STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R Review (Nintendo Switch)

Published on April 2nd, 2024 by Natan C.


2018 was the year Square Enix launched a new yet classical-feeling JRPG called Octopath Traveler. It had a unique art style which they dubbed “HD2D” that combines 3D backgrounds and 2D sprites. This style immediately captured audiences and instantly became a hit. Square Enix would continue using this art style, for both original games like Octopath Traveler II and Triangle Strategy, as well as remakes such as Live a Live. Among the latter category, you can also find STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R. Does this game live up to the legacy of the Star Ocean series, as well as the rising trend of HD2D games? Let’s find out!


STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R follows Claude C. Kenny, an Ensign for the intergalactic Earth Federation under his father Ronyx C. Kenny (a playable character in the first Star Ocean game). Claude finds a device during a mission that teleports him to the underdeveloped planet Expel. There, he meets and saves our second protagonist, Rena Langford. She was raised in the nearby village of Arlia but has mysterious healing powers and an even more mysterious origin. After he gets mistaken for the legendary Hero of Light, Claude learns of the planet’s troubles. Expel has been plagued by monster outbreaks and natural disasters after a meteor dubbed the Sorcery Globe crashed into the planet. The pair then sets out on a globe-spanning journey, to seek out the Sorcery Globe, find Claude a way home, and seek hints about Rena’s past.

Claude and his father Ronyx C. Kenny on an expedition in STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R
After ignoring his father’s orders, Claude causes an accident that strands him on the planet of Expel.

The game tells an incredibly engaging but flawed story. It’s mainly carried by its stellar cast of characters and the witty writing. I’ll get to the recruitable units later, but Claude and Rena have an incredibly wholesome dynamic that develops over the course of the story (despite the growing pains), making them easy to root for. It doesn’t matter who you choose to start with, but Claude’s perspective does a better job at defining the intergalactic setting.

The plot is not perfect, though. The game’s first few hours after the tutorials can drag on a bit, and it doesn’t get going until you reach the Kingdom of Lacour. Additionally, the main antagonist is incredibly undercooked. They’re incredibly hateable, mainly due to their utter disregard for human life, but their (complete) backstory is completely optional. This makes them a serviceable, but flawed antagonist. I have more issues with individual moments of the story, but they’re out of this review’s scope. Overall, this is a flawed tale worth experiencing. But as I just said, the characters make this story as great as it is.

The attack of the demon Cynne in STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R
Fight for Expel’s safety!


Aside from your two main leads, there are 11 characters to recruit to your cause. However, you’ll need to pick your battles, as you can only recruit 6 of them during one playthrough. Some of these characters can’t be in the same party as others. For instance, you’ll need to choose between the pharmacist Bowman or the inventor Precis (although this quirk feels a bit arbitrary to me). As such, you’ll want to complete two playthroughs of this game to get the full experience, giving SO2R a ton of content out of the gate.

Rena scolding Claude in the Kingdom of Lacour in STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R
Claude and Rena have an excellent dynamic, and the other recruitable characters are also lovable.

Regardless of who you end up recruiting, you’ll still be able to fight alongside an incredibly loveable cast of characters. As I mentioned earlier, Claude and Rena are both great protagonists. The recruitable characters are also fantastic. At the time of writing, I’m not far enough in my second playthrough to have met them all, but I’ve fallen in love with the ones I did recruit. From the dragon-possessed swordsman Ashton to the dorky inventor Precis, you’re bound to find a favorite in this cast.

Private Actions, Romance & Endings

When you’re in a city or village, you can enter Private Action mode, allowing all your party members to roam around on their own. You can interact with some of them to trigger Private Actions, cutscenes where they talk with your protagonist. While these conversations don’t facilitate that much character development, they are still incredibly entertaining and insightful dialogues. I would almost immediately seek them out because of how fun they were, and many of them will become highlights during your playthrough. One nitpick I do have with this system is how you sometimes have to leave and re-enter Private Mode to make new Private Actions appear.

A hilarious Private Action in STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R
From silly to heart-warming, these Private Actions will be a highlight of your playthrough.

These Private actions obviously affect gameplay, namely the endings. After each one of them, the relationship with your party will change depending on your choices. You can go to the Status menu to see each bond, visualized by hearts. If two party members have a particularly strong bond, they’ll end together at the end of the game. Depending on who gets paired up and who stays single, you get different endings, with up to 99 to collect. Suppose you want to make sure your favorite couple gets together. In that case, you can even craft certain items to influence the relationships with your party members, which is great for making your OTP come true or getting all the endings.


Your globe-spanning journey will take you to many different towns and dungeons to explore, all connected through the massive world map, getting into action-filled battles along the way.

Navigating the World Map in STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R
Travel the world map to discover Expel’s various locales.



STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R is an action RPG with a straightforward combat system. You’ll be spamming your characters’ basic attacks, and use skills assigned to L and R that consume MP. Later on, you can assign 2 more skills that can be chained into one another. New to this remake are Assault Actions, allowing you to assign party members not in combat to the directional buttons. You’ll then be able to summon them in battle to use one of their moves. Some items even allow you to use characters from other Star Ocean games as Assault Actions.

A standard battle in STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R
Get into action-packed fights.

All skills are quite varied: each has a different hitbox, damage profile, element, and attribute, not to mention the animations. Some attacks focus only on damage, while others excel at breaking the enemy’s guard. Guard-broken enemies are stunned and take more damage, so you will want to do it as much as possible. Another new feature to this remake is Break Chains, allowing you to Break many enemies at once, which is always incredibly satisfying. But breaking your foes’ guard has another benefit.

Breaking an enemy's guard in STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R
Breaking an enemy’s guard yields satisfying effects.


The “Tactics” menu will be the key to controlling the flow of battle. For starters, that’s where you can assign Assault actions. In addition, you can change your AI team members’ behavior. You can also change this mid-battle, which can come in handy. Next, you can choose what Formation to use. Each grants different buffs depending on how many energy spheres from Breaking enemies you’ve collected, but the buffs are reset when your playable character is dazed or defeated. The formations are quite varied: some increase your defense, your offense, and another favors playing the long game. Alongside an in-depth equipment and crafting system (which we’ll discuss shortly), there is a good amount of room for strategy and customization and many ways to break the game’s balance.

The Equip Wizard recommends new gear for you in STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R
The Equip Wizard notifies you when a character has obtained a better piece of gear, allowing you to equip stronger gear with ease.

Balance & Grinding

Many players dread having to grind in RPGs, but SO2R grants you some tools to lessen your time training. Remember the Formations I mentioned earlier? There is one that gives you more FOL (the game’s currency) and EXP after a battle. You can also unlock a Specialty (more on that later) called Train that allows you to decrease a specific party member’s stats in exchange for more EXP. Lastly, fighting multiple foes in waves increases your EXP. Combining these makes grinding a breeze.

Getting post-battle rewards in STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R
STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R does have grinding but offers the tools to make it easy as pie.

However, the game’s balance isn’t perfect. For one, there is a massive difficulty spike in the last few boss fights, as they start to spam incredibly powerful AOE attacks, making manually commanding your healing a necessity. Speaking of healing, symbologists (i.e. your magic casters) are not fun to play. They need to be able to cast their spells uninterrupted, requiring them to hang back and not engage in any melee combat. While they can assign skills to L and R, if you want to use more of their available spells you’ll need to spend time navigating the menu for the skill you want. I found it best to play a frontline fighter like Claude, let the AI control them and manually select a spell when needed.

IC & Specialty Skills

BP and SP are earned at the end of every battle. The former is used to enhance your battle skills, but the former allows you to upgrade out-of-battle skills. These can give you some stat boots, but upgrading the right combinations unlocks IC- and Specialty skills. IC-skills, or Item Creation Skills, allow you to use cooking, alchemy, smithing, concocting, etc. to obtain new items. Specialty Skills give you a varied amount of abilities, such as the aforementioned Train skill or Bodyguard. It allows your team members to halt enemies in their place, preventing an ambush, or instantly kill them if they’re lower level, which is useful when grinding.

Upgrading IC and Specialty Skills in STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R
The Familiar skill allows you to send birds to do some shopping for you while you’re out and about.

You can also do side-quests from the guild that involve crafting specific items, but these missions have you constantly going back and forth in the menus, it gets annoying quickly. Needed items are not marked, so expect to go back and forth a lot. The missions are not the most interesting, but IC and Specialty skills are generally satisfying with limitless potential.


When I arrived in the quiet town of Arlia and took in the atmosphere, my jaw dropped. This game is absolutely gorgeous and is the perfect example of the potential of HD2D games. The sprite art is great, the character portraits are pretty, and the background artwork is immaculate. Both the excellent art style and beautiful graphics make this game an absolute visual delight. The audio doesn’t lack either, as the soundtrack is also amazing. I particularly love the song that plays in Arlia, it’s mesmerizing. Please look up the song ‘Pure a stream’ on YouTube, it’s amazing. If I had to say something bad about this game’s presentation, is that its anime OP is hidden behind the ‘Special’ menu, even though it slaps and should be front and center.

Walking to the village of Arlia in STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R
Man this game is pretty.

The English voice acting is no slouch either. Some lines feel a bit forced, but apart from that the entire cast gives good performances, especially Claude after a certain event in the final dungeon.


STAR OCEAN SECOND STORY R proves the potential HD2D games have. Not only does the art style elevate this game to new heights, but this is also a solid game in general. The story of Claude and Rena is incredibly gripping, and the characters are incredibly loveable with many chances to get to know them. The gameplay may drag at points, and some mechanics are quite clunky, but its heights far outweigh its lows. Your battles rarely get boring, and you have a lot of room for self-expression. Gemdrops Studios did an amazing job remaking this classic, and I hope they get more opportunities to create remakes like this. This is an amazing game that any JRPG fan should check out.


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About Natan C.

A professional at being bad at games and discovering new obsessions, Natan has played all types of games ever since he started gaming by playing Skylanders on the Wii. He's currently studying linguistics and aspires to one day write for a video game.