Xbox 360 Review: Star Ocean – The Last Hope

Can this game shine or does it collapse on itself creating a black hole?

The year is S.D. 10. In the aftermath of World War III, humanity voyages into the stars in search of a new home… and a second chance.

Besides playing the recent PSP remakes of the series, I can’t claim to know much about Star Ocean. It seems like a series that has gone on the backburner for a while and now Square-Enix is trying to make it shine again, but has the wait been too long for a new iteration and can it improve upon its predecessors to be a must-have JRPG for the Xbox 360?
It’s with a very heavy heart that I must declare the answer to be a no. The Last Hope is perhaps quite an accurate title for the game, but it has a hidden meaning that it’s perhaps the last hope that the series has to finally dig its way back towards the surface of JRPG’s. Sadly, it almost fails to deliver on every front. Being an Xbox 360 exclusive, you would imagine that it could have been just the opportunity for the console to do well in Japan, but once again it seems like a missed opportunity.

The story starts out quite well with some great cutscenes showing events of World War 3 and then ascending to the stars. It all seems good, but then you start seeing the game itself and it fails to impress with dull visuals, clichéd characters with terrible voice acting. The only thing that is slightly worth praising seems to be the combat system, while not entirely original…it does seem to work, even though it can be challenging and some fights can take close to 30+ minutes to complete.
There’s also a problem just walking around. The camera zooms out to far when you are in a wide area, and sticks to close when you are in a small one. Navigation is a pain, not only because of the camera issues but because of the controls. You have to tap a button to switch your character from walking dead slowly to running and even then he’s pretty slow, but luckily there’s a silly dash move that you can do from the start. It works, but it seems out of place.

As you would expect from a Japanese RPG, there are plenty of things to level up and areas to grind. There are some pretty awful dungeons along the way, mainly because of the way they are designed. You can find yourself getting lost quite easily. I wouldn’t mind all that if the cast were memorable and you saw some real growth from them during the 3-disc adventure, but sadly they lack any charm and are incredibly clichéd. I wanted to like them like I have with other RPG’s characters, but I just didn’t feel connected to them throughout and I honestly couldn’t wait till it was over.
Then there are the achievements. Well, Tri-ace really doesn’t like making it easy for us do they? The list contains 50 achievements and most of them are labelled as secret ones, the rest seem incredibly time consuming and annoying. I don’t usually find fault with achievements, but it almost makes me wish that it had identical achievements to Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, sure they were hard and painfully time-consuming, but at least they were rewarding to do.

It’s a shame that in 2009, we still don’t have a co-op RPG game to boast about. The Last Hope has the Xbox Live logo in the top right hand corner of the box, but offers no multiplayer or co-op experience of any kind. I imagine they are planning some downloadable content, if anyone wants any that is. Maybe not being the biggest fan of the series, I’m missing the point somehow? To me, it just seems to be a very flawed and average game, lacking any personality or groundbreaking element worth mentioning.

The Verdict

Star Ocean: The Last Hope is a disappointment. I had quite high hopes for it when I popped it in my 360 and saw the great CG scenes, then it went downhill from there. The story is ok, but hardly original and very slow-starting. The characters lack charm and the game isn’t any fun to play. Stick to the classics, because this certainly won’t be considered one in the future.