249: Hooking Up in Hyperspace

Brendan Main

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Jul 17, 2009
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Hooking Up in Hyperspace

Many JRPGs feature complex stories involving ensemble casts of dozens of characters. But one game went a step further: It let you play interstellar matchmaker. Brendan Main examines the fanfiction-inspired relationship mechanics of tri-Ace's Star Ocean: Second Story.

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Elesar

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Apr 16, 2009
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I actually enjoyed this article more than I have an article on the escapist in a while. Star Ocean: The Second Story was one of my top 5 favorite games for quite a long time (getting as high as 2) and still remains in the top 10 (6 currently, yes I have them mapped out) and in the waves of god-awful sequels and neutered PSP remakes, I was afraid people had forgotten how brilliant it was.
And I Was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates From Outer Space is one of the best comics on the internet.
 

Aptspire

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Mar 13, 2008
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One game that seems to have taken this idea to a higher level (of sorts) is G:DW2
the 'non-canon' game has you joining forces with one or more pilots against one or more pilots. Every time you complete a mission, basically, your 'friendship gauge' increases with your allies while it decreases with your enemies. the different missions put you in always varying pairings and versus, making it pretty much impossible to be friends with everyone. There were, thankfully, missions to help improve the relationship with your worst cases of grudge, but that ended up feeling more like a grind of sorts...
 

tetron

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Aptspire said:
One game that seems to have taken this idea to a higher level (of sorts) is G:DW2
the 'non-canon' game has you joining forces with one or more pilots against one or more pilots. Every time you complete a mission, basically, your 'friendship gauge' increases with your allies while it decreases with your enemies. the different missions put you in always varying pairings and versus, making it pretty much impossible to be friends with everyone. There were, thankfully, missions to help improve the relationship with your worst cases of grudge, but that ended up feeling more like a grind of sorts...
I'm not sure what G:DW2 is but that sounds absolutely nothing like star ocean's system, it also sounds pointless. Star Ocean's system was pretty much a dating sim, which I feel they did quite well.

Actually I'd say Star Ocean is the greatest dating sim ever made, and it's a pretty good RPG too. I don't really see how this game pulls partial inspiration from star trek more than any other game with ships and space though. Really saying it's inspired by star trek is like saying the computer monitor drew inspiration from the TV.
 

Brendan Main

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Many of the same systems that were found SO2 were also present in FFX. Depending on given responses to questions posed; in what order you spoke with various party members; and even something as seemingly benign as who you healed and in what order; Tidus could grow closer with one of the three female protagonists (Yuna, Lulu, Rikku) altering a few of the cutscenes in minor ways. The overall story however, did not change, nor did the ultimate outcome.

It would be nice to see a little more of this seemless process applied to current gen games (whereby your actions do have consequence on the final outcome).

I've complained in the past about the boring system applied in DA:O, for example. It uses the pretty typical "feed gifts to party members to raise relationship" for the most part. Yes, there is a less significant "Q & A" with party members, but that is still pretty unoriginal and can be easily over-written by the gift feeding.

Even the outcomes in this case, are a little stale. Sure, you get a love scene (whoopee!) and a bonus to a stat. But IMO, the older SO2 integrates relationships better and is far more immersive, as it directly affects the way party members react to you and to each other, in battle.
 

Crimson_Dragoon

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Jul 29, 2009
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s69-5 said:
I've complained in the past about the boring system applied in DA:O, for example. It uses the pretty typical "feed gifts to party members to raise relationship" for the most part. Yes, there is a less significant "Q & A" with party members, but that is still pretty unoriginal and can be easily over-written by the gift feeding.

Even the outcomes in this case, are a little stale. Sure, you get a love scene (whoopee!) and a bonus to a stat. But IMO, the older SO2 integrates relationships better and is far more immersive, as it directly affects the way party members react to you and to each other, in battle.
While DA:O's relationship system may not have been great, I personally liked the outcomes of it. Talking to your companions and getting their relationship higher resulted in a lot of very good character development and even led to some subtle changes in their personalities (like Morrigan actually calling me "friend" and Shale treating me with respect).
 

Doctor Professor

Pixel Popper
Nov 16, 2009
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I love seeing Star Ocean 2 getting some attention! And the deep relationship system is one if its best-realized, unique-or-close-to-it traits. I wrote about it a bit in one of my own articles [http://www.pixelpoppers.com/2009/09/play-me-story-part-two-what-makes.html], using it as an example of consequential choice that allows a player to steer the story.

To me, it's one of the most disappointing things about the followups (Till the End of Time and The Last Hope - I never played the Japan-only Blue Sphere) that the relationship system got so drastically reduced, and the pair-anyone-you-want endings vanished. It's still satisfying to immerse yourself in the characters (I also wrote about The Last Hope in another article [http://www.pixelpoppers.com/2010/02/giving-in-to-happy-place-embracing.html], as an example of... well, a game where it's satisfying to immerse yourself in the characters) but some of the magic is definitely gone.

I wonder how much of this is due to raised production costs. In A Second Story, endings were new text with pre-existing sprites, backgrounds, and music. It wouldn't be that expensive to write more and more. In the later-generation followups, with full voice-acting, recording all those endings would cost significantly more, and they'd take up a lot more room on the disc, too. It's one of the biggest downsides of increased production values that they reduce this kind of flexibility.
 

MNRA

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Jun 8, 2009
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And there will as such never be any Star ocean 2 fanfiction. Since it was already written in the process of playing the game, rendering the "what if" obsolete. :p
 

child of lileth

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Jun 10, 2009
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Great article. I'm happy to finally see some more people realise how deep the system of that game really went. Not only with how many variations there were in the possible story routes, and Private Actions, but to see someone doing an article like this actually cover it to the point of mentioning the favoritism the game plays with the A.I. from the relationships the characters have been built to have with each other.

Star Ocean: Second Story is one of my favorite games I've ever played, and I didn't even get a chance to play it the first time until last November. tri-Ace isn't the best story teller by far, but they did a great job with what they gave the players in this game. Still my favorite in the series, even after playing all the other Star Ocean games.
 

The Random One

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May 29, 2008
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Now I want to play this game. The only reason I play RPGs nowadays is to see characters being adorable to each other anyway.
 

Awexsome

Were it so easy
Mar 25, 2009
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Ha ha, the relationship... I've been around Fanfiction.net a bit for one game in particular: Tales of Symphonia and it had a system very similar to this one. One main character and 8 different possible pairings from Boyfriend/Girlfriend to Bestest Buddies to Father/Son... In fact each individual character of the 8 had their own way of relating to the main one. You couldn't really group two of them in the same boat.

It had a system that certain characters would grow closer based on small choices and how actively you kept the two together as either scripted story events or just fighting alongside in battle. The game ended right as the group's goal was achieved leaving the fic's to decide how the story continued after the game. There are some crappy ones that come to be the sterotype of bad fanfics that might be there for a quick sex scene or something and then there's 30-some chapter epics that read like a book.

If you can find a really well written one that goes along with your favorite pairings' ending (like I did) then it's totally worth going through the crap to find the gems because the gems are brilliant.
 

Stranger of Sorts

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Aug 23, 2009
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"Captain Kirk was climbing a mountain, why was he climbing a mountain?" ahhh never get tired of that. Good article.
 

StriderShinryu

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Yes! A million times, Yes!

... sorry, I still consider SO2 to be one of the best RPGs ever and certainly the best RPG released in the PSX generation. Why? In large part due to the relationship system which, sadly, the series pretty much abandoned after that point. In every single RPG with romance story elements, I want to be able to control those relationships. And not only that but, as the article mentions, the relationships in SO2 not only changed cutscenes but they also had a major impact on the gameplay.

Squall and Rinoa? Charmning story, but I would have had him end up with Quistis.
Aerith or Tifa? Tifa, easily.
Etc.

DA:O did a pretty good job of this, as did ME1/2, but after SO2 I can't help but want more.

Oh, and for the record, my Claude was totally head over heels with Precis. Loved the special scenes the two had together because of it.
 

Claymorez

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Apr 20, 2009
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The issue had a diverse spectrum of articles in it, covering a range of areas.

However one of them caught my attention more than the others: 'Hooking up to Hyperspace'. It was simple, accessible and most importantly in an article it flowed. It felt aimed at the audience. You have to look no further than it's title to see that they thought about what they said and the topic it was discussing. From the get go you know exactly what this article is about - no deception. This is a particularly powerful tool as it meant I was willing to adapt to what he wrote about within the genre - uncaring about him moving from TV show reference to gaming titles to the philosophy that templates the genre.

The Author is neither critical or overly passive in his direction of the audience as he walks us down the intergalactic voids that separate these different title settings that he discusses. Which allowed me to form my own opinions on how he viewed matters. In essence he conveyed to me what he needed to and cut away the annoyance of accessories. He managed to make me interested in Second Story which I had known nothing about - which doesn't even register on my normal vetting of game settings and design that I am willing to invest my time in.

Either way, I felt this author did something remarkable here. I have never commented on an issue before. Yes I have found and read others of far more interesting content elsewhere and on the Escapist, however that doesn't take away from the achievement in writing he has accomplished here. This was a superbly crafted article, that sculpted its delivery to a razor edge.
 

Soxafloppin

Coxa no longer floppin'
Jun 22, 2009
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Oh god, "Sonic and Tails"...THE HORROR.

Must erase.... those pictures..from...memories.
 

Therumancer

Citation Needed
Nov 28, 2007
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Star Ocean: The Second Story was a great game and indeed did those things well.

However when I think of RPGs with heavy romantic elements, I think mostly of "Thousand Arms" or the "Ar Tonelico" series. The most recent one is Agarest war, though honestly I feel it's not as involved as most others going for the same vibe.
 

rddj623

"Breathe Deep, Seek Peace"
Sep 28, 2009
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Sounds like a fun and intriguing play. Also I can't imagine going through to complete all possible endings in a game like that! As these types of influences become more common place and even bleed through into sequels, re Mass Effect, I think we'll find that multiple play through s will be a common occurrence. Not motivated out of need to achieve all possible endings but by simply wanting to make different choices and seeing what happens. :)
 

Brendan Main

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Jul 17, 2009
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Ah... Star Ocean 2... the game I rented for months on end... because I could never find a damn copy!

Was I the only one who thought the sound files were meant to form a complete picture? I could never finish it, and it certainly looked like each sound bit formed a small pixel for a larger picture...

Great read, and its certainly true. Some characters may never swing the "other way", but they'll certainly bro-five it up if you play your cards right.
 

Tyran107

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Nov 14, 2008
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cursedseishi said:
Ah... Star Ocean 2... the game I rented for months on end... because I could never find a damn copy!

Was I the only one who thought the sound files were meant to form a complete picture? I could never finish it, and it certainly looked like each sound bit formed a small pixel for a larger picture...

Great read, and its certainly true. Some characters may never swing the "other way", but they'll certainly bro-five it up if you play your cards right.
Yes they were, if you unlock all the sound files (wich i sadly could only do with cheats xD). It makes a picture and unlocks all the music files to be listened to.

OT: I sadly was never able to beat the game with my playstation crapping out on me. I knew the relationships were a big part but I had no idea you could wind up with so many endings.