While not as popular in North America as it is in Japan, Star Ocean is a long-running series that scored a hit with the Playstation 2 game, Star Ocean: Till The End of Time and, as of late, has seen Playstation Portable ports of the first two entries in the franchise. Supposedly this is the final entry in the Star Ocean series, and developer tri-Ace decided to bring things back to the beginning for the conclusion. In fact, this game is a prequel that details how the people of Earth first began to head out into space, into the vast star ocean.
With the high praise given to last generation’s Star Ocean and the problems that both tri-Ace and Square Enix have had putting out successful next-gen RPGs the past few years (Infinite Undiscovery and The Last Remnant both quickly saw price reductions after release due to damning reviews) Star Ocean: The Last Hope is a game with plenty of pressure on it to deliver the kind of quality we are used to seeing from both companies. Thankfully for both fans of the series and its creators, this is the best Xbox 360 game that Square Enix has released this generation, even with its flaws.
Feb. 24, 2009
The Last Hope is a space opera that centers around four space ships sent to explore potentially habitable planets elsewhere in the universe. Thanks to nuclear warfare, Earth’s environment is no longer livable, and the people of the planet need to find a place to colonize in order to keep their species alive; the task for these explores is to analyze, survey and live on planets that may work for Earthlings to live on, but of course, there’s a twist in this that makes for an adventure filled video game.
While in warp, the Calnus, the ship that protagonist Edge Maverick is working for, encounters a problem due to a meteor that causes gravity fluctuations. This not only affects Edge’s ship, but the three others as well; instead of all meeting on Aeos, the first planet to be explored, some of the other ships are sent to different places, escaping the warp at different time intervals as well. While your crewmates are just happy to be alive after what they thought was a near-death experience, they are attacked by unidentified mutant insects on Aeos. Edge is able to fight them off using a sword rather than a sci-fi styled rifle, and because of it is put in charge of a mission to locate one of the other lost ships. The story continues with Edge successfully finding the ship, becoming Captain of the Calnus and being given orders to locate the other ships while also locating other planets suitable for colonization. Of course, along the way, things that are far more important than the future of Earth come up in the tale, and it becomes Edge’s duty to put an end to these threats for the sake of the entire universe.
While it is not the most original story out there in the world of role-playing games, it is an entertaining one. The characters are well done and multi-dimensional, though they are also sometimes a bit clichƒ© in both their design and their behavior, but they do a good job of keeping you engaged in the tale as well. The cutscenes are effective, though on occasion they run a bit long thanks to some pointless or drawn out dialogue-the good news is that you can always skip them if you have had enough, and the game is even kind enough to present you with a synopsis page of what just transpired in the cutscene before you dive back into the gameplay. You can also revisit these synopses at any time through the main menu, incase you accidentally skipped or missed an important point in the dialogue.
Graphically, this game is stunning; it’s one of the best looking Japanese RPGs out there, with highly detailed environments and quality lighting effects no matter what kind of planet you are on. The worlds are also not one-dimensional; Lemuris is a cold planet, but unlike in say, Star Wars, where a cold planet means the entire thing is encased in ice and snow, there are others things to look at. There are also trees and grass that are not covered in snow, and lots of forestation and wildlife, making it look somewhat like the northwest United States or the woods of Maine during winter. Roak is a medieval planet that has beaches, deserts and mountainous areas, while Aeos is covered in jungles, beaches and deep caves to explore. Developer tri-Ace did a wonderful job creating a varied universe for you to explore between these worlds and the artificial ones you will visit.