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

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

"By now, I'm sure the majority of gamers have heard of the two companies Squaresoft and Enix. Well, a few years ago, they formed into Square-Enix, which is widely known for its Final Fantasy franchise. Tri-Ace is also a popular company with gamers over the world. Star Ocean 3 was announced for the first time a long time ago, but the game was never released until 2003 in Japan, and 2004 in the United States. So with Tri-Ace making the game, and Square-Enix publishing the game, you'd think that wit..."

By now, I'm sure the majority of gamers have heard of the two companies Squaresoft and Enix. Well, a few years ago, they formed into Square-Enix, which is widely known for its Final Fantasy franchise. Tri-Ace is also a popular company with gamers over the world. Star Ocean 3 was announced for the first time a long time ago, but the game was never released until 2003 in Japan, and 2004 in the United States. So with Tri-Ace making the game, and Square-Enix publishing the game, you'd think that with the history of these two companies that the game would be a great product of great quality, right? Sadly, this isn't the case.

Star Ocean: Till The End Of Time (or Star Ocean 3) starts off with the main character, Fayt Leingod, vacationing on Hyda IV with his parents and his childhood friend, Sophia Esteed. Fayt is a college student on earth, and while on vacation, he and Sophia decide to stroll around the hotel. During their stay, though, Hyda is attacked and Fayt is forced to evacuate as quickly as he can, seperating himself from his parents and from Sophia. After evacuating, he lands on an underdeveloped planet, in which he searches for a way to get back into space. After the events on this planet, Fayt finds himself on another planet, inbetween a war between two countries, and then does Fayt really realize what he's gotten himself into.

The story has a sci-fi type of theme to it which is apparent with the space travel between planets. While the theme of the game is a good idea, the plot itself is not. The plot is very sluggish, and it seems that it refuses to actually venture further, and isn't willing to pick up at all. Also, the plot also tends to sidetrack a lot, going to different side stories, and it also seems to derail a lot, often taking your focus off what the plot is really about. Although Star Ocean 3 does have a few good twists in it, it's hardly enough to salvage this trainwreck of a plot.

The anime type characters have been pretty popular in RPGs as of late, and Tri-Ace decided to go with that theme with Star Ocean 3. The characters turned out very nicely, with each character looking sharp and crisp, but facial expressions are hardly used throughout the game at all, making you wonder if that character is actually upset, mad, or happy at times. Environments are also great. Since the game takes place in a future planet and underdeveloped planets, the environments for each match up nicely, with all the towns being expansive.

Star Ocean 3 has a mediocre soundtrack at best. If you listen to the entire soundtrack, you'll realize that there aren't that many well composed tracks in the game. While there are some stand out tracks which are pretty obvious, the other tracks really don't seem to have the same amount of feeling as those strong tracks do. Star Ocean 3 also sports some pretty good voice acting. While it's not the best, it really does get the job done. However, one thing that does get annoying is that during certain parts of the game, the background music seems to be louder than the voice acting going on, so it's a bit hard to hear some of the voices of the characters without turning down the music a bit. You shouldn't have to turn down your music in order to hear voices, so that's something that's a pain.

Star Ocean 3 uses a real time battle system for all of the battles in the game. While the real time system is always welcome for any RPG, it's the way you think of a concept and execute the battle system that will make it into a good one. Sadly, this isn't the case for Star Ocean 3. You have three factors that play into battles: HP, MP, and Fury. At the bottom of your characters stats, you have a Fury Meter. Every action you take consumes a certain amount of fury. When your fury hits 0%, you need to let it refill by sitting still for a couple of seconds until it gets back up to where you want it to be, and then start attacking. This really limits how much you can attack, and how many skills you can use per combo.

Of course, HP for any RPG means Hit Points. Sometimes when you take damage, your HP will be damaged instead of your MP, but more on that in a minute. Most physical type skills require you to use a set amount of HP to execute that skill. This leaves you open to possible fatal attacks if your HP gets low becaus you chain certain skills together. The HP needed is determined to how you equip your skills. Equipping a skill to a minor attack button requires less HP to use and less fury, but equipping a skill to a major attack button requires more HP to use, as well as more fury. Stronger skills require a large chunk of HP to execute, which in the end can leave you wide open, and leave you a bit frustrated.

MP in this game stands for Mental Points. MP is usually used to cast magic (or Symbols in the games terms) and the stronger the magic, the more MP is needed to cast it. Just like with physical skills, the MP cost for spells is determined to how you set them up. I honestly don't like the idea of having to be careul of casting a powerful spell since you're actually able to be knocked unconscious when you run out of MP. You read that right. You're able to be knocked out if your MP hits 0. Some enemies target MP specifically too, and some of those attacks can rip through your MP source quickly, so even your spell casters are in more danger than before, and not because of their lack of MP early.

However, you are able to raise HP and MP. Whenever you level up, you'll earn Skill Points, which enable you to raise one of the following stats: HP, MP, Attack, and Defense. Raising HP and MP is pretty obvious, but raising your attack and defense is a bit different than you think. Whenever you raise one of your party members attack or defense, you're actually raising their AI capabilities with those stats. Say for instance that you raise a characters Attack way more than that characters Defense. That means that the character will attack more often than defend, so it's best to balanace out both stats carefully and not rush one ahead of another. Every time you raise one of the four stats, you need more Skill Points to raise it to the next level.

During battles, you have four normal attacks. You can either use a weak, normal attack at either close range or at a missile range by pushing X. These attacks are weaker, but they execute more quickly and have a better chance of hitting, and are much easier to skill cancel into. Pushing O will allow you to use a major attack at a close distance or at a missile range. Major attacks are stronger than minor attacks, but they take up longer to wind and leave you open to attacks while winding up. However, Major attacks are able to break an enemies Fury Meter if it's at 100%, leaving them momentarily stunned and open for attacks.

As you level up, you're able to equip skills to those four main buttons to help you deal more damage. Each skill requires a certain number of CP, which caps off really soon. Equipping a skill allows you to use it during battle by holding the appropriate button down. You're also to use chain attacks, or skill cancels, to deal even more damage. Let's say you have a skill set on Short Range X and Short Range O. Holding Short Range X will allow you to use your skill. Once that skill executes, letting go of X and holding Short Range O will allow you to skill cancel with the skill equipped to the O button, which results in more damage.

Also during battles, you may notice a bar on the right side of the screen. This is the Bonus Gauge. Normally when you attack enemies, the gauge will fill up. Depending on your level, you'll either have a long time to fill it up, a short time to fill it up, or you won't be able to fill it up at all. If you're not able to raise the bonus gauge at all during battles, that means that you're currently overleveled for the point of the game you're at. This is a good indicator to let you if you're either underleveled, overleveled, or at the right level. Once the bonus gauge fills up completely, you'll get one of four bonuses, including Triple Exp and Double Fol. As you get into more battles with the bonus gauge intact, you'll be able to earn more bonuses at the end of battles. You're able to hold up to all four bonuses at once, but once an enemy lands a critical hit, you run away, or you just die, the bonus gauge breaks, making the bonuses just vanish, so you often need to be careful during battles if you wish to keep the gauge around.

Dungeons are pretty huge and you're actually rewarded if you explore them thoroughly. What I mean by that is if you explore a dungeon completely, you're rewarded with a "Scale Bunny" type item. In the corner of the screen, you'll notice a map that fills in as you venture into the dungeon. The number underneath that map is how much you've explored it. In order to explore every dungeon completely, you need to literally hug along every edge possible in the dungeon. Some dungeons however are not completeable during your first visit. While it was a good idea to reward players to actually exploring, the prizes don't stack up at all, and the movement speeds really aren't that noticeable (unless you get the 1/1 Scale Bunny. Then it's noticeable) and it seems that the only reason to get tehse scale bunnies is to sell them for a decent profit. There are also no random encounters in the game, as all enemies are present on the screen. Encountering enemies in a certain way can lead to different battle situations, though. If an enemy encounters you while you're facing away, chances are you'll get ambushed, and you'll start the battle with 0% Fury. It's not exactly important, but getting the upper hand always helps.

Something that I liked about the game was the Item Creation system. During the game, you're able to sign up to be an inventor at a certain point. Once you do, you're able to use the workshops scattered in most towns in the game. At workshops, you can spend Fol to expand workshops, allowing you to create different types of items in them. Depending on your skill levels and the rarity (or quality) of the item, you'll either have a successful creation session, or you'll keep failing over and over again. Creating new items or expanding on current items cost a certain amount of Fol, and is very time consuming, so having a heavy wallet and having patience will help in the long run.

You can also recruit different inventors to work for you at certain workshops. As you venture deeper into the game, new inventors will step foward. You can find these inventors and talk with them, and possibly recruit them once you meet certain requirements. It's not a complete waste of time either as some of these inventors can make rare items that you and other inventors cannot, so it's always important to mix and match inventors with your characters to make new results. This can be a tedious task, since recruiting inventors can be pricey and time consuming, since some inventors want certain items.

There's plenty to do in Star Ocean 3. The game itself can last over 50 hours and there are a number of things to collect and some optional dungeons to complete. You're able to collect battle trophies throughout the game as well. Each trophy is obtained after meeting a certain requirement, and since some of these requirements take some planning to get, as well as skill and some luck, it's not easy getting them all. There are over 300 trophies to get, and you're able to unlock some rewards for getting enough trophies, such as alternate outfits or even the infamous 4D Mode. If you're a perfectionist, getting these trophies will eat away hours of your lives.

Also once you complete the game, some optional dungeons open up, such as the Maze of Tribulations. These dungeons however are nothing like the ones you visited during the main portion of the game. These dungeons require you to plan yourself by making powerful equipment to survive down there, as well as some excellent healing items. The bosses in these optional dungeons as well carry battle trophies too, so if you're aiming to get all the trophies, the post dungeons are a must for you. Along with the dungeons are mini games you can play, such as Runic Chess. There's also a battle arena for you to fight and earn prizes.

All in all, while Star Ocean 3 may seem like a great RPG, it's only average at best with a plot that refuses to pick up at all and a battle system that's pretty intimidating to new RPG players, as well has some questionable features to it such as being knocked out when you hit 0 MP. Fans of the series will probably enjoy it, but if you're a casual fan, or not a fan of the Star Ocean series, I'd save your money and try to find a better RPG.

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Community review by peterl90 (June 09, 2007)

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