As product names go, Star Ocean: The Second Story R buries the lede. That ‘R’ stands for ‘Remake’ – and if I have been behind the advertising of this title, I’d actually wish to emphasize that it is a full-blown, ground-up do-over. Like, R may stand for ‘remaster' – this ain’t that. It is a full-fat Remake, with a capital R.
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A rather-bad identify is form of par for the course for Sq. Enix RPGs, in fact – and Star Ocean 2’s do-over may be thought to be a quintessential Sq. expertise in a number of different methods, too. It’s the corporate doing what it does finest: making a staunchly conventional role-playing recreation, with an unimaginable visible aptitude, with ambitions that assist to outstrip and reduce design flaws.
Principally, it has the power of a golden-age Sq. title. Which is smart, as the unique recreation’s 1998 launch places it slap bang in the course of the corporate’s explosive PS1 heyday. Taking part in Second Story, you may sense an intense reverence for the unique variations of the sport (variations, plural; it was remastered for PSP in 2008)m and it’s that worshipful perspective in direction of the previous that makes this a very special-feeling remake.
Right here’s a particular instance. Within the menus of The Second Story R, every character is represented with a portrait, as is RPG custom. However with the press of a button, you may swap between three completely different portrait kinds, permitting you to see the varied creative interpretations of Star Ocean 2’s characters from 1998, 2008, and right this moment. It’s a small nod, however the place most remakes current the brand new supplies and take away the previous, this recreation is eager to protect all eras. It’s demonstrative of the event philosophy.
You'll be able to inform it is a loving remake. | Picture credit score: Sq. Enix
“It’s not simply restricted to the illustrations, however it’s actually our method to the sport as a complete,” says Kei Komaki, Sq. Enix’s producer on the sport, when requested concerning the portraits. “We wished to worth the gamers of the unique PlayStation 1 recreation from 1998 and likewise the PSP model from the 2000s by together with these supplies and these components from each of the opposite variations in addition to alongside the up to date variations for the remake.”
“We're making an attempt to point out that now we have that respect for the gamers of these earlier video games, and the way they bear in mind the sport.”
Respect hammers the nail on the top; this remake virtually oozes it. And but, it’s additionally not afraid to take probabilities. The largest change comes within the visuals, that are without delay devoted to the unique and fairly completely different.
Particularly, the previous variations of Star Ocean 2 featured pre-rendered CG backdrops, as most Sq. video games of its period did. Hand-drawn 2D sprites have been laid atop these CG backgrounds, whereas battles featured rudimentary 3D backdrops. For the remake, the workforce elected to maintain the sprites – however ditch the CG for a completely real-time world presentation.
Flip about city. | Picture credit score: Sq. Enix
“What I actually wished to do was recreate and recapture the identical type of emotions and feelings that individuals would have had after they performed the unique PS1 model or the PSP model,” Remake director Yuichiro Kitao explains.
“The way in which that I approached that was to assume – properly, think about that I'm a little bit 2D sprite, a little bit character within the recreation myself. What would these locations appear to be to me? How would it not really feel to discover the dungeons, the sector areas, the castles? In order that was actually the method we took when creating artwork. I went away and I requested the artwork workforce to seize that sense of being a little bit pixel character on this recreation and experiencing it for your self.”
The logic, then, was to supply up a higher sense of scale. With real-time backgrounds, extra may be achieved. There may be extra motion within the background itself, and even the odd dynamic digital camera motion. The backgrounds additionally tackle a extra typically life like bent – which creates challenges when integrating them with the fantastic nature of unvarnished, hard-edged pixel artwork characters.
The concept of blending beautiful real-time 3D backgrounds with 90s-era 2D sprites was intentionally meant to supply one thing “new and contemporary,” says artwork director Yukinori Masuda. Whereas Sq. Enix has experimented with this earlier than in its ‘HD-2D’ titles like Octopath Traveler, The Second Story R differs fairly considerably because of the character of the backgrounds and Star Ocean’s action-focused fight. However in creating that contemporary look, which is moderately fetching, the builders created a problem for themselves.
Bit private, that. | Picture credit score: Sq. Enix
“As a result of we wished to have this sort of nostalgia to the sprites, the pixels did type of stand out a little bit bit an excessive amount of, simply placing them straight in. They did not essentially really feel like a part of that world,” Masuda admits.
“However as an alternative of blurring them we saved the pixels sharp, after which we added that depth with lighting and shaders, and shadows. This made them really feel like they have been in that world whereas nonetheless retaining the basic look. So, sure – that was the way in which we approached the mixing, the fusion, of the 2 completely different artwork kinds.”
Nostalgia is a hell of a drug – and for cult, area of interest recreation franchises like Star Ocean, it makes for an extremely tight needle for builders to string. There are a number of components at play. Previous-time followers should be glad – with the added complication right here that relying on after they performed, their recollections can be of two completely different variations. But additionally, as ever, there’s a want to discover a new viewers – for the Star Ocean sequence to develop.
Speaking to the builders, there’s a transparent realization that Star Ocean is just not, say, Last Fantasy. This space-faring sci-fi RPG has at all times set itself other than lots of Sq.’s different titles. When this recreation was new, it was one of many solely action-focused video games within the writer’s secure. In some ways, Star Ocean was at all times a bit forward of its time – which is what provides this Remake potential. With fresh-but-familiar artwork and barely streamlined and improved RPG motion, the whole lot about that recreation has been designed for a broader enchantment.
Shock and awe. | Picture credit score: Sq. Enix
“I feel that lately in Europe specifically there may be an urge for food for RPGs from the 90s, what they may name ‘retro RPGs'. I am not essentially positive that Second Story R fairly falls into that class, however there may be that form of development and willingness to play these sorts of video games,” Komaki muses.
“So whereas we do need individuals to method this and have these nostalgic emotions and benefit from the recreation from that perspective, it is usually a brand new recreation that we're releasing. And so we're hoping that we will attain plenty of new gamers and new individuals as properly. And if now we have followers who method it from a form of nostalgic perspective after which discover they actually benefit from the recreation, hopefully they're going to inform their mates, inform different individuals and possibly it will get some traction from there.”
Star Ocean: The Second Story R releases for Nintendo Swap, PS4, PS5, and PC this week.