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Star Ocean: First Departure Review

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★★★★★

First released in Japan over a decade ago, this first instalment of the Star Ocean series has never appeared outside its homeland, the new PSP rehash finally giving Western fans of Square Enix’s blend of science-fiction and fantasy role-playing a chance to see where it all began. But while there’s fun to be had playing one of the titles that helped build the foundations for today’s most ambitious RPGs, First Departure pales in comparison to other adventures recently released on Sony’s handheld.

The most traditional of traditional RPGs, First Departure follows the familiar formula of exploration, character development and combat, a well-worn routine that’s initially warm and welcoming as you strike out on the road to saving the world, but soon becomes bland and repetitive, especially as the characters and situations lack the depth found in contemporary role-players. The real-time combat – one of the few elements that sets this apart from other vintage RPGs – is also problematic as most skirmishes amount to little more than hammering the attack button as your hero automatically locks onto targets, giving players little incentive to use the special powers they’ve worked so hard to unlock.

For hardcore fans of Square Enix’s classic RPGs, First Departure is a fascinating experience and one that shows how one of the world’s most popular genres came into being. But just as studying Latin yields an interesting insight into the development of language, this outdated swashbuckler will hold little appeal for all but the most dedicated fanboy.

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