|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Tri-Ace||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 23, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Although the Star Ocean series has been around for awhile, after its last console entry, Till the End of Time, the series was in definite need of a reboot - not because the last game was bad (it was actually pretty good), but rather because the ending to this previous title was definitive, to say the least. Luckily, the latest chapter in the Star Ocean series, The Last Hope, is a prequel that actually takes place before the first game.
The story in Star Ocean: The Last Hope takes place directly after the events of World War III, during humanity's first foray into space exploration. You play as the excellently-named Edge Maverick, who, through some unfortunate coincidences, has been charged with finding a new planet that humans can colonize and inhabit safely. The game's plot is almost reminiscent of last year's Mass Effect, with main characters reaching out to alien civilizations to try and "help" them. And by "help" I mean ready them for colonization.
However, although humanity's motives may be a little less than earnest, the real bad guys in Star Ocean happen to be a race of genocidal aliens who think themselves to be better then the newly galactic-aware humans (as well as several other interstellar races.) This evil race forces the humans to band together with several other alien nations in order to thwart this new threat from destroying all other races in the universe.
One thing I have always appreciated about the Star Ocean series is it's obvious sci-fi influences. Although many JRPGs are set in future worlds (and generally feature non-human party members), space travel and self-determination are concepts that are rarely dealt with. However, Star Ocean: The Last Hope tackles these tough questions, and it really nails a lot of the core sci-fi elements that are standard in popular film and fiction. The creators have said that Star Trek was one of the biggest influences on the Star Ocean series, and this latest entry really showcases many of the themes that were central to this sci-fi staple series.
But, even though the story is great, any RPG fan can tell you that without solid gameplay, the story is superfluous. Fortunately, the gameplay in Star Ocean: The Last Hope is quite good, and the active battle system works very well.
One of the hallmarks of the Star Ocean franchise as a whole has been the action-based battle system, and The Last Hope definitely does not disappoint in this respect. The main battle mechanic involves running up to enemies and using the A button to execute standard attacks. Special attacks can be earned as you level up and assigned to the left and right trigger buttons, which is very convenient when you are chaining together long attacks against extra-nefarious foes.
New for this entry's battle system are two elements: Rush and Blindsides. The Rush system is a basic charged attack mechanism that is tied to a status bar at the top of the screen. This bar fills as you land hits on an enemy (or are hit) and when it reaches 100% can be activated with a simple press of the X button. Entering Rush mode has several advantages including increased critical hit damage and less vulnerability to attacks. However, Rush mode can really be put to work when you use it in conjunction with equipped special attacks. This triggers a "rush combo" which allows you to use a series of timed button presses to unleash an attack guaranteed to deal some major damage.