Review: Star Ocean: The Last Hope International
This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.
NOTE: This review is based on the first 20 hours of gameplay.
There are a dearth of good JRPGs on the PlayStation 3 at the moment, so for those of you familiar with the genre be prepared to read a lot of obvious stuff while I break it down for newcomers. For the rest of you, I hope this review serves as a good introduction to the genre and lets you know what to expect.
Reviewing an RPG on the basis of only the first part of the game is quite risky as the gameplay mechanics tend to change as the story unfolds, so this article may not be fully representative of what’s on offer. I have played to the point where all the important gameplay elements are unlocked.
So what’s it all about? Star Ocean: The Last Hope is the 4th game in the series from Square Enix – the makers of Final Fantasy, and one year after its release in Japan has now been localized and made available in English-speaking territories. Chronologically, it is the first, set shortly after World War III and covering man’s tentative first steps into space to look for other planets suitable for colonization. To be honest, the story isn’t important; Star Ocean plays like most JRPGs: excessive amounts of dungeon crawling blended with excessive amounts of cut scenes. And if you like that sort of thing, you’ll be right at home with this game.
A quick summary of JRPGs for the uninitiated. You control one or more characters who start off as humble plebs, and gradually build up their levels and experience – usually by killing things – which makes them more powerful. The basic process is, kill things, gain XP, loot and items, train new skills, learn new abilities and spells, watch the story evolve a little and repeat ad nauseum until you have finished the game.
Of course, it is a little more interesting than that. In Star Ocean you start off on your lonesome as the brilliantly named Edge Maverick – captain of the USF 003 Calnus starship – and gradually pick up new characters as the game goes along. There are 8 or 9 playable characters, up to 4 of which you can have in your party at any one time. There are no classes as such although each character learns some specific fixed skills as they level which makes them better for some tasks than others. Of course you can also loot and buy skill books, some of which can be learned by any character.