Star Ocean: The Last Hope
Star Ocean: The Last Hope is the newest part in the Star Ocean series, that is mostly known for its real-time combat. Why this RPG is worth putting in your X360 is told below, just like why the series isn’t known for its storylines and characters.
In a few decades mankind kicks some serious ass and succeeds to fuck itself over so that we need to go looking for a new planet. You’re Edge and are part of a recon team that needs to discover this new Earth. And just as you could expect you’ll quickly have to save the world together with the rest of your adolescent friends.
Prepare for a cliché story that is crowded with typical anime characters, childish, sometimes horribly bad voicing, childish behaviour and motivations, and plastic faces. On top of that the cut-scenes drag on for tens of minutes at times. My braincells started to melt all too often and after about ten minutes I was already fed up with the lead character. Fortunately the soundtrack is quite enjoyable but when will we get to play a Japanese RPG again that doesn’t expect me to be 11 years old and am doing maths with maximum 2 numbers?
Luckily we can be more positive on the gameplay. Those that like it deep and love combat in an RPG will have a fat experience in this 2-disc adventure. As said the fights are in real-time and contrary to many other RPGs you do have to fight by pushing buttons while dodging and running around.
Newcomers needn’t despair as the complex possibilities are extensively explained during the first hour of the game in multiple tutorials. You control one of the characters, walk around to attack one of the many enemies and try for example to approach them from behind or “hide” to then surprise them with powerful attacks through blindsides, one of the many gameplay elements. Also combos are present, can be lined up and look spectacular, just like the Rush possibility that you can activate when having been beaten a lot.
Another important elements in combat is the so-called agression. You can provoke which monsters will attack which characters by having their attention drawn. This way you can save friends in trouble or protect the weaker elements in your party. Those magicians remain pansies! You can also switch between the different characters so that you never get bored and can constantly switch playing style.
For the true hardcore there are also the Tiles. These bonuses are collected by performing specific tasks during combat (like doing one kind of move or killing two hostiles at once) and are taken along to the next encounter. After each fight they give extras (money, experience, skill points) and those that look out for them can fill their bonus board with the tiles he or she finds most interesting, which adds yet another layer of strategy to the game. It’s all a bit getting used to for the slower RPG players amongst us, but that the fights are and remain interesting throughout the game is assured by all these systems. The only downpoint here is that we would have liked to see some more variation in enemies eventhough this is made up by some memorable bosses.
Of course there’s more to do than fight and be irritated by the dialogues. You can check out the beautiful graphics for instance, or be irritated by the camera which completely sucks when you’re in small areas. You can also buy and sell resources to create new items but for that you first need to discover formulas by research or buying them after which you can make new weapons, gear and other stuff. For those that like a waste of time like this there’s a lot of time to lose and it also brings forth some usable stuff. You can also occupy yourself with the many sidequests, bonus missions and arena fights, as well as collecting trophies you get for doing certain missions with specific characters.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope is not an RPG for everyone. People who don’t care about the story will be able to skip the cut-scenes and focus on the excellent and deep combat and stay occupied with the many extras. Those hoping for an adventure in an awesome world filled with interesting characters should know there are better games to buy and play. And that’s an understatement.