By ttocs 3 Comments
Having never played a Star Ocean game before, I was a little iffy about picking this one up. I didn't know if it would be another Final Fantasy clone or really stand out amongst the masses of JRPG games that have been hitting the 360 lately. After checking out some pretty decent reviews, I decided to take the leap and pick up the game on a whim.
From the start of the game, I got the feeling that the combat would be a lot like Tales of Vesperia. This is a good thing, as I loved every minute of Tales and for a game to bring up memories of a favorite is definitely a plus. The combat is similar, but not exactly the same. Where Tales used a lot of one button (maybe 2 button) presses to take down most enemies, Star Ocean at least involves a little more strategy. You can wip yourself around bad guys when they least expect it (blindside move) and attack from their rear, issue orders, etc. There's a lot going on in combat, but it's not hard to manage. There are a lot of tools at your disposal, how (or if) you use them, are completely up to you. The combat through the first couple hours of the game remained fresh and exciting, and I actually looked forward to getting new skills and abilities. Where other games kind of throw them at you, I got the feeling SO eases you into them and gives them out a lot less often.
The story in this game is different that most RPGs I have played (remember, I never played the other Star Ocean games). The world suffered after World War 3 and sent explorers into the heavens to find a new home for Earthlings. You play Edge Maverick, one of the chosen explorers on the maiden voyage. That's about all you need to know to get started in the game. Like all games though, something has to go horribly wrong and it does, thus throwing you right into the action (if after a pretty long cutscene). There is a support character, named Reimi, who is your childhood bestfriend. The relationship between the two is definitely going to make for some interesting story elements. While they aren't "in love", they do have a very deep bond between the two of them. As time goes on, it looks like a love interest could form between the two given the right circumstances. And by circumstances, I mean user inputted actions. I didn't realize this was something the series does, but you control the feelings of people towards you (to a degree). For instance, in the first level, you stumble upon a flower patch. Reimi looks at the flowers and says they are beautiful. You are given 3 options to respond... "They are beautiful", "You are beautiful", "You are both beautiful". Obviously, being a chick, she want's to hear number 2 and if you choose that, you are going to increase the affinity between you and Reimi. If you chose the flowers are beautiful, Reimi may be insulted and the affinity between the two of you will decrease. With increased affinity comes increased cut scenes and pivitol moments between the characters (this doesn't just happen with Reimi, you can form bonds with all characters). When an affinity reaches a high enough level, guys and girls can share a room together...leaving the rest up to the imagination.
Graphics are a big thing for me. I love the direction current genre games are taking graphics. Tales of Vesperia was a great looking game, but I'm not too big into the anime scene. Last Remnant was a decent looking game, that had trouble performing/loading. Star Ocean on the other hand, looks great. It's nothing to write home about (a la Gears, MGS, or Killzone 2) but it's a very good looking game! Although the characters do show some anima sides to them (namely the eyes), it's easy to look past because they have normal sized features. But, anime might be your thing so that comment is just opinion. The worlds are varied and the colors are really pretty in some areas. You may not have many stop and smell the roses moments, but you will enjoy the ambiance.
Overall, I'm loving Star Ocean: The Last Hope. It's the perfect RPG to hold us fans over until FF13 comes out this year (or next). If you love collecting things, there's a ton of things for you to do. From enemy data, to battle trophies, room items, ship data, spells, it's all there. It's a collector's dream. Finishing this game is said to take around 40-60 hours, but if you want to complete it in it's entirety (all endings, all collectables, etc.), chalk on another 30-40.
If you are a fan of games such as Tales of Vesperia, Last Remnant, and other JRPGs, you're going to love this game. If you are more of a western RPG fan (Mass Effect, Fallout 3) like myself, give this one a try. It's got the sci-fi thing going for it and the combat is very fresh. Battles are in real time and fun. Who knows, maybe it will reawaken your love for JRPGs.