A fairly enjoyable combat system can't save Star Ocean from being a lifeless and bland RPG-adventure.

User Rating: 5.5 | Star Ocean: The Last Hope International PS3
I'll start by saying that Star Ocean: The Last Hope is not a good game. After 40 hours of non-stop boredom (save a couple humorous events) I finally had to stop playing. I couldn't take it anymore. Not even the solid combat system could prevent me from despising this game. It is a lifeless, boring, and bland JRPG. There are a couple bright spots, but nothing that overpowers the complete borefest I somehow subjected myself to for 40 hours.

The story in SO4 is just lame. I couldn't even focus on what was going on because it was so damn boring and cliché. The main character, Edge Maverick (lulz), is part of some space federation corporation whose task is to find hospitable environments for future Earth colonies. They are doing this work because we humans somehow F'd up and the toxicity levels or something like that is unbearable, much like this game. You are joined by your hot "friend" Reimi and much clicheness ensues. It's got it all: walking in on her while she's in the shower? Check. Become an emo when something goes wrong? Check. Horrible dialogue? Check. Secret powers you never knew you had!? DOUBLE CHECK! Cliché story is lame and cliché. Oh, and you're joined by the same cliché cast of characters as well: giant robot dude, cat girl, annoying kid brat, stupid bimbo with wings, feminine little pansy, badass scarred up guy, and of course, huge breasted slut. Then you fight some bad guys who, you guessed it, want to destroy the universe. Shocking. You'll never understand this new world they are trying to create damn it! Stop trying to comprehend it you stupid human! Ugh… I don't even want to talk about it anymore. Let's move on to the one thing that SO4 does right, and that's combat.

The battle system is actually pretty good. It's all action-based and you're given free movement in a battle ring if you will. You attack by pressing one button, but you can chain special moves to those attacks with the press of another button. Special moves and magic use up MP naturally. You can also charge up your… something meter (I forgot, I'm trying to forget as much as possible actually) which makes you go Rambo on enemies. Oh yeah, it's called Rush Mode. Basically it strengthens your attacks and makes you immune to staggering or getting knocked over. If you go into Rush mode and immediately hit a special move button you'll go into a special screen where you press on screen prompts to attack the enemy. These special moves will chain with other characters' moves and deal some massive damage. Enemies cannot attack while in this special mode. Landing hits, taking damage, and pressing a button to charge the meter will fill your Rush gauge. You can also perform Blindside attacks while charging your gauge. If your targeted enemy is about to attack a yellow circle will encompass your character and start flashing. If you time it just right you can press the joy stick in a sideways direction while holding the charge button to slow down time, move behind your enemy and hack away. These confused opponents will be susceptible to critical hits and massive damage. Performing certain "tasks" during battle will also net you booster gems (?) that give you experience bonuses, SP (will talk about in a sec), and other stuff. It's good for grinding purposes and staying healthy during those large amounts of times you spend walking around some stupid dungeon with no save points. Your bonus board can be broken though if a critical hit is taken. SP, or Skill Points, are used for special battle skills and enhancing your moves. You can gain both personal SP and party SP. Only party SP can be used for all characters.

Although the battle system is pretty good and has a lot going for it, the actual process of battling can become tiresome after awhile. There are no random encounters, but you still have to fight in order to level up and beat bosses. And believe me, those bosses NEVER DIE. They take forever to finish. They have weak points, but sometimes they only expose them for a second or two. Instead you are left hitting some boss with a billion HP points for 100 points of damage at level 50. Just takes forever and becomes boring. Save points are few and far between, so long after you've become tired of fighting you still have to grind it out and find a damn save point. Oh, and all those boosters you gained fighting? They are gone once you quit the game. Lame. Your other characters are AI controlled, and for the most part are actually good at healing you and the others when necessary. At least they are competent in that regard.

There is a big world to explore in SO4 with open maps, towns, and space ship travel. I guess that's a plus. Too bad there's almost nothing to do in these towns. The side quests in this game are a joke. Every one is a fetch quest. Bring me 3 of these and I'll give you 200 fol! HELL YEAH!!!! You get experience and SP, so some of them are worth it, but damn they are boring. There are tons of them, too. I guess it falls in line with the game though. Got to keep it consistent. You can select destinations from your space ship and during the time it takes to reach your location you can spend time with your crew in a variety of small cut scenes and events. I'll admit, some of these are worth a chuckle despite the complete lack of any emotion in the characters, but they are honestly not worth your time. Luckily you have the option to sleep during the flight. I wish I could have fallen asleep more often during the time I played this game…

The item creation system in SO4 is pretty deep, but good Lord is it a waste of time. You can pair characters together to create recipes and based on their different skills can create some junk. Of course 98% of the time you never have the materials necessary to create the items, so whatever. I probably came up with close to 100 recipes and created perhaps 2 of them. You're never going to create these items without a guide of some sort.

The biggest complaint I've heard about this game is the terrible English voice acting. Honestly, it didn't bother me that much. It wasn't good, but it didn't annoy me. What bothered me more was the combination of bad voice acting and the complete lack of any life or emotion found in the characters. The character animations were just terrible, the lip syncing horrendous, and "dramatic" scenes were so lifeless it was painful to watch. They moved liked dolls. Lifeless, boring, cinematic dolls. Go on; pick up an old stuffed animal or doll you may have. Hold it in your hand. Now shake it a bit. Notice how the head limps about awkwardly, the limbs are stiff, and the mouth doesn't move when you give it a voice of its own. That's how the characters in SO4 move about. It's pathetic. Edge Maverick, in his pissed off, serious, about to battle position (because we're supposed to take a character named Edge Maverick seriously right?) moves like a stiff, lifeless doll. It angered me. Combine the terrible story, poor voice work, and lifeless movements of the characters and you're left with the most boring and bland JRPG I have ever played. The visuals are mediocre at best as well. The anime portraits found in the International version add a little something, but even they weren't implemented properly. Every time a character speaks and a textbox is shown the anime portrait takes a second or two to load up and present itself on screen. So half the time you click the button to move on to the next person's speech and the portrait doesn't even show up in time. Not good. Sound is terrible as well. That's when there is sound. Cut scenes are just so damn quiet which adds to the boredom. You are just left with the characters talking, no background music at all. Boring. I actually found myself voicing the scenes myself in order to inject some life into the game. Believe me. If they had let me do the voice work for this game it would have been tolerable.

This is a harsh review, but I can't tolerate it when it seems that no effort was put into this game. It's just so lifeless. That's the word of this review: lifeless. It's the best word I can use to describe this game. White Knight Chronicles was a big disappointment, but at least it had vibrant colors, gorgeous enemies and areas, and a fun online component. It had some life to it (despite another cliché story and fairly uninteresting characters), but it just failed to deliver in some areas. SO4 has a solid combat system and that's it. Nothing else clicked in this game. Many of you may not agree with me, but I spent enough time with this game to give an honest opinion I think. 40 hours with this game was about 41 hours too much (the trip to the store and back to buy it took about an hour). If you're an extremely patient person and love to grind then perhaps you'll enjoy SO4 more than me. Perhaps you'll find some joy in searching for 10 of some random item to bring to some dumb NPC on some world you left 5 hours ago. At first I was able to look past the boring and cliché aspects of the game, but it just grew tiresome. SO4 is not the worst game I have ever played, but I'm not exaggerating when I tell you it's pretty damn low on my list.