Star Ocean: The Last Hope - Reader Review  

They Got Fighting Game All Over My RPG
by Shawn Denney

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Xbox 360
20-40 Hours
+ Fabulous battle system
+ Great character models
+ Mesmerizing CG sequences
- Redundant dialogue
- Bad voice acting
- Too long of cut scenes
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   First and foremost, I have to say that I had very high expectations for Star Ocean 4. Having owned and played Star Ocean for Super Famicom, Star Ocean: The Second Story on psx, and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time on ps2, it could be said that I am a fan of the series. I also feel that with every entry, the games got better. Star Ocean: Till the End of Time stands as one of my favorite ps2 games, leaving ginormous shoes for its follow-up to fill. Did The Last Hope fill those shoes? Honestly, no. It did not fill those shoes.

   The very first thing to be noticed about The Last Hope is that it looks beautiful. This can be attributed to Visual Works stellar CG sequences. In game, I found it to be somewhat of a mixed bag visually. It uses a very vibrant color set, has more lighting and reflection going on than any person could possibly know what to do with, and has a fully functioning camera to take in all its wonders. The character models themselves look fabulous. The one feature that stands out the most on the characters are the eyes which are absolutely phenomenal, and somewhat mesmerizing. Then we come to the not as nice part of the graphics. Some environments, not all of them (some environments blew my mind with how awesome they were. Particularly the environments found at the end of the game) but some just didn’t seem to “fit” with the game. For example, the first planet uses standard textures for the ground. This is all fine and dandy, except that it just falls short when compared to the very organic, feathery, shimmery, look that was given to all the vegetation and characters. This is in no way a game breaker, but I did find myself actually saying, “I wish that they had given everything the same style, rather than a mixture of fully 3D designed and other objects being textured.”

One big happy space family One big happy space family

   In most rpg’s, the battle mode is just a means to go through an epic story. This is very much not the case with The Last Hope or the Star Ocean series in general. The combat is probably the main drawing point for the series. The fast paced real-time battles are frantic and fun, and on higher difficulty levels just flat out refuse to accept button mashing as a way to progress. You will get beat down in a hurry. For whatever reason though, Tri-Ace (the developer of the game) decided that you have to beat the game to unlock any difficulty settings over normal, or in Star Ocean’s case, Galaxy. It truly is a deep engaging battle system. The main difference from previous entries is the “Blindside” maneuver. This lets a character dodge an oncoming enemy and get behind them to put on the pain with a guaranteed critical hit. While this may sound cheap, it is actually fairly balanced as it requires you to hold down a button for a short period of time, thus requiring planning, and several enemies can counter attack you when you try to Blindside them, giving them a critical hit. Its remarkably fun to watch your character do a aerial flip to land right behind an unsuspecting creature and lay on some good old fashioned beatdown. The mixture of techniques and regular hits is well done and balanced. The last new addition is the “Bonus Board” which is very similar to the bonus bar in Till the End of Time except it gives you far more control over it which is both a positive and a negative. It was a blast meeting exact requirements to get those bonuses, and made me feel like a bad-ass when I had the whole bonus board full, however through the entire game (on galaxay level) I was extremely overpowered because of it. I actually have one other complaint about the Bonus Board, and that is when you save and stop, or get a game over (I’m actually just assuming the game over part because I have yet to have one.) that the entire bonus board gets reset. This may not sound like such a bad thing, and I can understand why the developers did it, but I found myself actually avoiding playing the game unless I could put in several hours to utilize the bonus board to its fullest. This may just be an obsessive compulsive thing, but i wanted to make note of it because it did effect my gameplay experience.

   Then we come to the true heart of any rpg, the story. What sets Star Ocean apart from the majority of other rpg’s is that it’s set in space. This raises some serious questions like how your main character always uses a sword………flies in a spaceship, and the weapon of choice is a sword…….. Anyway, The Last Hope is a prequel to the rest of the series. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it opens up to a much broader audience and lets them have a chance at understanding what’s going on. Then what would this curse part be? It’s curse is that it is actually almost a perfect prequel story content wise. At this point, you are probably wondering how an almost perfect prequel story could be a curse. This is because every “part” of the story in The Last Hope leads to the events in one of the other games. Another way to say that is that it never really finishes what it begins, but plays as the perfect opening to the finishing act (i.e. another game in the series.). So to truly get the most out of The Last Hope, you would have to play the other games in the series, essentially making the whole prequel, appeal to everybody aspect, worthless. And then there is the dialogue...

One of the 2 most annoying characters......EVER!!! One of the 2 most annoying characters......EVER!!!

   The best way to describe the script for Star Ocean 4 is overly redundant and long winded. Someone honestly needed to take pruning sheers to it. The cut scenes would then be of adequate length giving a decent balance between game play and cut scene. Instead, we are left to here “why? What’s the point? Tell me why? There is no reason!” From the same character in a matter of 5 seconds. Seriously, pick any one of those 4 and it would get the same meaning across. Then there is the true horror of Star Ocean 4... Lymle and Sarah. Not only are these the two most annoying voiced over characters ever (no seriously, I dare you to find one who tops them) but they seem like they have the most lines out of anyone. It could have just been that they bothered me so much that everytime they were on screen it offended my very being, but whoever created them, and voiced them should be ashamed of themselves for the rest of their lives!

   Now that we’ve gone over all the bad with the game, let’s end on a very high note. The CG cut scenes done by Visual Works. As mentioned earlier, they provided a stellar intro, but compared to some towards the end of the game, the intro is mediocre. That is how awesome they are. I’m not kidding when I say that I have a special save spot right before a certain point just so I can watch the cut scene whenever I want. Its that awesome!

   Overall, Star Ocean: The Last Hope falls into the category of mediocre which really is a shame. It has all the makings of possibly the best game ever. Unfortunately it also has some parts that are so bad, they can offended all five senses at once (I’m starring at you Lymle and Sarah!!O.O!!!!) In the end, the fabulous character models, great CG cut scenes by Visual Works, and absolutely stellar battle system just aren’t enough to make up for the over redundant writing, too lengthy cut scenes, and two just downright atrocious characters.

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