Star Ocean started its journey on the Super Famicom over two decades ago. Since then the first game has found its way on the PSP in 2008 and now again on the PlayStation 4 and Switch. Given the limited nature, a number of players have yet to experience Star Ocean, so is Star Ocean: First Departure R worth (re)visiting or should it be forgotten in the past? Here’s our Star Ocean: First Departure R Review. Star Ocean: First Departure R follows the story of Roddick, Millie, and Dorne as they patrol the village as part of their day-to-day routine. On one fateful day, a mysterious plague sets in that suddenly turns people into stone. Hoping to find a cure at a nearby mountain by gathering what they call a medicinal herb, things have started to change when two people from a far more advanced civilization suddenly teleport in front of them.
Ronyx and Ilia, the other main protagonists of the game, are the humans from the Planet Earth that explain to Roddick and his friends that the plague that spread in their planet called Roak is a biological weapon that was developed by Lezonia in Planet Earth. Wishing that a far more advanced civilization like Earth will be able to cure the people of Planet Roak, they are mistaken. To cure the plague, they must get a sample of an archfiend that only existed 300 years ago. The only way they can achieve that is to go to the past, and that’s where Roddick and his friends will be joined by Ronyx and Illia in search of the cure. Since the game is more than two decades old, don’t expect the story to be as deep as other Star Ocean games or JRPG games. It’s fairly simple and easy to follow for those hoping it wouldn’t have a convoluted story like other games these days.
For those who have played previous Star Ocean games before, the battle system should be familiar at some point. Instead of its turn-based classic battle system that was introduced in older JRPG games, First Departure R is an action-oriented battle system. When you battle an enemy, you will be able to control one of the four characters in your party, while the other three are controlled by an AI. You smash the X button to attack an enemy using a regular attack and pressing the shoulder buttons, LI or R1 will allow your character to perform special attacks. The combat is fairly basic, yet fun at times and doesn’t require complicated button pressing to defeat an enemy- though there are times the difficulty spikes up in combat all of a sudden.
In addition to simply taking down enemies, the other things that you will be doing in the game are crafting or mastering skills that make your party stronger. Whenever a character gains a level, you will receive a Skill point that you can use onto your characters. These abilities can be used on and off the battle and will greatly improve your character’s performance in battle. As far as crafting goes, you can create items that you can use in both cooking or in battle. Don’t worry about its complexity as they are fairly easy to understand as they are basic at most.
Seeing how First Departure R is the game that started the Star Ocean series, there are things that in this game that evolved in succeeding games. One of the features that are common in Star Ocean games is the Private Actions that you can trigger with certain characters. In First Departure R, we can see how the Private Actions have started and how it evolved in other Star Ocean games. To gain more insight or learn more about the character, you trigger Private Actions when a prompt appears on the screen. This is purely optional but to fully enjoy what the game has to offer when it comes to story, it’s highly recommended that you take a look at it.
With the game being a port of the PSP version that was launched back in 2008, First Departure R doesn’t have any new content to offer. In fact, if you have played the PSP version before or even the Super Famicom ones, you will be playing the same exact version, except with minor changes. The minor changes that the team behind Star Ocean: The Last Hope did with First Departure R is improving the artwork. Right at the beginning of the game, players will be able to choose whether to use artwork from the original version or the new one specifically designed for this version.
In terms of visuals, the game remains true to the original, except the sprites look crisper and detailed. CG cutscenes are untouched, where you will notice that even the audio hasn’t been improved. However, the majority of the cutscenes still have voice-overs, which makes it better when it comes to going through those lengthy scenes in the game.
If you have played the PSP version in the past and were annoyed with things like backtracking or random encounters, they remain present in the PS4 version. Sadly, there are no modifiers present to turn them off, and this is something you will be dealing with. At this day and age, random encounters are frowned upon and may not appeal to the new generation of gamers. Also, if you are one of those that simply hate backtracking, prepare to do it on this game as there is plenty to look forward to.
Star Ocean: First Departure R Review – Verdict
Star Ocean: First Departure R is a classic game that reminds us of where the series started. While it is certainly fun and enjoyable, it retains a number of traits associated with the best JRPGs. These include a simple storyline, a fascinating combat system, and a relatively straightforward adventure. If you’re from a newer generation of JRPG fans, you might find the excessive random encounters, backtracking and minimal depth annoying and might want to stick to more modern releases. Still, veteran fans will likely remember why this series became so popular in the first place.