Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Mar 042022

Back when Star Ocean: The Divine Force was announced, I said I intended to play Star Ocean: First Departure R before it came out.

And you know what? I actually did!

In the midst of all the romance games I played in February, I also played through Star Ocean: First Departure R, which is a remaster of the remake of the first Star Ocean game (whew).

The story starts out with a group of friends in a small village who encounter a terrible disease that is turning people to stone. While searching for a cure, they run into two people from a starship and learn that, their planet is part of a universe with advanced technology and has been caught up in a war with an alien race.

Now, you might expect this to turn into a spacefaring adventure. That doesn’t exactly happen. The space opera setting is there, but they soon learn that the only way to find a cure is to go back in time to their own planet’s past.

As a result, the majority of the game has a medieval fantasy setting despite the larger context.

It is an action JRPG, and the combat is… fine. More interesting is the skill system, which lets you put points into a lot (and I mean a lot) of skills to increase stats, gain combat bonuses, and learn special abilities.

Unfortunately, this eventually resulted in First Departure R feeling tedious to me. Some of the abilities are great, such as one that lets you change the encounter rate or one that lets you temporarily lower your stats in exchange for more exp. But a significant number are related to the game’s numerous crafting skills. Crafting requires materials and often special crafting items as well. Attempting it uses up those items, but there’s a chance of failure even if the skill is at max level.

You can influence the success rate further, however, by playing music. Music is tied to other skills. You’ll need instruments, and you’ll also need to have music written. These skills also require items and have their own success rates.

I can see how the system sounds neat, and I’m sure there are people out there who adore it. I am not one of those people. Using items with skills to help me use different items with different skills to craft something and not even be guaranteed success drove me crazy. After a certain point, the game felt like it expected me to be crafting better gear, too.

It’s a shame, because there are other aspects of the game that I really liked. The story is nothing special, but there are multiple party members to recruit based on different conditions, which means I only got to see some of the characters and their stories.

Character interactions also come into play through “Private Actions,” a system which lets you split up in town and witness special character events.

(Unfortunately, there is no airship, so the only way to backtrack is to use ships to travel between port towns and walk across the world map for everything else. I like backtracking, but that was annoying enough that I didn’t backtrack to check for new Private Actions as much as I would have liked to.)

In short, Star Ocean: First Departure R left me with mixed feelings. It has some aspects I loved, but also some that annoyed me enough that I was just ready to be done with it. As you might guess, that presents me with an important question… will I enjoy other Star Ocean games?

What are your thoughts on First Departure R and the Star Ocean series?

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  6 Responses to “Star Ocean: First Departure R – A Slightly Tedious Journey”

  1. Those Private Actions are reminded me of the older Tales of game sidequests, except without an airship or vehicle to assist in travelling back to prior towns in the vague hope of encountering further sidequest progress… those games really needed to be played with guides!

    • Yeah, I’ll never forget failing a side quest in Symphonia because I didn’t backtrack to a certain location at the right time… or having a side quest stop progressing partway through in Abyss because I started it too late. I don’t actually mind things like that, since it adds a sense of discovery, but having a vehicle to make backtracking better really helps.

      And here there’s over 100 Private Actions! (Although since they depend on the characters available, they wouldn’t all show up in a single playthrough.)

  2. The second story is much better and by far the best SO game. I thought the first one was OK, the backtracking was super annoying. I played the original version of SO1 which had no world map, so you had to travel back through screen after screen. Pain in the ass.

    SO3 has a good first half, but I can’t recommend it. The end section is just utterly terrible.
    SO4 should be avoided like the plague. I found the combat quite fun but other than that it is one of the worst games of all time.
    SO5 is okay. Not very memorable.

    • Oof, that sounds rough.

      I’ve heard various things about SO3, including that the crafting is rather complicated, but I already have a copy I got years ago, so I’ll probably still try it sometime.

      SO4 and SO5 both seem to have a pretty mixed reception. 4 does have its fans from what I’ve seen… I’m not sure 5 does. XD

      • I seem to remember that 3 has a kind of weird crafting but it’s not too bad. Getting what you want from crafting is usually a bit of a faff on in SO.

        I don’t know how 4 has fans. They must be pretty hardcore weebs. That said, it’s so bad that it’s almost good in a weird and painful kind of way. I think the word “cringe” is over used these days but there’s really no better word for that game.
        I have heard that the writer wanted to write a porno but somehow ended up doing the script for SO4. When you see some of the weird and painful more sexual/romance ‘private actions’ that seems to make an awkward kind of sense.
        Oh yeah, and as you have probably seen for yourself; the characters have a really creepy doll look at times. Especially Edge (the main character), his eyes just look empty.

        SO5 does actually have fans. The characters seemed quite bland and unmemorable to me, but I have known a couple of people who really loved one or two of the characters.

        • I think people like 4 for its gameplay more than its story, but I’m not positive.

          Yeah, I’ve noticed 4, 5, and the upcoming 6 all have that strange doll-like look to the faces to some degree.

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