Star Ocean: Second Evolution
Space: the realm of infinite possibility. Or so the introduction to Star Ocean: Second Evolution goes. It’s just a shame that, for all the potential, those alleged possibilities are too often an overly generic romp through a very predictable environment.
On the other hand, it seems crass to criticise Star Ocean for its sensations of similarity. The JRPG’s fascination with overblown pomp, shockingly trite revelations and a demanding susceptibility towards level grinding are the very genre’s tools of the trade. It would be the same as criticising racing games for having a propensity to use cars. The reality is that part of appreciating Star Ocean: Second Evolution comes from an inherent love of the genre. It’s about catering to an audience who desire experiencing a ten-year-old PSOne game. It practically screams niche. With the DS port of Chrono Trigger dancing around the DS charts with an unreserved splendour, the PSP version of the second Star Ocean game is quietly waiting at the back, hoping to appeal to the true JRPG obsessive. Because they’ve already completed Chrono Trigger seven times already.
It’s plain to see that the game has been lovingly recreated, and the port to PSP is aptly handled. The resulting UMD is a long experience, with a lot to it, and even though you’ll mostly be visiting staple JRPG locations there’s a considerable amount of variety in them. Its PSOne heritage is unshakeable, but squishing the graphics down to the PSP gives the illusion of everything looking better. It’s worth noting, however, that anyone hoping to experience the visual panache of Crisis Core will be disappointed. The shiny modern bits come in the shape of the new translation and voiceover work, which thankfully replaces the abysmal original localisation that felt like it was running your ears through a cheese grater.
The game starts twenty years after the first one finished. You get to choose your protagonist this time around, with the options being either wimpish space-explorer Claude C. Kenny, accompanied by his flailing mop-like haircut sidekick, or Rena Lanford, pointy-eared eighteen year old who looks so young she’d be asked for ID if she tried to purchase a game with a 7+ PEGI rating. It doesn’t matter much who you pick, mind, as the two heroes join up at the very beginning of the game: Claude’s been sucked magically through time and space to Rena’s home planet, and there’s something fishy going on with a meteor. And so their frolic through many dungeons and towns begins.
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