When I was a kid, I saved my allowance to get my hands on a pre-owned copy of Star Ocean: The Second Story. I had no clue why it was the “second story,” as I had never seen its predecessor anywhere, but I knew I had to have it. The PSX dream combo of sprites and 3D backgrounds brought to life a unique space-opera-at-the-corner-of-high-fantasy setting that fascinated my young mind. Swirl together the charming anime artwork with a battle system that felt somewhere between Tales and Grandia and I knew I had to have it.
A (second) storied history
Flash forward a few years to the height of the PS2-era and you’ll find an older, wiser me, grabbing Star Ocean: Till the End of Time on release day. No hesitation. I knew what I was in for and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. That game managed to dominate the rest of my summer, coming with me on vacation and taking over the TV at friends’ houses. Its cast was headed up by one of the most ridiculously named protagonists of all, Fayt Leingod (where do they get this stuff?), but unabashed JRPG-ness aside, its story was filled with wonder and emotion.
As far as its follow-ups go, I actually enjoyed Star Ocean: The Last Hope perhaps a bit more than I’d prefer to admit and reviews have kept me far away from Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness. I don’t like to put full stock in reviews, especially when it comes to a beloved franchise, but when time is a commodity and new games are plentiful, well, I have to be discerning. Maybe I’ll get around to it one day? Who could say. We’re not here for that, though!
The final frontier (in your pocket)
At E3, it was finally announced that the Star Ocean mobile gacha title, Star Ocean: Anamnesis (again, where do they get this stuff?) would be coming to the west. And it got here fast! I knew it couldn’t be far off when I saw the buses driving around downtown LA during Anime Expo showcasing gameplay videos and artwork. That wasn’t something I expected to see stepping out of my hotel! (And not because it was an obscure game in the middle of a big city, but because literally everything else was Fate/Grand Order!) Now I’ve spent a fair deal of time with the game and I’d be inclined to call it a success.
For starters, it does a great job condensing the Star Ocean battle system into a neat, mobile package. Moving and attacks are simple, specials are executed with the press of a button, and your comrades are handled by AI. You take a party of four into combat through numerous stages and various planets, tearing through all manner of enemies in real-time. It’s fun, it’s fast-paced, and if you’re as over-leveled as I am right now, it’s terribly satisfying to watch every hideous monster and alien in your path get blown away in seconds. Alongside this, the game boasts an in-depth multiplayer experience that I haven’t even touched yet.
The battles look great, too! The graphics in SO:A are some of the best I’ve ever seen in a mobile game, rivaling Honkai Impact 3rd (though I must admit, Honkai edges it out slightly in terms of general aesthetic.) It’s a beautiful, polished game that takes me back to those summers with SO3 and every fight is a spectacle. The character models are detailed and smooth, while the magic attacks they blast out onto the field are shiny and eye-catching. It’s definitely a cut above the rest when it comes to polygon count.
The cast of characters appears to be quite substantial, though I haven’t personally encountered any of the series mainstays in my gacha-rolling (Rena, Claude, where are you?) The art style is consistent and a reasonable translation of all of the characters for this singular game. The story seems to be unremarkable, but I can’t comment too deeply. If you haven’t noticed, I kind of have issues paying attention to the story in gacha games as my endless desire to rocket to the top is simply insatiable. I really did try to pay attention to this one, but once I realized just how often story segments were placed between actual missions, I was a bit turned off to following it any further. If I had any complaint, that would likely be it — the gameplay in the beginning is interrupted quite frequently. The more I progress it does appear to be more tolerable, but it’s worth noting.
The gacha system is straightforward with (apparently) relatively high 5-star drop rates! I was totally shocked when I rolled my daily freebie and got a new “Galaxy Rare.” Not a bad feeling, especially compared to other games that are not quite as generous. (Fate, I’m looking at you.) Rumor has it we’ll see some rather high profile crossover events, too, which I’m really excited for. (I know Japan got a NieR: Automata event, which I’m really hoping we get, too.)
Worth the wait
Star Ocean: Anamnesis is taking up much more of my time than expected. I didn’t have the highest expectations, even after a few minutes with the Japanese release, but I keep coming back to it more and more. Between this and the other games I’ve featured here, I’ve got more than enough to soak up the minutes of the day. Highly recommended for fans of the Star Ocean series or action-oriented RPGs.
– Fresh on the heels of Anime Expo, Fate/Grand Order is celebrating its 1-Year Anniversary with Summer Festival 2018! Login for extra rewards and half-cost AP!
– Girls’ Frontline is celebrating the summer with its Summer Holiday event until 7/23. Log-in and work towards your “waifu’s” swimsuit costume!
– Granblue Fantasy is running Unite and Fight again until 7/23. Get in there and grind for your Eternals!
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