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Retro Fire

Written: 3.31.13
Acquired: 1.30.13
Status: Cart only
Price: $100

Pub: Enix7.19.96
Dev: Tri-Ace48 MEGS

After wrapping up Tales of Phantasia, there was only one game that I could play next: Tri-Ace's Super NES follow-up, STAR OCEAN. I guess Tri-Ace only does it big, because Star Ocean also weighs in at a hefty 48 megs. For years I had heard the praises sung for this game. They say that it's one of the best RPGs not only on the SNES but of the entire 16-bit era. With ToP being such a great experience, I had very high hopes for Star Ocean. Was it able to live up to the hype?  Let's see
For years I'd heard the hype. Nothing beats finding out first-hand!

                                       FINALLY BREAKIN' THAT CRAZY ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR MARK

Lately, there has been an outpouring of talk about the current state of retro video games. The prices are skyrocketing through the roof, particularly for the SNES side of things. You want manuals and boxes, too?  Then be prepared to fork over an arm and a leg. It seems every other week someone's posting about the crazy astronomical prices. And everytime I see such posts, I'm only reminded of how lucky I was getting back into the SNES scene way back in January 2006. Back then, 95% of SNES games, cart only, commanded up to $40 consistently (or less). The one game that did run me over $40 was Harvest Moon, and that came with the manual. $40 was my limit, and I managed to get games like Earthbound, Ninja Gaiden Trilogy, Aero Fighters and Dracula X for $40 or under. Nowadays, good luck getting many of these games for under 40. For Star Ocean, it marked the first time ever in my life that I paid triple digits for a video game. During my Saturn days, I prided myself on never breaking the three figure mark. I scored games like Radiant Silvergun, Panzer Dragoon Saga and even Psychic Assassin Taromaru for under $100. The Star Ocean repro is hard to come by; very few people offer to make it as it's a hassle of a reproduction to make. With all the great bargains I've scored throughout my gaming career, I felt it was OK to splurge this one time and finally break the magical $100 mark. Now let's see if it was worth it...


Honestly, I have no clue what these two things are, but they sound impressive

SNES has two 48 meg monsters and they're both RPGs. Go figure!

                                         Tri-Ace's follow-up to Tales of Phantasia, but is it even better?

I found the intro very cinematic, and it helped to pull me into it

                                       YOU PLANET!!!  [Wait, why are you still employed here???  -Ed.]

Someone, or something, is blowing up planets. That can't be good

                                       SIR, HOLD ON!  IT'S ABOUT TO GET REAL BUMPY UP IN HERE!

Is anyone else reminded of one, RENDERING RANGER: R2, here?

                                       The loud music drowns it out, but you do hear WHAT THE HELL!

There lived Ratix Farrence but is now known as Steve... of course

                                       "You know, man, to break up the monotony of Clatos a little bit"

"I wouldn't call it MONOTONY myself... more like... tranquility..."

Dorn: You're such a cheeseball, damn. Hey, what do ya think of Milly? Give it to me straight, man

                                        You know, I have a lot of respect for her. She's cool in my book

Steve: Uh, uh, Dorn...

                                        Dorn: Dude, WHAT?!  Can't ya let a brother finish up his story!?


                                         Dorn: Uhhh, ummm... no one in particular!  *nervous chuckle*

Milly: C'mon now Dorn. You always talk a good game but you never can back it up, can ya? Be a man and tell me straight to my face!  PUNK ASS

Dorn: Shaddup Steve!

                                       Steve: I'm sure it'll be another calm, peaceful day... yes indeedy...




Wuh oh!  Whatever that commotion is, it can't be good. Let's go!

Lacky 1: C'mon!  Let's make the boss proud!

Lacky 2: Today we're going down in history!

Lacky 1: OK yeah sure but first quit yer yappin' and get down from there

Lacky 2: Hey just 'coz you're Lacky 1 doesn't make ya the boss of me

                                       Lackey 1: I told you those parkour lessons would come in handy!

The crew spots the two lackeys, and we have our very first battle. You will notice that the battle system is different from any other SNES RPG you've encountered, but more on that a bit later

Steve: Hey Dorn, next time wish for a million fol instead, eh?

Baird: SO YOU are the mighty group that will take our empire down?  HAHA! Don't make me laugh

Steve: How about we make your tombstone instead?

Dorn: Steve, leave the trash talkin' to me, OK?

Baird: HEY!  This ain't comedy hour here. Now I suggest you quit wasting your breath and instead worry about me!

                                       Milly: Uh boys, can we please NOT agitate the big bad ugly guy?

It took me a while to get the hang of the battle system. First you click
'A' and up comes arrows. Then you select the bad guy you wish to strike. Hit A again for your main hero to then attack said target

Part of me can't help but wonder what if it was LTTP style...

                                       It has its pros / cons. Enemies move fast and you have to, as well

It's nice when you slice 'em from one side, and your ally attacks on the other side. Brings back memories of Secret of Mana. When killed, the enemies leave behind gold (known as Fol) and experience points

Nothing beats sandwich attacking the bad guys

                                         Being adept at using these special skills for kills is mandatory

Ah, listen to the gentle pitter-patter of rain just outside...

                                       I love how good RPGs can sweep you away to a magical universe

Dorn: How about you, Steve?  Any thoughts?

                                       You gotta love character development cutscenes such as this one

Steve: Sorry, there's just something heavy weighing on my heart

                                        Ever get that ominous feeling... a premonition?  Our hero does

... where hatred and violence is replaced with peace and harmony

                                            No genre delivers atmospheric night time scenes like RPGs

One of the unique things about Star Ocean is that instead of the typical world map you'd get in most RPGs, here you travel across these pathways. As you can imagine, the world is much smaller and compact. It took me a while to get used to. Somehow, it works

It's very similar to what we saw in Secret of Mana

Long range special moves include projectiles while short range specials are deadly swordplay combos

                                                            Better recruit some allies fast, buddy!

Your very first special skill is the Rift Wave. It creates a shockwave around you, protecting you temporarily while damaging any unlucky fool standing in its way. Effective mastery is crucial

Essentially, they act as your hero's magic skills

                                               This game is loaded and crammed with detail, all right

One second the waves are flowing toward the ocean...

                                                And the next they are crashing onto the shore. Lovely

Milly: Where were you?

Steve: I was at the beach

[Hey I like that Ed guy... he's my kind of guy, that Ed -Ed.]

                                       Milly: Cut the nonsense, Steve. This is serious!  Come take a look

Early on, you receive this message from the elder
of Cool, and it effectively sets our game in motion. People are being turned into statues, and it's up to you to solve the issue or else this outbreak may reach your town, as well as the rest of the world

What, or who, could have caused this horrific outbreak??

A cold and chilly night overtakes the small quaint town of CLATOS...

                                               Dorn: Don't worry. I'm sure there'll be a happy ending...

[Steve acting really weird?  Oh that's just the norm -Ed.]

                                                      A pigeon brings to you a life-altering letter... naturally

Dorn: Wow... well, I think we oughta respect a dying man's last wish. You guys heard the man. Let's stay right here in Clatos, yeah?


Steve: Did you contract the disease or sumthin?

                                          Dorn: Ha!  Disease?!  Me?  You so fun-nay, Steve *COUGHS*

They have no choice
but to scale to the top
of Mount Metox. They
will risk life and limb
trying to find the cure

Talk about getting stoned... [HAR HAR -Ed.]

Maltos: Is that Steve and Dorn over there?

Steve: Right here, boss!

Dorn: Sir

Maltos: Come closer why won't 'cha, so I can get a better look

                                         Dorn: Oh, we just fine right here, sir. Yeah we good back here

Later on, Milly and Dorn have a little moment in the moonlight, but when Dorn crumples over out of pain and discomfort, Milly runs off to find her man, Steve. Hey, I'm liking this story...

Not true at all. Look at my black book [You don't have one -Ed.]

Now, you not only have to save Milly's dad, Maltos, but also Dorn. Once at the top of Mt. Metox, you'll run into some Federation folks from the future. It'll be a quest to save the world from a grand intergalatic war. No pressure huh kid?

                                       They say in grave times that boys go to sleep and wake up... men

Talk about mooning someone [Boy, are you sure clever... -Ed.]

                                                Our heroes soon meet crew members from the future

[Can we leave Steve behind in '89?  Let's work sumthin' out -Ed.]

                                       [I have watched enough movies to know a thing or two, see -Ed.]

Along the way you'll meet different kings asking you for favors. A lot of them appear in this isometric fashion, which is highly reminiscent of Mario RPG

When people are praying for your demise, you know you bad

Of course, you won't have to go at it alone. There are a bevy of characters you can recruit. And deciding which ones to take on is all part of the strategy/fun

                                         Different party members do affect the game in a variety of ways

Pretty soon, you'll be such a hit that you will have your very own groupie!

Cyus: Alright pal, how about we step outside and handle this?

By the way, this game hands down has the best castle entrance of any 16-bit RPG I've seen. It looks epic in scale, and I love how you can see birds flying just overhead

                                         These stunning visuals helped to bring the game to vibrant life

Some people consider this to be the 'spiritual sequel' to Tales of Phantasia. It's also made by Tri-Ace, and you can clearly see ToP's influence in Star Ocean

Look no further than the returning emotion / expression icons

Indeed a lot can happen, as you can customize your party depending on certain actions you take, or don't take. Every time you level up, you gain skill points. These points can then be allocated to many different skill categories, such as knowledge, sense and technique. The game gives one plenty to do... from compounding items to smithing weapons, the insane amount of choices may be daunting to a noob

                                           Star Ocean definitely had some nice innovations for its time

They each have different talents. How will you allocate skill points?  Options options...

Here's what the status screen looks like. It's loaded with information. Heck, it even tells you what's their favorite food!

                                                 And even that piece of information has great value...

There are a total of 12 characters, and you can have 8 at any given time. Only 4 will fight, however. Plenty of choices to go around. You can switch from any of the 4 in battle, although it's cumbersome doing so. You can also adjust CPU AI tendencies, but much like ToP, such a system has its limits and it is not perfect by a long shot. I felt the characters were a little flat, and fell a bit short of the interesting mark, which made things slightly disappointing. So it didn't hook me like ToP
At the very least, you gotta appreciate Tri-Ace's efforts to innovate

                                       FACEBOOK!  ARGH!  SHEEP, YOU ARE ALL MINDLESS SHEEP!


Thankfully, Tri-Ace learned from their previous Tales of Phantasia outing, which featured an insane amount of random battles. Here in Star Ocean, the random encounters are far less frequent. It's also a far shorter game than ToP

ToP took me a ridiculous 43 hours while this only ran 26 hours

                                                                BRING THE (PRIVATE) ACTION...

Another unique feature to this game is the ability to enter towns apart from the rest of your party. Doing so will lend itself to seeing different cutscenes and special actions that you would not be able to see or produce otherwise. It's a rather brilliant idea for character development and extending the game's longevity. Pure old school RPGers may feel slightly overwhelmed by its seemingly "endless" choices, but "sandbox" RPGers will eat it up. There is no shortage of things to do in this game          I WANNA SCREAM, AND SHOUT, AND LET IT ALL OUT


So, which one do I prefer? That's an easy call for me

Read on to find out... though I think you already know...

                                                                    WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

                                       Compiled below are varying opinions of this 48 MEG MONSTER

  • Until I discovered Star Ocean, I felt that Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy III stood alone as the last great 16-bit RPGs. Only one hour into the game... I knew that whether I would end up liking it or not, Star Ocean was the last gasp, the final relic of the 2D RPG era
    -Bobo the King

  • Honestly, coming from the team that developed Tales of Phantasia, I was expecting something as good as, if not better that ToP. I was disappointed, but to be fair, Star Ocean has its own unique features that serves to redeem its weaker areas. It's a beautiful, lovingly programmed game that will be forever immortalized for years to come in the hearts of gamers. It's obvious that it was developed by a professional programming team. Though Star Ocean deserves to be evaluated independent of its close relative, ToP, in my opinion, there is no worse game than one that promises much and delivers little -Standalonechild

  • Star Ocean is what many people would consider the last great RPG of the "Golden Age" in the 16-bit console era. Created in 1996 by Tri-Ace, an offshoot of Wolf Team who had created Tales of Phantasia a year before, the game would only be released in Japan and unavailable to the English speaking world until DeJap Translations released a translation at the tail end of 2003. It's fun for what it is and it is enjoyable, it's just that there's always something niggling away at you which prevents you from truly getting the experience Tri-Ace wanted you to. Its innovation is to be admired, if not the execution -Vermillion

  • I liked Tales of Phantasia better than Star Ocean by a fair margin. Star Ocean just lacks that magical something for me. It's a decent RPG, but it's nothing super special -Faltain1

  • For those who had an SNES in its day and look back wistfully at the days when RPGs
    were inexplicably more fun to play... it can be sad to think that there are only so many
    RPGs from that era to play before they are all exhausted. Star Ocean is great news for
    fans of the golden era of the genre, as it provides a title few Americans have played but
    has the look and feel of a bona fide 16-bit RPG with the richness of Chrono Trigger -EB

  • Star Ocean is the greatest SNES RPG westerners never got to play. In terms of its scope and design, it blows even Chrono Trigger and the Final Fantasy games out of the water. With its cutting edge skill system, superb graphics, memorable music, variable endings, voice acting (in an SNES game!), hectic combat, secret characters, and generally sublime gameplay, Star Ocean is that rare peerless RPG that serves as a benchmark to all other games in the genre proclaiming "This is what is possible. This is what can be done" -JQC

As you can see, opinions wildly vary on Star Ocean. While some claim it's the best thing since sliced bread and even better than the likes of Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy III, there are many others who will contest it's full of great ideas BUT the execution leaves something to be desired. Obviously, everyone's mileage will vary. The best thing is discovering for yourself where you stand


After finishing Tales of Phantasia, I knew there was no better game that I could play next than Star Ocean. The two Tri-Ace RPGs share some things in common, yet still they are vastly different at the same time. There's a lot more to do in this game, in terms of innovative new quirks, such as the Private Action system, skill points and the ability to recruit several allies. ToP was much more simplistic by comparison. The visuals in Star Ocean are stunningly detailed and brilliant, from footprint tracks in the sand to curtains flapping on a windy day. The voices are an elegant touch and the music is even better than ToP's. The battle system is not as fun, though. The fighting's fast and furious, and I'd have preferred to see a Link to the Past style system once you're warped to the battle field, rather than a tap-tap fest
Be sure to play this one in the dead still of night with the light off

It's difficult not to compare these two games. I have to say I do prefer ToP. Its world drew me in more, I found the characters more interesting and the overall experience was just more memorable. As much as I enjoyed my time with Star Ocean, it didn't haunt me long after I completed it. Not like how ToP did. I appreciate Tri-Ace trying out different things, but it felt a tad too much for me at times. It begs to ask the question if the game gave you TOO much to do. Who will you recruit? How will you allocate the points for the skills system?  Will you do Private Action here, or there? While having the choice is sweet, it can and did feel a bit overwhelming at times. This, of course, will vary from gamer to gamer. Personally, I love ToP's pure simplicity. As well as the characters, who really endeared themselves to me. Star Ocean's characters, despite having way more, seem way less intriguing to me. It is definitely a solid RPG, and I do not have any regrets forking over a Benjamin Franklin for it, but for my money it just cannot touch Tales of Phantasia. Nevertheless, Star Ocean is ambitious, innovative and a must-play for all Super Nintendo RPG freaks. Chalk up yet another very good game for an epic system that, pardon the pun, stands the test of time (^_^)

Graphics: 10
Sound: 9.5
Gameplay: 8.5
Longevity: 8

Overall: 8.5

Double Silver Award

                                       OK man, that's just wrong. And taken WAAAAY outta context -_-

Now through an unknown force, a totally new age is about to begin.
Is it God's will, or the irony of fate?  And still mankind makes its way
where no one has gone before. People say the universe is a star ocean...