Star Ocean: Second Evolution review

  • Two storylines to play through
  • Beautifully detailed environments
  • More challenging than Star Ocean 1
  • Battles are too simplistic
  • Too talky even by RPG standards
  • Gameplay identical to Star Ocean 1

Although Star Ocean: First Departure just came out this past October, Square-Enix has already cranked out a port of its sequel with Star Ocean: Second Evolution. Gameplay-wise, the two are absolutely identical, so if you just recently played through First Departure, unless you absolutely loved it to death, we recommend giving yourself a little buffer time so you don’t get tired of the formula.

Unlike the first Star Ocean though, at the start you get to choose between two distinct characters: Claude, the Earthling from a technologically advanced space-traveling federation, or Rena, the magically-powered country bumpkin from a small town on an undeveloped planet. While the parts of the story where their paths converge will be pretty much the same regardless of whom you choose (they’re both in your party for a good chunk of the game), there are portions that are completely different depending on the character you pick. For example, Claude and Rena split up at one point to rescue a bunch of children from bandits, and depending on who your main character is, you’ll have a different perspective and fight completely different boss battles.

The real-time battles are on the button-mashy side, with auto- or semi-auto targeting only, and attacks mapped to the X button, with two magic attacks mapped to the shoulder buttons for each character. You only actually control the main character - everyone else in your party is AI-controlled, with some basic tactical and formation settings to choose from. One gripe that carries over from Star Ocean 1 is that the tactical settings for AI should have been way more robust and detailed – many of the options are completely useless as-is, causing characters to burn through MP way too quickly or otherwise waste resources. We would have really liked to be able to fine-tune things a lot more, to set specific conditions for specific actions, like when specifically to heal and so forth.

The battle system may be a bit too simplistic for some, but Second Evolution has a lot of things going for it to make up for its button mashing, like a great fantasy/sci-fi story and an addicting skill system. If you’ve played First Departure, we can best describe this as a very similar experience (with all the same flaws and strong points), but with way more content to explore – this game is huge. Like any respectable RPG, not only are there plenty of sidequests in addition to the main story, but there are a ton of nooks and crannies to explore with hidden gems meant only for the hardcore. All of this, along with two distinct storylines to play through, and Star Ocean: Second Evolution is quite formidable among other PSP offerings. Unless you hated First Departure, this one is definitely worth a try. 

Jan 16, 2009

More Info

Release date: Jan 20 2009 - PSP (US)
Available Platforms: PSP
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Square Enix
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Alcohol Reference, Tobacco Reference, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending


  • tirrandir - January 17, 2009 8:23 a.m.

    I know it's not the best thing ever, but this is EASILY my favorite RPG of all time. I don't know why. I played all the way through the original on PS1 about three times. I really wish I had a PSP right now, because I'd be all over this. Oh well. Here's hoping Star Ocean 4 is like SO2.
  • Hunter2458 - January 17, 2009 2:58 a.m.

    -continues to play Tales of Phantasia (Japanese PSP Translation Rom) and Tales of Destiny (PSX) on his PSP-
  • MakoMW - February 14, 2009 10:43 p.m.

    I've never been drawn to the Star Ocean series before, but was after a decent RPG for my PSP and thought I'd give it a go. Haven't regretted it. Great game.
  • Amnesiac - January 17, 2009 3:41 a.m.

    Got First Departure for Christmas. I'll finish that before I get this.

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