I started Star Ocean: First Departure for the PSP. Read my initial impressions.
I've got to admit...as much of an RPG afficiando as I think of myself as, I've never dived very deep into the Star Ocean series. I've purchased The Second Story, A Time to Remember, and The Last Hope along with First Departure, but I've never played any of them before. Given that I was sitting around bored at 1:00 in the morning, and I'd just pulled my PSP out of the tote bag it's been in for the last four months, I decided it would be a good time to give First Departure a try.
The first thing I noticed were the anime scenes. These scenes are gorgeous! The colors are vibrant and crisp on the PSP's screen, and it really has a high-quality feel all around. These anime sequences feature great voice acting, which is something that's always hit-or-miss as far as anime is concerned. Furthermore, it would have been easy for the developers to take every opportunity to throw in these anime sequences, but instead the developers use them sparingly and only at key points throughout. This makes these scenes all the more rewarding when you get to one of them.
The story, from the hour and a half that I've been playing the game, is a compelling one. I don't want to give any spoilers, but I've basically spent the first hour and a half getting familiar with the characters and starting on a journey which I sure is going to be an epic one. RPG fans will understand the importance of a great, gripping story, and so far as I can tell, First Departure doesn't disappoint.
The combat system will be a bit awkward at first to players - such as myself - who are accustomed to Final Fantasy style combat. This time around it occurs in real-time, giving the player control of one character at a time, moving around and attacking with magic and weapons in a system similar to the Tales games. You are given free reign to switch between the characters at your whim, and while you're controlling one character, the other two act based on preset tactics that you can assign and change any time you're out of combat. This combat system is much more involved than a Final Fantasy, turn-based system, which can be a thrill or a burden. This type of combat doesn't allow the player time to set down the PSP for even a moment; you've got to be constantly in control, because otherwise enemies will just attack you while you're standing still.
The presentation in First Departure is phenominal. The visuals are a nice nod to the old-school origins of the game; this isn't fancy, fully 3D like Crisis Core. This is a crisp, nicely rendered 2D with an isometic camera. The audio is equally impressive, really capturing the mood of what's going on at any given time. The only problem I had with the game is that a few of the cut-scenes ran on a little longer than I'd like them to given that the game is for a portable system, but it's a minor setback.
First Departure so far seems to be a great PSP game, one that is inviting and friendly, cutesy and yet serious. The emotional undertones contained in just the first hour and a half are a testiment to how well crafted the story is. Overall, if you're a fan of RPGs, you could do a whole lot worse than to give Star Ocean: First Departure a try.