Star Ocean: The Second Story R proves that remakes and ports are a great way to preserve old games
Things age, wear out, and ultimately break. Even if you keep your old games and consoles and they remain functional, it's often so frustrating to get ...
Things age, wear out, and ultimately break. Even if you keep your old games and consoles and they remain functional, it's often so frustrating to get old technology running on new televisions that you either give up or end up spending a lot of money on an overpriced converter. And what about digital games? When platforms close their digital storefronts or newer generations phase out backward compatibility, it becomes nearly impossible to preserve our most beloved titles. Preserving video games is an ongoing struggle.
There is another solution - remakes and ports. These give older titles a much-needed shine and make them more accessible, allowing new players to join and become part of the fandom while longtime fans can enjoy the games once again on modern platforms. When I recently played Star Ocean: The Second Story R at Gamescom, I realized how important it is for companies to look both into the past and the future. It's great to receive shiny new entries in a series or fresh IPs, but sometimes revisiting an old classic holds a special significance.
The Second Story has been lovingly rebuilt, with graphics that seamlessly blend 2D characters with 3D environments. This allows it to retain the charm and essence of the original while embracing a modern aesthetic. Although one might think that this contrast would be jarring, it creates an intriguing balance that works incredibly well. For a game that transports a Federation officer to an unfamiliar and less advanced planet, this blend of modern and traditional style seems fitting.
Square Enix has packed this new version with additional quests and content, new combat mechanics, full English and Japanese voice acting, and composer Motoi Sakuraba, who has rearranged the soundtrack. The Second Story R is now the definitive way to play Star Ocean. It can be intimidating for new players to jump into such an established series, but The Second Story R is a great entry point.
When I think of classic PS-era RPGs, turn-based, rigid battles come to mind, but the combat system of The Second Story R feels fast-paced, fluid, and benefits from a speed boost in this new version. Everyone attacks simultaneously, and you can freely move around the battlefield, attacking backward and forward while spontaneously selecting different characters. If you're confident in your characters' abilities or want to save time, you can also activate the auto-battle feature. While many older RPGs didn't have difficulty settings, here you have three options to choose from. Even if you're not the best fighter, you can lower the difficulty and still enjoy the story.
Another way in which The Second Story R deviates from the usual RPG tropes is that players can choose between Claude or Rena as the main protagonist at the beginning, and there is a greater emphasis on the characters throughout the game. You will engage in interesting conversations and receive affinity increases depending on who is in your party when you stay overnight at an inn.
This is not the first time that Star Ocean: The Second Story has received a little love. Although it was originally released in 1999 for the PlayStation, an enhanced remake was later released for the PSP in 2009, and The Second Story R pays tribute to both versions. In the menu, you can switch between the art style of the character portraits from the PlayStation, PSP, and new versions. Unfortunately, this does not affect the rest of the game, but it is interesting to see how the art styles have evolved over the years. It has also made me appreciate the beauty of the new portraits even more.
I wish more companies would delve into their back catalogs, pick out an old classic, polish it up, and then release it into the world for all of us to enjoy. Revisiting older titles is necessary to keep some of the best games alive, and it's a great way to satisfy long-time fans and encourage new players to get into the series. However, we have also seen many remakes or ports that have lost the magic of the originals and left the best version of the game in an unattainable past. Ports and remakes are not always the solution. But when they are crafted with as much affection and quality as in the case of Star Ocean: The Second Story R, it's easy to recognize the value they bring to gaming.