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Ashley Winchester Nov 12, 2014

I've pondered this question to myself over the last few years and have yet to replay the game and actually answer it for myself... but does Star Ocean 3 still stand up?

I should probably admit that this is the game I bought my PS2 for... which retroactively sounds terrible in this day and age.

Anyway, what brought this up was I am preparing to write a small blurb about the Second Story OST, which got me thinking about the review of the game in GamePro magazine. I subscribed to GamePro through a good chunk of the PS1 days and they kind of slammed SO2 in the graphics and sound departments which got me thinking about how it compares to SO3 and what the PS2 allowed them to do over the PS1.

As for knocking SO2 for its graphics... I have to wonder if this is really fair when considering the battle system. As anyone here who has played it knows battles in that game can get really hectic (especially late game when you have the best Killer Moves) and the game does manage to keep its performance pretty consistent IMO.  But I wonder, could the PS1 really have handled that much action with better graphics? Given everything the look of everything in combat (I won't say that it is "pretty") seems/may be a necessary evil and the reviewer may have not been considering that.

Which brings up to SO3 and it's combat. I have to wonder, even today and having been away from it a long time, I am still kind of star struck with how good and fast the combat in SO3 was. I mean I can help but still be impressed with that leap over the PS1 even though you only have three characters instead of four. Does anyone else feel that way? To be honest I was pretty damn impressed with how much fireworks was going on on screen back then... and the fact that slowdown ironically only seemed to occur in other areas like the world map.

Musically, GamePro's review called SO2's music "sonically stank" and gave it a 1.5 out of 4. Now am I correct in thinking this is one of those scores (much like Breath of Fire III's jazz laden experience) were video game music enthusiasts have a higher opinion of this soundtrack than the general game playing public? I mean personally I can see what people see in BOFIII's music but in that case I can kind of see what its detractor's see more... but when it comes to SO2 I'm more in the VGM community's camp. I'm not saying that one side is wrong and the other is right (or vice versa) but I'm a little confused where SO2 stands. I don't really think it qualify as a cult classic, does it?

Anyway, sorry for rambling but if anyone can give me their input I think I would be more equipped to write this small blurb and with less hesitation.

Also, I should probably mention: I own Star Ocean 4, haven't played it. I've heard the soundtrack and no, I have no idea what Sakuraba was trying to do on it other than kind of make me feel that SO3's synth has become kind of dated.

Amazingu Nov 12, 2014

I had the misfortune of playing the first print of the JP version of SO3 on one of the first PS2 models, which turned out to be a lethal combination (this is a noted phenomenon apparently), so I had crazy bugs and crashes ALL the time.
I still liked the game enough to get quite far in it though, until I stopped playing because of a ridiculous difficulty spike.

Never really got into SO2.

As for the SO3 soundtrack, back in the day I was REALLY into it, but I find it hard to get excited about when I listen to it nowadays. It just hasn't aged very well IMO, contrary to Sakuraba's other works like, say, Valkyrie Profile.

GoldfishX Nov 12, 2014

SO2 (game) - One of my favorite RPG's of all time. It kind of got passed over, as it came out in the summer right alongside Lunar and then FF8 hit in the fall, so it got lost in the shuffle for some people. That final boss can suck an egg though. And sadly, it felt like offensive spellcasters were useless by the end of the game.

SO2 (soundtrack) - My favorite Sakuraba work overall. It checks all the boxes of a good RPG soundtrack, while Sakuraba gets to be himself. It's really balanced and not always super-serious. Required listening. IMO, Sakuraba does more with his synth setups than he does when he transitioned to live instruments.

SO3 (game) - Didn't like it. I felt it needed an overworld and more than 3 characters with that type of battle system. I was also looking forward to this one for a long time leading up to it, so it was a huge letdown.

SO3 (music) - Some interesting tracks, but below average overall. I didn't care for meandering Sakuraba orchestral work and the battle theme is wretched.

Ashley Winchester Nov 12, 2014

Amazingu wrote:

I had the misfortune of playing the first print of the JP version of SO3 on one of the first PS2 models, which turned out to be a lethal combination (this is a noted phenomenon apparently), so I had crazy bugs and crashes ALL the time.

I've read up on this and was aware the original JP version had lots of issues. This is one case where I'm glad they delayed it and waited until Director's Cut came out and gave us that in the states.

Amazingu wrote:

As for the SO3 soundtrack, back in the day I was REALLY into it, but I find it hard to get excited about when I listen to it nowadays. It just hasn't aged very well IMO, contrary to Sakuraba's other works like, say, Valkyrie Profile.

GoldfishX wrote:

SO3 (music) - Some interesting tracks, but below average overall. I didn't care for meandering Sakuraba orchestral work and the battle theme is wretched.

Yeah, I've left most of SO3's music behind... I think I have eight tracks left out of three albums...? And yeah "Cutting Edge of Notion" can suck an egg... I still haven't gotten over how many times I heard that piece in 2004.

GoldfishX wrote:

SO2 (game) - ....And sadly, it felt like offensive spellcasters were useless by the end of the game.

Yeah, I like some of the game's spellcasters but fighters are much better by endgame. Offensive magic isn't really useful in the game much like BOFIII.

GoldfishX wrote:

SO2 (soundtrack) - My favorite Sakuraba work overall. It checks all the boxes of a good RPG soundtrack, while Sakuraba gets to be himself. It's really balanced and not always super-serious. Required listening. IMO, Sakuraba does more with his synth setups than he does when he transitioned to live instruments.

This is pretty much how I feel about it. The battle themes for the game's main antogonists kind of miss with me (I'm not entirely gung-ho on Sakuraba's progressive tenancies) but the soundtrack does mainly check off all the right boxes.

student41269 Nov 13, 2014

Remarkably I still haven't played SO2, though it's been on my backlog list for a long time. I should get around to it next year.

I was a big fan of SO3, despite the fact it was my first Tri-Ace game and therefore my first exposure to their crazy difficulty curves, all-too-easily missable scenes/characters, and impenetrable crafting side quests. I found the world, lore, and the space opera feel pretty absorbing, and even the much-maligned twist later in the game worked for me. Great combat too, as I recall, but again it was difficult to work out what was going on sometimes without a guide.

I loved the soundtrack at the time, then forgot about it for a while, but eventually rediscovered it and it's become a favourite. I skip Bitter Dance every time for reasons that should be obvious, and there are some phoned-in pieces for the dramatic cutscenes, but on the whole I find it very strong - the atmospheric and melancholy stuff in particular. The final boss music Highbrow is a monster. Damn, even the short track that only plays once when you make the initial settings for the game is beautiful (Fly By Contact).

I'd like to replay the game one day, preferably as an undub. I don't see why it wouldn't stand up well against most of today's fare.

Datschge Nov 19, 2014 (edited Nov 19, 2014)

The Star Ocean series in general shows how the reputation of tri-Ace changed over time. All of them have silly plots and stupid characters (just the presentation changed vastly), the games are rather unpolished but filled with content and varied gameplay systems making for nice replay values and fun abusability, much of the music was rather heavily based around variations of a few themes (never been one of Sakuraba's strenght). What I was missing is them actually building and expanding on the previous systems instead rebuilding them from scratch every time which is why I felt tri-Ace lost its edge over the time. As far as old tri-Ace games go both S02 and 3 are nice examples for what I felt are typical tri-Ace games with plenty nifty but ultimately unpolished and underused ideas. Though for me the favourites always will be VP1 and 2 which are superior in all regards, in details and as wholes.

Soundtracks wise SO3 is still a standout for its sheer production value, which among Sakuraba's other works only Dark Souls 1 touched upon again. Compositionally and instruments choices wise the soundtrack is somewhat stuck between the sequencing style used before and the increasingly experted arranging/mixing style Sakuraba started using after which made for an odd balance for a lot of tracks.

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