The combat itself isn't too shabby, either. You control your character's attack (be it long or short range) by pushing the X button. You can always tell when an enemy is targeting you, so that if you hold down the B button and charge right when they are about to attack, you can pull off what is called a blindside attack. Basically this means that you will run around the enemy, dodging his attack, while giving him a real good smack on the back that can turn into an effective combo. On top of the blindside technique, each of the characters has their own magic/special attack that they can pull off by using the control's two trigger buttons. The combat really makes you feel like you're right in the action, and in a lot of ways it feels like a slightly more adult version of the Kingdom Hearts series.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope tells a wonderful story, has all sorts of great sci-fi references and a combat system that even non-adventure gamers would love. Yet despite all of these good things, Square Enix insists on ruining the experience with a number of terrible decisions. The first one is a cast of characters that feels like they were ripped out of every Japanese RPG cliche you could think off. There's the metrosexual hero, there's the half-naked girl with double-D breasts, there's a cat-woman thing, there's your typical anime girl, there's a robot-man and, worst of all, there's a pre-school age magic user. Maybe this stuff plays better in the land of the rising sun, but to my eyes it just felt corny.
Unfortunately it's worse than just a few clichés, a big problem I have is that I genuinely despise most of the characters. Edge, for example, spends most of the game second-guessing his actions. His indecisiveness is just annoying, especially when he brings it up every cinema scene. And what's with the baby? Was it really necessary to bring an infant on board? Thankfully she says more than "goo goo, gah gah," but that doesn't stop her from being one of the lamest characters I've ever seen in an RPG. These people are memorable for all the wrong reasons.
The game's 50+ hour story is told over three discs, mostly due to the lengthy cinema scenes. If you plan on playing through Star Ocean: The Last Hope (and I recommend you do), then you should be warned that there are long stretches of time when you won't need the control in your hand. Like Xenosaga and last year's Metal Gear Solid 4, Star Ocean is not afraid of the half hour cut scene. Some of these are made even more pointless because of the lame characters, but you should still watch them (if for no other reason than to figure out what you need to do next). To be fair to Tri-Ace, these cinemas are at their most obnoxious early on. Things die down a little when you move on to the second disc.
In true Square Enix fashion, Star Ocean looks absolutely unbelievable. The worlds are full of detail and life, and the combat is action-packed and full of extremely cool attacks. Unfortunately not everything looks as good as the battles, though. Oddly enough, the character models in the cinemas look doll-like and lifeless. They try to show emotion, but it comes off as creepy (especially the young magic user). Thankfully you can't tell how disturbing the character models are when you're in combat, and that's what you'll be doing for most of the time.
The weird character models are only made worse when you hear them speak. I'm not sure if it's a lack of time or what, but something funky happened to the voice actors right before they delivered their lines. Some characters sound like they don't want to be there, while others are so excited that it makes me want to muzzle them. And then there's Reimi's friend that we keep seeing over the picture phone. Let me tell you, her voice alone marks a new low for annoying video game voice acting. It's impossible to overstate how awful the voice acting is, and with so many hours of cinemas it's impossible to escape.
Perhaps the best part of Star Ocean: The Last Hope is the fact that the game never really ends. Oh sure, you can beat the final boss and become a true hero ... but there's so much more to do after that. The game is filled to the brim with side-quests and secrets to discover. You can go back to just about any planet you visited on your journey, just in case you missed something. There are also dozens of battle trophies (achievements for the things you do in combat) that you and your team can earn, which makes leveling up really exciting. There's just a lot open to you, which is uncommon in most Square Enix published role-playing games.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope is exactly what most role-playing gamers have been waiting for. The game is enormous, beautiful to look at and offers a fascinating (albeit cliché) story. Yes, some of the characters are a little hard to take and you can see the twists coming a mile away, but that shouldn't stop you from having a great time in the action-packed battles. The game is full of little touches that make it shine, even for somebody who had resigned himself to a life of not understanding the Star Ocean series. It's a little flawed, but Star Ocean is easily Square Enix's best console game in years.
Square Enix really outdid themselves with Star Ocean: The Last Hope. This is a huge, gorgeous adventure with a memorable storyline and plenty of cool twists. Better yet, it has some of the most compelling combat sequences ever found in a Japanese role-playing game. If you're a fan of traditional RPGs, then you need to play what has to be one of Square Enix's best console games in years!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!