Star Ocean: The Last Hope Hands-On

The fate of humanity lies in our hands as we journey through the sea of stars in the latest installment of the Star Ocean saga.

by

Star Ocean: The Last Hope, Tri-Ace's latest in this sci-fi action role-playing game series, takes place centuries before the original Star Ocean, in a time when humans faced extinction if they were to stay behind on planet Earth. Following the recent remakes of the original Star Ocean and Star Ocean: The Second Story, The Last Hope takes this series a step further on the Xbox 360 with gorgeous next-gen graphics and a slightly tweaked battle system, which adds another layer to the action-oriented gameplay. We spent some time with this prequel and are impressed by this new direction and curious to see how it will all unfold.

Reimi knows Edge a little too well.

A startling opening sequence showed the destruction of the world from weapons of mass destruction. World War III ravaged the once beautiful land, causing irreversible damage to the point where humankind needed to find a new home--and fast. The story takes place once you fast-forward more than 30 years to Space Date 0010, which is 10 years after humans achieved the ability to warp through space. You play as Edge Maverick, a member of the Space Reconnaissance Force (SRF), who is assigned to explore new planets and find a new home for the human race beyond the stars. Reimi Saionji is your childhood friend, and she keeps you in check in case you do anything stupid--and she's deadly with a bow. Together on the Calnus ship, you and Reimi travel to planet Aeos, a planet that's supposed to resemble Earth in its Jurassic period, but the trip doesn't go as smoothly as planned. You do, however, wind up on the surprisingly lush planet of Aeos and eventually meet an advanced alien race known as Eldarians, which is when the real adventure begins.

The Last Hope lets you have up to four members in your party instead of the usual three, with the ability to quickly switch between characters with the right and left bumpers. You can set the fighting style, or BEAT, of your party members so that they can be more aggressive, or more passive, using various techniques. Battles are fought in real-time once the fight is initiated. Enemies are visible onscreen, so you can avoid them altogether by dashing by with the X button, or you can sneak up from behind for a preemptive strike. You must either avoid them altogether or take them head-on, because if the enemies catch you from behind, you'll be surprised and start the battle at a disadvantage. A new feature for the series is the ability to blindside your enemy. Hold the B button--which is used to jump out of the way--and once you've been targeted by your opponent and he's about to attack, use the analog stick to move out of the way. This will confuse the enemy and let you slip deftly behind him to unleash at least one critical hit. Timing is important; otherwise you'll get smacked around, or if you hold the B button too long, you'll become fatigued, leaving you vulnerable to attacks. Another addition is the rush gauge, which is a bar that fills as you fight and take damage. Once it's full, you can enter rush mode by pushing X, which will enable you to move quickly, take less damage, and stay in place when you're hit instead of being knocked back. Or, you can pull off a rush combo by hitting X and the left or right triggers, which are normally reserved for your special arts (attacks).

How well you perform in a battle will affect what you earn from the fight. Each time you perform a certain feat, the tiles on the bonus board on the right side of the screen will light up. These tiles will break if you take a critical hit, so it takes some practice to pull off specific moves and chain them as quickly as you can. There are battle trophies to earn as well, which are like in-game achievements that will benefit you later in the game. When in doubt about your fighting skills, you can access the battle simulator through the main menu, as well as on your ship, if you want to practice against virtual opponents. Even with practice, though, you'll find that, as in the previous games, dedicating some time to leveling is required if you want to get to the next chapter of the story safely. Whether this is annoying to you or not depends on your patience with RPGs, but what did bother us at times was the camera, which zooms in uncomfortably close at times--with gratuitous shots of Reimi's backside during victory poses. The camera is adjustable, which is great, but it generally likes to hover in a bit too close for comfort during battle, and it's always more advantageous to see the bigger picture.

The fast-paced battle system lets you switch characters at will.

An important aspect of the series is item creation, which returns here with a few tweaks. You'll meet Welch, an overly hyper and somewhat obnoxious young girl who is your link to item creation. To create anything, you need a recipe, which can be formed in the meeting room of the Calnus. Using the ship's interface, you hold an invention session by splitting your team into groups until they come up with new recipes. This drains your party's skill points until they've run out of ideas or you decide to stop the brainstorming session. Once you have a recipe, it's time to gather the ingredients, which will then let you create the item for you to use. If you find yourself drowning in information overload, the game does provide a dictionary and a synopsis of all the cutscenes are available in your menu for you to peruse at your leisure.

The Last Hope's computer graphics movies are done by Visual Works, the same studio that has lent its talents to the Final Fantasy series. The quality of the animation is superb as are the in-game graphics. Beautiful landscapes and a breathtaking ocean of stars are there to greet you as you set foot on this adventure. Everything from character models to the interior of the ship is colorful, detailed, and easy on the eyes. The characters may look like flawless porcelain dolls--all from the same collection--but they're attractive and their clothes are nicely designed too. The voices, however, don't always seem to fit with these bright-eyed characters, but the voice acting is solid and the characters do begin to grow on you. What does fit is Motoi Sakuraba's moving score, which helps accentuate this fantasy world with its rousing battle music and sweeping orchestrated themes.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope has multiple difficulty settings--two available from the beginning and another two to unlock. If you play the game again, you have the option of keeping your items from your previous game. The Calnus is also yours to control for the first time, so you have the freedom to go where your heart desires--within the limits of the game, of course. Since the story takes place before the events of the original Star Ocean, you don't need to have played any of the previous games to set sail on this voyage. Experience the Star Ocean universe again, or for the first time when The Last Hope is released on February 24.

Discussion

116 comments
tsyunami
tsyunami

@Sorrowsiren Its about time someone let these people know

Sorrowsiren
Sorrowsiren

@Saije A quick lesson in the ways of modern day Internet lingo.. "Emo" doesn't have a meaning. neither does the word "f@g" or "troll"... They're filler words that absolute retards use to form complete sentences online.. Kind of like the way normal people say "Um" they just do it in a profoundly stupid way..

RavenX08
RavenX08

"They dont have the brain capacity to play a great RPG. This is comin from a guy who has had enough gametime to make this factual claim" BAHAHAHAHAHA,oh thats rich. I own a 360 and ive got more then just shooters or action games for it. Im more of an RPG fan,but i'll play shooters,action,or sports. So really your claim fails.

Saije
Saije

@Mastermune89 What the hell does Emo mean anyway, seems like these days people attach that label to anything they don't like. Sides in my experience every human on the face of Gods green earth is a drama loving emotional hypocrite, and I doubt your an exception. The fact that you would waste time just to piss off a bunch of people with a baseless insult rooted in negatively perceived stereotypes proves that much to me. Fool.

sputnjik
sputnjik

hope it's not as bad as infinite stupidity

Xions-Fursy
Xions-Fursy

Why do people keep saying this is going to come for the ps3? lol. I mean I don't care one way or another. However Tri-Ace has been on the record of saying it's not planned to make this for the ps3. So unless you can actually have a link of some sort saying it's a timed exclusive or they make an ps3 announcement for now it is an exclusive to the 360.

mastermune89
mastermune89

the last hope is a bunch of...emo teens?

Elazul_Stice
Elazul_Stice

Guys this will go to Ps3, MS has a timed exclusive here. It makes alot of sense to build a big fan base for Star Ocean across 3 PS systems then take it to Xbox only amirite.

dragon0085
dragon0085

If its anywhere close to SO2, it will probably be the best game of the year. Just check this avatar!

GetsugaTenshou
GetsugaTenshou

I was expecting more from them. The game look not bad but modeling and texture = poor

popping4it
popping4it

Star Ocean what a name hell of alot better than The elder scrolls oblivion bunch of random ass nouns put together, which have absolutely no significance in the game.

SWT2008
SWT2008

I can only hope that this game is not as much a failure as "Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (SO3). SO3 effectively killed a would-be franchise, by trying to fix what wasnt broken. IT ruined the item creation system by overcomplicating it, the dialogue is one long translated nightmare, and a once perfect battle system (SO2) was made flawed. What SO2 lacked in graphics, SO3 improved on, but forgot to make everything else good. The battle trophies are unecessary and dont belong in a traditional RPG, they take away from the story. Therefore i have moderate to no hope for this game, which is dissapointing because SO2 is in my top ten games of all time. It looks like we will still be waiting for a truly great next-gen RPG, but i could be wrong.

simonsworld
simonsworld

not a massive RPG fan by any means, but dam this games looks good,cheesy japan-ish gay name, but looks very intresting am almost excited by the prospect "p

killakomando
killakomando

I dont see that "Only on xbox" stamp whats the deal with that O.o

rookpawnknight
rookpawnknight

I actually like the ps3, but no doubt the 360 is the better deal on RPG (my personal favorite type of game) with ff13 coming to 360 also, i've lost any real reason to get one. when you get your 360, I highly recommend Lost Odyssey (a ff10 style game) and Mass Effect.

Echorai
Echorai

Need to get an xbox just for this. Played the other three and I just CAN'T miss this one!

Skylarkell
Skylarkell

I have to agree with Zaku. I really need to buy a 360 soon

zaku101
zaku101

I hate to say this but the 360 is simply the next PS2.

skee_uk
skee_uk

so4 will be a crap game. by cabellas trophy bucks instead.

Althax
Althax

SgtStrungOut, that's got to be one of the most arrogant, smug, and ignorant statement I've ever read here. Looks like a pretty interesting game, I haven't found a real strong RPG that I wanted to buy for the 360 yet. All the others just haven't appealed to me, maybe this one will be the one I'm looking for.

Ed_The_Great
Ed_The_Great

I have to admit...I'd thought that the PS3 would be more of an RPG console,especially JRPGs but the 360 is getting all the RPGs and many exclusives.I'm glad I didn't wait for the PS3 and I almost don't have a reason to get one.

candlinnpc
candlinnpc

This makes me definitely want to buy an XBox 360 now. It is already on my must buy list along with this game. Can't wait!!

43n1m4
43n1m4

SgtStrungOut - or perhaps you are just generalizing based on your experiences, which will never be the full picture. You just can't make that claim on 27 mill. people. Anyway, it'll be interesting to see the game when its out.

SgtStrungOut
SgtStrungOut

I'm glad its comin to 360 although I have to admit: the majority of xbox gamers are casuals who only play shooters or action games. They dont have the brain capacity to play a great RPG. This is comin from a guy who has had enough gametime to make this factual claim

Dreski83
Dreski83

Hell yea!! After Fable2, I was really curious what RPG would be on par for my taste and this game sounds perfect. I'm not extremely fond of the bright eyed cutey characters, but coming from Tri-Ace and being a solid action RPG... this will hold me over until summer time 8)

Stryker521
Stryker521

Another PS game robbed to become a 360 exclusive like Ace Combat. Bit insulting to leave the brand that gave these games a name & following out in the cold. Anyhow, enjoy this game Xboxers, it's a long great jrpg if you're into them. Back on the PS2 Star Ocean was 2 DVD's and lasted for tons of hours =)

Dante_May_Die
Dante_May_Die

This is just silly for being a 360 exclusive >_> whatever square sh*tnex

Dinkyfish
Dinkyfish

I want this game so much... but I've just had to pay about £480 to get my car fixed so I think I'll be saving for a while :(

Chico_Azteca
Chico_Azteca

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

mackey12345
mackey12345

Looks great... Interesting story behind an interesting setup... The outfits on the other hand look a bit... Odd so-to-speak, guess that is what kind of bias you get when you aren't exposed to much anime in your life-time!

Xeiphyer
Xeiphyer

Ah! I love the star ocean games although the last ps2 one had the crazyest plot twist ive ever seen in a game, it was cool but.. mostly weirdness. Anyways, this game is looking to be quite awesome! And I love the item creation system which appears to be almost the exact same as the ps2 one. Brainstorming is cool because depending on which characters you choose for it, it can bring about different results. Oh and hopefully they will let you recruit all those different in game characters for item making and whatnot as with the last game. Woo Cant wait!!

Benny_a
Benny_a

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

ninja_where
ninja_where

Well, this is probably one of the many reasons that I'll buy a 360. But, chances are that it's getting ported. Anyways, hopefully it will be a very awesome game like its predecessors.

Kleeyook
Kleeyook

Why 360's exclusive, not PS3!? Damn u SquareEnix!

CloudXentar
CloudXentar

I liked those anime 2d pictures as their portraits during the battle, shame they changed it to 3d. But whatever, I'm looking forward to this, although it will take some time for it to get to Europe =(

ibanezdropd
ibanezdropd

iam so pumped for this game. I am just hoping it doesn't have framerate issues like so many other 360 rpgs. I'll probably buy it either way though. it looks amazing

ZombiePanic
ZombiePanic

Why did they change the portraits??? These 3D ones are freaking hideous looking.

clarkspark
clarkspark

This is turning out to be awesome! I wish Infinite Undiscovery was more like this, or more like what Infinite was trying to be. I'm still playing Fallout 3 but as soon as I'm done, I'm picking up StarOcean.

ComradeCrash
ComradeCrash

I am going to try this game after playing Tales of Vesperia.

lightwarrior179
lightwarrior179

It sounds a lot better than I had expected it to be and despite the usual camera adjustment problem in these action-centric battle systems,the gameplay seems to have a good depth which is excellent. The item creation also sounds really interesting. Might give it a try if it turns out to be well.

Suisfonia
Suisfonia

Having read, am even more excited now! Can't wait ;)

leekong
leekong

omg why are these once PS2 exclusive games being made on 360 exclusive? it should be for both consoles....wtf??

iamamanami
iamamanami

The last two SE RPG, IU & LR, didn't get a great success in Japan. SO4 is really the Last Hope on 360 for SE.