Star Ocean: The Last Hope – hands-on

Despite the scanners indicating no substantial life forms on the planet, the crew are surprised to find giant, irritable insects roaming the surface. While this won’t surprise the player, again it holds atypical significance as the serene bastion for humanity is revealed to have a dark underbelly. This leads to Star Ocean’s signature real-time combat, which for the uninitiated may provide an engaging alternative to the standard “characters stand around and take potshots at each other” found in many RPGs.

While roaming the map, you can see enemies patrolling around, and so can avoid them to a certain extent. Once an enemy “touches” your party leader, a familiar battle transition occurs, but you’re plopped down in an arena that you can run around at will, dodging enemy attacks, circling them, and flanking them. A sort of hack-n-slash approach will be the central part of combat, but you can lock on to enemies, block attacks, and swap control of characters instantly with a button tap. Currently the camera is a bit odd because fights always start with enemies off to the side of your view, instead of in front of you where you can see them, so there’s an annoyingly unnecessary step of rotating the camera at the beginning of every battle. Hopefully that will be changed in the final game, as it’s a small irritation that may grow tiresome after the 500th time it must be done.

The Last Hope also features the series’ signature item creation aspect, where ingredients are harvested from the environment, MMO-style, to use in recipes. From what we saw, it didn’t have a grindy-feel to it, so for the MMO-phobic, not to worry. While it’s nice to see favorite features returning, we didn’t get a chance to see anything ground-breakingly new. For now, the game appears to be a next-gen souped-up version of the universe fans have grown to love. However, the game is clearly massive, so we may yet see some cool leaps ahead in gameplay. Even if it’s not the case, the story certainly hints at some unexpected twists to keep players slashing their way through real-time fights, all the way to the end, if only to see how this saga began.

Feb 5, 2009

Matthew Keast
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.