Star Ocean: Blue Sphere (スターオーシャン ブルースフィア, Sutā Ōshan Burū Sufia?) is the Japan-exclusive direct sequel to Star Ocean: The Second Story, designed to be compatible with the original Game Boy and the Game Boy Color. Eight years later, it was remade for mobile phones. The text is colloquial with an emphasis on "sci-fi" jargon.
In Star Ocean: Blue Sphere, navigation of field, dungeon and interior environments takes place from a top-down perspective. Various actions can be performed in the field, such as jumping or interacting with objects, and taking photographs of enemies to build up a compendium. Private Actions are carried over from previous entries.
Regarding the battle system, enemies can be seen on the field. When engaged in combat, the screen changes to a side-scrolling view and retains real-time combat. The characters can only move left and right, and the majority of fighting is influenced through combos. Special arts and spells can be assigned to button combinations. In addition to standard attacks are character-specific finishing moves which deal high damage to enemies. Three party members face a single enemy, who have various body parts that can be attacked separately. A local multiplayer option is available: using the console's Game Link Cable, players can fight each other with their parties until one team falls, or exchange items.
Instead of experience points, each battle rewards the party with Skill Points (SP). SP are collected in a single pool shared between all playable characters, and can be allocated at the player's discretion. SP can be used to increase stats, or unlock and increase skills related to both character-specific moves or Field Actions. Skill growth is interconnected with Create Feats, a minigame where new items such as swords, restoratives or other types of items which can be equipped in battle once forged. The types of items forged depend on what skills are active with each character.
Set in S.D. 368 (A.D. 2454), after the defeat of the Ten Wise Men, all the characters have since moved on with their lives. Claude has invited Rena, Leon, and Precis to live on Earth with him. Ashton, Celine, Dias, Noel, Chisato, and Bowman remained behind on planet Expel.
For their part, Ernest and Opera are treasure hunting when their ship crash lands on planet Edifice. Opera manages to send out an S.O.S. to Precis, who rounds up the entire gang (sans Claude and Rena, who are on a Federation mission) in her self-built ship and heads to the planet. They are also mysteriously pulled down through the planet's atmosphere and crash-land. They decide to explore their surroundings and search for their missing comrades, hoping that Claude and Rena will eventually rescue them.
- Precis F. Neumann
- Leon D.S. Gehste
- Bowman Jeane
- Dias Flac
- Celine Jules
- Ashton Anchors
- Noel Chandler
- Chisato Madison
- Ernest Raviede
- Opera Vectra
- Rena Lanford
- Claude C. Kenny
The music was composed by Motoi Sakuraba: he created the tracks on a PC-9801 Composing since the Game Boy Color presented multiple limitations in cord numbers and quality. The battle theme, "Hand to Hand", was a track Sakuraba particularly remembered, as he tried to capture the momentum of battle despite the limited hardware. The music was released as the Star Ocean: Blue Sphere Arrange & Sound Trax: the first disc is an arrangement album of selected tracks, while the second is the complete in-game score.
Development on Blue Sphere began in 2000, lasting approximately one year. The installment was designed as a side story, inspired by the wish to fill the gap between the release of The Second Story and the in-development Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. The initial scenario had only three protagonists, but the cast was later expanded to sixteen. The battle system was an original creation, designed to work within the Game Boy Color's limited specifications while retaining the action-based system of the main series. The game uses a four megabyte cartridge, of which a third is used for dungeons.
The character designs were originally going to be created by artist Shinnosuke Hino. He ultimately stepped down early in production, and Mayumi Azuma—who had previously worked on the The Second Story manga—was brought in as a replacement. Hino's early work remained in the sprite art. The game's sound design received development help from tri-Crescendo. According to producer Yoshinori Yamagishi, the work environment for the production was so harsh that the programming staff collapsed from exhaustion, causing work on the programming to come to a temporary halt. Publicity was coordinated by Shuichi Kobayashi, a newcomer to Enix who would later go on to become producer for later Star Ocean entries.
Although the game was initially tentatively planned to be released in North America as well as in Japan, Enix decided not to localize the game. This was partially due to the size of the game and therefore the difficulty in fitting the translated version onto a cartridge, but primarily due to Enix's change in strategy to focus on the newly released Game Boy Advance rather than the Game Boy Color.
The game's popularity in Japan prompted tri-Ace to remake it for mobile devices under the same title. It has a reworked battle system, new artwork for the characters and all backgrounds, and a remastered soundtrack. The game released for NTT DoCoMo's i-mode service first, while versions for Yahoo! Mobile and EZweb were released on December 16 and 17 respectively. The game's services ended on March 31, 2018 with the shutdown of the Square Enix Mobile distribution service.
- Genuine Blue Sphere Game Paks are black "dual-mode" cartridges that will fit snugly into an original Game Boy and should be playable in grayscale as well as in color.
- ↑ 桜庭統氏コメント＆公式サイト更新のお知らせ
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 『スターオーシャン ブルースフィア』本日配信開始！
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Star Ocean: Blue Sphere – Developer Interview
- ↑ Star Ocean: Blue Sphere
- ↑ 日野慎之助 - お仕事履歴
- ↑ 株式会社トライクレッシェンド 製品情報
- ↑ 『スターオーシャン5 Integrity and Faithlessness』キーマン3人にインタビュー！ シームレスに進化した『SO』の見どころとは
- ↑ Star Ocean: Blue Sphere Japanese Release Update