Star Ocean 4 Review

Discussion in 'GBAtemp Reviews & Guides' started by kayos90, Mar 10, 2009.

Mar 10, 2009

Star Ocean 4 Review by kayos90 at 2:02 AM (1,332 Views / 0 Likes) 2 replies

  1. kayos90
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    Newcomer kayos90 Member

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    <div align="center"> <img src="http://img15.imageshack.us/img15/8546/sotlh.jpg" border="0" class="linked-image" />
    Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope Review</div>

    Story ----------- 8
    Gameplay ----- 9
    Graphics ------- 9
    Sound ---------- 8
    Tilt/Value ----- 9

    Introduction

    Ever since the arrival of the next generation everyone assumed that Sony’s Playstation 3 will be the king of JRPGs just like the Playstation 2. However, this was not the case with the Xbox 360 as Microsoft has shown tremendous support for the genre by releasing them far ahead of Playstation 3 and attempting to keep the titles exclusive. Previous games of the genre such as Eternal Sonata, Lost Odyssey, and Tales of Vesperia were instant hits to those that were fans, but now Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope comes currently as an exclusive to the 360. This game could be the game that tops all other JRPGs of this generation thus far.

    Story --------- 8

    Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope is a prequel to all of the previous Star Ocean games that have been released. In light of all this The Last Hope has a lot of history and background to cover while not messing with the universe that was set in the previous 3 Star Ocean games so that everything will make sense.

    The Last Hope begins with a small introduction of how the current world is. World War III occurred and humanity was forced to evacuate Earth and search for a life beyond the stars so that they can restart their lives. In order to do this the USTA, or the Universal Space and Technology Administration, was established to unify the world and seek this new goal. The warp drive was finally invented allowing fast access into planets beyond Earth and soon came the SRF, or Space Reconnaissance Force. The SRF’s main objective was to seek a habitable planet that will give humanity a chance to restart their lives from their failed mistake. Five ships are to take launch on this mission. Among the crew of one these ships is Edge Maverick and his childhood friend Reimi Saionji. Edge and Reimi begin their journey as just crewmates of the SRF ship called Calnus but due to unforeseen circumstances, their journey doesn’t go according to plan. Soon the ship ends up crash-landing on a planet and Edge is forced to take command.

    The story layout is pretty similar to any JRPG. There is the main character that suddenly ends with a job that he has not been asked to do. As a result he ends up journeying through various worlds and finds that there is a bigger problem than what he initially thought. The Last Hope generally works out in the same way. Edge journeys through space trying to find a home suitable to humans but the problem grows into something that can endanger the universe itself. Edge while journeying through various planets in the universe, he will make new friends and recruit them into his team aboard the Calnus.

    The premise of the story seems somewhat unique but quickly grows into a typical cliché JRPG story. Although it is not a bad thing, it shows a lack of originality and creativity. The story starts out slow as Edge attempts to find a new home and it isn’t until a fourth of the gameplay that the story finally evolves into something more. The pacing is one of the horrible parts of the game as the story begins immensely slow but picks up way too fast, and a little late into the game. This doesn’t mean that the story is completely bad at all. It has interesting concepts and themes as well. While the story has the same archetype as previous JRPGs, the theme that it presents are well mentioned and executed. Evolution of a species is one of these key themes and it makes the player wonder what evolution truly is. Emotions of sorrow, love, and hatred build up tension in the story as well as introduce side-arcs that might further develop certain characters.

    Characters in the game each have a unique personality. Edge is the justice-oriented, brash, and impulsive youth while Reimi is his buffer as she keeps him in check with order, manners, support. None of the characters seem too bland but they don’t seem all that interesting either. Some characters will become instant favorites but this isn’t a game where you’ll remember the characters too long. Having said that, the characters match the story perfectly and keeps the game firmly together. Each character will have a small segment in the story that will reveal their history so that the player will have a better understanding of what is going on and the character’s motive behind this space journey. If the side-arcs aren’t long enough then there are exclusive cutscenes that can be accessed in the Calnus that further develop this. Overall the character development is great. Each character will come across a problem and must deal with it in their own way. Learning how to overcome tough obstacles in life and realizing that one has made a mistake is one of the key themes of The Last Hope. This game doesn’t fail to deliver this message.

    Although the story of The Last Hope isn’t an exact hit, it’s not a miss either. There are moments in the game that are completely mind-boggling and other times they are just flat out stupid. However, when the story is packaged together with the characters and many key themes it is a wonderful delivery. Even though the story itself may not be appreciated, one can’t ignore the fact that the story is only the tip of the iceberg as the interpretation of what events transpire in the story is the bulk of the message of the game.

    Gameplay -------- 9

    The Last Hope has a standard archetype just like all of the previous JRPGS that have followed. It has a main character that roams through various worlds with shops, people, and many buildings. However, what The Last Hope attempts to achieve exemplary is not the standard exploration of the world but its engaging battle system. The battle system for The Last Hope follows a real-time battle system that is both thrilling and amazing. While the player is exploring through dungeons and forests, there are monsters that appear on the map and players can make contact with them to start a battle. There are no random encounters and the players have the option to choose when to fight or not. Not only this but depending on how the player makes contact with the monsters the players will have an advantage or disadvantage when the battle begins. Once the battle begins the player is in a set location with invisible boundaries making battle with the opposing team. Everything is done in real-time and therefore feels fast-paced and action packed.

    The player controls one character out of the four party members that are in battle and use numerous attacks that can be assigned with the L and R triggers. While special attacks are assigned to the triggers, the regular attacks can be activated by using the A button. Combos can be attained by using normal attacks and the special attacks to defeat their enemy. This is one of the many mechanics of The Last Hope that makes it amazing. Not only this, but another feature has been added to add more depth and strategy into combat. Blindside is a move that can be activated by holding the B button and by moving the left thumbstick at the proper time, the player can avoid the enemy’s incoming attack and appear behind them. This gives the player to have excellent opportune attacks. However, the drawback of using the blindside is that it takes a couple of seconds to charge and if held for too long, the player becomes fatigued leaving him or her wide open. Along with blindside, the BEAT and Rush systems have been implemented into the battle mechanics. BEAT is a system that allows for customization of the party members. There are 3 types of BEAT styles and each offers a different set of advantages that the others don’t have. While BEAT S has the ability to give the player to make full use of blindside, BEAT B doesn’t have that. If the player doesn’t know what style will suit the character best and desires an all-around character then BEAT Neutral is also an option. Rush is a type of power that can be activated when the player has filled up the Rush bar near their HP and MP bar. Once it has been fully charged the player can unleash this power and doesn’t stagger if hit by an enemy. The power is temporary and only lasts until the charged bar is drained. If the player also desires then he or she can drain the bar completely at one time and unleash a Rush Combo that strings together numerous attacks with bonus damage against the enemy. While in Rush mode though, if the player is hit one too many times while in Rush there are drastic consequences that may occur. One is the breaking of the bonus board.

    The Bonus Board is a feature that is somewhat familiar to the bonus feature added in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, but much different in that it has been implemented much differently. On the right side of the battle screen lies the heart of the Bonus Board. By defeating an enemy or enemies in certain ways, the player builds up colored tiles on the Bonus Board. At the end of the battle the player is rewarded depending on the colored tiles. Blue ones offer more experience, gold offers more money, magenta replenishes your HP and MP, while green gives you more special points to customize your character. The Bonus board gives the player to fully customize their characters while giving them an opportunity to make them stronger.

    The basic mechanics of The Last Hope, however, can be simplified into just running around and button mashing, if it were only that. There are various types of characters that the players have the option to control such as a caster, known as a Symbologist, melee attackers, or something in-between. While each character comes with a different set of fighting style, knowing how to use the different types of characters is essential. With the control of the LB and RB, the player can switch the controllable character with ease. Knowing what character to use at certain times will make the battles end much quicker with relative ease, especially during boss fights. Boss fights can be up to 30 minutes long if the player does not prepare him or herself properly and has not familiarized with the game’s mechanics. The strategy that is incorporated through the many mechanics that the game utilizes is simply stunning and gives the battles a more exhilarating feel than any of the previous JRPGs.

    If the player is not out exploring the world or fighting monsters, then equipping new gear and finishing side-quests is absolutely imperative. Visiting towns for new items to buy is great but there is a better way of attaining great items. The ship that takes you from planet to planet is also a home to many things. One of these is the Item Creation. Item Creation allows players to invent and create items that one can’t normally buy. Inventing a new item requires that player create a group of three characters or less to work together to think of a recipe. As time goes by the group will have invented little to many items. Depending on which characters group up with who, the results may vary so there numerous possibilities when inventing. Once an item has been invented, then the invented recipe can be used to create the item, if the player has the necessary materials. This will allow access to high-end items that are impossible to attain through the story. Along with creating items, the Calnus is the home to the characters. During your travels characters will interact with each other inside the Calnus and trigger certain events. These events are called Private Actions. These flesh out each character and gives the player the chance to see their history, background, and personality. Certain Private Actions are cutscenes and become something that is hilarious and funny. Side-quests are so plentiful it is somewhat hard to imagine how it is possible to finish them all. The player can take certain quests from shops and people. Each quest has its own rewards and for the most part can be finished at anytime in the story. Although, not particularly a side quest, there are numerous things that the player can complete once all the side-quests are finished. Battle Trophies are much like in-game achievements that the player has accomplished while fighting, there are monsters to analyze and collect data on, and collecting and creating every single item is also one. There are many things to do in The Last Hope and many possibilities that it can seem somewhat endless much like the star ocean.

    Although the game is stunning, this doesn’t mean that it has its own share of problems. One of the major problems concerns with the game design. While the game is a hefty 3-disc long game, the player must swap discs when entering certain worlds. This becomes very tedious, very fast. The game should not be compared to other games of the genre, but this is one of many archaic designs that were not favored in the past and are not favored now. Another problem that the game faces is saving. Every JRPG player understands that it’s a staple of the genre to have save points and now “save anywhere, anytime”. However, The Last Hope makes it so that players groan about saving. While the dungeons are fun to go through, they can become extremely long, with certain dungeons going 3+ hours. In certain dungeons there is a save point before it and at the end of it. That means the player has to either save and then go through it and then save again, or not try the dungeon until there is plentiful enough time to finish the dungeon. It would be alright if the dungeons were moderate in length and had save points, but what The Last Hope does is overkill. There are many characters that the player has at his or her disposal but most likely the party will be unbalanced. This is due to the rather somewhat horrid balancing of the characters. While the characters do have very unique and special attacks, by the time they are done casting, the monsters will be nearly gone, if not gone already. This is because the melee attackers dish out so much damage. However, this is only a problem through the first ¼ of the game. The party itself will become more balanced as the game progresses, but the fact that melee attackers are so much stronger than the ranged attackers might convince a player to use an all melee team for the rest of the game and as a result become punished.
    While exploring throughout the vast universe in The Last Hope, there is a rather tedious problem that many of the players will come into contact with. The camera while exploring is a burden. It’s both erratic and horribly angled that sometimes it can’t be differentiated if you are looking third or first-person. Although this is a minor problem, the fact still remains that the camera wasn’t perfected. A last problem that the game suffers from is minor framerate. The game runs at a solid 60 FPS. However, if the player does something such as 50 hits per second on an enemy then the game will begin to slow. Fortunately, this is fixed quickly as the engine of the game adapts and quickly resumes to the norm.

    The Last Hope’s gameplay is not perfect but is definitely one of the best in the video game industry. Its battle system is perfected so that it is both enjoyable and strategic, while the exploration of the dungeons require some thought if one wants to traverse the universe fast. Everything comes bundled together in a nice package that is surely one of the best.

    Graphics ---------- 9

    The visuals in The Last Hope are absolutely stunning with amazing lighting effects and diversity in colors. In The Last Hope there are two types of visuals, CG and true CG. Although the game technically isn’t CG the visuals are basically CG. The game runs for most of the time on CG while some of the cutscenes that come close to the end of the game will be in true CG. Because the game resembles close to CG the visuals are beautiful and truly make the game shine. The amazing and beautiful lighting effects that come through during cutscenes to the flashy lights that spark during battle, everything is done crisply and sharply. Graphics in The Last Hope are one of the best of this generation and Tri-Ace has truly outdone themselves and didn’t limit themselves as they already placed the game in 3 discs. While CG animations are amazing in itself, the true CG is even better. True CG will only occur at certain times in the story but everything looks sharper, crisper, and more enticing than ever before. The only bad part about true CG is that the game doesn’t run with these visuals. Animations and character design are done fantastically, as the details the endowed the characters shine from head to toe. The visual expression of each character can be recognized and the lighting that the game implements show realistic applications of how a person’s face might look when the light is shine at different angles. Although the game is in CG, Tri-Ace has somehow made the characters look anime-esque. It’s not a horrible design but they could’ve done something even better to make the game seem more visually appealing. The animations, as amazing as they are, suffer from stiffness. Much of the cutscene animations are very fluid and sleek but at times the game will place the movements of the characters in the most awkward way. The environment of each planet is distinct and will range from two to four types of climates. Only in a few dungeons do the graphics show blandness and lack of variety. In the first planet, Aeos, there is the ocean beach, forest, cave, and mechanical base that is stationed on the planet itself. Never before on this generation has a game shown so much variety on a single world itself. While implementing all of this the game itself provides excellent colors as they shine through the player’s eyes.

    Although the graphics are slick, there are problems that it has. One of the problem already mentioned was the animation style that the game uses. Certain animations are awkward when combined with the visual style and therefore gives a feeling of uncertainty. While the animations are sometimes weird, the graphics at times lack detail. The game has great detail throughout the game but there are certain locations in the game or certain cutscenes where the player can notice that there wasn’t a lot of effort put into detailing buildings or environments. This can be noticed when the player zooms into these spots, but otherwise they are relatively unnoticeable. The final visual problem that the game has is also its major strength. While lighting is spectacularly done, there are times when the effect can become an extreme nuisance. Light can sometimes make a path seem unrecognizable while at the same time blocking the player’s eyes with a white light. It adds an amazing feeling to environment and makes the game seem more realistic, but at times the game creates overkill.

    The Last Hope utilizes the Xbox 360’s graphics capabilities to the max as they have made use of amazing lighting effects with a wide range of the color spectrum. The visuals are definitely one of the key highlights in the game and should be recognized for what it has achieved.

    Sound ------------- 8

    In a simple way, the audio tracks for the game can be both amazing and pathetic. While the musical scores are inspiring and thrilling, the character voices cannot come close to what the music has accomplished. The character voices for the most part are great. Edge has a wonderful voice actor and shows emotion and personality. When he is depressed, you will hear him depressed, when he is happy, then you will hear him happy. Edge is one of the numerous great voices that are in the game. Faize, Arumat, Myuria, and Crowe all have amazing voice actors. However, it seems like characters such as Reimi, Meracle and Sarah have really annoying voices. It’s understandable that Meracle and Sarah are supposed to sound annoying and dumb but the way that the voices presents themselves is going a bit too far. Welch is the perfect example for this. Welch is an impulsive, super-hyperactive, annoying girl who helps Edge on his journey. When cutscenes go off with her you will hear a high-pitched girl going insane. Everyone knows Welch is supposed to be annoying but not to the point that it will drive the player to complete insanity. Each voice actor matches the character’s personality, such as Lymle who is a monotonous little girl who speaks like a little girl. Unfortunately, the bad part about the voice acting is that the actors themselves went too far in doing the characters and made them extremely unlikable. While the voices are bearable at times, the dialogue can range from average to flat out corny. Some of the lines that the characters say will be really cliché or lackluster. Although it’s part of the genre to have such dialogue, sometimes it’s good to leave these things behind.

    What really stands out is the musical score that Motoi Sakuraba has created for The Last Hope. Each piece is wonderfully constructed with calming orchestrated files to the epic trumpet blares. Not only that but the time and place that the music comes in at is perfect. There will be different theme songs to each planet and they are distinct in its own way. The sci-fi feel that Sakuraba has placed into each musical piece is well done. Unfortunately, this game is not one of Sakuraba’s best works, but that doesn’t mean it is bad either. Everything musically done is awe-inspiring and captivating.
    Sound although, sometimes an arbitrary category in games, is well done. The audio tracks are perfected so that it is definitely bearable, but some people still might prefer the Japanese tracks more than the English. The fact that the game attempted to have actors who fit the characters is great. If anything, the sound in The Last Hope is good but not excellent.

    Tilt/Value ---------- 9

    The Last Hope has excellent replay value that might last many many hours. On an average run through the game will take 30-50 hours to beat depending on the player’s skill level and how long the player strays from the main story. Aside from the main quests, there are numerous side quests on each planet to complete. All of these come with rewards such as money and items. Completionists who wish to achieve 100% complete in the game will have a hard time achieving this as they must unlock every single treasure chest, finish every quest, create and collect every single item, acquire data on monsters by fighting the numerous times, and collecting battle trophies. Getting data on monsters by fighting will increase the knowledge that the players have on the monster and will fill up the monster booklet in the collections menu. If that wasn’t long enough then there are battle trophies. Battle trophies are trophies that each character earns by meeting a certain requirement in battle. Some are hard and others are easy, but because there are so many on each character, it might be difficult. To add to the extremely long list of things to do there is the coliseum and secret dungeons. The coliseum works like an arena where you can fight monsters to become the champion. In the secret dungeons, which there are two, they have plentiful items to collect and monsters to fight. There is much to do in The Last Hope and if one is looking to buy something that will last and have value, this is the perfect choice.

    Conclusion ------------- 8.8 (With Reviewer’s Addition/Deduction)

    Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope is a wonderful game with a great story, an excellent battle system, amazing visuals, spectacular audio, and an extremely long replay value. Although the game doesn’t perfect everything that it does, it certainly does more rights than it does wrong as it is better than the some of its parts. The game truly brings the genre to the next generation. There are things that can be fixed such as the horrible camera and the missing details to certain buildings and environments but they can be overlooked when looking at the game as a whole package. The game has had wonderful production values and an amazing amount of resources placed into making this game. Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope won’t bring any new players into the genre, but it certainly is a game that will please JRPG fans and exceed expectations of those looking for great game.<div align='center'></div>
     
  2. War

    Member War Take it easy~

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    Wow, really nice review for what I've read. I'll finish it tomorrow. I want to get this game, but the fact that everyone says it's like 100+ hrs of gameplay and the dungeons are boring kinda puts me off. I don't want to play through huge generic boring dungeons for 100 hours.
     
  3. Extreme Coder

    Member Extreme Coder GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    It's a great RPG no question, but it has a few annoying issues, first and foremost the voice acting. Oh my god the voice acting. I wanted to stab my ear from it. And the lip synching seemed waaaay off :/ I love Star Ocean's battle system and sci-fi universe so I can get over that.

    Tales of Vesperia is IMO still a better traditional JRPG, and Valkyria Chronicles is the best RPG this gen hands-down.
     

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