxury, so what you receive in depth is traded in time.

In other words, you're going to spend large chunks of time whenever you sit down with this.

Yet as long as you recognise the fact, Star Ocean: Second Evolution is a success. Despite being hidden in the shadows of higher profile titles, it's among the best role-playing games of its generation.

The combat system deserves special mention for blending real-time action and party control, so unlike in many similar games you're actively fighting enemies and managing your party at the same time.

Computer presets influence your party members' behaviour, but you can switch among them at any time during the battle. This has served as inspiration for more recent RPGs that have increasingly opted for real-time battle mechanics.

Star Ocean: Second Evolution's story also distinguishes it. Of the large cast of characters, you're only allowed to join forces with a select few.

For example, at the start you have to choose between human Claude and Nedian Rena. While you can recruit six more characters to fill out your eight-strong party as you travel across the planet of Expel, trying to unravel the secrets of the Sorcery Globe.

As such, you're left with reasons enough to replay through the game a second time, as the story varies depending on what characters you choose. It's a simple concept, but one that hasn’t made an appearance on any handheld-exclusive role-playing game.

So for RPG fans who haven't yet experienced Star Ocean, Second Evolution, if you've got the time, it’s worth getting into. It twinkles brightly with its beautiful anime cutscenes and deep role-playing, even if its antiquated adventuring isn't properly suited for the portable life.

It's harder to recommend for those who have already had the experience however, as the decision not to add significant new gameplay content limits it to the status of a by-the-books remake.
Star Ocean: Second Evolution
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 3 February 2009
Star Ocean: Second Evolution is a solid RPG remake with some nice new tweaks. It's just a shame it's not better tailored to the PSP
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