Star Ocean

Tagged: Game

Videogame series (from 1996). tri-Ace.

Star Ocean is a series of Japanese Console Role Playing Games (> Computer Role Playing Games), set in a universe heavily influenced by Star Trek. In addition to the sf elements, a form of alchemical magic often makes an appearance, variously referred to as symbology, heraldry and runology. While this suggests that the Star Ocean games should be classified as Science and Sorcery, the ending of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time may justify the magical aspects in sf terms. An interesting repeated theme is the association of Christian symbols with evil, as in Star Ocean: The Second Story, where the ultimate antagonists bear the names of angels. This motif has often been censored in English translations of the series. The gameplay is a mixture of conversation, exploration and combat, as is common in the form, though the Star Ocean games are distinguished by their use of a real time combat system, in contrast to the turn-based approach favoured by most examples of the type.

The first game, Star Ocean (1996 tri-Ace, SNES; 2007 rev vt Star Ocean: First Departure PSP), was initially only released in Japan; the 2007 remake, however, is available worldwide. The main player character is a young boy on an undeveloped planet who meets the crew of an Earth Federation starship while searching for a cure for a lethal disease. Eventually it emerges that the disease is caused by an alien race at war with the Federation; in order to find a cure a group of characters must travel through a Time Gate (> Time Travel) to obtain a sample of the blood used to create the virus. Star Ocean is a somewhat generic Console Role Playing Game, set in a largely medieval milieu and focusing on character interaction and often repetitive combat. It uses a two-dimensional overhead view. Star Ocean: The Second Story (1998 tri-Ace, PS1; 2008 rev vt Star Ocean: Second Evolution PSP) was the first game in the series to be translated into English; it largely repeats the gameplay and themes of its predecessor. Two main characters are available: the teenage son of a character from the original game, who is Teleported to the undeveloped planet of Expel while examining an alien artefact, and the girl he meets there. The plot is broadly linear (> Interactive Narrative), with some branches depending on which major character is used; it initially focuses on the search for the impact site of a meteorite which appears to be responsible for a series of natural disasters on Expel. As in many early Japanese CRPGs, the characters in Star Ocean: The Second Story can seem curiously child like.

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (2003 tri-Ace, PS2) is perhaps the most interesting game in the series. Set 200 years after Star Ocean: The Second Story, it uses three-dimensional graphics to tell the story of Fayt Leingod, a young wastrel from Earth who crashes on a primitive planet after the Federation is attacked by powerful aliens. The linear narrative guides the player through a long and winding story involving a great deal of combat; ultimately it is revealed that the Federation's scientific research into the nature of symbology has angered the Creator, who has decided that reality itself must be destroyed. Fayt and several other characters are products of the Federation's research, and have been symbologically altered to enable them to reach the higher Dimension in which the Creator resides. The alien attack which begins the game was intended to capture Fayt, in the hope that the Creator could be placated if he was surrendered to its angelic minions. On arriving in the higher space, the characters discover that their entire universe is a computer game, a form of Massively Multiplayer Online Game played by the residents of the parent reality (> Conceptual Breakthrough). Symbology allows the inhabitants of the simulation – in which all previous Star Ocean games have occurred – to break through the fourth wall separating them from their creators, and thus must be suppressed. The characters fight their Gods, and win, but fail to prevent one of them turning off the Star Ocean universe. However, shutting down the simulation mysteriously fails to destroy the reality in which the games take place, perhaps because symbology has allowed the simulated inhabitants to reach some form of Transcendence, or perhaps because the characters have simply become too "real" to be switched off.

Related works: Star Ocean: The Last Hope (2008 tri-Ace, XB360) designed by Mitsuo Iwao is a prequel to the entire sequence, occurring during an interstellar diaspora that follows World War Three on Earth. The broadly linear storyline is that of a very conventional Space Opera; the main character is a member of the newly formed Space Reconnaissance Force, searching the galaxy for a new home for humanity, until he stumbles upon an alien threat. Many players, however, have enjoyed exploring the colourfully three-dimensional planetary environments from their spaceship and fighting their way through the numerous battles, which borrow some concepts from the more combat oriented branch of MMORPG design. Star Ocean: Blue Sphere (2001 tri-Ace, GBC) is a direct sequel to Star Ocean: The Second Story, released only in Japan. It features a "Sargasso World", a mysterious planet which somehow causes passing starships to crash onto its surface. Star Ocean EX (2001) is an Anime version of Star Ocean: The Second Story. The Anime is based on a Japanese only Manga which ends unexpectedly part way through the plot, as does Star Ocean EX. [NT]

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