TGS 2008: Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope Hands-On

The latest Star Ocean is everything we wanted it to be, with beautiful graphics and the same engaging gameplay.

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Star Ocean: The Last Hope
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TOKYO--Role-playing game fans are in for a treat, especially if you've never had the opportunity to play Star Ocean before. The original is being remade for the PSP, and now we have Tri-Ace developing Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope, which takes place before the Star Ocean saga. The story is set after World War III and follows humankind as the species makes its way into outer space. The battle system will feel familiar, and it's simple to get into and very easy on the eyes. We spent some time at the Microsoft kiosks to take a look at what appears to be a spectacular RPG.

We were placed in an area that looked like an enormous cave with winding catwalks. A map and a compass in the top right corner of the screen helped guide us around the mazelike environment as we looked for enemies to attack. Enemies appear onscreen, so we ran up to some undead-looking creatures to start the fight. We were then taken into a large arena, and like previous games, we were able to control one character at a time. Using the right bumper, we were able to toggle through our diverse party, which consisted of an archer, a magic user, and another melee fighter. All the battle really entails is spamming the A button and throwing in some special attacks with the right and left triggers.

The battle will end rather quickly, but not without a lot of sweeping, elaborate swordplay and special attacks. The visuals look amazing, and the character designs are attractive and detailed. Each fight ends with a bit of a slowdown to bump up the wow factor and let the characters show off their killing blows. The interior of the cave wasn't much to look at, so we ventured outside into the cold for a glimpse of the snowy white landscape. It didn't look like there was much to do there, either, so we went back inside and continued to hack our way through the enemies.

From our brief playtime, we're already hooked and want to play more. Fans of Star Ocean will enjoy the updated graphics because the battles are fun to watch. It's also a blast to play because it's easy and approachable for anyone. If you've never had an opportunity to play a Star Ocean game, here's your chance to get into the series. Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope will be released on February 19, 2009 in Japan, and we will update this article once the North American date has been announced.

[Update: The North American release date is February 24, 2009.]

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