Old Star Ocean fans lose faith in The Last Hope

By Kristin Hanson

Staff Writer

Imagine a nuclear world war where so much of planet Earth gets destroyed that human kind is forced to find other planets to inhabit. The Star Ocean series is not a new one, and with the shocking conclusion of the series in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time on the Playstation 2, most people thought that it was the end of Star Ocean.

Exclusively on the Xbox 360, Star Ocean: The Last Hope serves as a prequel to the series and sheds new light on the beginning of Earth’s space exploration.

With its many lows and few highs, those gamers who are not a fan of Japanese role-playing games may want to pass on this game. You play as Edge Maverick, a member of the Space Reconnaissance Force, who through a show of bravery is awarded the honor of manning his own ship with the mission of exploring the various planets of the solar system and eliminating any obstacles for colonization.

Of course, on each planet there is a strange and mysterious force that continues to appear; it may turn this into a difficult mission, after all.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope brings nothing new to the role-playing genre. The dialogue is lacking in depth, and most of the characters are just downright annoying. Those not used to the 30-minute or more cutscenes of more classic role-playing games will get bored quite quickly. The first several hours of the game are filled with these long cutscenes, which some gamers will appreciate and enjoy, while others will be tempted to skip over them and get to the action.

Action is one thing Star Ocean: The Last Hope does incredibly well. Anyone who has played the other games in the series is familiar with its real-time battles. The battle system in this game is extremely enjoyable and leaves a lot of room for strategy and experimenting, rather than just mashing the attack button. Another great aspect of the battle system is that there are no random battles, which is helpful when the whole point of the game is to explore the vast environments of several planets.

In battles, you automatically control Edge, but you can switch and take turns controlling the other characters for some variety. In many games, relying on A.I. to control your other characters is frustrating because of the bad choices the game often makes.

This ends up not being a problem in Star Ocean: The Last Hope. The A.I. for your other characters is fantastic. I barely even found myself needing to heal them or worry about them at all.

Another great aspect of the game is the item creation system. Each character has a unique set of skills, such as cooking, alchemy, symbology (magic), etc. On the item creation screen, the player can split their characters into groups of three, making up research teams. Since each character has different skills to bring to the table, when they get together they can invent recipes for weapons, armor, healing items, potions and spells.

Once the player has the recipe, they just have to collect the ingredients to make the new and exciting items. The system leaves a lot of room for customization, which is a very popular aspect of role-playing games.

While Star Ocean: The Last Hope has some redeeming features, whether they overshadow a cliché, mostly boring storyline and static characters is up to each individual gamer.

Those looking for a dungeon-crawling game with an exciting battle system will love it, but those who enjoy role-playing games for their stories and lovable characters will be disappointed.