Star Ocean: Blue Sphere

   One of 1999's surprise success stories was Enix's sleeper hit Star Ocean: The Second Story, released in North America by Sony. The detailed Item Creation and skill systems earned Star Ocean 2 scores of followers, duplicating the title's success in Japan in 1998. While work on the true Star Ocean 3 continues, developer tri-Ace has whipped up a portable Star Ocean game to keep fans hooked on the series. Titled Star Ocean: Blue Sphere, the Game Boy Color title will expand on Star Ocean 2's characters and storyline.
 Precis & Bobot
Precis' jumping ability

   All twelve characters from The Second Story return in Blue Sphere. Two years after The Second Story, Leon, Precis, and Rena have moved to Earth - Rena to study medicine, Leon to study Heraldry, and Precis to work on her inventions. Meanwhile, Chisato and Noel have taken up residence on Expel, with Chisato working to establish the media on the planet. Ashton is still wandering Expel looking for a cure to his curse, while Celine is carrying on her affair with Chris, the prince of Cross. Bowman and his wife Nineh now have a child. Most of the characters have new outfits, and Precis now rides a modified Bobot.

   Precis takes center stage in the sequel. The plot begins when she receives an SOS call from Opera and Ernest, who have disappeared while investigating some ruins on an unexplored planet. Precis jets off to the planet, but her spaceship soon falls victim to the same mysterious circumstances and her communication system breaks down. The other nine heroes are called in to rescue the three missing adventurers and discover the cause of the disturbance.

Ashton attacks

   Star Ocean: Blue Sphere's combat system is clearly designed to follow its predecessor's lead, though it's been scaled down to work on the Game Boy. Parties are limited to three characters, not four, and the field of combat is now one-dimensional - players can only move left and right. Killer Moves are executed by pressing the B button and a direction on the D-pad; the A button is used for standard attacks and the Select button swaps characters. Only one monster appears at a time, though monsters now have body parts that can be attacked individually.

   While the skill system has also been simplified, it's actually more significant to the gameplay. Regular experience points have been eliminated; character statistics are improved by acquiring Skill Points from battles and spending them to boost skill levels. Likewise, while there are fewer item creation skills, the remaining skills will be more important, as there are no shops from which to purchase items.

Say "Fuzzy pickles!"

   Blue Sphere also brings some entirely new features. Each character now has a "Field Action" used to solve Zelda-style puzzles. For example, Precis uses her Bobot mecha to hop over pits, while Ashton pushes heavy blocks and Bowman discovers and picks medicinal herbs. Chisato can take picture of wandering monsters to create a monster album - a seemingly useless but entertaing talent.

   New ways to learn Killer Moves have been added, giving each hero has a semi-unique method. Precis, Chisato, and Opera learn their moves by acquiring items; Bowman and Dias randomly acquire them when using regular physical attacks; and Leon randomly learns his when casting Heraldry magic.

   After numerous delays, Star Ocean: Blue Sphere has finally arrived in Japan, much to the delight of the series' legion fans. Unfortunately, Blue Sphere's North American release prospects are still marginal at best. As English text takes up more cartridge space than Japanese text, the translation would expand the already-expensive 32 mb cartridge to an even higher price that would make the game a tough sell. Fans can still keep their fingers crossed, however, that Star Ocean's enduring popularity will give Enix America cause to release the game after all.

Preview by Fritz Fraundorf, GIA.
Star Ocean: Blue Sphere
Developer tri-Ace
Publisher Enix
Genre Action RPG
Medium Cartridge (32 mb)
Platform Game Boy Color
Release Date  06.28.01
E3: No US release for Star Ocean: Blue Sphere?
36 screenshots
12 character designs / 4 super-deformed characters
15 wallpaper designs / Japanese box art