Star Ocean: The Last Hope International – The PS3 Attitude Review
When it comes to RPGs, Square Enix is the not just the king, they’re the whole royal family. One of their most popular franchises that is not Final Fantasy is the Star Ocean series. The games have you and your crew exploring the vast oceans of space in search action, adventure, and the occasional celestial conquest. The latest installment, The Last Hope, acts as a prequel, embarking on the first mission across the ‘Star Ocean.’
Originally released for the Xbox 360 over a year ago, the game makes its PlayStation 3 debut with Star Ocean: The Last Hope International. The biggest difference is the inclusion of the original Japanese voice overs in addition to your standard English. Does this make for a better game though?
The year is S.D. 10 and the world is on the brink of destruction. The catastrophe of World War III has the remaining survivors living underground as the surface has become far too toxic for life. Earth’s last hope for survival? Space, the final frontier. That’s where you come in as a member of the Space Reconnaissance Force (SRF). Your job is to explore uncharted space and scout out any possible planets capable of supporting human life.
Unfortunately, things aren’t always as simple as finding a planet and building a house. No, you’ll have to do most of the talking with your blade. You see, there are these mysterious creatures called the Grigori who interrupt your SRF mission. They are bent on creating a more perfect universe, free from pain, suffering, and hatred. Naturally, this means free from people as well. Being the hero that you are, you cannot stand by and watch this happen.
There are a variety of characters at the players disposal. You begin the game as Edge Maverick who, aside from having one of the coolest names in the star ocean, is an excellent swordsman and SRF soldier. You are accompanied by first mate Reimi Saionji, Edge’s childhood friend. As you travel board the SRF-003 Calnus, you’ll encounter many extraterrestrial lifeforms who surprisingly look very similar to you, some of which will join your party. Easily the most annoying yet cutest of these characters is Lymle, a young Symbologist from the planet Lemuris. Her voice is somewhat depressing with her soft tone and the overabundance of the work ‘kay. Still, you can’t help but love her innocence in the game.
This brings up the worst aspect of the game itself; the English voice overs. Thankfully the original Japanese voices are included because the English ones are simply horrid. It becomes most appalling during cutscenes, due to the fact that the words don’t exactly sync up with their lips. It’s like watching a Japanese anime that has been dubbed in English. That, coupled with the stoic facial expressions, make for some rather dull cutscenes.
If you’re familiar with the Star Ocean series the gameplay remains relatively the same with a few new additions. Battles take place in real time with full range of motion. Players can attack with weapons or cast a variety of spells. Fighting styles can be customized even further with use of the new Battle Exalted Action Type System or BEAT. Players can either choose a offensive or defensive style, each with their own specific strengths and weaknesses. BEATs can be changed on the fly so pick whichever suits you best for the battle ahead. There are also a variety of techniques at your disposal from blindsiding enemies for guaranteed critical hits to equipable battles skills to give you that extra edge over your opponent. The level of customization available is quite astounding.
In most cases, there will be multiple enemies on screen. There is an auto-targeting system that tends to choose the closest enemy to begin with but will sometimes go haywire and just pick some far off enemy or one you don’t want to fight. Manually changing targets requires pressing the Start button, making you vulnerable for a second or two while you adjust your grip.
Each character has their own specific talents during battle and each one can be controlled at any given moment. This gives you about eight different ways to play the game! Some are heavy with melee attacks while others rely on projectiles. Of course, there are the spell casters as well. Each character also has a set of battle trophies to earn, 100 total per character. Collecting a certain percentage unlocks bonuses for that character such as more voice sets, increased level caps, etc. The incentives are there but do you have what it takes to collect them all?
Exploration is a major aspect of The Last Hope. Each planet is populated with towns, NPCs, treasures, and other goodies just waiting to be found. As you travel across the countrysides, you can’t help but stop to take in the beautiful landscapes. Mountains, beaches, and intergalactic spaceships are just a few of the scenic stops on your trip. Some of the more interesting details in the game are the shadows. Clouds you can’t even see will cast shadows on the ground below, following you as they move in real time. It’s the little details such as this that make the game bearable when you’re spending a copious amount of time trekking from town to town looking for your next mission.
Adjusting the camera to the perfect position, whether you’re exploring or in battle, can become a bit troublesome. We found that this becomes more apparent when in tight spaces, such as aboard the Calnus. It takes some getting used to but by the middle of the game, it’s become practically second nature.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope International is living proof that Square Enix still has what it takes to make a fantastic RPG. Completing the story itself will probably take you around 35 hours or so, not to mention the arduous task of completing all the quests, collecting items, etc. Oh, and there’s a coliseum too for testing your skills. You could easily spend up to 100 hours drained into this game because there is so much to do. While the version differences are mostly aesthetic, there’s no reason you shouldn’t own this on PS3 ‘kay.