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Square Enix  
Star Ocean: The Last Hope
From: Square Enix
For: Xbox 360
Genre: RPG, Sci-fi
ESRB Rating: Teen (13+)
Star Ocean: The Last Hope
Effeminate male lead character with big sword: check. Convoluted story involving quasi-religious themes: check. Too many characters to keep track of: check. Kitchen sink: check. Oh look, a Japanese RPG!
Posted April 08, 2009
Star Ocean, a role-playing game (RPG) series out of Japan, is held by fans in the same high regard as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games. In fact, this latest offering of Star Ocean: The Last Hope is presented in the same classic style, making it frightfully reminiscent of the many, many JRPGs before it, for better or worse. And that includes a way out-of-this-world story line.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope tells the story of Edge Maverick (you can’t make this stuff up) and his role in the human race’s search for a new home. As it turns out, Earth has become a complete wasteland - thanks a lot World War 3, you jerk!

Anyway, the people of Earth unite and pour everything they have into developing space travel in the hopes of finding a new world to settle. And - wouldn't you know it? - during the first mission a series of serious complications cause the ships to crash on forsaken planets in destinations unknown.

In classic RPG fashion, Edge is joined by his submissive female best-friend-forever, Reimi, and together they set off for adventure. While searching for survivors from other ships, the two encounter their first alien life forms, one of which, Faize - who might as well be an elf... an interplanetary elf... a Vulcan! - joins them. Then it gets weird.

From planetary discovery to battle station escapes, parallel dimensions and time-travel, and more aliens-that-look-like-elves than you'll know what to do with, Star Ocean: The Last Hope throws in every conceivable science-fiction convention known to man and Vulcan alike - and the kitchen sink, for good measure. You can try to follow the plot through to the conclusion, but it isn't overly rewarding and you're pretty much bread-crumbed through it anyway, even if you're not paying attention.

Simply watching the story unfold (as you play, of course) is another matter; Star Ocean: The Last Hope looks absolutely gorgeous. The art-style is in-line with the usual Final Fantasy aesthetic or space themed anime. Cut scenes are almost always a fully rendered visual feast; in-game animations are equally impressive. With all this high-def content, it's no wonder the game spans 3 discs.

In a change from the classic turn based battles typical of RPGs, Star Ocean battles are fought using what's best described as real-time button mashing - it's suppose to be a skillful endeavor save for the difficulty of mastering the appropriate and exacting button combinations. Hence, your battle strategy usually involves ganging up on an enemy and frantically pressing the attack button until it dies. You do this over and over and over again, which makes the "Press 100,000 buttons" award just cheeky.

Still, like most RPGs of this ilk, there's certainly no shortage of gameplay available; not just many, many hours but many days of play, especially if you decide to tackle all the side quests, item creation and other skill-development routines available on top of the plow-through main quest.

At the same time, Star Ocean: The last Hope isn't going to win over anyone new to the whole RPG thing, what with its over-the-top story and clunky battles and all. But for die-hard JRPG fans - and OCD gamers, for that matter - there's certainly enough classic meat to keep you playing for days and days.
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Bang for your buck:
Good Rental 
Ok New Purchase 
Good Pre-played 
Great Bargain-bin Buy 

Score:  3  (out of 5)