Creation and influence
As fans of science fiction and space travel, the developers of tri-Ace created the Star Ocean series with a sci-fi setting in mind, and have cited Star Trek as one of their main influences for the visuals of the games. While the first Star Ocean game included more fantasy elements to appeal to a broad audience, subsequent installments naturally moved towards a more sci-fi oriented feel, with Star Ocean: Till the End of Time described by its producer Yoshinori Yamagishi as tri-Ace's "ultimate vision" of the "whole Star Ocean world". The large gap of time between Star Ocean: The Second Story and Till the End of Time, in terms of in-universe chronology, can be explained by the series' choice to emphasize the setting of its fictional world rather than focus on its characters.
Of the eight games in the series, six have been released outside Japan. Star Ocean: The Second Story was the first game to be published in the USA, by Sony Computer Entertainment America. However, the localization (translation) for The Second Story was translated rather literally, without correcting for cultural differences, which made some people complain that it detracted from the game's experience. The game is also frequently cited, along with Resident Evil, as a shining example of the power of bad voice acting.
With Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, Square Enix hoped to attract more gamers, especially in the United States, where the franchise has not been very popular. The Director's Cut 2 Disc version of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time has been released in North America, with more playable characters, more games and additional storyline tangents. As of July 2005, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is a part of Sony's Greatest Hits line, indicating that the game had done reasonably well in North America.
Star Ocean games are known for their real-time battle engines. Battles take place on a separate screen, but all characters (rather than waiting in one spot and taking damage) are fully mobile in three dimensions, can dodge and chase foes, and must cast their spells and deploy attacks despite enemy harassment. In the earlier games, magicians had spells, whereas fighters had special physical attacks called "Special Arts"; both are learned after passing certain level requirements (or through specific items and sidequests) and cost HP or MP to use. In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, all the characters are able to use spells and battle skills.
Star Ocean games also take an all-encompassing approach to items. Party members can create new objects or improve existing ones through crafts like metalworking, alchemy, writing, painting and cooking. The strongest items and equipment are only available via Item Creation, and many others can be sold for a profit or provide strong benefits (books can be used to transfer skills and abilities; cooked foods can be used to circumvent the 20-of-each-item inventory limit), placing great importance on Item Creation.
The characters of the series were designed to be Anime-like. A feature consisting in changing the characters' appearance when changing their equipment was considered in the series but was scrapped because of the large amount of characters to design. However, in the later installment of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time the appearance of the characters did in fact change to reflect the type of weapon they were using.
Finally, both the second and third games were somewhat notorious for the renaming of characters whose names contained religious references, which some fans found unusual given the recent association with Square and other RPGs (most famously Xenosaga) who do not omit such references.
Star Ocean gameplay is often compared to the Tales series of video games by Namco, which is not a coincidence: after the release of Tales of Phantasia, practically its entire design department left to found tri-Ace. As a result, many regard the original Star Ocean as a 'spiritual sequel' of Tales of Phantasia; a comment that may be traditionally found at fan-sites describing the first title in the series.
Most, if not all, of the musical scores in the series have been composed by Motoi Sakuraba.
- Star Ocean is the first game in the series. It was released in 1996 for the Super Famicom and never released outside of Japan, but was unofficially translated into English through emulation by DeJap Translations. It established the series' staples, including the futuristic setting, real-time battle system, item creation, and private actions. It was later remade into Star Ocean: First Departure. It takes place in 346 SD, and follows the adventures of Roddick Farrence as he searches for a cure for a sickness on his planet with the help of two Earthlings.
- Star Ocean: The Second Story, released for the PlayStation in Japan in 1998 and North America in 1999. It retains the features of its predecessor while introducing prerendered backgrounds, full motion videos, and 3D battle fields. It was remade later into Star Ocean: Second Evolution. Taking place in 366 SD, it features a new cast of characters, including Claude C. Kenny, the son of Ronyx Kenny from the original Star Ocean, and Rena Lanford; the two investigate the Sorcery Globe, which has landed on planet Expel and has been causing disasters ever since.
- Star Ocean: Blue Sphere is a direct sequel to The Second Story, released for the Game Boy Color in 2001 in Japan (a North American version was planned but canceled). Blue Sphere adapts the Star Ocean series to handhelds altering several aspects in the process, including interactive item creation, auto private actions, 2D side scrolling battles, Field Actions, and the removal of random battles. It takes place in 368 SD, two years after The Second Story, and features the return of all twelve main characters as they attempt to solve the mystery of the Planet Edifice and its destructive nature that eradicates the planet's civilizations every 200 years.
- Star Ocean: Till the End of Time was released for the PlayStation 2 in Japan in 2003. A director's cut of the game with bonus dungeons, new playable characters, a versus mode, and tweaked gameplay was released in 2004, and that version was brought to North America and Europe the same year. Till the End of Time is the first fully 3D game in the series and features fully voiced dialogue. It retains most aspects of the previous games with new features, such as the fury and bonus battle gauge, as well as the ability to patent items created during item creation and recruiting inventors to create items for the player. The game takes place nearly 400 years after the last Blue Sphere, in 772 SD. Fayt Leingod is the main character, and after finding himself separated from his family during an alien attack on a resort planet, is pursued by the same Vendeeni forces across space for reasons beyond his imagination.
- Star Ocean: The Last Hope for the Xbox 360 was released in 2009. Later, The Last Hope was ported to the PlayStation 3 with extra contents and enhanced visuals. It was released for the PlayStation 3 on February 9, 2010. The Last Hope is a prequel to the entire series (0010 SD), chronicling the aftermath of World War III in which humanity must find a new home to survive. The protagonist is a young captain named Edge Maverick who is his second-in-command Reimi Saionji. Producer Yoshinori Yamagishi claimed at the 2008 Tokyo Game Show that it was to be the last in the series.
- Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, however, followed it. It was released on the Playstation 4 and Playstation 3 was announced April 2015. It occurs chronologically between The Second Story and Till the End of Time, and chronicles events that occur in the planet Faykreed.
- Star Ocean: Anamnesis, released on Android & iOS on 2016 in Japan, commemorates the series' 20th anniversary.
Manga and anime
There was an unfinished manga by Mayumi Azuma, and later a similarly unfinished anime series, Star Ocean EX, which were both based on Star Ocean: The Second Story. The manga was never released in the US, but can be found via peer-to-peer networks in a fan-translated version. The anime is currently licensed by Geneon Entertainment USA and available on DVD. The anime covered the events in the first disc of the PlayStation game, but it was canceled before it could adapt the rest of the story. Star Ocean EX was continued and finished on Drama CDs. In all, a total of 26 episodes were shown on Japanese television.
A light novel called Star Ocean: Anamnesis -The Beacon of Hope-, adapting the events of Anamnesis, was released.
- All six of the series' protagonists have either blue or blond hair.