Star Ocean: The Second Story R offers a crash course in JRPG visual history

Four pixelated people run through a 3D city in a screenshot from Star Ocean: Second Story R
(Image credit: Square Enix)

Star Ocean: The Second Story R is undoubtedly a gorgeous remake, but its new demo seemingly offers a crash course in JRPG visual history.

Spotted by K’eeg on Twitter, the remake actually includes character portraits from all three versions of the classic game. As you can see below, there’s an option to switch between the portrait designs from 1998’s original Star Ocean 2, 2008’s PSP remake, and this year’s upcoming re-release. I'm glad to see that Rena's ears grew back after a temporary shrinkage.

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K’eeg remarks that it’s “extremely funny” to spot which portrait is from which version. That’s certainly true since each portrait is almost a time capsule looking back at three generations of JRPGs, or at least three generations of anime design tropes. We have the optimistic early anime drawings from the PS1, the cutesy chibi design from the PSP that resembles every anime child from the mid-2000s, and the incredibly detailed portrait from the forthcoming re-release. I love them all for archival purposes, but honestly, Rena’s pointy ears (literally) peaked 25 years ago.

Outside of the menu portraits, The Second Story R emulates an art style that is very much from our current time. The game mixes 3D backgrounds with 2D sprites, almost recreating that beautiful “2DHD” style that Square Enix pioneered with Octopath Traveller. 

Star Ocean: The Second Story R releases on PC via Steam, PS5, PS4, and Nintendo Switch on November 2nd. The demo is available on all platforms, so you can switch between (and judge) every character’s portraits for yourself. 

Check out our new games of 2023 guide to see everything else coming out this year.

Freelance contributor

Kaan freelances for various websites including Rock Paper Shotgun, Eurogamer, and this one, Gamesradar. He particularly enjoys writing about spooky indies, throwback RPGs, and anything that's vaguely silly. Also has an English Literature and Film Studies degree that he'll soon forget.