Thursday, September 22, 2011

On Star Ocean 1&2 And Why They're So Fun to Break

So, I've been playing Star Ocean:  First Departure on PSP as I claimed I would do for my next PSP game and I've had a lot of fun with it.  As we all know, the sequel to the game, Star Ocean:  Second Departure (Or Second Story, depending on which version you prefer) was one of my gaming 'white whales' for quite some time until I learned to relax and enjoy the game rather than the grind.  So when I started First Departure, breaking the game was, well, not really close to my mind.  This was something new, different than SO2, so I didn't need to really try all the different tricks to break it into little pieces and control it.

But, well, these things happen sometimes and you don't intend for them to happen, but you're just playing and suddenly you've constructed Gods of Destruction who have access to a near limitless source of money and have the answer to infinite power (read:  fairly reliable level-ups from one encounter) at your fingertips.  And you didn't really mean to do it, but, well, you did it and it'd be a shame to let that go to waste, you know?  For those of you who don't want to learn how to absolutely wreck Star Ocean 1 (and, for the most part, 2), perhaps skip the next couple of paragraphs.

The skill lists in Star Ocean 1 and 2 are largely intechangeable in both name and effect, so knowing that there's a skill in SO2 that, when purchased (up to a max of 10 times, as with all the skills) reduces the overall skill point cost of all other skills, I couldn't help but, y'know, save my SP up for that.  With that bought, and by that point I had access to all the purchasable skills, I used the rest of my SP bounty on skills that just so happened to unlock Train, which, when activated lowers your characters overall abilities slightly in exchange for more XP gained for each battle.  I guess, before I go on too much, I should sort of explain the skill system as it is in Star Ocean 1 and 2.

You see, it's sort of a three-tier system:  You buy skills with skill points after you've learned said skills from different skill guilds scattered across the land.  They sell you different skill-sets (there's four sets and three levels of each; each set offers a few different skills within) for Fol (money) and then, as I said, you purchase skills with SP which you gain, unsurprisingly, from leveling up.  After purchasing some compatible skills, you start unlocking specialties.  Specialties are sort of super-skills that let you make different items, whereas the regular skills basically only offer passive bonuses.  (Knife, for example, raises your strength with every skill level.)  Train is an example of a specialty since it, well, does something, same as Alchemy, Customization, and Music.  (All of which you should be interested in.)

Then it goes a level further with Super Specialties which are gained after a certain majority of the group learns the proper specialties.  Super Specialties, because of that, use the whole party, rather than just the individual and are harder (slightly) to get to Level 10 because of it, but these are your major bread and butter.  Orchestra (the next level of Music) will really help you in Item Creation, Group Appraising will let you raise prices at stores (when you want to sell something, thus making more money) or lower prices (when you want to buy things at a lower cost) at will, and Blacksmith will let you make some really outstanding armor.  These are just examples, of course, as there's quite a few.

Anyways, after getting the Train specialty on everyone, I just so happened to invest the right way to get my Super Specialty, Enlightenment, up to Level 10.  Enlightenment, as with Train, lowers your abilities while active (did I mention you can deactivate Train?  Well, you can.  Same with this.  Think of them like DBZ-Style Limiters) in exchange with netting you a good deal more SP per leveling up.  A string of coincidences, you see.  It was all very surprising to me, honest.  That served me well for....well, the most of the game, really.  I'm in the final stretch currently and will likely be able to finish it as early as tomorrow or as late as Sunday, depending on when I'm bothered to actually play it again.  And when I stop grinding.  Oh, right, the grinding.  Again, purists may want to skip, skip skip.

So, remember how I mentioned Alchemy as a Specialty?  Yeah, well, it's probably one of the more OP Specialties there is, topped only by Music and a couple others.  With a simple chunk of iron (which you can buy for 150 Fol) and a little luck, you can turn that iron into gold, mithril, and other various gemstones and ores all the way up to the mythological Philosopher's Stone.  Provided you have level 10 Alchemy, an item that will up the success of Alchemy, and the required talents (which I'm not even going to go into) you can create a few Philosopher's Stones out of every batch of 20 iron you buy.  Moreso if you use Music and even more if you use Orchestra.  Why go to the trouble, you might ask?  Because a single Philosopher's Stone will sell for 300,000 Fol at base.  Upping the cost with Group Appraisal takes that to the higher end of ~490K per stone.  I'm sure you can guess where this is going.

With this untold wealth, it's easy enough to go off and buy some nice accessories and some nice instruments (provided you haven't bought them all already) and use your resident music-lover to compose some musical pieces for them all, particularly the Silver Trumpet, which will cost you a pretty Fol.  After writing The Devil's Aria, you can perform it at any time on the world map, which will summon a boss encounter similar to that person's Music Specialty level.  8 is the sweet spot here, because with that, you'll summon a rather large phoenix that can go down like a bitch and net you 91k experience in the doing.  Over and over again.  I remind you that because of Train and Enlightenment, I'm not even using my characters at their fullest.

The process is rather similar in Star Ocean 2, though I'm not quite sure what specifics are different.  I assure you, some of them are, but that's really the bulk of it right there.  And, while many RPGs offer you the ability to become OP as hell, much as I described, somehow in SO it's different.  I'm not quite sure if it's because you're OP as hell with sealed off ability or if it's just the way you can just become as death pretty much with only a few hours work, but it's really, really satisfying.  And part of the reason why I never could beat SO2, because it was that feeling that I was going for but never really got until this last playthrough.  This time, with SO1, though....I was ready for the game.

The game was not ready for me.

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