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Star Ocean: The Last Hope review

Great
AT A GLANCE
  • Real-time combat and blindside attacks
  • Switching between all eight characters
  • Nice looks
  • Where are all the damn save spots?
  • Cut scenes and dungeons both too long
  • Cringe-worthy voice acting

Despite the fact that Star Ocean: The Last Hope swaps the usual swords and dragons setting for spaceships and aliens (but keeps magic – go figure), the least typical thing about this sci-fi role-playing game is it’s combat. Most Japanese RPGs stick with the tried-and-true turn-based system – or its close relative, the Active Time Battle system, in which each character takes turns waiting for his or her or its meter to fill up between actions. Star Ocean: The Last Hope instead delivers all-out, full-tilt, real-time battles.

Don’t go thinking that this focus on speed means that combat is dumbed down and you won’t need strategy. It hasn’t been – you just need to do everything faster. There are four characters to swap between at any time during battle (actually eight, if you count the fact that you can also switch characters in and out of your party on the fly as well) and a ton of skills and abilities to learn. Add in a special attack called a “blindside”, in which you’re given the chance to attack your enemy’s vulnerable rear if you wait for the last possible second to counter, and you have an adrenalized battle system that really sets the game apart from most of its more relaxed, plodding contemporaries.

In most every other way, Star Ocean: The Last Hope is the prototypical, top-notch Japanese RPG. The detailed graphics look like Star Wars gone psychedelic, with crazily over the top outfits and more bright colors bouncing around than a disco party at a clown college. It has a young but gifted main character (named Edge Maverick, believe it or not) and a small battalion of seven customizable cohorts whose stiff, overly cartoon-y voice actors miss as much as they hit.

It sends this on a vast adventure built around an epic concept – you start off looking for a new home for humanity after World War III trashed our home planet, and things actually get bigger from there. It’s decidedly, unabashedly cute despite this very serious premise and the fact that you kill nearly every living thing you encounter. There are side quests, many of which seem oddly unimportant considering the urgency of your main goal, but you do them first anyhow. And you can make things out of the various animal parts, plants, gems and debris you find.

Unfortunately, SO:TLH even sticks to some annoying JRPG traditions we’d rather forget. It’s so miserly with the save points (why do we even NEED save points these days?) you’d think the developers had to sacrifice a child everything they placed one. And it alternates between talking way too much, telling its story through excessively long-winded cut scenes, and grinding you into numbness with dungeons so big that exploring them sometimes switches from “this is fun!” to “this is work.”

Of course, that’s all part of being a Japanese RPG, so some fans will find the depth and challenge delightful. If you think you can sack up and deal with quick battles balanced by long, slow everything else, there’s no doubt that Star Ocean: The Last Hope will deliver a ton of Japanese RPG goodness.

Mar 5, 2009

More Info

Release date: Feb 24 2009 - Xbox 360 (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Tri-Ace
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes, Mild Language
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending

11 comments

  • Moondoggie1157 - April 19, 2011 5:03 a.m.

    Picked this up for PS3 last week, 10 hours in and I love it. Can't believe I hadn't heard about it before...
  • Drama - March 9, 2009 1:05 p.m.

    I've been craving a new JRPG for a while now. I'm just not sure if I am willing to dish out $60 if this. I guess I'll wait until a price drop or when I can find it used. I hate gaming in a recession. :(
  • Xenath - March 7, 2009 12:43 a.m.

    It's neither. It's only real time.
  • drunation - March 6, 2009 11:10 p.m.

    Is this real time turn based or just turn based
  • ocelotfox - March 6, 2009 2:02 p.m.

    There are several out there, but the best two are Valkyria Chronicles and Eternal Sonata. VC is a strategy-RPG-shooter hybrid that I can't help but recommend.
  • Corsair89 - March 6, 2009 7:50 a.m.

    I want this game, but I'll probably wait for a little while, I have too many other RPGs to finish.
  • Craza - May 25, 2009 12:37 p.m.

    This actually looks really nice now that I take a deeper look at it. I would snatch this up right away.....if it wasn't still $60. -.- Edge Maverick? Oh God, again with the super masculine manly man-man names? Oh yah, can the game be played with a Japanese audio track.....or is that the only track available? It doesn't say what languages the voices are in, and if it does, it's because my brain ish dying from sleep deprivation and I missed it.
  • GoldenMe - March 6, 2009 11:04 p.m.

    klempfer- Not really. Just wait for FFX13.
  • BodyDamage - March 6, 2009 5:20 p.m.

    i sit quietly in a corner hoping for the day they announce this on ps3, but every day that passes makes me realize a little more that it probably won't happen.
  • Japanjack - March 6, 2009 3:30 a.m.

    "you’d think the developers had to sacrifice a child everything they placed one" Awesome grammar. I want this game.
  • Xenath - March 6, 2009 2:51 a.m.

    I bought this and I'm about 7 hours in. I would say in my opinion the combat is the best of the real time in any RPG for next gen. Though voice acting is horrible as pointed out. As far as this game goes I think it's great so far. I love long cut scenes to so yeah. Best JRPG on the 360 so far IMO. PS Why isn't there a mention in the hate about that anoying girl always saying "kay"? Seriously I want to punch her.

Showing 1-11 of 11 comments

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