Creation and influence
As fans of science fiction and space travel, the developers at 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 gamesas well as being an underlying, but noticeable, influence to the series as a whole.  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.
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 the earlier games, magicians had spells, whereas fighters had special physical attacks called "Killer Moves"; 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 (i.e. killer moves).
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 usually 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 "action figure 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: The Last Hope the appearance of the characters did in fact change to reflect the type of weapon they were using.
Finally, both the second and third games were somewhat notorious for the renaming of characters whose names contained religious references, which some fans found unusual given the recent association with Square and other RPGs (most famously Xenosaga) that do not omit such references.
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.
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The musical scores of the series were composed by Motoi Sakuraba.
The music featured in Star Ocean 3: Till the End of Time can be heard in the game once 165 battle trophies have been obtained.
The music featured in Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope can be heard in game once the jukebox is created via Item Creation.
Star Ocean, the first game in the series. It was released in 1996 for the Super Famicom and never released outside of Japan; however, it was unofficially translated into English through ROM hacking by DeJap Translations, and the resulting game can be played through emulation. It established the series' staples, including the futuristic setting, real-time battle system, item creation, and private actions. It takes place in 346 SD, and follows the adventures of Roddick Farrence as he searches for a cure for a sickness on his planet with the help of two Earthlings.
Star Ocean: The Second Story, released for the PlayStation in Japan in 1998 and North America in 1999. It retains the features of its predecessor while introducing prerendered backgrounds, full motion videos, and 3D battle fields. Taking place in 366 SD, it features a new cast of characters, including Claude C. Kenny, the son of Ronyx J. Kenny from the original Star Ocean, and Rena Lanford, who both investigate the Sorcery Globe, which has landed on Planet Expel and has been causing disasters ever since.
Star Ocean: Blue Sphere is a direct sequel to The Second Story, released for the Game Boy Color in 2001 in Japan (a North American version was planned but canceled). Blue Sphere adapts the Star Ocean series to hand-helds altering several aspects in the process, including interactive item creation, auto private actions, 2D side scrolling battles, Field Actions, and the removal of random battles. It takes place in 368 SD, two years after The Second Story, and features the return of all twelve main characters as they attempt to solve the mystery of the Planet Edifice and its destructive nature that eradicates the planet's civilizations every 200 years.
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time was released for the PlayStation 2 in Japan in 2003. A director's cut of the game with bonus dungeons, new playable characters, a versus mode, and tweaked gameplay was released in 2004, and that version was brought to North America and Europe the same year. Till the End of Time is the first fully 3D game in the series and features fully voiced dialogue. It retains most aspects of the previous games with new features, such as the fury and bonus battle gauge, as well as the ability to patent items created during item creation and recruiting inventors to create items for the player. The game takes place nearly 400 years after the last Blue Sphere, in 772 SD. Fayt Leingod is the main character, and after finding himself separated from his family during an alien attack on a resort planet, is pursued by the same Vendeeni forces across space for reasons beyond his imagination.
Star Ocean: First Departure is an enhanced remake of the original Star Ocean that was released for the PlayStation Portable in the U.S. on October 21, 2008. The game was remade using Star Ocean 2's engine, adopting prerendered backgrounds and 3D battle fields, as well as new character art and animated cut-scenes provided by Production I.G, and fully voiced dialogue. There are also new playable characters.
Star Ocean: Second Evolution is an enhanced remake of Star Ocean: The Second Story that was released for the PlayStation Portable on April 3, 2008, in Japan. It was released in the U.S. on January 20, 2009. It was announced alongside First Departure, and features similar enhancements, including fully voiced dialogue, new playable characters, and new character artwork and animated cut-scenes provided by Production I.G.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope was released for the Xbox 360 on February 19, 2009, in Japan, February 24, 2009, in North America, and released on June 5, 2009, in Europe. It was also released for the PlayStation 3 worldwide in February 2010. It is a prequel to the entire series, chronicling the aftermath of World War III in which humanity must find a new home to survive. The protagonist is a young man named Edge Maverick who is accompanied by his childhood friend Reimi Saionji. Producer Yoshinori Yamagishi announced at the 2008 Tokyo Game Show that it will be the last in the series. 
North American releases
Of the five games in the series, four 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 Star Ocean: 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.
With the PlayStation 2's installment, 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.
Square Enix decided to bring over the enhanced remake of the original Star Ocean title for the PlayStation Portable. They also released the enhanced remake of Star Ocean: The Second Story for the PlayStation Portable. Star Ocean: The Last Hope was released in North America within one week of its Japanese release. Star Ocean: Blue Sphere remains the only game in the series not released outside of Japan.
Manga and anime
There was an incomplete manga series by Mayumi Azuma based on Star Ocean: Second Story, which became a similarly incomplete anime series Star Ocean EX. The anime series saw release by Geneon Entertainment in the United States. The anime features 26 episodes covering events that happened on the first disc of the PlayStation game. The show was continued on Drama CDs afterward. Another manga series saw release for Star Ocean 3: Till the End of time composed of 8 volumes.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Christian Nutt (15 May 2003). Exhaustive Star Ocean 3 Interview. GameSpy 1–2. News Corporation. Retrieved on 2007-07-01.
- ↑ Yin-Poole, Wesley. Star Ocean 4 Interview. Videogamer. Retrieved on 2009-08-17.
- ↑ Christian Nutt (2005-05-19). Yoshinori Yamagishi Interview. GameSpy 2. News Corporation. Retrieved on 2007-07-01.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 http://www.gamespot.com/news/6170683.html
- ↑ Star Ocean The Last Hope (Xbox 360). 1Up. Retrieved on 2009-08-17.
- English product page from tri-Ace
- Eternal Sphere Japanese portal site for the series.
- Official North American Star Ocean series site
- Star Ocean Wiki, an external wiki