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Star Ocean: The Last Hope (Xbox 360) artwork

Star Ocean: The Last Hope (Xbox 360) review

"The Bonus Board isn't permanent, though, as if an enemy whacks the character you're controlling with a critical hit, you'll watch a number of your bonuses dissipate. I had a knack for killing stuff with critical hits, so at times, I'd be getting at least an additional 100 percent experience. One of those hard hits against me and it was down to 50 percent and I'd have to build my board back to its former glory (or take another couple critical hits and have to start from scratch)."

I found Star Ocean: Till the End of Time to be filled with annoyances. From how the futuristic theme was disrupted by spending much of the game on medieval worlds where characters were forced to use primitive weaponry TO horrid combat AI for your non-controlled party members TO a number of annoying supporting characters TO tri-Ace seemingly putting more effort into one big plot twist and post-game dungeons than the actual was easy for me to get frustrated to the point of putting the game down. In fact, I think it took three sessions (with lengthy hiatuses between each) for me to just get through the main story. The post-game dungeons? Haven't touched them.

For me to say all of those issues were solved with the latest entry into the series would be a lie. However, The Last Hope at least was able to gloss them over, so that I was able to have a consistently good time playing it. There's still a good bit of room for improvement, but it is a quality J-RPG.

The game is a prequel to the previous Star Oceans, detailing Earth's initial attempts to colonize space. A war greatly damaged the planet, causing its people to put aside their differences to find a new place to live before their old one completely goes kaput. They get in contact with a friendly alien species (the VERY similar-appearing Eldarian), who help them to improve their technology to the point where Earth can send their best and brightest into space in order to find a planet worthy to be their new home.

Among that group is Edge Maverick (Homer Simpson wishes he'd used that moniker instead of Max Power when he changed his name in one episode) and his two best friends Crowe and Reimi. Crowe, being the best and brightest of the best and brightest, gets to command his own ship, while the envious Edge, as well as Reimi, get to be the top subordinates to another captain. Their first destination winds up being the underdeveloped planet Aeos, which operates at a prehistoric level of evolution. I know, same ol', same ol', right?

Maybe not. You don't spend a great deal of time on Aeos or the second (also underdeveloped) planet, Lemuris, before being whisked away to an immense battleship and then an alternate-dimension version of Earth. All of these stops are brief and probably do more to make it feel you're EXPLORING space than any other game in the series. You're still on the first of three discs by the time you make it to your fifth destination. While that planet, which will be familiar to long-time Star Ocean fans, will eat up many hours of your time, it doesn't change the fact that The Last Hope gives you more diverse locales to visit than previous games in the series.

More important to me was the battle system. Here is where The Last Hope truly shines, creating simple, awesome combat that might provide some of the best fighting I've ever encountered in an action-based RPG. Like you'd expect, you run around the battle screen hitting a button to attack enemies. By holding another button down, you can anticipate their attacks and blindside dodge them to get an automatic critical attack. Special moves are assigned to the triggers and can be used in combos. And, by giving and taking damage, you fill up a meter that (when full) can be used to enter Rush Mode where you become more powerful offensively and don't get knocked backwards by enemy attacks, allowing you to stand toe-to-toe and deliver major punishment. I've regularly gotten strings of three or four straight critical hits in Rush Mode, which can take down many regular enemies quickly.

Adding to the arcade-like fun was the Bonus Board. By defeating enemies in certain ways, you'd gain up to 14 bonuses for winning battles. Every time you kill an enemy with a critical hit, you gain an extra 10 percent experience, while killing two with one attack bestows additional money. The Bonus Board isn't permanent, though, as if an enemy whacks the character you're controlling with a critical hit, you'll watch a number of your bonuses dissipate. I had a knack for killing stuff with critical hits, so at times, I'd be getting at least an additional 100 percent experience. One of those hard hits against me and it was down to 50 percent and I'd have to build my board back to its former glory (or take another couple critical hits and have to start from scratch). I can safely say that this is the first action-RPG where I was nearly as eager to get into fights in the final dungeon as I was when I was starting my explorations. The only real flaw I found was that there were a limited number of monster designs, so by the time I got a few dungeons into the game, I'd seen most of the various types of foe, which made battling somewhat repetitive. Fun, but repetitive.

The characters I primarily used for battling seemed pretty bright as far as using skills and not getting killed due to utter incompetence, which also was good. However, as characters in a game I'm playing, a few left something to be desired. Most of the party could be described as either integral to the plot or quality support. Meracle and Sarah were just annoying. The former is a cat-girl who's always hungry; the latter is an air-headed winged girl who can't fly. Yeah, there's the occasional funny moment provided by them, but overall, they really detract from things, as they really seem to be little more than comic relief in a way that detracts from what was a well-executed story (if you ignore how Edge's voice actor sound more petulant and whiny than emotionally shattered after one particular event). At least Lymle's relationship with another character gave her enough importance to the plot for me to almost overlook how creepy a 15-year-old girl with the body and mind of a six-year-old who looks like a porcelain doll and speaks like she's in a trance is -- Meracle and Sarah just made me think tri-Ace felt compelled to add some wacky members to the cast for a few cheap laughs.

Those characters weren't the only annoyances in The Last Hope. This seems to be the sort of game that there's no point in sitting down to play unless you have a healthy amount of free time. A few cutscenes (particularly a couple from late in the game) lasted long enough for my system to enter sleep mode while they were playing. And the! They're very large, which is good, but save points are so inconsistently scattered through this game that they can be major ordeals. You have two save points on your ship. Upon leaving it, you'll find another opportunity to save right in front of you. You'll find more inside towns and right outside dungeons. And then you enter that cave, battleship or shrine and find you have an amazingly long trek in front of you before you'll have another chance to save. I can think of a few times where I wound up staying up much later than planned because it took hours to fight my way through the larger places. My work productivity hates you, Star Ocean!

The post-game dungeons aren't the only optional things to do in The Last Hope. One set of quests leads you to a cave accessible midway through the game. That was fun. As for the rest...blah. You get to fetch a bunch of stuff for virtually every shopkeeper in the game. You get to fetch a bunch of stuff for random other people. Oftentimes, you'll be going back-and-forth between planets to accomplish these quests, which will lead you to repeatedly switch discs. The battle arena in this game is pretty fun...until you realize that you'll need to win 100 battles to become the champion of EITHER the individual or team challenges. You could probably spend as much time with the optional stuff as it takes to beat the game. The only problem is that there's not that much appeal in doing hundreds of fetch quests and an obscenely long coliseum.

Still, when I love a game's battle system and find one of its biggest weaknesses to be the unappealing nature of much of its optional stuff, I can't complain too much. It was a fun ride through a number of planets and big spaceships that did a lot to improve on the disappointing Till the End of Time. The Last Hope isn't the best RPG I've played over the past few years, but provided enough fun for me to recommend it.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (February 03, 2012)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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zippdementia posted February 03, 2012:

Great review, Rob. I like your fair assessment of your own assessment by giving the game a good score. It makes me feel like you had fun despite your issues and that you would, with a grain of salt, recommend this game. It's tough to do a review like that, but it works well here.
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zippdementia posted February 03, 2012:

Hey, quick question, though.... switch discs? Really? In this day and age?
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Suskie posted February 03, 2012:

Remember that Xbox 360 games are DVD format, and thus have only a fraction of Blu-ray's disc space. So if a game has high production values (especially if it's a long, dialog- and cutscene-heavy RPG such as Star Ocean), yeah, the developers will have to do that. It's not terribly common, but a number of my Xbox 360 games have multiple discs. Microsoft is apparently considering Blu-ray for their next console, which is kind of a no-brainer at this point.
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jerec posted February 03, 2012:

The Last Hope had a cutscene segment so long my wireless controller switched itself off.
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zippdementia posted February 03, 2012:

HA! That reminds me of Xenosaga. Or at least the first one. Wasn't that the game that let you save mid cutscene? I didn't have the heart to suffer through the second and third.
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EmP posted February 04, 2012:

Good job on even finishing this game. I have to take half year breaks from playing because the things this game does wrong annoy me so bloody much.
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overdrive posted February 04, 2012:

That happened to me, too. I think it was around, what, the ones after the eight-tier fight with clone soldiers?

Yeah, with the 360 a lot of JRPGs have multiple discs. Lost Odyssey had four, while Blue Dragon, this and FF XIII all had three. This is the only one where it's a pain though, as to do optional stuff, you go between the game's planets. So, if you want to go back to one of the first ones you visit, you'll be putting an old disc in. And if you're like me and like to (a) install a disc when you're playing it AND (b) un-install it when you're done with it, you'll be really, really pissed when you have to take time to re-install something you took off the hard drive.
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WilltheGreat posted February 04, 2012:

Hm, this actually doesn't sound as terrible as I've heard other people say it was. Mission accomplished I guess?

Also, I'll bite - what's the fifth destination that's supposed to be familiar? It's been ages since I touched a SO title.
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Suskie posted February 05, 2012:

I hope it's Expel.

I really, really hope it's not Energy Nede.
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overdrive posted February 05, 2012:

Roak, at least I think that's the name. It's the one where most of the Super Famicom Star Ocean was set. In this game, you basically prevent the resurrection of Asmodeus, so he can be resurrected and beaten in SO1.

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