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Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (PlayStation 2) artwork

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (PlayStation 2) review


"But, see, everything else about the game is sub-par at best. It’s a perfect example of what an RPG shouldn’t do."



I find it hard to write about Star Ocean 3. Not because the story’s difficult to explain or it hits some emotional chord, and not because the battle system or anything else about it is beyond words. Getting the words down is simple enough, but not sounding like a bum while I rag on the lack of quality…that’s a trick.

I’ll strive to be fair; there are some facets of the game that don’t suck. Like, say, the graphics. As rare as the cutscenes are, they’re well animated. And as lame as the attack animations are, they’re well animated, too. Very vibrant, bright colors, pretty. The music’s good, if you’re into 80’s rock.

But, see, everything else about the game is sub-par at best. It’s a perfect example of what an RPG shouldn’t do.

DON’T create a universe and never use it.

Star Ocean 3 is a science fiction RPG, but I wouldn’t expect you to remember that. The game sure doesn’t. It starts out in a standard SF universe filled with standard SF stuff. Teleporters. VR videogames. Humanoid talking dolphins. Crap like that. It basically breaks every major SF cliché in the first two hours.

But that isn’t good enough for Star Ocean 3; it has to break every major fantasy cliché, too. See, it’s not long into the story that a race of identical aliens bomb the crap out of the planet where the ridiculously named hero, Fayt, happens to be staying. This puts him on the runs (predictably), separates him from his loved ones (even more predictably), and winds up with him landing on a planet that looks amazingly like something out of a fairy tale (not predictable, but lame). Dragons, fairies, gnomes, the whole deal. Fayt joins up with the resistance, which is comprised almost totally of hot ninja chicks, who are fighting against the evil empire.

It gets worse.

DON’T introduce characters and never use them again.

I’m not even talking about the NPC’s here. There are about ten playable characters, and only three of them are worth a damn. Everyone else either A) appears once and doesn’t show up til near the end B) has one or two mini plots and then contributes little, if nothing, to the rest of the plot. Only one character is exempt, and she’s useless when she shows because the main three, the three you’re stuck with the for the bulk of the game, are much stronger than her.

None of the main three are all that interesting, either. Nel, the skirt-wearing ninja redhead, is, well, just what that description suggests. She doesn’t have much of a personality or a past, she never develops. She’s what she appears to be and nothing more. Same thing with Cliff, the blonde muscle-headed Han Solo-wannabe. Oh, and Fayt Leingod, the blue-hair sword-wielding do-gooder savior of the universe? He’s even more trite than his name suggests. Yes, such a thing is possible.

The story fails; the characters fail. It could stand a chance if the battles were up to par. They aren’t.

DON’T make dungeons longer than they need to be.

Chicks dig long dungeons; this is a fact. Grueling crawls, working for every battle, finding hidden paths, opening chests, all good fun.

But there’s a fine line between ‘tough’ and ‘annoying’. Star Ocean 3 leans to the latter, dragging you through some of the most nauseating dungeons ever. Marvel at the deep, dark, repetitive caves. Wonder at the anal halls that are a pain to get in and out of because they all look the same. Spend hours and hours accomplishing nothing and then, when you luck up and find the way out, get your ass handed to you by a cheap boss!

DON’T fill your sucky dungeons with sucky monsters.

Actually, that might not be fair. Rewind.

The bosses are cheap, true. They do have plenty of attacks that can just wipe you out in a single blow. They do cheese, they do abuse. But a little blame has to rest on your computer-controlled partners. It doesn’t help that they’re complete dumbasses.

See, you can only control one character at a time, and the CPU takes over the other two. Is it smart enough to attack? Yes. It is smart enough to defend? To a point, yes. But doing basic things, things like using healing items or dodging a boss’s all-range one-hit kill attack that he’s obviously charging up for, that’s just too much for them. Against a monster that requires anything reminiscent of intelligence to defeat, they’re boned.

Half of your time in battle will be spent just trying to keep them from dying. Yippee.

They screwed up the role-playing part and they screwed up the game part. What’s left?

Minigames suck. DON’T make people play them.

Oh, right.

Some of the minigames are harmless; stupid, but harmless. Like Item Synthesis; more trouble than its worth, but its there.

But the infamous Hauler minigame is a different beast. You HAVE to beat it to advance. It involves giant turtles. It involves getting them through a mine. It involves finding the right path without tiring them out or hitting a wall or getting struck by falling rocks. All of this depends on your turtle listening to your directions, which might not happen if you choose poorly (happy turtle, goofy turtle, angry turtle, etc.)

It took me five hours. Five hours to find the right turtle and navigate the maze without crazing. Five hours staring at a turtle’s ass. And they say videogames shouldn’t make you cry.

What really boggles me about this game is that the same guys responsible went on to make Radiata Stories. This game and that game are similar in key ways, the major difference being that Radiata Stories doesn’t suck.

Let’s just call Star Ocean 3 a test run and leave it at that, eh?

Rating: 3/10

lasthero's avatar
Staff review by Zack Little (March 10, 2006)

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