Review | Star Ocean: The Last Hope
"A journey beyond the stars, a blond guy and the game's industry worst character ever, 'kay? Dive into another solid JRPG experince, just 10 years later!"
Don't you wonder what lies in the vast ocean of stars? You don't have to wonder, we have so many games that will take you there. All you need is a little time, a game, and your journey can start.
I started this journey across space 10 years ago on my Xbox360. Star Ocean 4, titled „The Last Hope“, was an exit from regular life to something new and far, far away. Combined with rich history of the franchise and the fact it’s an JRPG makes my hearth go “grind, level up, sleep”. I love this genre and I love Star Ocean. I consider 2nd story (the second entry) to be one of the classics of the genre and one my personal best from the PS1 era. This was an era of Square-Enix on Microsoft consoles in a way, so I figured tri-Ace who made all the games was at its peak and we will get the ultimate JRPG experience, in space!
Calnus, your ship, is from where you start your journeys
It took 7 years for the HD version (4K supported) to arrive. Smoother graphics, enhanced version, everything one can hope for. I must admit, I never did finish Xbox360 version, although I liked the game, so I made up my mind and simply started it now on my PS5. One needs their JRPG fix, I really needed mine, and there are just such rare titles of this genre nowadays that are worth your time and the feel.
First of all, you can start with Japanese or English audio. I strongly suggest playing in English, it is good. When I say good, I want to make sure we are on the same page – some characters are so bad that even Japanese audio can't help them be tolerant. Other than some basic options there is not much to meddle with, you can play on Galaxy difficulty, which is Normal, and of course one less that is considered easier for newcomers. Galaxy is my call, plus 2 highest difficulties are not unlocked from the start.
I just want to mention one thing. The in-game brightness is a bit weird on this version (HD 4K version). Often some animations suffer from very bright presentations, as well as the dungeons. I just found it a bit weird, too light at times. Don't expect much on the graphics area, characters look decent, but the rest is sometimes not so impresive.
Edge and Reimi will do stuff together. Edge has a weird look, but he is okay
In terms of story, The Last Hope comes before the first game. War changed everything. Year is 2064, earth was on the brink of destruction. Planet was done for, there was not much that can save lives and provide happy, fulfilled time there. Of course, higher organization formed a project just as space travel had a breakthrough. SRF project – first human expedition established in year S.D 10, basically 10 years after establishing Spacedate calendar (which happened in 2087. according to old calendar).
Guess who is part of that expedition? It’s you and your small, but lovely crew! Edge, protagonist and Reimi, his girl companion. You are off to find planets that can be the new home for humanity. In a way, nothing new, nothing special. And that is my biggest problem with the game – the story is really slow until after half of the game. You will meet many characters, you will hate Lymle and you will wish you’ve played something else in that moment. Although the game success when it comes to Edge, Reimi and few more crew members, Lymle, a small girl in a village soon after the start is probably the worst video game character ever, ‘kay? Her catchphrase is “’’kay” and get use to her saying that word. It is just the worst and most cringe, irritating thing ever made.
I was half asleep when it comes to unravelling the ball with the story. It was just so empty and cringe, I just couldn’t get into it. Sure, it was solid and the vibe that comes with terrific soundtrack made it better, but I was missing the awe’s and other story moments. They do happen, but you have to be patient, like mentioned. Second half of the game is really dark, interesting, mature and comes with few twists that are somewhat expected, but not at that extend. It gets better, so finishing the game will be worth it.
My favorite is her Nappy Time Private Action with Edge. Worst. Character. Ever.
Expect travels across the galaxy, meeting different races, towns, shops…Everything is here. I miss more towns, variety of landscapes and I really hate the semi-open-world kind of locations (dungeons). They are the worst. I prefer linear locations that are painted with feelings. Remember NiNo Kuni from PS3 era? I can’t begin to describe how beautiful dungeons and locations are there. Here, you have empty dungeons that are either some metal interiors or natural habitats, but they just feel empty. They lack life and I just had mediocre feels while traveling. Design is simple and limited, while they wanted to expend they forgot to make it more memorable.
You can harvest points and collect items, you can dig and get ores, you can…Not much you can do besides that and beating enemies. I like the treasure chests spread across; they make sense. I love when JRPG progress is smart, like getting items that makes sense for certain periods, but when they make them unique and interesting, I don’t even need the story, the RPG elements takes over. I loved every single moment when I was opening chests and getting some new cool weapons. Immediately I had to use every weapon and feel what they bring to the table. This made the exploration and backtracking bearable, even fun at times. Too bad they never hired someone with different style and vision; I loved the first 2 games and the locations there. Games like Tales of Vesperia and NiNo Kuni showed us how lovely and unique all locations can be. That is what we need, that is what makes the difference. Combine that wish with really perfect music in this game and we would have so much better game. That would probably be game you come back to every now then even if you’re not a fan.
Exploring is fun where you ride a rabbit. Otherwise it's a bit ugly. Also, boring at times.
While following the story and traversing planets, you will shop, you will look for some additional content. There is such, but many might skip most of it. Quests you find on your way often lack depth, many are just fetch quests that makes no sense. A guy needs 17 Tasty Mushrooms. The reward is a small % of experience and some Skill Points. Why do them and spend 1 hour on farming enemy drops for such rewards? I dunno, I guess if you like farming and fights, you will not have so much issues with the idea. Considering game develops rather slow, you will for sure find them a bit repulsive.
Even so, some will extend the story a bit, even combined with top class animations such as in the main story. Those are worth it, but I miss more like so. Some stories are funny, so I ended up doing them all in the end. It’s your typical side stuff, until you discover there are shop orders. Now those are fetchy and grindy in sometimes worst possible way. Those are like miscellaneous quests, demanding from you to hunt up to 15 rare enemy drops somewhere on the map. Funny enough, they are also considered quests, so you can find them under there in your inventory, which means in order for you to complete all side quests, you need to do them as well. Saucy. Rewards are poor and provide some EXP and SP’s. Often you will need to craft over recipes and learned inventions on your ship, which means farming so much map points over and over again. Run back to Calnus (your ship) for them to respawn, run and farm, repeat. Tedious at times, for sure.
If you indulge on this journey, you may benefit from it. Having so much items opens new dimensions in crafting equipment and items. Wage and see what you prefer. Before going with crafting and RPG mechanics, I would like to announce PA’s – Private Actions a.k.a bonding events with your crew and important game characters and storylines.
"Fetching" can be really grindy. Crafting can be fun, but also combines with grindy. Still, you can craft good weapons and equipment, do invest some time here.
You know how games sometimes come with social aspects? I loved that in Persona 5. I personally like when in-game characters are developed and interesting. Presenting story packed with strong characters can well combine with their interesting extension. Your crew is such case. You will meet more than few party members and travel with them. While traveling you can choose to talk with them and listen to their stories, give some answers and bond with them. That will unlock an extension to the story and lore. That, I loved.
Just before I praise those further, I can also say that some are the worse. You guess right, Lymle to the rescue. Nappy Time is something you will be embarrassed about. What were they thinking? On the other hand, the rest are good, even great. Some are silly and just funny, but in general I advise you to look them up and follow them. They even unlock different character ending additions so that’s twice the reason doing them.
My reason was all that, plus I ended up liking the second part of the game much more. That made me collect, craft, and grind like it’s no big deal. And grinding is, let me tell you, a fun thing to do here.
Did I say Edge was okay? Yeah, he's also a perv. Not by intent, but often by suprise.
When it comes to RPG’s, I like them turn-based. When it comes to next best thing, I can find my dose in action RPG’s. Like Star Ocean, Tales series type of action RPG’s.
You control your characters in fights. To be exact, you control one leader out of 4 party members, while others are following tactics you chose beforehand. You can freely run in the battle field and approach enemies from different sides. That is important as you open up to critical hits more often when targeting enemies from behind. With game’s new mechanics, Rush, you can tilt R3 while defending from enemy blows. That will trigger a small short animation with you rushing behind enemy, leaving it vulnerable for few hits. You might fail if you tilt the stick too late and too close – the enemy can interrupt you, all in slow motion!
When you attack, you are limited to 3 combo hits and few positions, like in-air hits or low ones. Flying enemies can parry if you hit them with low kicks, you will need to do jump-attack kick to bring them down and then use special ones to continue with the combo. The only thing I miss here are more basic attack combo hits, 3 was just not enough for me, especially when best special attack skills are unlocked much further in the game. It takes a while to develop your characters with enough special skills to do some serious damage and great long combos.
Until then, you will feel a bit limited and feel like running around in fights all the time. Enemies like to run away from you so you will have to chase them and you will often miss with your attacks. That pissed me off, but later stages and end-game shines the most and opens the curiosity how much better can it get? It just becomes much fluent and fun, even when beating the game you will see that you can go further and level up even more, combo better and craft like there is no tomorrow. It comes with the price of heavy grind at times, but the goal is often worth it if you love such RPG, you will find satisfaction in challenge as the game is not so easy, and beating post-game content is no joke. With 2 harder difficulties it can offer you some good challenge if you are up for it. I don’t think many will though.
Fights can be fun, but also frustrating. I hate all the running around and often miss moments when enemies hit the floor and you try to attack while they are invincible for a second. Overal, not bad.
As a package, the game offers decent experience. You can always ditch aspects you don’t like and focus on ones you do. With clever usage of battle reward system you can level up faster and make it a fun experience, but don’t expect just to breeze through. That I respect and like. Controlling other party members can also be fun and open different fighting experiences. For those who really want to go berserk, you can unlock 100 battle trophies per character, which means you need to do the first blow with controlling character 10 times in a row and such. This is where you go on 400 hours if you want everything.
In that package are also good intense boss fights that will test you big time. It’s like a spike in difficulty, but what it really requires are some tactics and mind. Nothing spectacular, but nicely put, especially later with chaining your moves.
Levelling up and learning all kinds of field skills, fighting skills and finding ways to pass barriers will be accompanied with some backtracking, but nothing serious if you don’t want to collect all chests. Traveling can get a bit tedious, but end game teleports help. I was a bit bored with running so much from one place to another, while they could give us teleporting to towns sooner.
Not a lot of micromanagement and battle preparation other than setting skills, using healing and leveling those up. With post-game you can really go deep into equipment and synthesis.
Second Story is still my personal best. This one was decent, with many ups and downs which ended up somewhere above average with a pinch of great. Depending what you like in JRPG’s, this can be a hit or a miss. Maybe not miss, it’s not a bad game, but I doubt many will call it really great except the fans. I liked most part of the crew members, honestly hated some. Story in general is not bad, definitely better at later stages, and fights are great (also in later game stages). Silliness and some great scenes made my day, I ended up loving parts of this game and if you like the idea and those from the review as well, you might enjoy your dosage of JRPG here.