We'd argue that the original Star Ocean The Second Story is a bit of a classic — but when people think of iconic PS1 RPGs, it's rarely the first title that springs to mind. Nevertheless, Square Enix is remaking the adventure all these years later as Star Ocean The Second Story R for PS5 and PS4. To get additional insight into the project's creation and what's actually new in this rebirthed RPG, we snagged a short and sweet interview with development producer and director Yuichiro Kitao and producer Kei Komaki.
Push Square: To start with, can you tell us what you and the development team wanted to achieve with Star Ocean The Second Story R?
Yuichiro Kitao: When we started working on the development of Star Ocean The Second Story R, we were motivated by the desire for players to discover and learn more about this masterpiece, Star Ocean The Second Story — whether they had played the original in the 25 years since its release, or whether they were completely unfamiliar with the Star Ocean series. Our goal with this remake was to bring to life the memories of players who’d played the original all those years ago in a modern style, using new visuals that blended 2D pixel characters and 3D environments, while also laying out some game mechanics that make the gameplay experience even more enjoyable.
Can you give us an overview of what's new in this remake, in terms of gameplay?
Kitao: The combat is superficially quite similar to the original, but we improved the combat controls and game mechanics. The main features that we added to the combat system are the Break and Assault Action mechanics.
For the Break mechanic, each enemy has a set shield value, and when that value reaches zero, enemies are stunned, meaning that all attacks performed against them count as critical hits. This gives players the chance to wipe out nearby enemies in one fell swoop — players can then use this opportunity to dish out the type of combos that are only possible in this game to deal huge damage to enemies.
The Assault Action system, on the other hand, allows players to summon party members that have joined them on their journey into battle at any time. Summoned characters can perform quick actions, such as firing off attacks or healing party members, so incorporating Assault Actions into combos adds a new level of strategy to combat. Personally, I’m quite proud of how this mechanic helps to convey the feeling that your travelling party includes more characters than just the current battle party.
We also added Fast Travel to the field area, and we made an improvement to the Private Action feature from the original game, which allows you to dig a little deeper into conversations with NPCs — now, you can initiate Private Actions at any time from within a town.
The remake has an intriguing art direction, as it keeps the sprite-based characters but places them on top of 3D environments. Was creating this new style difficult? Where did the idea come from?
Kitao: The first thing I considered in coming up with this art style was trying to imagine, “what would the
sprite characters from Star Ocean The Second Story, a game that was released 25 years ago, look like if they came to the real world?” However, I knew that if I just stuck them into a 3D world as-is, then they wouldn’t be very interesting to look at, so we pulled off a few tricks to help them blend into their surroundings, such as using shaders to add depth to their bodies despite them being 2D characters, having the lighting interact with them, and having them cast realistic shadows.
As fans of the original Star Ocean The Second Story, we've always felt as though it's a little overlooked when talking about classic RPGs of that time. Do you think this remake could help give The Second Story the attention that it deserves, perhaps from people who missed out on the original game?
Kitao: Yes, we believe that that could happen. Even in Japan, it’s an extremely popular mainline title in the Star Ocean series, and even now, 25 years later, there are lots of fans in Japan, Europe, and North America who are looking forward to this release. I hope that newcomers will get their hands on the game as well, and that it will be a spark to ignite conversation around the wider reputation of the Star Ocean franchise.
Square Enix has been making a real effort to give older games a second chance in the spotlight, with remakes and remasters. Do you think it's important for older games to be revived in this way, especially when they're otherwise 'trapped' on old consoles?
Kei Komaki: Yes. I think that it is important. We have faith in the captivating stories, lovable characters, and enjoyable gameplay experiences that the Star Ocean series has to offer. And looking ahead, we hope that players on all platforms will continue to get their hands on Star Ocean games that they have never played before. We want to keep on making remakes that can be enjoyed by all kinds of players well into the future, and we hope to use the experience that we gain from this, as well as the feedback from players, to discover new Star Ocean experiences. That is our goal.
And finally, do you have anything you'd like to say to western Star Ocean fans, or RPG fans in general?
Kitao: Games that were released as long as 25 years ago tend to be considered part of their own "classics" category — but if something is a good game, I think we should just be talking about it as a good game. I hope that I will have more opportunities to work on other classic titles than just this one, and make small changes to bring them into a new era. I would love for as many players as possible to enjoy Star Ocean The Second Story R, so if anybody is intrigued, please check out the demo, which is available now.
Thanks to Kitao-san and Komaki-san for taking the time to answer our questions. Special thanks to Michael Bryant and the team at Square Enix for making this interview possible.
Are you looking forward to Star Ocean The Second Story R? Did you play the original game on PS1? Embark on a remade adventure in the comments section below.