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Judgment Decided: Star Ocean: The Last Hope

Posted by Doug on April 13, 2009

Having finally completed Star Ocean: The Last Hope—and having unlocked all the secret endings, thanks to Shaun “Uptown877” Danis’ walkthrough at GameFaqs—I now feel qualified to have an opinion on the game; more to the point, I now have the time to express my opinion on this blog.  To make a long review short, I liked the game, I feel it was well worth the purchase price, and I will likely attempt to replay it a few times in order to complete more than a few of the sidequests.  Currently, I am attempting to complete the game on the “Universe” difficulty (essentially, “Hard” difficulty, unlocked after beating the game on “Galaxy” or “Normal”).

I like the fact that there are no random battles; instead of running through a visually empty area only to be suddenly thrown into battle, enemy groups are represented on-screen, and if you touch one of them, you fight.  Battles are real-time, not turn-based, and between that and the “Blindside” system keep battles interesting.  There is no “just hold one button until the battle is over” here.  The boss fights can be pretty intense, especially on the Universe difficulty (I just beat Armaros Manifest on Universe…Sweet Haruhi, everyone but a level 45 Edge was dead, I had spent every last healing item I had, I was silenced and poisoned, and I was Blindsiding the motherfucker like there was no tomorrow…it was thirty minutes of sweating .50-cal bullets and cursing like a sailor: “Bullshit!  Motherfucker!  Ha!  Take that, asshole!  WHAT?  You cheap son of a bitch!  Fuck!  MotherfuckermotherfuckermotherfuckermotherfuckerYEAH HOW YOU LIKE THEM APPLES, BITCH!  SHIT!  NO!  NO!  SHIT!  YES!  NO!  HELL YEAH!  FUCK NO!  SHIIIIIIIIIT!”…yeah, it was freaking awesome).

I don’t like the targeting system, or, to be more precise, the lack thereof.  You target an enemy seemingly at random; in the course of a battle, the enemy you have targeted may changed, unless you lock; but you cannot willingly change targets.  <understatement>This has caused me some frustration</understatement>.

The character designs are kind of meh.  Edge and Reimi are interesting, but space elf Faize looks like a sissy.  Lymle is okay, but it’s hard to take a six year old girl fifteen?  She’s supposed to be FIFTEEN?  She looks, and acts, like, six, seven tops, ‘kay?  It really is hard to take her seriously at all.  Cyborg Arnold Bacchus is kind of cool, in a verging-on-silly kind of way.  Meracle and Myuria look like they were rejects from a lame sci-fi porno…not that I’ve ever watched any lame sci-fi pornos…ahem…Sarah looks cool, but her bird-brained (pun intended, sorry) personality is totally annoying.  Finally, Arumat looks like they were trying to design an utter badass…and failed.  Welch, who is not playable, is a pretty fun support character, in a ohmygoddon’tgivethatgirlanycaffeineyouwilltotallyregretit kind of way.  The voice acting is uniformly good.

star-ocean-the-last-hope-lymleJust for the record, the pic is of Lymle, who, according to the bio in the instruction booklet, is supposed to be fifteen, ‘kay?  Does she look fifteen to you?  Still, she’s a pretty useful character to have in a fight—a primary magic-user, she has good offensive spells and a couple decent healing spells which have saved my bacon more times than I can count on an abacus.  Of course, the computer has a bad habit of letting her do stupid stuff in a fight, so usually I just set her AI to “Do nothing”, move her into a corner away from the action, and then switch to her whenever I need a quick heal.  Surprisingly, she only rarely gets targeted when I do this.  Still, fifteen?  I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around that one.

The scenery is gorgeous—lots of big, huge, sprawling landscapes that take forever to run across, which is both a plus and a minus, as there isn’t a quick way to cross the big, huge, sprawling landscapes until almost the end of the game.

The music is good, but nothing particularly memorable.  No “One-Winged Angel” or even a serviceable “Otherworld” here.

The storyline is very hit-and-miss: the main story arc is solid, but some of the minor episodes, especially the one involving traveling through time and space to 1960s Earth and Edge’s emo-fest that follows, don’t really make a lot of sense and are really annoying.

Mainly, the reason I liked SO:TLH is the in-battle gameplay, which, despite its faults, I found thoroughly addicting.  If they had just fixed the problems with the targeting system and the glaring resolution bug (which I wrote about earlier; after setting the resolution to 720p I have not experienced the problem), this would easily be an A+ title and a contender for the Greatest Console RPG of All Time award, up there with Tales of Symphonia and Final Fantasy X…unfortunately, they didn’t, and so, this game gets a B− in my book.  It was fun, and well worth the money, but only if you can overlook the craptacular targeting system and don’t mind being restricted to 720p resolution.

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