|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Square Enix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 21, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Unlike many other Square Enix RPG titles, First Departure eschews the turn-based battle system found in games like Final Fantasy for a more action-heavy format. Combat plays out in real time with you controlling the main characters and the others in your party acting in accordance with adjustable pre-set behaviors. You can freely roam through the chaos, while attacking with a simple button press, using equipped skills with the L and R triggers, casting spells, or easily managing items as needed. Tapping the Circle button pauses the action to let you switch between characters on the fly, and if you fall in battle, control will automatically jump to the next living character in your party.
The problem with battle lies mainly in the automatic targeting system. Tapping the X button will send you running towards the nearest foe to swipe at them. You can only hit them from the left or right side and it's too easy to get stuck in between two foes who take turns pummeling you from both ends. Also, your teammates' A.I. isn't the greatest. They'll tend to blindly rush into battle and get clobbered pretty quickly. Fortunately, most encounters don't take very long. The auto-target also ensures you'll likely settle into the routine of mashing buttons during most non-major battles. Boss encounters typically require some measure of strategy, but the battle system seems a little rough around the edges at times.
Going into Star Ocean: First Departure with the expectation of finding an adventure that's in line with current generation RPG fare is going to result in disappointment, but the strong genre mechanics are all here, well-oiled, and mostly in good working order. This classic remake is a great update of a solid old school game, and it gives hardcore JRPG and Star Ocean fans the opportunity to revisit the early days of a series that has come a long way over the years. Is it groundbreaking? No. However, that shouldn't stop you from taking a trip to the past.
CCC Staff Contributor