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The Star Ocean series of RPGs is legendary amongst genre fans, sharing similarities with such games as Tales of Phantasia and the Zelda series, with their focus on action and exploration. This is the first game in the series, and lays down much of the framework for what would follow. The game plays out in a top down perspective and sees players exploring a well realised sci-fi universe, interacting with various NPCs and of course battling against a myriad of enemies. The plot is a typically convoluted Japanese RPG concoction, and involves a shadowy conspiracy, a deadly disease and your party's search to uncover the truth and save the universe. In fairly standard JRPG fashion, players can recruit a party of up to nine characters, each with their own abilities which can be customised by gaining experience in battle. Combat here is not turn-based, as in Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, but real-time although this is implemented with a twist. Instead of controlling your characters directly, you choose actions for them to carry out, which gives the game a distinct flavour. In many ways, Star Ocean is little more than a conventional RPG, with an emphasis on action rather than the puzzling of games like Zelda. Its appeal lies in its epic story and cast of characters, all of whom are extensively fleshed out, and while the gameplay is certainly enjoyable, it is nothing special, and it is the story which will keep you playing. Fans of the Tales series should enjoy this sci-fi take on the genre, with its stylish graphics and slick character design. There is certainly plenty of adventuring to be had here, and the plot is genuinely compelling but it does seem a tad simplistic now, so perhaps this is one for diehard JRPG fans only.