Star Ocean: First Departure Reminds That: "Patience is a Virtue, Sluggishness is a Curse."

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NewClassic reviews Press X, an RPG by SquareEnix and Tri-Ace.

I'll begin by admitting two things right off the bat:

  • Like a bad reviewer, I still haven't finished Star Ocean: First Departure (Henceforth to be known as Press X).
  • This was originally intended to be a full Guest Review, but I honestly couldn't finish the game in any decent rapidity.
  • That accomplished, there's something special about Press X that really made it an experience worth mentioning. The backgrounds are beautiful, the animations are smooth, the gameplay is very accurate to the Star Ocean: Second Story style, and the entire experience looks, sounds, and feels impressive.

    I'm getting ahead of myself, though. Press X is the remake of Star Ocean for the Super Famicon (Never released in the 'States). This remake remains largely faithful to the story of the first game, with an updated engine from the second, and graphical updates (once) completely unique to the PSP title. The problem is obviously that this is just a remake. If you striving for something completely brand-new, you'll find little love out of Press X.

    The scenery is quite gorgeous, though...
    The scenery is quite gorgeous, though...

    If you are something of a graphical enthusiast, then Press X will not disappoint. Pre-rendered background on a fixed-camera plane is done beautifully and with such style in Press X that it's hard not to occasionally sit down and enjoy the scenery and graphical wonders found out of this title. I've spent countless occasions admiring the scenery, and it's no surprise that this game is among the prettiest titles I've ever played on the PSP. It's nothing terribly innovative, but it's hard to complain about just how well-done it all is.

    The problem is the lack of innovation. Press X isn't the panacea of stale gaming because it is by definition a stale game. It changes nothing from Star Ocean 2's battle system, and maintains the same story from Star Ocean for the Super Famicon, so it doesn't really push a lot of envelopes. Or any envelopes. It does provide a game for fans, but doesn't innovate.

    Gameplay itself hardly deviates from the jRPG standard that most gamers have come to expect from a Japanese RPG title. The world map is large, the towns are full of generic NPCs, the dialogue is long and drawn-out, and battles involve a lot of repetitive button-presses. In fact, the game earned it's nickname for a reason. Within 2 hours of gameplay, I had gone through roughly an hour's worth of dialogue. This entire time was spent, and I'm not exaggerating, pressing X.

    This is a very dialogue-intensive game.
    This is a very dialogue-intensive game.

    The voice acting is provided within the goings-on of the dialog, and can be skipped by pressing X. If X is pressed, then an arrow will appear, halting the physical voices and prompting you to Press X to call up the next line of conversation. So, two button-presses for every skipped dialogue, and just one if you actually wait out the voice acting. This means you will be pressing X quite extensively in dialogue and cutscenes.

    In combat, X is the command for "Run to enemy and attack." If you are currently at the enemy, then X is the prompt to attack. Each set of attacks and build to a three hit combo. There are also skills that can be applied to a trigger, but considering the generally low damage per skill, you can squeeze a lot of extra damage into a series of attacks by using the default combo as well as skills. This means that you'll be pressing X a lot in battle as well.

    Because of the dialogue-heavy story and the repetitive battle layout, this is a very slow game. The gameplay is fun while you're in the middle of an action storm, but long strings of dialogue and constant fear of impending cutscene, the game gets very slow and tedius very quickly. The fact that I got several hours of game time into the RPG, but hardly 40 minutes of gameplay is not a good sign.

    Beyond the core elements of gameplay, the leveling system is rather unique to Press X. Instead of gaining a certain number of stat-points like pen-and-paper RPGs, or already determined stats and skills like most jRPGs, you instead get to learn skills based on allocations of skill points (which are mixed in with the pre-determined stats. So, a bit of variety). These skill points aren't very well explained, and as much fun as adding massive amounts of skill points to the skill "Whistling" (The ability to put your fingers in your mouth and blow hard to produce a piercing sound.) is, I'm not entirely sure what function it served.

    At all.

    The arguably real-time combat is usually pretty fun, at least.
    The arguably real-time combat is usually pretty fun, at least.

    The skill setup is rather neat regardless. You can choose to allocate points to battle skills or more passive abilities like "Cooking," or skills that will help your statistics, such as those that increase your Agility (for stat-based dodging) or Constitution (for being hit a bunch without dying). While this is appreciated, it certainly leaves the player a bit out in the cold when you're looking at the skill list wondering how "Sketching" will help an adventurer. While I appreciate "The ability to exactly replicate the shape of an object on paper," I'm not sure how it helps my fight in the game, but I suppose it does.

    The actual abilities in battle are all random-activation, and get quite numerous and frequent in the later parts of the game. It adds a painful amount of luck to the gameplay system, and really makes me feel like actual ability is an unnecessary facet of a player's capabilities when figuring out what they can bring to the table.

    Despite being what amounts to an interactive novel with RPG elements, Press X does at least a good job of writing realistic characters. The situations are somewhat out there, but the characters are easy to empathize with, and are very expressive and personable. Writing for their personalities isn't perfect, but feels a lot less stale than many other RPGs I've played, both Western and Japanese titles alike. One of Press X's stronger points is that I empathized rather well with everyone, from main party members to random NPCs.

    Story-telling aside, the thought "Everything in moderation" comes to mind. Because the game is so prone to dumping massive amounts of dialogue on you suddenly with little provocation, even when I was empathizing with the characters and growing to enjoy their company, I was feeling over-run.

    The anime cutscenes were the most immersive I've seen out of a game yet. They really did a good job with them.
    The anime cutscenes were the most immersive I've seen out of a game yet. They really did a good job with them.

    Despite that I could relate, I had trouble putting myself in the shoes of the protagonist. I didn't relate to him in a way that I felt I should have, and therefore when I was presented with the choices that would be his, I didn't feel like I should want to make his choice. I felt like I was making mine. As a role-playing game, I feel like I should've been more entrenched in my role. As such, Press X really could've done just a little more to immerse me into my character.

    The atmosphere did do a good enough job, I guess. The music fit the environments, but without the strong, immersive writing, I didn't feel wrapped up in it all. Had everything followed the consistency of the voice acting or CGI sequences, I don't believe it would've been as much of a problem. The game does a lot to be good. I felt like the game could've done more to be great.

    Press X really could benefit from a little more "Game" to it's "Role-Playing Game" genre, but overall seems like it's something that'd be hard to rate. It has potential, and it can easily show it's strong sides, but it feels like it's something that not everyone would, or could, enjoy.

    Bottom Line: Potential is through the roof - especially from a story-telling and narrative perspective. Actual application has quite a bit that is simultaneously to be praised and leaves much to be desired.

    Verdict: Rent it. It does a lot that could make fans of the genre jump for joy, just as it does a lot that could turn people away from games like these. Possibly great, but not for everyone.

    Hmmm... needless to say it was well written. I think I'd be more enthused if I owned a PSP, but it sounds like a grand time nonetheless.

    I don't understand why you expect a remake of a twelve-year-old RPG to "innovate". Its purpose is to allow Americans & Europeans to experience the first game in a much-loved series. Why wouldn't it have the same story from Star Ocean?

    Talking to NPCs gives you all the information you need to know about the skill system. You're advised in the first town to level-up specific skills in order learn a specialty. For example, the purpose of Sketching is to be learned along with Aesthetics (I think) in order to learn the Art specialty. Then you can make unique items from Magic Clay and Magic Canvases. Likewise, if you learn Whistling and another skill you can use Animal Feed to access an item shop anywhere in the game. Personally I found it to be pretty self-explanatory. Some skills are totally useless, of course, but then that's what you expect from an RPG.

    And compared to most JRPGs it's not dialogue heavy at all! The game takes 20-25 hours to finish, most of which is spent boosting levels and exploring towns. It's intentionally short because it's designed for multiple playthroughs. There's one pretty long cutscene in the ship at the beginning, but that's about it.

    I loved it anyway. The story is ridiculous and the combat is mindless, but that's what you expect from Tri-Ace.

    Honestly, I'm just nit-picking here because the review for the most part was accurate (if only a little subjective like I mentioned). This is less of an evaluation and more of a clean up.

    NewClassic:
    ...is the remake of Star Ocean for the Super Famicom...

    Unless this is an ongoing joke I'm not informed about, you spelled "Super Famicom" wrong everytime you mentioned it in this review. I only corrected it here.

    If you are something of a graphical enthusiast, then Press X will not disappoint...

    Simply forgot to italicize...

    It changes nothing from Star Ocean 2's battle system...

    There are a few significant changes in skills, and a huge difference being the new and less useful 3-hit combat system that wasn't present in SO or SO2. If "nothing" was meant as an exaggeration you might be a bit weary because many will probably take that literally.

    the towns are full of generic NPCs,

    I said I'd try not to comment on your subjective statements, but this is close on the line. If you backed up your statement with an example (I.E. whenever an event happens they all like talking about it) then perhaps someone could see your reasoning, although everyone has something different to say so I can't agree with that statement.

    There are also skills that can be applied to a trigger, but considering the generally low damage per skill, you can squeeze a lot of extra damage into a series of attacks by using the default combo as well as skills.

    Can't say I'd make you change that because you used the word "generally", but there's a LOT of skills that deal way more DPS than a normal attack; I found myself mashing L and R more than X in the game.

    The gameplay is fun while you're in the middle of an action storm, but long strings of dialogue and constant fear of impending cutscene, the game gets very slow and tedius very quickly.

    This doesn't read correctly, you left a few words out.

    These skill points aren't very well explained, and as much fun as adding massive amounts of skill points to the skill "Whistling" (The ability to put your fingers in your mouth and blow hard to produce a piercing sound.) is, I'm not entirely sure what function it served.

    For clarification, skills are used as building blocks to unlock specialties.

    While this is appreciated, it certainly leaves the player a bit out in the cold when you're looking at the skill list wondering how "Sketching" will help an adventurer. While I appreciate "The ability to exactly replicate the shape of an object on paper," I'm not sure how it helps my fight in the game, but I suppose it does.

    Well, it allows them to write books, which could help other members learn a skill they don't know, or they can get their books published and make some cash.

    One of Press X's stronger points is that I empathized rather well with everyone, from main party members to random NPCs.

    Flipside of the coin, you stated earlier your dislike for them because they were generic.

    Aside from that, you might've benefited more by spending a bit more time finding screenshots - some images are tagged, and two of them are in Japanese.

    NewClassic:

    Bottom Line: Potential is through the roof - especially from a story-telling and narrative perspective. Actual application has quite a bit that is simultaneously to be praised and leaves much to be desired.

    Verdict: Rent it. It does a lot that could make fans of the genre jump for joy, just as it does a lot that could turn people away from games like these. Possibly great, but not for everyone.

    Because I am lazy I tend to scroll down to see a reviewer's final score/verdict before actually reading the review-- a dangerous tactic, I know.

    In my opinion, your "bottom line" and "verdict" lack conviction.

    NewClassic:
    Potential is through the roof

    NewClassic:
    simultaneously to be praised and leaves much to be desired.

    NewClassic:
    Possibly great, but not for everyone.

    From those last two lines, I simply have no idea where you stand with this game. The game is "possibly great"? A game review is an opinion-- and if your opinion is flaky and unclear, your readers will be left feeling confused.

    Also, reviewers frequently end with "fans will like it, others might not"-- this is a very tired conclusion. I would suggest a conclusion which briefly reemphasizes exactly why we should buy/rent/ignore this game.

    This is just a little nitpick, though-- the body of your review was well-written and informative.

    damn, either people have some really high standards for newclassic, or the constructive feedback givers have been hiding in a hole this entire time.

    Maybe its both.

    It's a short game which is fairly easy to beat and extremely easy if you spend a little time in item creation. Since the game is shorter they made it easier to get into item creation so your characters can be pretty beefed out early in the game if you plan ahead a bit.

    It's just an old game and not that interesting, ultimately, since most of the game takes place on the same few continents and makes you backtrack a half dozen times but without the benefit of the "bunny call" skill which was in second story.

    ultimatechance:
    damn, either people have some really high standards for newclassic, or the constructive feedback givers have been hiding in a hole this entire time.

    Maybe its both.

    I don't know how others feel, but in my opinion he's already established himself as a great writer and is just looking to get better, so it's nice to help him even if he doesn't need much.

    Count_de_Monet:
    It's just an old game and not that interesting, ultimately, since most of the game takes place on the same few continents and makes you backtrack a half dozen times but without the benefit of the "bunny call" skill which was in second story.

    Actually, if you get the bikini-wearing rabbit-eared character to join your party she gives you a "Bunny Whistle" which can summon the bunny in question.

    You can also use the Scouting skill to modify the encounter rate, and once you've visited all the towns you can get a ship to any port in the game (which I don't recall being possible on the SFC version).

    There's plenty of incentive even outside of the story to wander the world in SO1, but it's a relatively painless process.

    I like the review, it was a little more relaxed than others (though I'm sure that will rub some up the wrong way.) It does suffer from over use of commas, and your favourite bi-part sentence structure for all it's more varied than in other cases.

    ultimatechance:
    Damn, either people have some really high standards for NewClassic, or the constructive feedback givers have been hiding in a hole this entire time.

    Maybe its both.

    It's more that we feel he's been around enough to take the criticism. In some cases, this may not be true, but for the large part he's comfortable with it.

    Labyrinth:

    ultimatechance:
    Damn, either people have some really high standards for NewClassic, or the constructive feedback givers have been hiding in a hole this entire time.

    Maybe its both.

    It's more that we feel he's been around enough to take the criticism. In some cases, this may not be true, but for the large part he's comfortable with it.

    well personally, what im looking for when i post a review here is for people to tell me the honest truth so i can improve. I would prefer it that someone said my reviews were some of the worst things theyve ever read, rather than continuing to post what i thought was good. So far, Susan Arendt was the only person to give me any real criticism. As for the users, these are the types of people i hoped to reply to mine, but sadly they are all sticking with newclassic, which is pretty much trying to pick out the problems out of an already very, very good writer.

    ultimatechance:
    Well personally, what I'm looking for when I post a review here is for people to tell me the honest truth so I can improve. I would prefer it that someone said my reviews were some of the worst things they've ever read, rather than continuing to post what I thought was good. So far, Susan Arendt was the only person to give me any real criticism. As for the users, these are the types of people I hoped to reply to mine, but sadly they are all sticking with NewClassic, which is pretty much trying to pick out the problems out of an already very, very good writer.

    If you really want them to critique, you can flatter them with a PM requesting said critique.

    Labyrinth:

    ultimatechance:
    Well personally, what I'm looking for when I post a review here is for people to tell me the honest truth so I can improve. I would prefer it that someone said my reviews were some of the worst things they've ever read, rather than continuing to post what I thought was good. So far, Susan Arendt was the only person to give me any real criticism. As for the users, these are the types of people I hoped to reply to mine, but sadly they are all sticking with NewClassic, which is pretty much trying to pick out the problems out of an already very, very good writer.

    If you really want them to critique, you can flatter them with a PM requesting said critique.

    Pretty much this. I field such PMs fairly often myself. Let me know if you need a critique, as I'm always willing to help. And take the Susan critiques to heart, as you will likely find very few folks on here better than Susan for review edits.

    I have read through this multiple times, and I find it to be incredibly well written, though, the view on this game is unbiased, you hold all aspects of the game in equal weight, and make a justified conclusion based on what you have seen.

    But there is one little thing though the 'Press X' analogy is good for pointing out the monotony of the game, you also use it while your complementing the game, which could possibly give the reader a mixed message. But it is still clear enough for the everyone to understand your point. But this is such a minor complaint, I find it hard to write down.

    -This-is-Hip-Hop

     

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