Star Ocean: The Second Story R gives you the chance to pick between Claude or Rena as the main character of the game. The experience doesn’t change massively between the two, but some things make Rena’s side of the story very interesting.
Why you should see Rena’s side of the story
I’d imagine most players will choose Claude’s perspective on the first time through Star Ocean: The Second Story R. And I don’t necessarily blame them since you can’t go wrong with a sword-wielding spacefarer. But I’d argue that Rena’s side of things might be a better fit for some players, especially those who didn’t play through Star Ocean: First Departure R.
As I said before, the difference between the two characters is not huge by any means. But their perspectives on the story make a big difference in how you understand things on the first playthrough. So here are a few reasons why I think you need to play through Rena’s side of things.
A fresh perspective with Rena
Rena’s side of the story smoothly introduces you to the planet of Expel without bombarding you with a ton of information about Star Ocean’s universe. It’s similar to the beginning of Star Ocean: First Departure R. In that game, you also start with your characters like it’s just another day on your world. And then as the story progressed you’d find out more about the universe.
The same sort of progression plays out from Rena’s perspective in this game. And I think that it makes for a smoother opening for new players who want to be eased into the story. It also provides you with a nice bit of mystery in the opening few hours. You learn fragments about Rena’s past, and the story surrounding Claude’s arrival on the planet unfolds much more slowly.
You may not gain some context that occurs at the start of Claude’s playthrough, but I don’t think that matters much the first time through. So for new players, I’d recommend starting with Rena for a smoother introduction. Rena also looks cooler so sorry to all the Claude fans out there.
A different combat style
You can freely choose who you want to play as in battle once you have party members to switch with in Star Ocean: The Second Story R. So if you don’t like Claude or Rena, you don’t need to play as them the entire game. But I tend to stick with the protagonist in games like this. So in Rena’s playthrough, I’m going to play with Rena most of the time. And as someone who likes their combat to feel fresh, Rena can be very fun.
Unlike Claude, Rena uses magic and her fists to do the talking in combat. As such she’s a bit slower than Claude but has more utility thanks to her healing and stat-effecting spells. If like me you’re coming fresh off of the first Star Ocean game which also had a sword-wielder as the lead, you may enjoy the change of pace that Rena’s combat has. And again you can always switch to other party members if you don’t like her style much. And speaking of switching party members, the next point is arguably the most important.
Different party members
Rena only has one exclusive party member, but he’s a very nice one to have. Dias is not only the coolest-looking character in Star Ocean: The Second Story R, but he also perfectly complements Rena. He uses a sword with deadly efficiency and power. So much so that he can effectively replace Claude in your party setup if you so wish. Frankly, he’s much more interesting than Claude’s exclusive party member too.
Rena’s route also gives you a chance to recruit some party members who lock each other out. For example, you can’t recruit Bowman and Precis or Opera and Ashton in the same playthrough. But you can always start up a second playthrough to see what those characters are like the next time around. Part of the fun of Star Ocean is building up different kinds of teams on future playthroughs. So treat the first time around as an experimental phase. And in my opinion, building the party around Rena’s abilities is more interesting than Claude’s.
Even if both playthroughs aren’t hugely different, I’d say there’s enough of a change to make them both worth experiencing. If you’re a first time player coming to Star Ocean: The Second Story R, I would strongly recommend starting with Rena. And if you’ve just finished up your playthrough with Claude, I think seeing the story through Rena’s perspective is more than worth the time investment.