Star Ocean: The Second Story R - Character Recruitment Guide and Best Party

Star Ocean: The Second Story R is a remake of the PSOne classic. One aspect of this game is the character recruiting feature which can be a headache for new players and even veterans of the series. This is a complex system - but this guide is here to help you with character recruitment, showing how to recruit all characters in Star Ocean 2.

Star Ocean 2 Character Recruitment guide

The complexity of the Star Ocean 2 Character Recruitment system is mainly thanks to the party cap and the availability of characters in specific routes. These are significant wrinkles in a mission to recruit all party members, but they're also key design elements in Star Ocean: The Second Story R, as well as previous versions and iterations of the game.

Essentially, these mechanics make it impossible to recruit all characters in a single playthrough. However, it's still possible to recruit the majority of characters in a single play-through - which this guide aims to assist you with. If you choose a different protagonist on a second play-through, you can then recruit different characters.

This guide will serve as a pointer to let players have a general idea of each playable character's general strengths so they can determine whether to recruit them or not. If you're specifically playing the more recent Star Ocean: The Second Story R version of the game, all characters are viable in combat due to the gameplay changes in the Remake. Due to this, the general overview is that casters are considerably better than their original counterpart, however, melee is still overall superior. 

Warning Note: Since this covers all the characters in the game, there will be spoilers on who is playable.

Claude ClaudeSpriteNew.png

  • Route Exclusive: No
  • Recruitment: Default
  • Drawbacks:  N/A
Claude is one of the two possible characters who can be selected as the main protagonist in the game. Both protagonists, Claude or Rena, will join the party early in the game, so you won't end up missing them regardless. Claude serves as the standard melee DPS character. He may start off as average, but he's likely to become your most efficient DPS character by the end of the game, making him one of the best playable characters. 

Rena RenaSpriteNew.png

  • Route Exclusive: No
  • Recruitment: Default
  • Drawbacks:  N/A
The other main protagonist, Rena, is a support character and probably the best one at it. Rena specializes in healing, which is a role that many other characters lack. She's also a valuable source of buffs for your party members. Rena's abilities make her an excellent choice and you will most likely always have her in your party even on Claude's route. 

Celine CelineSpriteNew.png

  • Route Exclusive: No
  • Recruitment: Although Celine can join as a temporary member in Krosse, the option to recruit her permanently comes at the end of Krosse Cave. (If you reject her request, she will never appear again.) 
  • Drawbacks:  There is another caster that you can recruit later that might be better, but he's exclusive to Claude's route. 
Celine is one of the earliest story characters you'll meet. She's a spellcaster, and spellcasters in the Star Ocean series have had a reputation for being weaker compared to melee DPS characters. However, in Star Ocean 2R, the battle system has been completely reworked, with spells being cast faster and no longer freezes the game. There is a superior spellcaster (Leon) for Claude's route, that you can recruit for later, since there are plenty of character slots, having her join the party will make the early game much easier.  However, she still provides good support abilities if you don't rely on her casting attack magic all the time. 

Ashton AshtonSpriteNew.png

  • Route Exclusive: No
  • Recruitment: After the story quest in Marze, head to the town of Harley. Talk to the miners at the town's entrance. Clear the Salva Mines side quest to recruit him. If Opera is in your party, Ashton will not join you.
  • Drawbacks: Recruiting Ashton prevents Opera and Ernest from joining the party. Permanent bad luck and has the worst accuracy out of all the close-range fighters. Ashton also starts with random talents. 
Ashton is one of the earliest optional melee DPS characters you can recruit to your party. He becomes an exceptionally strong melee fighter in the late game thanks to his incredible physical strength and powerful abilities. In the remake, Ashton's attack animation speed is significantly slower compared to his previous counterpart. This could potentially make him less effective as a melee unit, especially in post-game scenarios. There is also a significant trade-off when recruiting Ashton. By recruiting him, you'll miss the opportunity to recruit Opera and her lover, Ernest. Opera is considered one of the best-ranged fighters in Star Ocean 2, making this decision a substantial one.

Dias DiasSpriteNew.png

  • Route Exclusive: Rena Only
  • Recruitment: During the story sequence in Lacuer Front Line Base, Dias will talk to your party, if you start as Rena, he offers the option to join you. 
  • Drawbacks:  Mid Physical Stats, other swordsmen have better skills. 
Most of the male fighters in the game are generally strong characters. While Dias may have relatively lower physical strength compared to other combatants, he excels at higher difficulty levels due to his higher dexterity growth, which makes it easier to hit enemies when facing tougher foes. In lower difficulties, you might still find Claude superior. Despite these drawbacks, Dias is considered one of the best playable characters in the game.

Leon LeonSpriteNew.png

  • Route Exclusive: Claude Only
  • Recruitment: During the main story, when you reach the Ell Continent, you will have the opportunity to ask him to join you.
  • Drawbacks:  Casters generally aren't as versatile as melee fighters. Leon also comes quite late and other casters have better superior support abilities which might Leon a lesser option.
Leon arrives quite late in the game and is exclusive to Claude's route. While he possesses some of the strongest magic in the game, often covering a wide radius that can easily clear out trash mobs, magic users tend to be underwhelming compared to non-magic attackers. For general content, Celine provides better support magic which can be more useful for fighting boss fights or higher difficulty combat. 

Precis PrecisSpriteNew.png

  • Route Exclusive: No
  • Recruitment: Use Private Action in Linga to meet her. 
  • Drawbacks:  Prevents Bowman from joining. Rather mediocre stats.
Despite being another melee fighter, Precis fulfills a unique role that no other character can replicate. Precis may not be the strongest or most accurate fighter, but her main strength lies in her excellent crowd control abilities, as she can stunlock enemies and keep them at a certain distance. If you're aiming to make certain characters like Opera or Chisato shine, then recruiting Precis as an optional character is a great option.  In the remake, Precis might be the strongest character in the post-game due to having one of the best weapons available to her. This makes her even stronger than the rest of the melee units. However, one drawback with Precis is that one of her best abilities can only be learned if Ashton is in your party, which would prevent you from recruiting Opera and Ernest.

Opera OperaSpriteNew.png

  • Route Exclusive: No
  • Recruitment: Before you start the recruitment process, you must skip out Ashton for Opera to appear.
    • After leaving Krosse Castle for the first time, Trigger the event in Krosse that involves a three-eyed man running away. (This event is a Private Action in the Original/Second Evolution)
    • Get further into the story until you can participate in the Lacuer Arms Tournament.
    • After the tournament, find Opera in Hilton Bar. 
    • Travel to Krosse and talk to the King to get rumors about a three-eyed woman.
    • Go to Mountain Palace. Then find Opera somewhere inside the dungeon and ask her to join you. 
  • Drawbacks:  She will only appear in the story if you do not recruit Ashton. Requires a long series of quests to recruit. Also, takes some investment to shine.
Opera is arguably one of the strongest ranged characters in Star Ocean who isn't a magic caster. She's an excellent addition to your party, especially if you don't mind missing out on recruiting Ashton. However, there's a caveat when it comes to using Opera: her equipment options aren't great until later in the game. Furthermore, you'll need to invest some time in developing her proficiency before she truly excels and outperforms others in your party. One of Opera's standout abilities is Healing Star, this is one of the best healing skills in the game. Her ranged attacks using a rifle allow you to approach and defeat many bosses with ease due to her extended range. Importantly, recruiting Opera also opens the door to recruiting her lover, Ernest as well.

If you get Opera, you do not *have* to get Ernest. However, if you flag the events to recruit Ernest (see below), and then reject him at the last minute, Opera will also leave your party.

Ernest ErnestSpriteNew.png

  • Route Exclusive: No
  • Recruitment: To start the quest line of recruiting Ernest, you must have already recruited Opera.
    • Clear the Mountain Palace with Opera, the story sequence should lead you to a room where there might be signs of Ernest.
    • After this sequence, return to the Sacred Forest where Rena first met Claude. This will trigger a story scene.
    • Then go along with the main story until you clear Hoffman Ruins. This will give you the opportunity to recruit Ernest.
  • Drawbacks:  Require Opera in your party to recruit him. Has a long series of quests before you can recruit him. Ashton and Dias are also superior melee fighters over him. 
Ernest, similar to Dias, doesn't excel in terms of physical stats. However, encountering him has its advantages. By following the Opera questline, you can come across Ernest as part of a side quest. If you've invested in the Pickpocket talent, you can steal one of the best armors in the game from him. Despite these perks, Ernest primarily relies on a whip that's hard to target and has only one decent ability. He can be somewhat more effective in harder difficulty levels due to his high accuracy stats.

Welch WelchSpriteNew.png

  • Route Exclusive: No
  • Recruitment: After finishing the Lacuer Arms Tournament, use Private Action in Lacuer to meet her. You need at least four characters, and it must be done before completing the Linga herb quest.
  • Drawbacks:  Doesn't specialize in anything. 
Welch is an exclusive character created for the enhanced port and remakes of Star Ocean: The Second Story. In the original version for PlayStation, Welch is not recruitable. While Welch doesn't have any specialty, what sets her apart is that none of her attacks or skills are tied to elemental attributes, making her versatile in situations where elemental attributes can be a problem. Additionally, she boasts one of the fastest normal attack animations among the playable characters. There is also an easter egg for Welch for players who find a special item in Eluria Tower. In this remake, Welch becomes one of the top melee characters, particularly in the post-game. She has access to one of the strongest weapons, and her Mithril Punch covers a massive range, making her a great candidate for battles.

Bowman BowmanSpriteNew.png

  • Route Exclusive: No
  • Recruitment: If Precis is not in your party, he will eventually ask you if he can join the party after the Linga story arc. 
  • Drawbacks:  Prevents Precis from joining, 
Bowman is a character with a polarizing opinion in the community. Some players consider him to be godawful, while others believe he's one of the best melee characters you can recruit, depending on who you ask. Bowman's primary weapon is his fists, which result in a relatively short range. However, in a game where spamming abilities are common, his range may not be a significant concern. Another issue with Bowman is that his weapon of choice has poor accuracy, which can be problematic on higher difficulty levels. Recruiting Bowman also prevents you from getting Precis, who can be an excellent character.

Noel NoelSpriteNew.png

  • Route Exclusive: No
  • Recruitment: Will ask to join the party after the story sequence in the Cave of Crimson Crystals. 
  • Drawbacks: Rena and Celine can do everything better, a waste of a character slot. Also joins extremely late in the game. 
Noel is a versatile character who can handle both support and attack magic. However, a significant drawback is that Rena is a mandatory member of the party, and she excels in providing support, making Noel's support abilities redundant. Additionally, if you're looking for offensive magic, Celine performs this role more effectively than Noel. In light of these factors, it's challenging to justify including Noel in your party when Rena and Celine are available much earlier in the game and offer superior abilities and support. You wouldn't need him in the party when you can bring a character that specializes in that field.

Chisato ChisatoSpriteNew.png

  • Route Exclusive: No
  • Recruitment:
    • When exploring the Cave of Crimson Crystals, find Chisato and she will drop an ID card.
    • Bring the ID Card back to Centropolis, talk to the Chisato with the ID Card and she will join you.
  • Drawbacks:  Comes extremely late in the game and by that time you might have all your character slots filled up. Poor skill recovery, requires protection for her to excel in combat.
Chisato is widely considered the best damage dealer in this game, primarily due to her incredibly powerful Tear Gas ability. This skill inflicts a massive number of hits and is relatively accurate, making it capable of annihilating enemies. However, to make the most of Chisato's abilities, she does require some investment in terms of proficiency and support from her party. One drawback is that she has poor recovery, which can leave her vulnerable while using her skills. It's essential to have other party members covering for her to protect her from enemy attacks. Additionally, Chisato joins the party quite late in the game, so you might already have a full party by that point, potentially missing the opportunity for her to join you.

Star Ocean 2 - Best Party Setup & Composition

At this point, you might be thinking "That's great and all, but just tell me what the best party is!" There are 13 characters and only 8 'slots' in your party, so you can't recruit everyone. As in any RPG with broad party options, you've got choices to make in terms of picking the best party for combat. 

Truthfully, Star Ocean: The Second Story is not a very hard game, and the remake is even easier. You can easily clear everything in the game with any party, even post game. Claude and Rena themselves are both great battle characters, so that could be half your 4-man battle party right there.

But for the min-maxers out there, it's best to know that melee fighters still seem to have a strong edge over casters. Especially in the late-game and post-game, the number of hits you can land will determine your damage output moreso than anything else. So that means characters like Celine, Leon, and Noel aren't excellent additions compared to other characters. Even Rena isn't a requirement in a great battle party, as healing can be achieved with characters like Opera, items, or Factors in the remake (although of course you have to have Rena as one of your eight characters).

  • As stated above, Chisato is one of the best fighters in the game, outside of Claude. She attacks quickly and has several good abilities. She's a highly recommended addition to the party (and she comes pre-loaded with some ability in replication as a bonus, too, which is good for money and item exploits). Really there's no reason not to get her.
  • Opera is an excellent damage dealer WITH a healing ability in Healing Star. Being a ranged attacker, she often stays away from enemies (assuming you don't give her skills that attack from up close), so she does a decent job staying alive.
  • AshtonPrecis, Dias, and Bowman are also solid physical fighters, although none as top-tier as Chisato. It's important to note that Precis' best attack - Super Holograph - requires Ashton in the party, so if you have Opera instead, Precis isn't as good as she could be. If you do have Ashton, though, Precis becomes a bit more useful.
  • While Welch and Ernest are also physical attackers, they're simply not as good as other options, mostly due to underwhelming skills.

Back in the day, a common general tip was "three fighters plus Rena", which is still fair game. If you must know, I used Claude/Chisato/Rena/Precis (with Super Holograph) in my post-game party that took on bosses like Gabriella Celeste and the Iseria Queen. Other gotos include Claude/Chisato/Opera/Bowman, or Claude/Chisato/Ashton/Rena

Just make sure to include Chisato, really.