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SnickerdoodleNinja's Star Ocean The Last Hope Game Review

Star Ocean The Last Hope game Review

Story & Playability

This review covers the Xbox 360 version of Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope.

SO4 takes place many years from now, with Earth having been made uninhabitable by World War 3. Mankind has no choice but to turn to the vast star ocean in an attempt to find a new world to call home. Along with his childhood friend, Reimi, Edge Maverick sets off into space to accomplish this very task as a member of the Space Reconnaissance Force. Of course, his journey to save humanity takes him to many worlds as he also searches for his best friend Crowe, who is missing in action, and Edge and his crew ultimately have to save not only the human race but the entire universe.

Those who are familiar with games created by Tri-Ace probably know by now that you don’t usually play their games for the plot. That said, SO4 actually has a rather good storyline, with few plot holes and well-developed characters, and fans of the earlier Star Ocean games will appreciate several references. Sure, the game has its own fair share of clichés, but they didn’t seem overpowering and for a list of the clichés I refer you HERE. Unfortunately, the game has rather poor delivery and conveyance of its plot, with some characters being very unrealistically over the top and borderline cheesy about many story elements. Although the wording of the lines has a lot to do with this problem, another big contributor is character movement, of which the chief offender is the kind-hearted, peppy Reimi. Many of her actions are unnecessarily emphatic as she talks. While it might add interest to make characters move as they talk, Reimi is one of the only characters with her own personal mannerisms, making some of her lines downright awkward, especially considering no one in the game seems to find it odd how much she moves when she talks. While not a major downfall of the plot, the story would probably have come off more interesting had the characters not been trying too hard sometimes.

Another awkward element of the story is that some things that are very important to the plot are not covered in cut-scenes, and found only in hard to find optional events, notes in the main menu, and the booklet that come with the game. Many players won’t think to look in any of these places, and some of this information is vital to understanding a particular character and their role in the story. Without it, many scenes in the game will be misinterpreted or downright creepy.

The most significant drawback to SO4’s story is its pacing. Random, unimportant scenes of partial nudity, innuendos for fan service or humor are inserted into serious moments, sometimes even perilous, completely disrupting the pace of the situation. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often, because when it did it was completely out there. Second, though the cut-scenes are interesting, they’re just too long. The game developed a strict pattern of “hour long cut-scene, then hours of running around with no story, then hour of private actions, then hour long cut-scene.” Lather, rinse, and repeat. The story thus loses some of its effect and interest, especially to those of us who barely have the attention span of a fly. Of course, nearly every cut-scene can be skipped and has a text summary of the plot at the end, but this causes the player to miss out on the character interaction and bonding that really makes SO4 stand out.

That said, SO4 excels in character development and interaction. Though the characters could sometimes be over dramatic, the bonds between the characters proved to be both very interesting and important. Unlike many games of late (*cough cough Final Fantasy 13 cough cough*) the characters actually care and interact with one another and make the story much more engaging, even if a little cheesy at times.

All in all, despite its minor story flaws, Star Ocean has a solid plot with great characters and character development. And since I rambled on about the story so long, I’ll save playability for the “Fun” section.

Rating: 7

Graphics

SO4 is stunning in the graphics department. The environments are all rich in color and detail with well-used lighting. Dungeons were each unique, never looking much like one you’ve visited before. This is also the only game I’ve ever played in which the player can stand on the beach and go whale-watching. Truly, the environments are that developed.

Characters are also very colorful and well-designed. However, the characters and many of the worlds they visit have very Japanese mannerisms, which would be good and make sense to a certain extent considering that this game was developed in Japan. Still, considering the broad scope of this game, it doesn’t make sense for every single world in the universe to act Japanese. In fact, it would add tremendously to the atmostphere if the characters and some of the civilizations didn’t act so Japanese, because this game is about aliens that should be very different in culture. It’s nothing against the Japanese personally; it simply detracts from the diversity of the worlds that are clearly meant to be different.

Overall, graphics and art are absolutely beautiful, but the stylizing and cultural influences are not varied much for a game that covers the whole star ocean.

Rating: 8

Sound

Star Ocean 4’s music was for the most part rather bland. While it’s nice that the battle music changes to fit the emotions of the story as it developed, the battle music proved some of the only notable music. Rarely is the other music attention grabbing, and when it is it’s usually for the worse.

Voice acting is overall quite good, with good delivery and voices that match each character’s personality. Although at least one character is painful to listen to, it’s clearly intentional. I can’t really speak for the Japanese voices, having only played the English version, but the voices are done well. After all, it’s hard to go wrong with Laura Bailey and Jason Liebricht on the voice acting crew.

Rating: 5

Fun

Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope is incredibly fun. Once again, Tri-Ace has managed to create an addictive battle system, with the “blindside” system allowing players to strategically dodge and counterattack in order to inflict more damage. Battle skills are present as typical of the Star Ocean series, but this time around they can be chained and even the spell casters are fun to use because each has their own forte and playing style. From arrows to claws to cannons, SO4 has playing styles for nearly every gamer.

Item creation in SO4 is, in my humble opinion, the best yet of the series, with each item being a recipe that can be used to make the item time and time again at your request, provided you have the right materials. Recipes are easy to make; the only downside is that items can be very difficult to come by and it’s not unusual to have the recipe tens of hours before you procure the ingredients.

Private actions are also a fun aspect of the game, though they often give them to you too many at a time. Via private actions, the player can gain more information about other characters, get a laugh or two, and contribute to emotion points, which ultimately determine what character endings you see at the game’s end.

In closing (you deserve a cookie if you’ve read all my ramblings thus far), Star Ocean 4 is a game with a good, though awkwardly delivered story full of great characters. Graphics are also beautiful and detailed, though the game’s music is rather lackluster. However, the game’s free-motion battle system keeps the player involved in the game and provides nice challenges and tons of fun, making the game recommendable to any gamer who has the time to put in to this forty hour behemoth.

Rating: 8

Final Verdict

7.17 (above average)

Reviewed by SnickerdoodleNinja, May 08, 2011

Comments

  1. CyanideBlizzard Retired Moderator May 08, 2011

    Japanese mannerism. I couldn't agree more that, while completely understandable, end up taking me out of a game more times than not. What's more is I can't understand that a country, for so many years made these creative universe and characters that didn't display these stereotypical patterns, now are suddenly engulfed in them. It's a big reason why I can't stand a lot of the current JRPGs. It's absurd to assume that a vast array of characters are all going to act Japanese and if so, like in the way that Chinese played a part in the TV show Firefly, then I want to see plenty of oriental things backing that up.

    I had a terrible time with Star Ocean 3, the waiting three years for it's eventual director's cut release didn't help, and with my mind dead set that anime-styled stereotypes were going to dominate games, I've been avoiding playing SO 4. I've owned the PS3 version for close to a year and I have yet to even touch it simply out of fear that I'll just come to hate one of my all time favorite series. However, after this review I plan on hitting it up as soon as I can get my PS3 down here.

    Very well constructed and great presentation, Snicker!

  2. angelxxuan May 10, 2011

    based on cb's comment I'm not so certain I want to spend time with this game. I wish I could be more of a gamer than what I am. the graphics look outstanding but based upon the review itself it sounds like something which might be of interest to me. I have someone which owns a ps3 and a gameshop in the area, thank goodness for previous viewed games that you don't like ;) thanks for the review I might be interested in hunting this one down.

  3. ChaoticMirage May 10, 2011

    wow! sounds interesting this game, maybe i will play it :) thanks for the review ;D

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