Star Ocean: The Last Hope International Review by: Mynamescox44Star Ocean - The Last Hope International
Star Ocean - The Last Hope International is a JRPG for the PlayStation 3 that is above average in most ways. It features real-time combat in a good sized battlefield that is separate from the field. Most of the characters have your general RPG archetypes for the most part. The story is all about you trying to save the world or universe from destruction which is pretty standard for the genre. Pretty much every thing about the game is good. Though it does have a few more positive notes than bad ones, certain things can feel a little too tried and true at times. There's not enough to really make the title stand out in any way, but there's not much that really takes away from the experience either. With the game being an International version, it has a lot of the original Japanese content included with the English release. Anyways, on to the review!
Graphics 9 / 10 -- There's not much of anything that could make the graphics better in any way. Everything is done in a very realistic cel shaded like style. It combines the best of both worlds, with the cel shading providing a fun and whimsical feeling to the game, but still keeps everything looking very detailed and real. All of the character designs are beautiful and colorful, as well as all of the individual enemies being on the same level of quality. Even the most basic of grunts through out the game look phenomenal in terms of detail and design. The bosses are generally huge, intimidating, colorful, and all around look great, most of them being large monsters or machines. The environments are gorgeous, and due to the progression of the game, you get to see just about every type of landscape you could imagine. The forests are lush, green and colorful, the desert sands look amazing, mountainous terrain has detail in every stone, and the water on a beach looks spectacular. Even all the indoor environments, such as a castle or ancient ruins look incredible, providing a great deal of detail into every single brick or hieroglyph. Inside the cities or villages look great too, with everything from each house, NPC, or even a little fruit stand all having an extremely realistic amount of visual quality. During battle, all of the visuals effects are phenomenal. All of the elemental spells look beyond amazing in terms of quality and detail. The lightning, fire, ice, and everything else is just breathtaking. One of the characters can actually summon Cerberus from the pits of Hell to attack for her, and it looks gorgeous when he appears from the ball of flame portal thing he comes from. There's an aura-like glow that appears when charging your controlled character for a certain technique, and it looks incredible. It's like light shining up from the ground that has a northern lights, or maybe aurora is a better word to describe it, feel to it.
Sound 8 / 10 -- The game has pretty good audio all around. The sound track is pretty much what you would expect from a Square RPG. The songs out in the field have your general adventerous tones to them. The tracks in each city or village will set the mood for what is currently occuring there, such as upbeat if things are good, or very sad if a tragedy had just took place. I would say the highlight of the sound track is the battle music. The tracks are extremely upbeat and catchy, as well as giving you the perfect level of intensity, especially during the boss battles. All of the voice acting is good, but definitely nothing to rave over. All of the characters sound about right, but sometimes the feeling behind them, or just the overall way it's delivered just sounds off. A part of this is probably the different vibes they would direct towards a Japanese audience over an English one, but only to a slight degree. Sometimes it feels as if the voices were recorded without the actors actually knowing what the scene they were recording for looked like or played out, which can make a world of difference. That, or they just weren't that good or weren't trying very hard to do it as well as they should've in some cases. The sound effects are pretty standard. The weapons clashing, the footsteps, the menu, etc. All of it sounds how it should, though nothing really stands out in this regard.
Addictiveness 7 / 10 -- The game is very fun to play, but doesn't warrant much replay value. The game is more than big enough to get your money's worth, there's just nothing you can do in a subsequent play through that you couldn't do in the first. There's plenty to do that's fun though. The game offers plenty of things to collect and use for item crafting, cooking, synthesis, and a few other miscellaneous activities. If you can find and equip a certain item (I think there are only 2 opportunities in the game to do so, though you can return a lot later in the game to retrieve it) you can even use the main character to pick pocket NPCs through out the game. Doing so to the right people can net you some really rare and powerful loot, though if you use it too much, they might catch you and you lose the ability to try on that NPC again. The fields have visible enemies that you can avoid for the most part, so no random encounters take place in the game, save maybe an event or something like that which causes the encounter to take place. It also has the added effect of getting a bonus for sneaking up behind an enemy and hitting them in the back (while in the field) for a preemptive strike, but this can also work against you if an enemy manages to run into your back. This happening spreads out your team across the battlefield, completely wrecking your formation and making you much more vulnerable, but will stagger enemies for a short while when successfully performing the preemptive strike on them, giving you a huge advantage to attack before they can even move. The combat is pretty darn fun. You control the character of your choice, and the other 3 members are AI controlled. You can set their AI to behave in very specific ways, granting you plenty of control over their actions as well. Everything is in real-time, and close quarters combat is generally based on charging up to time your dodge, which allows your characters to "slide" behind the enemy, giving you the opportunity to get a few critical hits in. It also has your basic attacks, skills / magic, and items that are all used in real-time, though things like items do have a cool down on them. Though said cool downs are individual for each character, so you can essentially use 4 items at once if necessary, since in the in-battle menu you can switch characters on the fly, as well as instruct anyone in the team to perform certain actions. You can also switch active party members in / out at any time in the fight, as long as they're not KO'ed or have been inflicted with certain status effects like Paralyze. You can always go about combat in your own way if you like, as you can control anything in your roster, such as a Fighter, Archer, Mage, Healer, etc. There's also a Bonus Board, which grants various bonuses for doing certain things in combat, such as killing more than one foe with a single strike. If you manage to stack these bonuses on top of each other, it'll even add a multiplier to the bonus given. Though if your controlled character takes a critical hit, it will break your Bonus Board down completely, excluding stacked bonuses, in which it will only remove half of each stack. The board is set up in a grid of 2 columns of about 10 rows, and they fill in adjacently one block at a time as the bonus objectives are obtained, so building it a certain way will help you retain the bonuses if you do happen to have it broken down on you. There's also tons of side quests and it has a lot of your general JRPG elements, such as how your gear / equipment is set up and utilized.
Story 7 / 10 -- The story itself is pretty good, but the characters are a little lacking. For the most part, all of the characters are leaning toward your stereotypical archetypes. For instance, the main character is your typical optimistic guy with a heart of gold and big dreams he wants to accomplish in his life. Another example would be the very last member who joins your team, as he is your basic strong but silent type in almost every moment he's present. The dialogue the characters use can also be so cheesy you can smell it through the TV screen, and I'm not even exaggerating in the slightest. There's one character who literally made me cringe every time she spoke, not only for how cheesy everything she said was, but also how annoyingly high pitched the voice was. She's one of those "happy-go-lucky, love will save the world" types, as well as being so naive and such a klutz it actually makes her unbelievable as a character. The dialogue of the game makes the sometimes cheesy writing of Final Fantasy seem incredibly amazing, if not perfect, by comparison. I'm all for the "we can do anything if we stick together" message, but this writing was just over the top corny for me. Ok, now on to the good. The humor in the game can at times be funny. I particularly liked how one of the characters would constantly give another one the cold shoulder for no apparent reason, or at least the jokes / situations that came from it. I really loved the overall plot the game follows, as well as how it was presented. If not for the lacking characters, this game's story would've been much more praise worthy. With better character's placed in it, I dare say the story could've been one of the best of it's generation with a few other minor tweaks here and there. The concept of who the actual main antagonist is is really cool, though I can't say much without spoiling the big reveal for you. The game starts with Earth having been destroyed by World War 3, and everyone has finally made peace among themselves to try and keep humanity alive. The only way to do so is by exploring space to find another world for us to inhabit. Humans have finally developed a form of "warp travel" to where exploring deep space is a real possibility, and you're among one of the 5 elite crews chosen to go out on these expeditions. However, something goes wrong during the sub-warp travel, and you crash land on one of the planets you were supposed to check out anyway. Your first mission is to rendevouz with another ship in your fleet who crash landed nearby, and things start to pick up as you try to get there.
Depth 9 / 10 -- The game has a lot to offer, though as I said before, it can all be accomplished on your first time through if you try. The main story alone should provide a bare minimum of 50+ hours, if not more. There's also a ton of side quests to accomplish, and even though they follow the normal RPG formula (fetching, killing, delivery, etc), they tend to keep you preoccupied for a while to actually get them done. The things like item crafting, cooking, synthesis, etc all require you to collect items in various ways as you explore each world. The recipes for doing so must be learned through experimentation which can take a lot of time and patience to get down. For certain things, like cooking, there are also other ways to obtain / learn the recipes, but for the most part you're on your own. Certain characters have passive abilities that allow them to obtain different forms of resources for you to do this. For instance, one character has the ability to harvest food from plants, while another has a tool that allows him to mine for minerals or ore embedded in rock. You can also use your EXP gained to not only level up combat skills, but these passive abilities as well. The list of passive abilities is also much more than simply collecting, an example being one character can learn to use a high-tech cloaking device to make your party invisible to foes in the field, albeit for a short time. Another character can learn to Dash, which gives you a short, but huge, boost in speed allowing you to dodge foes on the field, or just cover ground much more quickly. The list of combat skills is also extensive, and you can choose to level them up however you like. The characters level up on their own in terms of raw stats when they grow a level, and then you s
elect which skills they improve upon. Each level you are awarded so many points to spend raising skills, and the skills cost depends on how powerful it is or what it does, and increases in cost for each subsequent level. The Bonus Board system mentioned earlier is a unique feature I've never seen before. A couple examples of what bonuses you can get are + 10% EXP gained, or even + 1 SP per battle (these amounts are for each block gained. SP is what's used to raise your skill levels). So if you max out your board with EXP gain blocks, you can get up to + 240% EXP gained per battle, or perhaps + 24 SP per battle with SP blocks, or any combination of them you choose (or can achieve, since you must earn them), which is pretty awesome and adds up Really quickly if you can manage to keep the board from breaking. I think my first play through, which I tried to accomplish everything I possibly could before actually finishing the game, took me just under 200 hours to complete. This game is pretty huge when it's all said and done.
Difficulty 6 / 10 -- This score is for playing on the Normal difficulty. Overall the game is pretty easy to get through. The learning curve the game presents is, if anything, a little too lenient. It takes way too long for enemies to become challenging, so if you learn to use the Bonus Board properly early on, you can have gained plenty of EXP to handle the tougher foes later when they finally start showing up. There are a s
elect few regular enemies that can still cause issues though. These types of enemies are really good at stunning your character just long enough for them to get another swing in, which stuns you further / again. If you're facing 2 or more of these, and all of your allies are too busy to bail you out, it's not uncommon to just get beat on in a stunned state until your HP drops to 0. Luckily all party members must fall to get a Game Over, so you take control of the next character in the roster if the main one falls. There are also a few challenging boss battles. For instance, there's one boss who takes virtually no damage from anything except critical hits. The only way to guarantee a critical hit is to use the charge up then dodge skill, which can only be used when an enemies aggro is aimed at you. Aggro is usually based on who's inflicting the most damage, though for a few random regular enemies the AI is set up a little differently (a few will go for your Healers, for example). This can be difficult to manage, since damaging them is so difficult it's hard to manipulate the aggro in any way. Some bosses just have over-powered attacks, like a giant laser beam that will literally rip through any character it touches, and sadly, the AI isn't smart enough to realize it should get out of the way. Though the ally AI isn't bad, it's also not great either. Though they will follow your preset priorities to the letter, like I just mentioned, they don't have the common sense to really seek out self-preservation all that well. If an enemy is beating on a spell-caster, and they are constantly having their spells interrupted, all the character will do is constantly run away a few paces, and try to cast again, no matter how many times this pattern repeats (unless their AI is set to change actions at a certain % of health). This can make certain fights extremely difficult, so much more than they should be anyway. Other than these few hiccups, pretty much everything else in the game can be overcome with a little grinding, so don't worry too much if something seems difficult at first. A little practice and EXP will go a long way here.
Overall 8 / 10 -- If you're a fan of JRPG games with a real-time combat system, odds are you'll enjoy this title. I wouldn't go so far as to say this game is the cream of the crop though. So unless you're into the genre, I wouldn't recommend starting here by any means, as there are much better titles out there. Plus the cheesy characters and dialogue can be a bit much for even the most hardened RPG fans to bear.
Hope you enjoyed the review :)