Star Ocean (スターオーシャン, Sutā Ōshan?) is a franchise of console role-playing video games developed by tri-Ace and published by Square Enix, originally Enix. It is a Japanese role-playing game series with varying gameplay, settings and stories between each installment, focusing on a science fantasy setting known as the Eternal Sphere.
The series has been distributed on many platforms, beginning with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and branched into other forms of media, particularly manga.
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 earlier games, magicians had their symbols, 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.
- Star Ocean (1996)
- Star Ocean: The Second Story (1999)
- Star Ocean: Blue Sphere (2001)
- Star Ocean: Blue Sphere* (2009) mobile version
- Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (2003)
- Star Ocean: Till the End of Time Director's Cut (2004)
- Ultimate Hits HD Star Ocean: Till the End of Time Director's Cut (2016)
- Star Ocean: First Departure (2007)
- Star Ocean: First Departure R (2019)
- Star Ocean: Second Evolution (2008)
- Star Ocean: The Last Hope (2009)
- Star Ocean: The Last Hope International (2010)
- Star Ocean: The Last Hope 4K & Full HD Remaster (2017)
- Star Ocean: Material Trader (2013–2014)
- Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (2016)
- Star Ocean: Anamnesis (2016–)
- Star Ocean: And Then to the Far Reaches of Time (1998)
- Star Ocean: The Second Story (1999–2001)
- Star Ocean: Blue Sphere (2002–2005)
- Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (2003–2006)
- Star Ocean: Second Evolution (2008–2009)
- Star Ocean: Anamnesis -Twin Eclipse- (2018–2019)
- Star Ocean EX (2001)
- CD Drama Collection Star Ocean: The Second Story (1999)
- CD Drama Collection Star Ocean: The Second Story 2 (1999)
- Star Ocean EX Navigation.1 (2001)
- Star Ocean EX Navigation.2 (2001)
- Star Ocean EX Navigation.3 (2001)
- Star Ocean EX Navigation.4 (2001)
- Star Ocean EX Navigation.5 (2001)
- Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness Drama CD (2016)
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.
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.
- Most, if not all, of the musical scores in the series have been composed by Motoi Sakuraba.
- All six of the series' male protagonists have either blue or blond hair.
- Both Star Ocean: The Second Story and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time were somewhat notorious for the renaming of elements whose names contained religious references, which some fans found unusual given that, back then, Square and other RPGs (most famously Xenosaga) did not omit such references. Since then, Second Evolution had a new translation that restored the names of the Ten Wise Men.