Before being introduced to Star Ocean games, I thought Final Fantasy were the best RPG games on offer. I've played many RPGs since then, and for me Star Ocean is the best. Why do I like it so much? For starters, you can actually move around in battle. If you're a virgin to this concept and are more used to turn taking, get this game and revel in the pleasures of ass kicking and attack combos. During battle, you open the circulating menu to use symbology (magic), items, change party member tactics, or to run away like a coward (which hardly ever happens because the concept of button bashing usually works in defeating normal enemies). The good thing about opening the menu is that the rest of the battle is paused, and you can 'um and ah' over what to do next.
I also love that you can change the character you control during battle. For example- if the party healer is sitting on their thumbs doing nothing, you can quickly change over to them and heal the whole party. Then you can change back to a fighter and pummel your opponents. Mwahaha. This also works well if you want a magic user to use specific attacks. That, or you can use the option to choose which spells a magic user can use before the battle starts in the main menu.
To give you an idea of the level of grinding required... I played the game through in Japanese months before it was released into the UK- and as long as I was near a save point, most boss battles can be managed as long as you can handle the normal level monsters in the surrounding areas.
The innovative thing about Star Ocean are the Private Actions- where you can choose to enter a town or village and split up from your main party. There upon you can talk to different characters and initiate events that you control the outcome of. If you choose to be sensitive and further your relationships with the other characters- you are likely to get extra 'couple' endings when you finish the game (or even items and battle skills). If you choose to be an insensitive ass- you are likely to get a slap in the face.
The second thing that sets Star Ocean apart from the rest is the item creation. There are over 30 skills you buy at certain shops- and when you level up you gain skill points to level up these skills. There are skills to help you in battle, skills to give you extra stats when you level up, and skills to help you learn 'item creation' abilities, such as cooking, pick-pocketing and even contraband (illegal documents for more EXP and Fol/Cash!). I could sit for hours levelling up, learning skills, creating different dishes that can be used as healing items, or making my own jewelry and battle equipment.
The characters are fantastic- and cover a wide variety. You have 4 main characters (which I won't attempt to remember the English versions) Iria, Ratix, Ronixis and Milly. And after that you can choose 4 other characters to join your party. Some you literally run into, others are a little harder to recruit as certain events must be completed in a certain order. The storyline itself is shorter than more modern Star Ocean games, but the extra side quests, item creation and multiple characters, endings and secret dungeons mean that this game has hours of gameplay and is REALLY addictive. But in a good way, so just say YES to Star Ocean. You'll want to play it again and again to get different characters and play through slightly different events and to get different items and endings- and even different cut scenes.
The music is great- the English voices are funny- and the cut scenes are absolutely beautiful in anime.
I think any RPG fan would LOVE this game.