About a year ago my 360 broke (again) not to long before the release of the first version of this game, so I paid out 100 bucks for a new one, and waited for the release. Come release day I was right there about to pick it and thenÖ..
You see despite the fact that square had stated that no other version of the game had been planned ( because they thought that we would ignore the fact that a ps3 version had damn near been confirmed) and released the game on a system no one was expecting on riddle with technical difficulties (yeah lets call it that), this coupled with tri aces habit of releasing improved versions of these games about a year later (for those who didnít know the version of star ocean 3 that we got was the directors cut , both versions were released in Japan) I knew the release of a better version was inevitable.
So I bought persona 3 FES instead and got that battle theme stuck in my head for about a year ,And to no ones surprise ( save for those on the internet that donít pay attention, because the fact that the game tanked on the 360 wasnít enough of a hint) the improved version of the game launched a year later,ÖÖÖ.. right in between white knight chronicles (which had far more reservation at my GameStop ) and FF13 .
Things arenít exactly looking up for this game are they. Well marketing stupidity aside lets see how this version of the game holds up.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope International Edition (price 59.99)
The story of star ocean TLH begins rather bleak, World War 3 has left a rather big mess as the leaders in power decided to make a peace treaty after they fired every nuclear missile ever, as you imagine earth isnít looking to good so mankind takes to space and creates the SRF to explore and find a new planet to wrecÖ um inhabit while they fix the old one. You start of as one of the members of SRF Edge Maverick ( the current reigning champion of worst named protagonist ever with no challenger in site) as the Calnus and a bunch of other ships set off to explore the unknown, along your jump to the space time continuum all your ships come in contact with a weird meteorite and get flung everywhere and from there on its your job ( as one of the few crewmen who escaped unharmed ) to continue your original mission of exploration, find the other ships, and figure out what the hell caused the bad space traffic.
The games been improved somewhat from lasts years version, with the blu ray disks extra space and a 3 minute install a lot of the problems that plagued the 360 version are nowhere to be seen ( though it should still be noted that the game does still chug a bit when the action gets heavy ) . Visually the game looks great and the option to have the original anime look of the menus and portraits AKA they way it should have looked to begin with. To elaborate on that the CGI look is just ugly and I see why that didnít roll over well when the 360 version was just suck with that , this game was just made with the anime style in mind, I appreciate the devs trying to reach out and expand their audiences, but shoving in an art style that doesnít fit wont accomplish that , it will just make me question whether the art director was paying attention when that got the OK.
The English voice acting is really bad, and it doesnít help that the characters are borederline stereotypes, something that surprised me because star ocean 3 voice acting was rather good, and the characters (like em or not) were well thought out and voiced perfectly (still kind of over acted but good) , thankfully the Japanese voice acting sounds a lot better and this version allows you to switch between both freely.
Also it should be noted that this stories relevance wont click unless you have played the past games , what your essentially going through here are the early days of the Pangalatic Federation (and if your asking what the pangalagtic federation is, your probably a lost cause as far as the storyís concerned) I thought it was funny only parts of the story where making sense ( I beat SO3, Iím playing through 2, totally missed 1) then I did some Wikipedia reading and things got a lot clearer so if your new to the star ocean franchise this isnít the greatest starting point and I definitely recommend you play through the fist departure, the second story, and till the end of time first.
Thankfully unique combat system is intact and great. You have 4 characters on the field 1 you control and the rest the computer controls the rest, it plays a bit more like a simplified fighting game when it comes to the combat, and its pure awesome, seriously if they had put out a demo with a few short fights, this game would be selling a lot more. Special attack are hardwired to the back triggers instead of the face buttons ( my guess being because the game went multi plat and the 360 doesnít have pressure sensitive face buttons) but the transition went smoothly. However there are a few issues I had with the combat.
First off your Anti Aura shield has been severely nerfed in this game and blocking is dependent on the hit stat of the enemy your facing instead of how much energy is in the fury gauge, so things you would like to block against you know like bosses will always break your shield in half because their stats are outrageous . I agree the shield where a tad bit overpowered in SO3, making them borderline useless wasnít the answer.
Also the Teammate AI is starting to show its age , it handles most situations well, but its useless in any situation that requires precision, LIKE ALL THE BOSS FIGHTS. The main story bosses now have cores that have to be exposed and hit in order to effectively damage them, and when there exposed the computer doesnít seem to have the common sense to join you in attack that specific spot. All the bosses do this But the second and fifth boss are the king offenders of this. It makes the boss battles more annoying than challenging as your teamates are just cannon fodder for the boss.
And I hope Barachiel dies in a fire
However despite this few gripes I had with the combat it remains one of the best experiences Iíve had with fighting in an rpg , the worlds of star ocean are huge and the true meat and potatoes of this game lies in fighting and exploring (no switching disks required) and I have to point out how frustrating that would be to have to switch disks every two planets or so, once synthesis opens up (no its not available at the beginning of the game so you can break the bosses with ease) if you truly want all those legendary weapons, armor, items and such your going to have to backtrack like its metroid, a lot of treasure chest require certain elemental rings to open, and a lot of those rings you donít get till late in the game.
I do however have one last gripe with this version of the game, thereís really no new content whatsoever besides the stuff removed from the original stateside release, none of the rumored extra areas or characters made it . Let this be a PSA to all game developers, when one side has to wait more than 6 months for their version of the game (much less a year) EXTRA CONTENT IS NOT OPTIONAL, and no fixes for problems that shouldnít have existed in the first version do not count as additional content, nor does materials you shouldnít have removed in the first place, seriously tri ace you failed right there.
However despite the obvious flaws this is a solid title but definitly the weakest tile in the star oceans series, and itís a hard recommend as you have to be a fan of the series for the story to make sense, and even though this is the better of the two versions, its only better because the removed content from the original American release was added, and some bugs were fixed. All that together definitely DOES NOT add up to 65$ though, grab one of the psp remakes of the first 2 titles and wait for this one to go down in price, the extra back story will help believe me.