Star Ocean: Till the End of Time was tri-Ace's first big hit in the U.S. The interstellar story of college student Fayt Leingod, it begins as a Star Trek take-off but quickly shows its true colors. When Fayt crash-lands on a backwater planet in the throes of feudalism, he gets sucked into a medieval mash-up... and from there, the adventure morphs into a technology-driven take on the very nature of the universe.
Like the stories in many RPGs, it's heavy stuff, but all of that mumbo-jumbo doesn't crush the game. Bright, colorful anime-style graphics lighten the mood while a speedy action-based battle system has you mashing buttons. According to Yamagishi, "For all of us at tri-Ace, we’ve learned that it is necessary to develop gameplay experiences that are fun for the gamer." Star Ocean speaks to that - showing deep and moving RPGs can still be fun.
It's also a very technically impressive and beautiful game - and began a trend for tri-Ace to push the limits of what we'd expect from the PS2. Yamagishi argues that graphics aren't the key, however. "What we are pursuing are games that are known for their stories and content, not for their visuals. We feel that as long as the graphics are beautiful enough to not detract from the experience, they will accomplish exactly what we need. However, the more beautiful the graphics, the more they bring to the overall entertainment value of the game."
Above: Star Ocean's special surprise - Lenneth Valkyrie will challenge you if you have the skill to make it to her lair
Though Till the End of Time was a major success, few gamers who played it know that tri-Ace tucked in a surprise. Though work on Valkyrie Profile 2 had not yet begun, the developers hadn't forgotten fans. If you get so ridiculously powerful that you could smack down the last boss with your eyes closed, and delve your way over 200 floors down in a completely optional dungeon, you have a chance to tangle with Lenneth, the star of the original Valkyrie Profile.
Even with high-level characters, this is boss encounter is next to impossible. Believe us, we've tried it. That's not the end of it, either - if you manage to make it through Lenneth, you have a chance to take on the goddess Freya, who also plays an important role in Valkyrie Profile's story.
And though tri-Ace's still wouldn't return to the world of Valkyrie Profile for its next game, the company still had surprises in store - for fans and non-fans alike.