It was Tuesday the 26th of February and I had just woken up and literally shat myself upon getting out of bed. I realized that roughly a week ago I put all my money down to reserve a game coming out that very day. What game was it?
You guessed it! The next installment of the Star Ocean series! I cleaned myself up and I went to Gamestop to pick up my copy and launched into some small talk with the clerk at the desk. We carried on talking about Star Ocean and how much we liked the series like two girls talking about their favorite make-up. This was despite the fact how pushy he was for me to buy the Strategy guide (also despite the fact how broke I was.)
After that, I rushed home and sat down to pop in my first disc. And when I say first disc, I am saying the first disc of three. Luckily for me, I did not have work or school to deal with, so I got to clock in 11 hours of play within my first day. How awesome, right?
Once I popped in the disc, I did what just about anyone did, which was watch the beginning video before the start screen. Though the graphics were pre rendered, I was in awe from the graphics. However, the pre rendered scenes was something to expect from the get go. I finally got to the start screen and started up my game. Iím glad I watched the first video because then I was able to get a better explanation of the background story during the opening scenes.
Within the first few minutes of starting up, I learned that Tri Ace had combined both pre rendered scenes and real time scenes together. However, I did have a few moments where I couldnít entirely tell if it was pre rendered or not, but other times it was completely obvious. Regardless, it was still pretty damn awesome.
Anyhow, I started out with the battle simulator and did every key detail. It took me a good half hour, and I was able to note a few things that were different from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time and some that were actually a major improvement. What I love most about the updated battle system is being able to perform blindside attacks. These are attacks where your enemy loses track of where you are and you have a better chance of landing a critical attack. As you progress through the game, you become able to perform double blindside attacks. Anyone new to the series might have a hard time trying to understand how the whole battle system works, but for anyone who has played the series at least starting from Star Ocean: The Second Story will have a pretty good or solid understanding of how it works.
After fiddling with the battle simulator, I started to get into the story. Let me tell you, starting out there is a whole lot to take in and try to understand. However, as time continued I began to understand more of the story and learned to pay more attention to the long cut scenes. Donít get me wrong, the long cut scenes are great, but you can easily find yourself lost when you have clocked in 5 hours in a row playing without rest. As a fan of the series, I was aware of how to play Star Ocean.
Itís simple, you play in long segments (i.e. until your ass hurts from sitting.) If you donít, you can become easily lost or youíll find yourself frantically trying to find a save spot and venture back into reality before you miss your next class/shift/appointment/phone call, etc.
The gas price will save us shit tons of FOL for our ship!
The large and vast environments are a major leap for Tri Ace compared to their release of Till the End of Time. The levels are more detailed and there is more environment interactivity. You are now introduced to the ability to harvest and mine. You harvest by finding a specific spot and gathering items. Usually youíll find useable items for combat as well as items to cook with. You can mine to simply find new metals and other items useable for building new weapons. These two new features lead into item creation.
Once again, this is another major leap for Tri Ace. Item creation has been around since Star Ocean: The Second Story. Itís essentially a feature where you use various charactersí abilities to take raw materials and make items which you can sell or use for yourself. This is a major leap because item creation in The Last Hope isnít as much of a pain in the butt compared to Till the End of Time.
In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, battle trophies had been introduced into the game. They werenít really introduced until fairly late in the game. This time, however, battle trophies are made available from the very beginning. Which is cool because it keeps you motivated and seeking out bigger challenges. Oh, and some of the trophies are pretty amusing, too.
Yeah, I did it.
The strongest points of Star Ocean: The Last Hope are the plot and character interactivity. Not once did I find myself bored with the plot or the characters. I actually spent most of my time laughing and smiling. The background of all the characters and their personalities kept me laughing while the plot kept me wanting to dig deeper and deeper as time went on in the game. I have to say, this might just be the first RPG to keep me on my toes since Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. I felt like I had an actual connection with the characters and I found myself feeling like the characters did whenever a new problem presented itself.
Despite that I somewhat rushed through the game since itís release (only 36 hours recorded play time, which to me, is a lot knowing how busy I am nowÖ damn adulthood) there is still a lot more for me to explore. The side quests alone have proven to be diverting and time consuming. Whether it be getting a rare item or simply getting experience, the side quests are rewarding in and of themselves.
Iíve completed the game and found myself going through it again to try to find new parts of the plot Iíve missed and go back to find items that are rare and Iíve changed the difficulty to what was made available to me.
As a Star Ocean fan, I found myself having flashbacks to the previous games. Not just because of the plot, which has its ties with the other games, but because of the character dialogues and the music. Some of the music can be rooted back to Star Ocean: The Second Story. The one that stood out to me the most was the remake of the song ďStab the Sword of JusticeĒ which is played in many of the battles back on Second Story.
As you can tell Iím very pleased with what I payed for and give my final verdict as a 9 out of 10. Mind you that this is only my verdict, therefore this is subjective just like any other person reviewing the game. For anyone that has played the series, this is a must buy. Do not let Till The End of Time prevent you from buying this. For any newcomers, brace yourself. I suggest waiting to hear more of what other people say or renting it to see if youíll enjoy it. This game isnít for anyone who doesnít finish a lot of the games they start. My friend made that mistake and found himself not enjoying the game to its full extent.
Bottom Line: Star Ocean: The Last Hope is a must buy. Itís the best thus far in the series, is visually stunning at any given moment, and is quite possibly (arguably, of course) the best RPG to date for the Xbox 360. Nuff said.