Not the best in the series, but good nonetheless.

User Rating: 9 | Star Ocean: The Last Hope International PS3
Star Ocean is the one RPG series that will always live in obscurity, desperate to be recognized, but always failing miserably. For the life of the me, I can't understand why. Star Ocean 4 is by no means a perfect game. There are some problems, and many RPG fans may not even like this game, but that is beside the point. Contrary to what most reviews and gaming aficionados will tell you, this is far from a broken game. If you are looking for an immersive, complete, and overarching storyline, its best left to other games. If you are looking for an Action RPG with plenty of action and awesome battles, look no further.

Star Ocean The Last Hope: International follows a young man named Edge Maverick, who is a crewman on a mission into space by Earth. After the titular "World War III", which completely razes the earth's atmosphere, all of the world's government's decided that space would be the way to go. Considering the Earth has been irradiated by radioactive fallout, you can't blame them. Anyway, things go horribly wrong on Edge's first mission, and the story picks up there as Edge and his cohorts must come to face with the mysterious "Grigori", who threaten to eradicate all of the universe.

Like I said, the story is kind of dull. You don't really get a feel for any kind of impending doom. Still, its solid enough. I will say that the ending is good. I actually felt sorry for the main characters (if I said who I'd spoil it for you) but I loved how things turned out. There is no "kissy kissy gumdrop fairy love love" ending. You will feel sorry for what happens to the characters you come to know. Perhaps my biggest complaint with the story is not its lack of originality. In fact, the game steals a major plot point of "Star Ocean: Till the End of Time", and while I won't go into details, I was quite upset with this glaring blasphemy regarding SO3's story.

The characters in SO4 are decent enough, though some are downright awful. That being said, some are straight out of the "RPG handbook" but others are not. Lymle, a young girl whom you meet fairly early on, is painful to listen to. Unfortunately, she talks a lot. Most of the voice acting is solid enough. Some characters are very well voiced (Arumat, Reimi and Crowe), and others are above average (Faize, Edge, and Meracle). The others are bad to downright awful. I suspect that it has less to do with the VA's in question and more to do with how the voice directors told them to deliver their lines. Regardless, there is a Japanese audio track, but most of the inflections are still persistent, so it doesn't help that much. The English cast consists of VA's such as Laura Bailey (Reimi, Welch) and Kyle Helbert (Crowe, Arumat), so there are actually some big name people on the cast list. Most of the audio is tolerable, but sometimes, I found myself wishing Lymle and Sarah would just STOP talking. On the other hand, the music is nice and most of the tracks are entertaining, though I don't think many people will walk away humming tunes from the game.

The game does have its good points, however. Battles are fun and fast paced, and never, ever get boring. Even leveling is fun in its own regard. All of the characters are fully playable, so if you don't like Edge, feel free to pick another you do like. Truthfully, to go into all of the details of battle would take far too long, but it is all fluid and responsive. Most of the ideas from Star Ocean 3 are back, but new modes called Blindsides (attacking an enemies rear for critical hits) and Rush (basically, turning berserk and not flinching when hit by enemy attacks), keep things interesting. The game likes to throw some "ahem" curve ball battles. Sometimes the difficulty spikes in a maddening pace, and you have to spend an hour or so just power leveling to get through the next portion. That's okay though, because the battles are frantic and engaging. Each battle is fluid and presents it own challenges, but the boss fights are sometimes painful to slug through. It often requires an hour or two of power leveling just to get past the next one, but it all works in the end. On the other side, some bosses are painfully easy to defeat. Certain bosses just go down without a fight and others seem to enjoy living. Go figure.

The audio is good, but the aforementioned voice overs may drive you crazy after awhile. The soundtrack is spot on, and who ever was in charge of the music and symphonies gets a big ole happy star from me. Also, apparently, the game does not play well on a non-HD TV. I had a standard TV, and the text looked like a blur, almost as if someone had just poked you in the eyes and then asked you to read the eye chart at the doctor's office. This can ruin the game, but fans will be able to make the adaptation quickly. All of your favorite diversions are back, including Item Creation which was made simpler and easier from SO3 (not a bad thing), and most NPC's offer quests for you do. Once you finish the main storyline, a hidden dungeon opens up that will keep you busy for a long time. If you're a completionist, this game could take you awhile.

Bottom line, Star Ocean The last Hope: International is a good game. Its not perfect, but most RPG buffs will be able to appreciate its good points and brush off the bad. If you already have the game for the Xbox 360, its your call. Not many extras were added, so if you didn't absolutely love the game, its really more of the same. Not that is a bad thing at all. Fans will be pleased, and hopefully new ones will be created too.