Star Ocean is a role-playing video game that is played from a top-down perspective. The player navigates a character throughout the game world, exploring areas and interacting with non-player characters.In progressing through the game, the player is able to recruit up to eight additional characters to travel alongside the protagonist; some recruitments happen automatically, while others only happen depending on the previous actions and options taken by the player. Though only 8 characters can be recruited in a playthrough, ten characters are available to be recruited, meaning that not all characters can be recruited in one playthrough of the game. Most of the game occurs in towns and dungeons, and unlike many RPGs, the game lacks a world map that connects various locations, instead having the character follow paths from one place to the next.
Up to four characters can participate in battles, but the player is only able to control one character at a time, leaving the others to be controlled by the computer’s artificial intelligence. The player can switch which character is being controlled in battle. All characters have a standard “attack” option, in which the character’s equipped item is used to attack whichever enemy the player has locked on to. Additionally, special techniques called Symbology can be used as well, which have the potential to deal more damage, but cost MP (Mental Points), of which each character has a finite amount. Two types of special techniques exist: long range ones that can only be executed at a distance from the target, and short range ones, which must be used at melee range. Experience points are accumulated upon successfully completing a battle, which contributes to leveling up the characters, so they become stronger.