"In Till the End of Time, you don't exist in some primitive medieval world dominated by swords and sorcery. Nope, you're in a massive galaxy with all sorts of planets — many of which are quite advanced technologically. You get teased by this in the early going as protagonist Fayt (pronounced "fate") and family are chilling out in some futuristic resort. Then all hell breaks loose, Fayt gets separated from everyone and winds up in an escape pod that crashes...on a primitive medieval world."
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time isn't just a J-RPG, it's a J-RPG: WTF! Deluxe Model. In a genre known for angst-ridden heroes, bizarre hairstyles, hilariously oversized swords and other symptoms of insanity, Till the End of Time goes above and beyond the call of duty to completely fry the brains of players. Who needs drugs when Square-Enix is making games like this?!? Well, besides me, but that's another story...
While playing this game, my feelings shifted from love to hate and back again frequently enough to give me motion sickness. Hell, while I'm sitting here typing this review, I'm still not sure how I REALLY feel about it. Till the End of Time is that confusing. There were so many things that caused me to shake my head in disbelief...but I still found myself having a pretty decent time while muddling my way up to the final confrontation of what might be one of the more intriguing takes on a malevolent deity ever seen in one of these games. Even if the experience is a bit marred by how "Mr. Creator" seems to be a petulant teen, given his appearance and actions.
In Till the End of Time, you don't exist in some primitive medieval world dominated by swords and sorcery. Nope, you're in a massive galaxy with all sorts of planets -- many of which are quite advanced technologically. You get teased by this in the early going as protagonist Fayt (pronounced "fate") and family are chilling out in some futuristic resort. Then all hell breaks loose, Fayt gets separated from everyone and winds up in an escape pod that crashes...on a primitive medieval world.
Don't worry. This is only a temporary setback. After completing a pretty simple dungeon, Fayt gets rescued by over-the-top man's man Cliff, who leads a group of intergalactic freedom fighters (or something like that). Everything is progressing nicely...until Cliff's ship is shot down and you crash onto...another primitive medieval world. Most of the game takes place here. So much for exploring the potential awesomeness of a futuristic RPG. Then again, that might have been a blessing in disguise. The handful of dungeons that take place in sci-fi environments could best be described as monotonous collections of corridors that all look the same, which means that future man must be quite the boring chap. The caverns, dungeons and ruins populating the planet Elicoor were far more interesting places to visit than, say, Sphere 221 and its vast array of identical floors.
But tantalizing you with a vast galaxy only to confine you to the same sort of planet you've seen a million times in RPGs is just one of many glorious WTF! moments Till the End of Time gives players. And so, let me debut:
Rob's Awesome WTF Checklist -- Star Ocean-style!
• A boatload of crappy characters. There is not one, but two potential party members fitting into the "annoying kid who deserves a lethal dose of child abuse" archetype. You know the type -- you'll be in the middle of some quest and all of a sudden, some obnoxious brat foists himself upon you, while constantly demanding to be treated as the most important person in the history of the world. Fortunately, both Roger and Peppita were optional characters, so I only had to interact with them a minimal amount of time. So instead, I got to use Albel, an effeminate villain with that "ever-so-awesome" J-RPG hair who joins you so he can obtain the power to beat you.
I guess I should clarify that by saying "I got to use Albel", I meant that he became one of the five unused members of my party. Till the End of Time gives you control of Fayt, Cliff and Elicoor soldier Nel for a long time before you start collecting additional party members. When I got Albel, he was about level 20. My "big three" were all in the 30s. Late in the game, my final two members joined in the level 25-30 range. At this point, Fayt and company were in the 50s. With my main party consistently far more powerful than the newcomers, I felt no desire to see what the scrubs were capable of doing and just relied on Fayt, Cliff and Nel to carry me through the game. Perhaps if new characters were introduced to me in a more timely manner, or at least scaled to be roughly as battle-ready as my current guys, I'd have bothered to use them.
• BIG NUMBERS! Till the End of Time revels in big numbers. By the end of the main quest, my three active party members all had around 13,000 hit points, while the final form of the final boss was around 450K. And this is only the beginning. The HP totals for the toughest optional bosses have more zeroes than Bill Gates' bank account. To counter this, you can synth a magical rock to weapons that adds 500 attack points for each one you use, so regular attacks can cause umpteen thousand in damage. Things escalate to a level where I got the idea the designers knew they were creating a big, disorganized mess, so they simply decided to create a lot of big flashy battles to distract players from noticing.
• The main quest is over! Congratulations, you've just completed the chump change part of the proceedings. Now it's time to ditch the remedial classes and dive right into advanced placement. There are no fewer than THREE dungeons which cannot be accessed until you've beaten the game, including the final 121 floors of the Sphere 221 building. In a way, it seems like the main quest was an afterthought and the focus of the designers was to create a ton of "big numbers battles" as optional post-game challenges. I remember watching the ungodly long and comically wacky ("We really DO exist because...uh...well, we think we do! YAY FOR EXISTING!!!!") ending and just feeling hollow because I knew there were about two dozen bosses waiting for me and virtually all of them could wipe the floor with the guy I just beat. Three cheers for me...I guess.
I could go on and mention the awful Hauler Beast segment, but I think every single person who has reviewed or played this game has done a fine job of discussing their hatred of that atrocious little part of Till the End of Time. So instead, I'll switch things up by saying that despite delivering one WTF! moment after another, this game comes really close to being memorable FOR GOOD REASONS! While I've gathered that the game's biggest plot twist has its share of detractors, I personally enjoyed it. It took things in an unexpected direction and was far less generic than the usual "main character finds out he's not what he thought he was" deal (which existed here, but was a mere afterthought in all this game's chaos).
More importantly, fighting is a LOT more fun here than in most J-RPGs, which is a very big positive, as most games in this genre involve the player taking part in hundreds (or thousands) of battles. Things are handled in real-time action and are easy to control. By tapping the "X" and "O" buttons, you'll be able to perform weak and strong attacks with whichever character you're personally using. You also can hold down those buttons to execute any of a number of powerful special attacks. With Fayt, I was having a blast assaulting groups of enemies with the awesomely powerful and wide-ranging Dimension Door and then eliminating the survivors with the sheer brutality of his Air Raid assault.
But you have to be careful with these powers. Each one expends either hit or magic points, with the cost becoming greater as the skill becomes more powerful. As you'd expect, losing all your HP leads to death, but the same is also true with MP, giving you two (big) numbers to keep an eye on. Becoming overly reliant upon those big-money attacks can prove costly if your party members use up enough of their life/magic to become particularly vulnerable to enemy attacks. And some of those attacks are BRUTAL. If you have the spell Deep Freeze cast upon a character, you'll watch that poor soul not only take multiple painful blows from cold damage, but also potentially get frozen (which can lead to a one-hit kill). I also grew to fear the game's large spider-bot enemies because of their ability to quickly blast machine gun fire, followed by missiles. Those fast-and-furious attacks assaulted both HP and MP, making them one of the most dangerous regular enemies in the game.
Regardless of the enemy, fights are quick-paced and hard-hitting. If you can combine your attacks with an ally's, it's possible to completely decimate an enemy before they can react. However, if your timing is off, that same enemy might completely ruin your day with their assault. The only problem I had with fighting was the utter stupidity of the party members I wasn't controlling. They don't seem to understand concepts like "run away from enemies who are preparing a really deadly attack" or "use simple common sense". Against regular encounters, this wasn't a problem, but against the tougher bosses, it was. And I can only imagine how much worse things would be if I was playing on one of the tougher difficulty levels.
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time took me about three or so years to beat because I'd get frustrated or annoyed and put it up for an extended period of time...but I always came back to it. It's not a great game and might not even be good, but there's a sort of endearing quirkiness to it. It's like an over-the-top celebration of the inherent weirdness of J-RPGs combined with a battle system that seems inspired to a strong degree by brawling games. I might only be able to endure this one in small doses before needing to move on, but I keep coming back for more. I can see me sporadically playing it until I've beaten the final post-game optional boss...even if it takes me till the end of time to do so!
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (May 08, 2010)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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