Traveling the Stars Again
Star Ocean: The Last Hope was certainly an ambitious JRPG. It incorporated a sweeping story, highly customizable battle system, and plenty of memorable characters. However, for all its positive points, the game did have some flaws. Long loading times, poor disc-swapping structure, and infrequent visual glitches were among the issues that permeated the game last year on the Xbox 360. However, the new PS3-exclusive rerelease looks to correct these issues and deliver the most complete Star Ocean 4 experience. Although this version of Star Ocean 4 certainly improves upon the Xbox 360 offering, if you are looking for an experience that is widely different from last year’s release, then you will be disappointed.
For the uninitiated, the story in Star Ocean: The Last Hope revolves around the crew of the spaceship Calnus. You have Edge, the reluctant hero, Faize, the Eldarian magic wielder, and Reimi, the spunky-but-serious companion. While the characters are a little on the archetypal side, they soon get swept up in an overarching plot involving parallel worlds, evil reptilian aliens bent on taking over the galaxy, and of course, an energy crisis. Along the way you’ll build up a party that includes a cyborg, a cat-person, and an ageless child, and before you know it, you’ll have a huge party filled with characters with highly develop-able malleable attributes.
While the character abilities and progression have not changed for the International version, there have been some tweaks made to the battle system. Star Ocean: The Last Hope uses an active battle system that relies on chaining together magic and physical attacks. These attacks can then be equipped together using the character progression system (similar to White Knight Chronicles’ function palette system). Once these attacks are in-place, you can then unleash them by using the shoulder buttons while the game takes care of enemy targeting.
Even though targeting in the original title worked fairly well, it was often imprecise and relied on proximity rather than direction. However, the targeting in the International edition addresses this issue, and speeds up the targeting system when you change direction. The new targeting system also allows you to target enemies at a longer distance if you are facing them directly, which is helpful if you need to break an enemy combo for an imperiled ally. While the inclusion of some sort of manual targeting system might have been nice, the automatic targeting works so well this time around that you don’t really miss a manual option.
One of the biggest hallmarks of the original game was the expansive planets. Each new world had plenty of secret areas to explore and new life forms to investigate. In the International version, these planets are basically unaltered, but the keen-eyed fan will notice that there are some more treasure chests scattered around the landscape as well as a larger cache of rare items.
However, if you played the Xbox 360 version of Star Ocean, you know that these expansive planets came at a cost: long load times. Thankfully, these load times have drastically been reduced in the International version, no longer occurring right in the middle of a stage. And since the International version is on one disc, you won’t have to deal with awkwardly-placed disc swap sites anymore, which makes multi-planet collection quests much easier to deal with.
Another area that has been improved is the visuals. Though the game looked great on the Xbox 360, several bugs have been fixed, and you will notice much less clipping and better character animation. The hair glitch which caused stray patches of hair to fall under a character’s eyes (and happened way too often) has also been fixed. However, both the International and the Xbox 360 version do share an unfortunately large amount of pop-in, especially in the game’s opening hours. Although the amount of pop-in is a relatively minor complaint, I still would have liked to have seen it cleaned up in the International version.
An additional feature that is exclusive to the International edition of Star Ocean 4 is the ability to change the voiceover to the original Japanese language. This is a great option for those who enjoy playing JRPGs in their original language, and was a greatly missed feature in the original Star Ocean.
Rereleasing games can be a dicey subject. Sure, games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Fallout 3 can be rereleased successfully when bundled with extra content. However, games like Left 4 Dead and LittleBigPlanet make less sense, since they don’t contain much bonus content beyond the original game, free DLC, and new box art to justify the new purchase.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope desperately wants to fall into that first category of rereleases. However, the new International version doesn’t really offer enough new content for fans of the first. The game’s new home on the PlayStation 3 does a great job of opening up the universe for fans on the new console, and the new features may entice a select few super-fans to dive back in to the Star Ocean universe. But if you were expecting new characters or expanded endings (as was rumored to be included in the game pre-release), then you will be disappointed with this repackaged effort. I still recommend Star Ocean: The Last Hope International edition to those who haven’t played it yet, but I can’t say the new features offered in this version will get most normal fans excited enough to merit a second purchase.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.1 Graphics
Several subtle improvements have been made to help the International version look slightly better than its predecessor. 4.0 Control
Controls work perfectly, and the improved targeting system helps things run even smoother. 4.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The English dub sounds just as good as it did in the original, and the Japanese voiceover is a nice addition. 3.2 Play Value
If you have played the Xbox 360 version, then the International version probably won’t be worth your while. If you haven’t played the previous release, the extra features on the International version make it superior. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.