In terms of gameplay, Claude is a close-range fighter who wields a sword, while Rena is a symbologist focused on healing and support.
Starting the game with one or the other has absolutely no change in the story whatsoever, but allows the player to experience things from the perspective of the respective character, with each one also having their own personal arcs. If the player wants more space traveler lore, go with Claude. If wanting more world-building lore, go with Rena.
Other than that, starting characters also have exclusive recruitment: Claude can recruit Leon, while Rena can recruit Dias.
In addition, certain Private Actions with specific characters can only be unlocked depending on the starting character.
Yes, however, in this Remake they made sidequests and Private Quests far more accessible by marking them on the map, which, in addition to the new fast travel mechanic, makes tackling side content a lot easier and nearly impossible to miss if you constantly check the map.
Time-sensitive sidequests and Private Actions will always have a tiny hourglass next to their icons.
I see this being asked a lot in the forums and Reddit. While in the shop menu, simply press the assigned button on-screen (Triangle on PlayStation, Y on Xbox, X on Switch) and it’ll change from “Buy” / “Sell” to “Buy Multiple” / “Sell Multiple”, allowing the player to select multiple items before the checkout, like in the original game.
In short: sadly no. There are 13 playable characters, but the party limit is up to 8 characters (4 in the main party, 4 in the reserve).
One of the signature traits of the Star Ocean series is that the player can recruit specific characters through the story, but cannot recruit everyone.
Below a small infographic regarding the intricacies of character recruitment.
Characters that automatically offer to join the party through story progression:
⭐ Celine, after completing Krosse Cave.
⭐ Bowman, after completing Linga’s Sacred Grounds.
⭐ Dias, shortly after arriving at the Lacuer Front Line Base. Only in Rena’s story.
⭐ Leon, after arriving at the Eluria Settlement. Only in Claude’s story.
⭐ Noel, after completing the Cave of Crimson Crystals.
Certain characters are locked once another one is recruited:
⭐ Recruiting Ashton prevents the player from recruiting Opera and vice-versa.
⭐ Recruiting Precis prevents the player from recruiting Bowman and vice-versa.
Other character restrictions include:
⭐ Recruiting Opera, finding Ernest later in the game, but refusing to recruit him, will cause Opera to permanently leave the party. This can be avoided by recruiting Opera and not triggering the events that lead to Ernest (finding his research at the Mountain Palace and finding Opera’s ship at the Sacred Forest).
⭐ The aforementioned case of Leon being exclusive to Claude’s story and Dias to Rena’s.
⭐ Welch will only join if the player has 4 or more characters in the party.
⭐ Chisato has special event triggers in Centropolis, North City and Cave of Crimson Crystals that leads to her recruitment.
This is my personal preference for party compositions, and ensures you’ll be able to recruit and play each and every character in the game split between two save files. With the New Game+ mode allowing to change protagonists, recruiting everyone while keep progress is a lot easier now.
In short, these is tied to the endings. Aside from the main story ending, characters have their own endings which are dependent on the Friendship Level. Characters with high levels for each other are more likely to have an ending together (and if they’re from opposite genders this can sometimes result in romantic endings).
There are also solo endings which only happen if a character didn’t develop a high Friendship Level with any other character. In addition, there are even special endings which can be unlocked by doing very specific (and often time-sensitive) Private Actions involving certain NPCs.
High Friendship Level also unlocks new Private Actions, and two specific characters (Welch and Precis) can unlock Special Arts through them.
Lastly, high friendship level also affects the hidden “Rage” status effect, which happens when a character who falls in battle has a high relationship level with one or more characters in the party during the fight. This will cause the character with the highest affection level towards the knocked out ally to be enveloped in a fiery aura, which doubles their attack power. This effect lasts for around 30 seconds, of if the enraged character is KO’ed. The Berserker Ring accessory grants the same effect, but permanently.
The Fish Baits can be changed in the Fishing Specialty Menu, but players can also swap baits on the go when they’re in front of a body of water and the fishing icon appears; just press the assigned button (R1 for PlayStation, LB for Xbox and R for Switch).
The Fishy Fragrance is a special item that allows the player to get a bite every single time, and increases the chances of getting rarer fish and multiple catches at once. In order to use it, simply move near a body of water where you can fish and press the trigger in your controller (R2 for PlayStation, RT for Xbox and ZR for Switch). If you stay idle, this will actually show on your screen, alongside the amount of Fishy Fragrances you have (displayed as “chums”).
Changes from the original game
While a lot of things were kept intact (the story, settings and character recruitment), this remake has some huge notable changes compared to the original game and the PSP port:
⭐ Characters’s hitboxes were adjusted for all their attacks, as well speed. Basic Attack combos flow much better into each other and into Special Arts. Balances across the board for all characters (Ernest is good now!).
⭐ All Special Arts and Symbology Spells were reworked, with some having extra properties attached, such as a chance to inflict debuffs. Most notably, many spells now have multi-hit properties to help the symbologists compete with the fighters, and the vast majority of spells don’t pause gameplay anymore (save for the “ultimate” spells).
⭐ Special Arts now have attributes to deal more damage to HP, to Shields or Balanced. All offensive spells from Symbology deal balanced damage.
⭐ New combat mechanics have been introduced to add more depth to fights (more info below).
⭐ Players can now fast travel at pretty much any time, and also track the campaign, time sensitive quests and Private Actions on the map.
⭐Players start with nearly all Combat Skills and Specialty / Item Creation skills available to learn right at the start. Guilds (where you’d buy the skills in the original game) now instead offer sidequests for Item Creation in exchange for various rewards.
⭐ Characters in the reserve will now gain 1/5th of the total experience earned in battle. This includes characters that are in the Assault Action formation (except for the cameos).
There are WAY more changes, but these are just the major ones. If you want to see all changes, check out the dedicated article from the Wikia page (which I made back when the demo launched and have been filling since).
New Combat Mechanics
All enemies now have shields aside from their healthbars, which is part of the Break System. This functions similarly to the Stagger System in Final Fantasy VII Remake, where dealing damage to enemies will raise a gauge and stun them.
In The Second Story R, consecutively damaging an enemy will progressively deplete their shields. Once all shields are destroyed, the enemy will be broken, which leaves them stunned and vulnerable for a few seconds. While broken enemies are subject to the following conditions:
⭐Any damage taken from player characters will be critical hit and ignore their defense stats.
⭐More Bonus Spheres for the Bonus Gauge will appear.
⭐Enemies will be completely vulnerable as their shields slowly replenish, at which point they can be broken again.
All characters have Special Arts that are “Shield-Focused”, meaning they will deal more damage to shields than normal. All Symbology Spells deal balanced damage between HP and shields.
There are many other ways to increase the damage done to enemy shields, such as certain Factors. accessories, as well two new Combat skills: Breaker (randomly increases damage to shields) and Heavy Hitter (randomly increases the amount of shields depleted on a successful Just Counter).
In battles that feature Enemy Leaders, breaking them will cause a chain reaction that breaks all other nearby enemies automatically, regardless of their shield levels. Later, players can unlock a key item, through the Challenge Mission rewards, that makes breaks to ANY enemy cause chain reactions.
During battle, the player can collect spheres that build towards a gauge with up to three levels; each level grants passive bonuses depending on the player’s current Formation equipped in the Tactics Menu, up to three different levels based on the amount of spheres collected.
Bonus Spheres can be acquired through a variety of conditions in battle:
⭐Defeating an enemy.
⭐Landing a critical hit.
⭐Breaking an enemy.
The level of the Bonus Gauge will persist after battle. However, the gauge will reset to zero if the following happen:
⭐The player-controlled character is knocked out.
⭐The player fails to perform a Just Counter and is broken instead.
⭐The player is ambushed by the enemy in a Back Attack.
There are, however, ways to remedy these penalties and make the gauge resetting less punishing, such as some accessories, Factors and Combat Skills.
Also simply called “Counter”, it’s one of the most important mechanics in the game. It allows players to completely negate damage from enemy attacks and retaliate, teleporting the character behind the enemy to attack.
This is done by pressing the dedicated button, which makes the character backstep; this animation lasts for 22 frames and it has no invincibility frames by itself; only when triggering a counter. The window of opportunity of the counter is until frame 14.
A successful perfect counter will completely negate the damage, granting invincibility frames, and also makes the character move at high speed behind the enemy and strike. In addition, a perfect counter attack will remove one shield from the enemy. Lastly, the character will recover 25% of their max MP (this value becomes higher if the character’s HP is low).
Timing is crucial, as doing it too early or too late will result in a counter failure, which stuns the player character and COMPLETELY reset the bonus gauge. If you press the backstep button while taking damage, it’ll also break the character.
Mastering the counter system is key to success in this remake, especially on the Universe Difficulty.
A simple, yet advanced technique where the player interrupts the animation of the perfect counter with a Special Art or Symbology Spell. By pressing the shortcut for Arts / Spells right when triggering the perfect counter, the character will use the assigned ability instead of a normal attack (spamming the button works).
There is a possible bug regarding counter canceling. When doing it with a spell, the caster will have invincibility frames while chanting the spell. This also works for fleeing battles; by performing a perfect counter and immediately opening the battle menu before the attack is triggered and selecting Escape, the character will have full invincibility frames. This was present in the demo, but hasn’t been changed in the final version of the game.
This system allows the player to summon characters in the reserve party to perform Special Arts or Symbology Spells. Some important things to note:
⭐The player can set up to 4 characters for Assault Actions.
⭐Each character can have their own Assault Action set (both offensive and defensive abilities), each with their own indvidual cooldowns. Defeating enemies and triggering battle skills quickens the cooldown.
⭐Multiple Assault Actions cannot be used simultaneously; only one at the time, but they can be used successfully.
Players can also acquire special jewels that allows to summon characters from other Star Ocean games. These cameo characters are not actual party members nor have any impact on the story; while they don’t level up, the damage calculation of their Assault Action is scales with the character with the highest ATK or INT in the active party.
Also, it’s important to note that Assault Action damage is NOT affected by the Surpass Damage Limit Combat Skill, even if you have it fully upgraded on a character; the max damage of Assault Actions will always be 9999.
⭐Laeticia Jewel: found at the end of Krosse Cave. Summons Laeticia Aucerius from the sixth game in the series, The Divine Force.
⭐Fayt Jewel: use Assault Action 50 times. Summons Fayt Leingod from the third game in the series, Till the End of Time.
⭐Raymond Jewel: rewarded after catching 22 different types of fish and reporting to Reel in Harley (or L’Aqua). Summons Raymond Lawrence from the sixth game in the series, The Divine Force.
⭐Edge Jewel: trade one Harbor Amago or six Divine Char with Reel in Harley. Summons Edge Maverick from the fourth game in the series, The Last Hope.
⭐Roddick Jewel: complete 30 Guild Missions. Summons Roddick Farrence from the first game in the series, First Departure.
⭐Fidel Jewel: complete 30 Guild Missions. Summons Fidel Camuze from the fifth game in the series, Integrity and Faithlessness.
Triggering Private Actions in The Second Story R is much simpler than in the original title, as the player can freely swap between the Normal Mode and Private Action Mode at any given time while inside a town (except during story bits).
That said, always save the game before starting a Private Action. Nearly all of them will affect character relationship levels, and some can even start Private Action chains that lead to secret endings or special items. Many Private Actions also require prompts where you must give a reply to the character, and a wrong reply can result in a decrease in affection level or cancelling a trigger of a future Private Action.
It is important to note that all towns now have Save Points, but they will disappear temporarily while the player is in Private Action Mode.
There is actually a funny way to get free items from certain NPCs. If you stand on the way of NPCs that walk around in towns, some of them may get irritated, shown by the fumes coming out of their heads. If you talk to them while in this state, they’ll often express their annoyance that you’re blocking the way, and a few NPCs will hand you items so you skedaddle. Neat!
This is a nifty shortcut that was added for the remake. While in the Improve > IC/Specialty menu, you can swap between upgrading the individual skills or the Item Creation and Specialties themselves by pressing the assigned button (Square on PlayStation, X on Xbox and Y on Switch).
Points will be spent on the assigned skills to make leveling more easily. In addition, while in this mode, you can even see which are the respective Item Creation / Specialty skills related.
As aforementioned, unlike in the original game, Skills are no longer bought at Guilds, instead being available by default to learn using SP (Skill Points) and BP (Battle Points). There are some “secret” skills that are obtained through the game, though; most of them are rewards from completing Challenge Missions.
SP is used to learn & upgrade Item Creation and Specialties. These skills, aside from being pivotal to the success rate of each those mechanics, also often grant passive effects such as increased attributes, discounts at shops, and increased effects from healing items.
BP is used to upgrade Special Arts / Symbology and also to learn & upgrade Combat Skills (most of those have a small chance to trigger based on their level).
Whether the character is a fighter or a symbologist, the most important Skill in the game is Determination, which reduces the SP cost of ALL other Specialty Skills per level.
⭐Max this before spending SP on anything else⭐.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to max Determination, and then purchase the first level of each and every skill to have all Item Creation and Specialties available. Same thing for Combat Skills, depending on the type of character (fighters don’t need to learn Hasten Speech, for example).
⭐Surpass Damage Limit: arguably the most important Combat Skill in the entire game for any character. It allows to increase the damage dealt above 9999, up to 99999. This is a secret Combat Skill unlocked by completing the Legend Challenge Mission to deal 40 million damage cumulatively over the course of the game.
⭐Godspeed: this is possibly the second best Combat Skill, though tailored for fighters. It passively increases movement speed, but also has a chance to make the character “teleport” to his target at lightning speed. This is pivotal for combat, especially when you need to swap to targets that are attacking your backline (i.e. Symbologists). I strongly recommend maxing this as soon as possible, or at the very least upgrading it to Level 5 and investing on the other skills. Symbologists can benefit from this skill too, but mainly to increase mobility in order to flee from enemies.
⭐Backstab: this works exactly like Godspeed, but has a chance to teleport the character right behind the enemy. This is a secret Combat Skill unlocked by completing the Beginner Challenge Mission to learn 20% of the Combat skills with one character.
⭐Breaker: increases the chance of doing extra damage to enemy shields. This skill affects all sources of damage, whether it’s normal attacks, Special Arts of Symbology Spells. This is a secret Combat Skill unlocked by completing the Expert Challenge Mission to break four enemy shields at once.
⭐Hasten Speech: an absolute must for symbologists and it’s the first Combat Skill you’ll want to learn. It decreases the cast time of all spellcasting.
⭐Concentration: random chance to grant super armor to the user while chanting spells. Useless for fighters. Very useful if you’re not using the Square Shift 1 & 2 Formations;
⭐Power Burst / Trance: random chance to increase attack power / spell damage. Very straightforward.
⭐ Knife / Technology: both increase STR by a whopping 10 per level. A must for fighters.
⭐ Mineralogy / Faeriology they increase INT by 3 and 2 per level, respectively, which increases all magic damage and healing. A must for symbologists.
⭐ Aesthetic Design: increase ATK, INT, AVD and HIT by 6 per level. A huge stat boom useful for all characters.
⭐ Danger Radar: increase STM by 3 per level. Very useful in the early game since characters tend to burn their MP really fast, and high STM allows to recover more HP and MP per battle.
⭐ Herbology: increase the recovery from Blueberries and Blackberries by 3% per level. When maxed, this makes these herbs recover 52% of HP and MP. Can make most food items obsolete.
Getting powerful items earlier
There are various useful items that can be obtained very early in the game, and they’re generally pretty simple to obtain. While some may break the game, others are just generally useful without shifting the balance of the difficulty.
This consumable item will grant the player three random items (in a pool with over 200); one of these items is the Sword of Marvels, which is one of the best weapons in the game (1000 ATK and has guaranteed 100% CRIT). You can save scum and reload the game until you get this sword, but I strongly recommend not doing this on your first playthrough as it can trivialize over half the game.
⭐ The easiest method to get the Goodie Box is by completing one of the Challenge Missions, specifically the one that requires filling 10% of the item encyclopedia. The quickest way to achieve this early in the game is by Fishing, as well using Cooking and Crafting.
⭐ There is also an old man next to the inn in Marze, who can be pickpocketed for the Goodie Box.
⭐ You can also get an unlimited supply of Goodie Box by trading them with Reel for certain fish.
⭐ Lastly, Goodie Boxes can also be created through Art, at least level 4, by selecting the “Create Strange Goods”. The chance is pretty low, though.
It’s important to note that Goodie Boxes CANNOT be duplicated with Replication.
This item works similarly to the Goodie Box, but only grants a single item. The item pool appears to be more or less the same as the Goodie Box.
⭐ The easiest method to get the Fountain Card in the early game is by checking the Unique Spot near Kurik, which rewards the player with the item.
It’s important to note that Fountain Cards CANNOT be duplicated with Replication.
This is easily one of the best accessories in the game for characters with powerful Basic Attacks (i.e. Claude, Ashton, Welch). It increases the number of hits per Basic Attack by 1 hit. Later players can get the Lightspeed Ring, which adds 2 extra hits instead.
⭐ The earliest method to get the Meteor Ring is by completing one of the Challenge Missions, specifically the one that requires breaking enemies 50 times, which should be pretty easy to do by just playing the game normally. The best place to do this in the early game, however, is at Salva Mines, near the recovery save point, and repeatedly fight the enemy near it, who will always spawn the large bunnies; Rena can instantly break their shields with a single cast of Crush.
⭐ Another Meteor Ring can be obtained once reaching the Lacuer Kingdom, by finding the “Gift from the Sky” unique spot (a massive crater found north of Linga).
It’s important to note that Meteor Rings CANNOT be duplicated with Replication.
This is one of the most powerful accessories in the game, especially at the start when MP recovery is scarce. This ring reduces MP cost of all Special Arts and Symbology Spells by 50%.
⭐ The Faerie Ring can be easily acquired through Crafting, with Claude, using a Green Beryl.
This accessory prevents back attacks. In this game, getting back attack can be a death penalty since it leaves characters vulnerable for several seconds, on top of completely resetting the bonus gauge. For that reason, the Earring of Readiness plays a huge role. Even more importantly, it works even if equipped on a character in the reserve.
⭐ The Earring of Readiness can be easily acquired through Crafting, with Claude or Celine, using a Diamond. Given it’s an Earring, it can only be equipped by female characters.
This accessory doubles the attack power and puts the character in a constant Enraged state. It’s perfect for fighters that have powerful Special Arts.
⭐ The Berserker Ring can be easily acquired through Crafting, with Claude, using a Ruby.
⭐ Later in the game you can acquire a Berserker Ring Kit as a Guild Quest Reward.
Possibly two of the most powerful defensive accessories in the whole game. The Shield Ring reduces physical damage by 90%, while the Ring of Resistance reduces magical damage by 90%. The drawback is that both accessories have a 10% chance to break per damage taken.
⭐ The Shield Ring can be easily acquired through Crafting, with Rena or Celine, using a Star Ruby.
⭐ The Ring of Resistance can be easily acquired through Crafting, with XX, using a XX.
⭐ Both rings can also be bought at Reel’s shop (on Harley and L’Aqua), and are also rewards from the Challenge Mission to Appraise 10 items.
Both rings can be duplicated through Replication.
This unique accessory can only be found at Kurik. By entering Private Action Mode before the town is destroyed, the player can find a NPC called Philia. By pickpocketing her, the player can obtain the Sprite’s Bracelet; it’s a one of a kind accessory, meaning that if the player fails to do the Private Action they cannot obtain it.
This accessory has a chance to give random items by simply walking around. It’s not required to be equipped on the leader to work, and works even if equipped on a character in the reserve party and during Private Actions.
The item pool of the Sprite’s Bracelet includes very rare items like Counterfeit Medals, which reduce all experienced required for the current level 1. This item can be crafted through Contraband.
Later in the game the player can find the Pixie’s Bracelet, which is a better version of the Sprite’s Bracelet, with a better item pool. The beauty of this is that both accessories stack, meaning the player will periodically get two items.
It’s important to note that both the Sprite’s Bracelet and Pixie’s Bracelet CANNOT be duplicated with Replication.
One of the biggest mistakes of new players do is trying to force through enemies. While this worked in the original The Second Story, and can work in the endgame of The Second Story R, it’s still advised to not try to power through enemies and tunnel vision.
The way enemy AI works is that they’ll often prioritize:
⭐ The closest player character.
⚠️Some enemies will do the opposite and target the furthest character (which often tends to be the symbologists).
⭐ Characters doing high damage.
Once the enemy has a target set, they will move towards the character and won’t stop until they reach their target or get staggered by an attack. You can use this to your advantage to perform baits and pull enemies away from more frail allies, or clutter foes together for big area-damage. This is very valuable against melee-only enemies.
The player character AI is, unfortunately, very limited. Symbologists will often stand still as enemies approach, and end up taking free damage. So always keep an eye to the battlefield and swap between characters to keep them off harm’s way.
The Star Ocean series has always been notorious for huge spikes in difficulty, especially in dungeons. Because of that, building a team that can deal with a variety of different situations is important. The most basic type of team is:
⭐ A fighter that excels in single target damage (e.g. Dias, Ashton, Welch).
⭐ A fighter that excels in area-of-effect damage (e.g. Claude, Precis, Chisato).
⭐ A Symbology user (i.e. Celine, Leon, Noel).
⭐ A healer (i.e. Rena, Noel).
Of course, you can mix this, such as having two spellcasters or three fighters. You can even forgo the dedicated healer; for instance, Opera is a fighter, but she has access to Healing Star, which is capable of healing the whole party without requiring a cast time.
With the new Break System playing a major role in combat, you’ll want, ideally, each fighter equipped with a Shield-Focused and HP-Focused ability to ensure they can hold on their own. Some characters excel at breaking more than others.
The Assault Action system further supplements teambuilding as you can have assist skills from other characters to cover weak points in your team, or reinforce its strengths. For instance, if the player is using Celine in the main party, they can have Leon in the reserve with a powerful spell that overlaps with Celine’s and unleash massive damage in a large area. Or have both Rena and Noel in the reserve with healing spells for a team with no dedicated healer.
Symbologists in general tend to be very useful for Assault Actions as there is no casting time; when you summon a symbologist they’ll immediately use their spell as soon as they appear.
Unless you have a Veda Idol (obtained from Art), always flee battles with one of your symbologists by going to the bottom of the screen, and then swap to a fighter and bait enemies around. Since only one ally is required to escape in order for the whole party to flee. That way you avoid taking unnecessary damage.
You can also become completely immune to damage by performing a Just Counter Cancel, pulling the menu and selecting the escape. The character will have full invincibility frames while attempting to flee.
The fastest and most effective way to level to 255 after finishing the Maze of Tribulations is:
⭐ Set difficulty to Earth.
⭐ Max out Train on all characters and turn it on.
⭐ Set the Square Shift 2 in the Formation menu.
⭐ Create at least one Experience Card through Art.
⭐ Create at least one Amoeba Soup through Cooking using Gelatinous Slime or Wobbly Slime (both can be found in the Maze of Tribulations).
⭐ Duplicate the Experience Card and Amoeba Soup through Replication.
⭐ Compose the Devil’s Aria through Music using the Silver Trumpet.
⭐ Use a Amoeba Soup.
⭐ Play Devil’s Aria Level 8 to fight the Tyrant Dragon.
⭐ Use a Experience Card and defeat the boss.
⭐ You’ll get over over 5 billion EXP from all the buckets of experience bonuses.
If you don’t want to use the Bloody Helmet / Armor cheese, there is a legit way to defeat her that isn’t so cheesy, but it’s pretty effective.
Basically you’ll want to spam Megabombs (which deals damage half of the enemy’s HP, up to 999.999) while in the Escape Shift Formation, which at max stacks have a 50% chance to make items not consume when used. This can be combined with the XXXX factor, which further increases this chance to 75%.
With this strategy, the player can defeat Iselia Queen by simply spamming the Megabombs; it takes around 50 Megabombs to completely defeat her without attacking once (in Galaxy difficulty).
Extra preparations include:
⭐ Ideally you’ll want to do this with a single character and with the Bunny Shoes / Valiant Boots / Valkyrie Boots equipped for the extra movement speed.
⭐ Equipping the Silver Charm (made with Crafting by using Silver with Claude) is also useful as it’s cheap to make, and it grants immunity to instant death, which will negate Iselia’s Word of Death. This accessory also grants absorption against Light and nullifies Darkness, which will negate Iselia’s Meteor Swarm and Star Flare.
⭐ Equip a Reverse Doll (revives the character once but breaks the item) in case things go south.
- STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R – Remake Factors Guide
- STAR OCEAN THE SECOND STORY R – How to Fix Ultrawide Issue