Star Ocean EX – cough
Where do I begin with this one? I know! I will start it with a brief history lesson! Yet again! Brace yourself for another trip into the time stream (albeit no more than roughly 20 years ago).
During the height of the Playstation console (the PSOne, mind you.), there was a game called Star Ocean: The Second Story in a multi-disc RPG format that had a couple of major components that separated it from other RPGs of the day. Yes, that’s right. It had an action based combat system and a branching storyline that reacted to your choices or even to the choices you didn’t make. The summation of these choices (or lack thereof) resulted in one of the mind boggling 80+ possible endings to achieve in the game. So if you had an ending you didn’t like, too bad! It was your own damn fault for the ending you got! While this is commonplace for games nowadays, it wasn’t as prevalent back then as most of them were like interactive novels. Therefore, this format was highly unique and refreshing back then and it felt like a monumental achievement for something that was from before the turn of the millennium. Well, if you ask me at any rate.
But moving on, the anime was released by Geneon back in 2005 and it follows the story of the game pretty darn closely. But as expected, not every nook and cranny was explored for obvious reasons. To put it bluntly, it covered the main plot points adequately and felt as loyal to the game as possible. But it is needless to say that if they had decided to explore every possible side quest/relationship option that was available to the player originally, then the series would be going for at least six seasons or that there would’ve been some spin-off series. Or at least I feel like this would’ve been case given the massive amounts of stuff to do back then. However, I am sure it pales in comparison to what games are doing now. While I sadly say I never finished the game (but I was near the end), I felt that the TV series was a great love letter to the game itself. After all, it still feels like it remains one of the best RPGs from the era it was released in. And for you Inuyasha fans, there is a bit of awesome news as well. The English dubbing, as it turns out, was done by the same Vancouver studio that dubbed the Inuyasha series. That is to say that The Ocean Group once again lent their voice talents to the English translation. So you know the dubbing is going to be of decent quality for those that prefer their voices in the English variety. So all in all, it is all good.
In the original PSOne game (and then a later subsequent re-release for PSP), you could choose from two different protagonists: Claude C. Kenny or Rena Lanford. This in and of itself may not even be that significant since you will play with both in your party for most of the game (at least when I chose to play as Claude). But from the little time I spent trying the game as Rena, your game might vary in minor details or major ways depending on your choices, not to mention from your choice of protagonist. But that is besides the point. After all, we are reviewing the anime! So getting back on track, the anime focuses more on Claude C. Kenny (he was the default choice, after all) and Claude is a man who is in constant turmoil by always being compared to others, whether it was him being compared to his dad or developing a complex around a mysterious brooding dark hero type called Diaz. So here he is, trying to get back to his crew while dealing with numerous complexes that crop up during his journey. While Rena, on the other hand, believes in Claude as being the prophesied warrior who has come to save her world from the destruction brought on by the Sorcery Globe. This, in turn, gives Claude another complex as she really wants him to be the one she dreamed of. However, he just wants to be credited for being his own person and to somehow get back to his dad and his team. Needless to say, all the standard character tropes are in full display here. From the coming to terms with themselves hero/heroine to the sexy sorceress. From the quirky inventor (with questionable taste) to the swordsman possessed by dual dragons. It’s all there and depending on how you take your tropes, it could be wildly entertaining or possibly nerve grating. And that’s all there is to it.
The story may not be all that extraordinary (except for the Sci Fi themes, which could be a welcome break from all the Final Fantasy games at the time it originally came out), but the anime certainly made it enjoyable and still manages to pull through while throwing in a few of the standard Japanese culture jokes at the same time (after all, what anime does not do that?). My only complaint was that the ending wasn’t truly an ending. It was more of a cop out but I can understand why they did it though. With 80+ possible endings and with all the possible relationships available in the game, I am willing to bet that they couldn’t just pick one. It’s like choosing a kitten or a puppy from the shelter. You just want to take them all home if possible! Unless you are a heartless prick. Then that is an entirely different scenario. So in the meantime, I think I will fire the old game up once again and actually try to finish it this time. See you on the flip side, kiddos!
The anime gets 7.5 out of 10 “swords of light”.