I’m a big Star Ocean fan, so there’s no doubt that I was excited when Star Ocean: The Last Hope released on Xbox 360 earlier this year. Playing the game led me into a world beyond the stars—one prior to the first three Star Ocean games.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope stars Edge Maverick, as well as his companion and childhood friend Reimi Saionji. Edge is appointed captain of his ship on an mission to find new worlds for humanity to inhabit due to devastation of Earth from World War III. Edge and Reimi take helm of their ship after landing on a planet called Aeos and encounter other alien species. However, as they continue on their mission, they discover a greater force at work that can destroy the entire universe.
There’s a fair nature of open area gameplay in Star Ocean: The Last Hope. The planets you land on are filled with atmosphere, ranging from the monsters and non-player characters that inhabit them to the structures and buildings that form its towns. You’ll be doing a lot of traveling, not just on foot, but in the crew’s space ship, the Calnus. When on foot, you have access to the open areas around you. What Star Ocean: The Last Hope rids of that can be a major annoyance in most other role-playing games is slow running. By tapping on the X button while running, Edge will do a quick dash which can be done as many times as the player wants. This is great for avoiding battles when health is low, or trying to get around quickly for a faster playthrough.
There are a nice amount of planets in the game, each with it’s own phase in development, meaning there’s planets reminiscent of the Jurassic period of Earth, then there’s planets reminiscent to let’s say the Renaissance period of Earth. Each have a beautiful design pertaining to the period in which it’s reminiscent of as well as a fair amount of gameplay time spent there. Dungeons have been done well this time around, too, providing players with puzzling obstacles or confusing mazes. One of the annoying things about dungeons though, that will get players frustrated and bored of at the same time, is the length of dungeons and the lack of save points in those dungeons. Throughout long dungeons, you’ll find maybe two save points at most meaning that if you’re planning on turning on your Xbox 360 to get a few rooms through that dungeon, then you’re out of luck because when it’s time to go, you’ll have no where to save.
The Calnus marks the first time in the series that you’re able to take full control of your ship in a Star Ocean game. This allows you to go back and forth from one world to another, in case you missed something or finally got the ring to open that treasure chest. What’s more interesting about the Calnus is the private actions that can be innitiated on board, though. Throughout your ventures across space, you’ll have a certain amount of time before you get to the next planet where you’ll be able to talk with the other members of the party aboard the ship, innitating private actions. For example, there was a private action involving Edge and Reimi where Edge accidently does something perverted, thus pissing off Reimi, thus losing points between the Edge and Reimi relationship. Experimenting with Private Actions is one of the best parts of Star Ocean: The Last Hope because it allows different scenes and actions to be brought out amonst the characters.
Star Ocean‘s battle system has always been the most significant part of the series, and so it is with The Last Hope. The BEAT battle system ditches the traditional turn-based system of an RPG and replaces it with a real-time battle system, such as you would see in Tales of Vesperia. The battle system is the fun aspect of this game, providing players with basic, chain combo and Symbology attacks to use on the enemy. Symbology is the term used in the game for magic attacks. Most of the characters in the party are able to use Symbology attacks. This provides well for things like meteor storms, icicle spikes, healing, resurrecting, etc. Where the battle system lacks, however, is in it’s chain combo selection, which is like your special attack. Finding Edge at level 53 over on my screen, he’s only learned four chain combo attacks. You’ll eventually find yourself using these chain combos in every battle you enter making it disappointing there is a lack of selection.
The Last Hope adds in some extra ingredients to the battle system, though. The most significant being blindsiding, allowing you to get the upper hand on your enemy just as their about to attack you. The way this works is the game lets you see the enemy locking onto you; when that lock-on signal turns red, that means their preparing for attack. Tapping X and flicking left as they start their attack blindsides the enemy. This stops time (for a short period) and allows whoever your playing as to circle around the enemy and launch a counter attack on them while their still trying to attack you from the place you moved.
Encountering monsters on the world is not random, like many RPGs. In The Last Hope, you encounter monsters on the field by seeing them physically and touching them. There are two ways an encounter may occur; either by you intentionally running into the monster or by the monster running into you. Yes, they do run towards you when they see you. There are surprise encounters, advantage encounters and then there are ambushes. A surprise encounter is when a monster encounters you from behind, where an advantage is when you encounter the monster from behind. An ambush is when you get into a battle with a monster and there was another monster close near it before you entered battle, thus entering you into another battle after you finish the first. These are all little additions to the game, but make the battle system a lot more interesting. Although there is one point in the game where ambushes get a bit annoying.
Other nice additions to the battle system include the “Battle Trophies” which remained from previous games, awarding you for accomplishing certain feats in battles such as survivng three ambushes in one battle or dealing exactly 555 points of damage. Through battle, you can also collect monster data for all you data freaks. Of course there’s weapon and spaceship data as well.
On top of the main story there are side-quests. Although, to be honest, these side-quests are really never worth completing. They can keep you occupied for a while, but they get boring. They’re usually an NPC asking you to go out into the wilderness of the planet and find a lost gem or bracelet their cousin lost or something and return it back to them. You’re usually rewarded with a useless item or some money. This is one piece of the game that upset me. Being a Star Ocean fan, I remember that Star Ocean: Till the End of Time had a lot more to do in terms of side-quests than this game. There was the Cave of Trials, battle arena, etc. The Last Hope does feature a battle arena on disc two that nobody tells you about for some reason, but it doesn’t pack quite the same bunch as the battle arena from the third game did. There’s also an item creation system in the game just like the previous titles, one of the game’s strongest points.
The main problem I had with this game was really cheesy lines mixed with terrible voice acting. If you’re a role-player for the dialogue, then you may have a hard time with this one. Many of the times a character speaks in cutscenes, the words will be out of tune with their lips or their lips will not be moving at all. It seems that they kept the same lip movements that the Japanese version had causing it to be way out of tune in the North American version. The cheesy things that characters say more often than every now and then can be annoying as well. Speaking of cheesy, the character’s names are a bit cheesy too, but just look at Fayt from Till the End of Time. There are a few, repetitive, things that characters say that will get to you as well, such as Lymle’s adding “kay?” to the end of every sentence she says. That’s not cute, tri-Ace. It’s just creepy.
The game does have a few bugs. For one, set your Xbox 360 to a resolution of 720p if you’re planning on playing this on an HDTV. Playing it in 1080p will cause the game to freeze at some point, and you don’t want to take the risk because it’s happened to me four or more times until I finally realized the problem. If you turn off your Xbox 360 controller to save battery life during those long cutscenes, you’re out of luck because cutscenes will stop playing if the Xbox 360 controller is off. Yeah I know, it sucks. I actually thought my game had frozen the first time and was about to turn the console off.
However, throughout the cheesy lines and minor bugs of Star Ocean: The Last Hope lies a pretty good story filled with space exploration, private actions, an awesome battle system, beautiful worlds to uncover, and the beginnings of a famed RPG series. We’d recommend Star Ocean: The Last Hope to any gamer who loves role-playing games.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope was reviewed on a Xbox 360. The game was played to completion on normal difficulty. Star Ocean: The Last Hope launched for Xbox 360 in North America on February 24, 2009 for an MSRP of $59.99.