Star Ocean: The Last Hope International ReviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Feb 11, 2010
Star Ocean: The Last Hope International delivers all of the same interstellar, RPG quality of the Xbox 360 version, with a few welcomed additions. The game still has a few inherent problems, but they are easily forgiven in light of everything the game does right
- Epic and well paced story
- Insane amount of things to see, do, make, kill, etc.
- Frenetic, complex and smooth combat
- Japanese dialogue option = relief
- English voice acting is lacking
- Redundant dialogue
- Objectives aren't always clear
While it might not carry the same JRPG clout enjoyed by Final Fantasy, Square Enix’s repurposed galactic RPG romp, Star Ocean: The Last Hope International -- a PS3 re-release of 2009’s Star Ocean: The Last Hope -- , does pretty much everything it can to make the last journey through in the Star Ocean franchise (which is actually the first journey, since it’s a prequel to the other games) as memorable, enjoyable and engaging as possible. It might not be for everyone, but you’d be surprised at how close it comes.
The New Last Hope
The Last Hope follows the adventures of Edge Maverick, a classically androgynous 20 year-old lad, aboard one of the Earth’s first intergalactic spaceships tasked with exploring new worlds in the hopes of finding a new beginning for humanity. Several decades earlier, World War III essentially destroyed Earth, which forced people to live underground and eventually look towards the vast star ocean for real estate ideas. The expedition quickly turns into a search and rescue mission after the ships encounter an unknown object during warp speed that scatters the ships to parts unknown.
The only major downside of the game’s narrative is the horrendous voice acting and, at times, the redundant and uninspired dialogue that accompanies it. Three of the five female characters in your crew have voices that sound like Michael Jackson gargling fire-engulfed cats, and their acting is equally painful to endure, especially since the frequent cutscenes are so lengthy. Fortunately, the International version, unlike its Xbox 360 cousin, includes the much-appreciated ability to turn on the original Japanese voice acting. For anyone familiar with The Last Hope on Xbox 360, you’ll know that it has some of the most unbearable voice acting you’ll likely to come across in a game. The Japanese acting definitely leaves a lot to be desired as well, but as least you don’t have to listen to Lymle say, “Kay?” every time she speaks. Thank you Square Enix!
Surprisingly, for as shaky as the voice work and the script are, they rarely ruin the narrative flow. This is due mostly to the fact that the pacing is fantastic, and the story unfolds at a great clip, with each beat feeling perfectly contained and leading nicely into the next one. There are a few twists along the way, but nothing so severe that it negates what has happened leading up to them. Despite the heavy-handedness of the game’s themes, it’s as fascinating a game story as I’ve come across in a while.
Of All the Planets, In All the Solar Systems…
Over the course of the game, you travel between several planets and space stations. The areas available for you to explore on each planet are limited to dungeon-esque layouts (interiors as well as exteriors), but there are plenty of wide-open and expansive sections as well. Unfortunately, objectives aren’t always clear, so you’ll find yourself wandering around a lot without any real sense of whether you’re going the right way.
The diversity of each planet’s ecology (combined with the pace of the story) keeps you from having to stay in one place for too long. It also doesn’t hurt that the settings (ranging from lush beaches and forests to snow capped mountains to dilapidated space stations) are all beautifully designed, and they all just pop off the screen, due in large part to the stunning HDR lighting effects.
Scattered around each beautiful setting are plenty of goodies to reward exploration (treasure chests to unlock, minerals to mine, and food items to harvest). Between gathering the raw materials, creating recipes and building items, you could easily kill a dozen or so hours, and all of that is just one slice of the overall experience. If you plow through the story and take up a side quest here and there, you’re looking at around 40 hours. With everything else, you could easily kill more than twice that without even noticing.
Trigger the Fight!
Of course, the real star of this ocean is the combat. As in previous entrants in the series, you initiate battles by approaching enemies in the field and then fighting in real-time in a separate arena. If I had one complaint about the combat, it’s that it isn’t carried out entirely in real-time in the field, but that’s just personal preference. Hardcore turn-basers might feel differently, but Star Ocean does a great job of making sure strategy factors in heavily with the real-time combat, especially when it comes to how you start fights. There is also quite a bit of strategy involved in picking the battle approaches for your teammates. It’s just another fantastic way of giving players complete control over everything that transpires on the battlefield.
You also have the option of creating your own combos by mixing and matching up to three attacks. These combos can lead to some absolutely devastating onscreen mayhem, especially later on the game when you have four characters with three or four unholy abilities all fighting at the same time against swarms of enemies. There are times when the frame rate suffers from so much chaos, but fortunately, those instances are as rare as they are brief.
To reward you for your battle prowess, the game features a bonus board, which tracks your performance during combat. Each time you meet a requirement (kill multiple enemies, deal certain amount of damage, avoid taking damage, etc.), a new jewel is placed on the board. Linking these jewels results in multipliers that help you rack up money, experience and health/magic boosts at an accelerated rate. The board can be broken if the character you’re controlling suffers a critical hit during battle, which adds yet another layer of complexity and engagement to the already insanely robust combat system.
Final Fantasy Who? Oh, Right. But Still…
Star Ocean: The Last Hope International won’t make occasional RPG dabblers dump Final Fantasy or Fallout 3, but for fans of the genre, it’s a worthy addition to your library. Everything about the game feels massive, from the story to the exploration to the combat. It all has a fantastic sense of scope to it that really makes you feel like you are part of this universe-sized adventure. There are tons of places to go, people to meet, things to build, enemies to kill, skills to learn, sights to see, all in addition to smooth and satisfying combat. Even if you aren’t a fan of the genre, you owe it to yourself to check it out. You won’t be disappointed.