The Last Hope has some good action, but is not competent enough to be a great and memorable RPG.

User Rating: 7.5 | Star Ocean: The Last Hope International PS3
Playing time: 33:21:15
Status: Completed

Positive
+ Enjoyable combat system
+ Beautiful and varied environments
+ A variety of different playable characters to use

Negative
- Irritating camera placement takes time to get used to
- Massive amount of cutscenes
- English voice acting is subpar

Originally released exclusively for the Xbox 360 less than a year before, that same game travels to the PS3 in the form of Star Ocean: The Last Hope – International, with the addition of the Japanese voice acting and a few extras. Whether you have played a Star Ocean game before or not, The Last Hope is not going to blow you away with anything it does, but the enjoyable combat system will keep you coming back for more despite the game's fault.

In a bleak future, war ended up contaminating the surface of the Earth and humans had to move underground. But years after, mankind has set its eyes on the unending space and trusted several ships to search and explore the universe to find a new home for mankind. The story follows the story of Edge Maverick and Reimi Saionji, aboard of the ship Calnus, one of the ships mentioned. Some par-RPG fashion, something goes wrong and they are thrown off course, and ending on a desolate insect-file planet. The rest of their journey across other planets similar to Earth and some which are not, meeting new allies and searching for an old missing friend. The Last Hope suffers from a cheesy and sometimes irritating story, built around characters that are not as interesting as they could have been, and with the English voice acting that fails to be as fitting as it should have been. The theme of friendship and saving everyone in sight is present but this helps connect the characters together. Unfortunately, the English voice acting leads to some embarrassingly unbearable dialogue between characters but there are enough good story moments to take it worth the journey. But for an RPG whose prime drive is a story, The Last Hope is not good enough.

The Last Hope is an action RPG with a peculiar camera. With a party up to four characters in battle, with control over one, but you can change swiftly to any, you will engage non-random encounters against monsters of any kind. The combat is reduced to normal attacks, skills placed on the L2 and R2 buttons and the Blindside skill. This Blindside skill allows you to get behind an opponent and deal more damage than average, and an aspect that manages to hide how shallow the combat can be. But still, the combat is enjoyable to the point of addictive, and each character, starting from Edge that is your typical straightforward swordfighter, Reimi, who is an archer, and the others, there is quite a good variety of different character types to use throughout the game, each with different play styles. For example, Edge and Faize use a similar sword fighting style, while Lymle and Myrule use Symbology (equals to magic) and Reimi and Bacchus use long ranged attacks. Each character can perform a Blindside skill, after holding the circle button against a targeting enemy, and then move the analog stick to move. This occurs if you have the target's attention. The swift movement to get behind the opponent is quite cool, especially Reimi's movement captured gloriously. Once behind the opponent, press either regular attack with the X button or a special skill which will deal more damage than regular ones. You can chain attacks, regular attacks and special move and such as well. A filled Rush Gauge enables you to withstand attacks, allowing you to keep attacking, and chaining special moves together against bosses can become chaotic. Although you will still receive damage when hit in Rush Mode, pressing the square button and either the L2 or R2 together, allows you to pull off special moves, combined with your allies, and while it looks completely unspectacular, this sequence can deal a lot more damage than regular attacks and specials.

The steep learning curve of the combat comes because of the camera placement. When you enter the battle, the almost overhead camera hides the enemies off screen, and it is only when you move, or just press X to automatically approach your target show the target. The camera does show some closer camera angles when attacking, which gives a cooler view of combat, but some players may find this distracting. Alternatively, press the R3 so the camera would not zoom when attacking but you still cannot see much aside from you, so you are mostly like to not see where everything else is. The indoor camera in close quarters is absolutely awful mostly likely due to Edge's speed, making maneuvering inside a real pain. What is never fully developed are the boss fights. Bosses are huge, and their health bar never seems to deplete, and some even have specific weak spots to target to diminish their health. Not all bosses, but some of them are diabolically frustrating. Homing attacks, attacks with a ton of damage can seriously frustrate so much that it appeared an unfair affair. Regular battles are not much of a challenge, but rewards and EXP keep you going. The Bonus Board on the side increases depending on your performance and decreases when you receive critical attacks, which most certainly happens in boss fights. The Bonus Board increases EXP, money gained and HP/MP given at the end of each battle. The addition of Skill Boost points enhances every character's skills, including Symbology and other skills.

Thanks to the Bonus Board, leveling up and extra fighting become more fun and acceptable. Dealing critical attacks and finishing critical attack increases EXP, which reduces interval between each level. Only the four characters in the active party receive EXP, and the standby team receives none except for when opening chests and other things. Bosses give out a ton of EXP, sometimes allowing a character to level even five level at once, thus leveling half of your team below the other half. Even if you swapped a member, for example, the most active member will not receive any EXP, and the substitute member will get all the EXP instead. Despite the game's somewhat linear approach, The Last Hope is a reasonably challenging game when it comes to regular encounters. I never had to grind at all. You can test your strength at the Coliseum on planet Roak, by playing solo, as a team and survival. These are all well and fun, but as I experienced myself playing survival: in the 7th match I won routine, easy battle and then, a group of enemies that I could barely hurt. This was extremely frustrating and off-putting, not because of the higher level, but the gap of the enemy level between those two fights.

The enemies appear on the field you are on, and upon contact, a battle is initiated. This non-random encounter keeps encounters under control and Edge's high speed can avoid unwanted battles. There are late animation pop-ins everywhere and you can only see the enemy clearly when standing a few feet away. There is a lot of walking to do, amongst lush environments (for most part) and realistic (if not over-bright) lighting. Exploration is not a must, especially when you have unlocked the full map with everything visible on the map; that includes treasure chest, mining and harvesting points. Treasure chests do not often provide anything special in particular so it may feel pointless to just go with the chance of not finding anything useful. Furthermore there may be some meaningless running around. The game may not often be crystal clear where you have to go rather than what you need to do. Sometimes you might find yourself wondering around the whole map, talking to every soul in town and furiously tracking back. An irritating thing is the save spots placement. Some of these are so sparse in between you will literally skip every single enemy to just arrive to a save point. Save spots are found before bosses, but then again you will not always find one right after a difficult boss, which can be outrageously frustrating. Or after chunks of cutscenes that will make you want to find a save to switch the console off.

Visually, The Last Hope is quite good. The outside environments; forests, the sandy beach, the sea and the lighting are fantastic, and some of the dungeon's design is remarkably good. The character designs are good, despite the doll-like faces the cutscenes always present. Like the visuals, the cutscenes looks great but there are so many cutscenes in succession, without the options to pause, that it gets irritating. I swear in a session, I must have fought only once and at least an hour of cutscenes, not continuous but there was only movement and searching for someone. Complementing the cutscenes certainly is not the voice acting. The English voice acting sometimes border on agonizing, especially Lym's and Welch's voices. Some dialogue, typically found in anime, borders on unbearable to hear with the English voices, and even some moments are difficult to take seriously. The PS3 International version includes the Japanese voice acting which is a good substitute to the English one, but there are no dialogues for whatever the characters say in battle. The lip-synching is sometimes off, in some parts more than others, for the English voice acting. The music on the other hand is dramatic and fitting most of the time. A little extra is that you can choose between the game's default modern menu look, or choose a more anime-like menu instead.

It may not be the standard of the best the PS3 has to offer, or the Xbox 360's for that matter, and it may take some times to get accustomed to the combat system and its camera, but fans of Japanese RPGs will most likely enjoy The Last Hope, along with those willing to give it a try on a console where Japanese RPG have not shone like they did a generation ago. It may not have a captivating story of space traveling and not the best cast, but it makes it up with sheer beauty and hack-and-slash.

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Graphics = 8.0
Beautiful visuals, particular the forest environments. Lip synching is totally off, but the characters look great.

Sound = 7.2
English voice acting is below average overall, but the addition of the Japanese voice acting covers that. The lip-sync is completely non-existent. Music is most certainly fitting.

Presentation = 7.5
A ton of cutscenes, which look great but last too long sometimes. And they cannot be paused. Some pop-ins when exploring.

Gameplay = 8.1
An enjoyable combat system with a variety of different characters to use. The combat may feel button-mashing and repetitive, and the boss may become a chore, but at its core, the rewarding combat gets addictive. Sparse save points can limit the joy

Story = 7.4
Many cliché moments that will make some players irritated. But the tale is interesting, but the English voice acting does not do justice on some dramatic moments in the game. The actual story, minor the cliché is good. A 30 hour story approximately, with some extras after finishing the game.

Recommendation Level = Average
The game is fun, but there are surely better RPGs on the PS3. And the game stands on its own; no previous knowledge of the series is required. For JRPG fans, this is a better-than-average, nearly great role-playing experience.

Level of Difficulty = Medium
Never had much problems with regular encounters, and there was no need for grinding. The bosses however, are frustrating and unreasonable. Not all, but lots of them.



OVERALL = 74 / 100
The Last Hope has some good action, but is not competent enough to be a great and memorable RPG.