Review: Star Ocean: The Last Hope

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Review: Star Ocean: The Last Hope

Star Ocean: The Last Hope shows how archaic JRPGs have become. In a word? It's hopeless.

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CantFaketheFunk:
If the genre doesn't evolve, it deserves to go extinct.

Not sure I follow you on this one. Honestly now, the FPS genre hasn't evolved that much over the years either. The graphics got flashier, the animations are nicer, some of them have a few neat features that others don't. All of this is true for JRPGs as well. But just like JRPGs, the real meat and potatoes of the FPS experienced hasn't changed much over time. This is the basic formula of just about every FPS ever released: You, the player, run around and shoot things. But I don't hear people saying that the FPS genre is a relic. Why is that?

As one of the most stedfast defenders of JRPG's on this site I still kind of agree with John Funk. I don't really ever want the JRPG to go away completely, I don't completely hate cutscenes (though the Play 5 Minutes, watch a 15 Minute cutscene ratio really must change) and I horribly FEAR every RPG becoming either a Diablo clone or a crappy attempt at another Oblivion or Fallout style game.

I do however strongly feel that JRPG's need to grow up, at least a little. The formula of Dungeon, Town, Cutscene must be broken, and broken hard. The only gameplay most JRPG's offer is in Dungeon Exploration and Combat whereas in Mass Effect the simple act of TALKING is transformed into a fantastically variable element of gameplay, why can't JRPG's follow suite, at least a little.

As well some attempt at giving the players more of a role in guiding the story would also be appreciated, why not make shorter games with more branching plots instead of 80+ hour epic monsters which are super linear from start to finish... not saying I will never play another Xenogears, but again, why not at least make the attempt.

And FPS's have evolved, at least a bit, though if Killzone 2 is any indication, they need to start innovating and soon. Still, saying that an FPS is "just" running and gunning is like saying an RPG is just grinding and finding (leveling up and searching for treasure). If they are, they're clearly not good examples of the genre. The FPS, thanks to folks like Valve and 2K Boston, has become an interesting genre for telling a story through action and in some cases it becomes about emulating a specific tactical style ala Rainbow Six.

Thank you, Funk! This is part of what keeps me coming back to this place. The Truth!

Last Hope is seriously an abomination in the face of anything creative or innovating.

Yeah, I kinda lost hope in JRPGs since my third pokemon game...

Pyronox:
Yeah, I kinda lost hope in JRPGs since my third pokemon game...

Being a JRPG fan and having never enjoyed a Pokemon game I really must ask why? Pokemon is almost a genre unto itself and isn't really indicative of JRPG's as a whole.

PedroSteckecilo:

Pyronox:
Yeah, I kinda lost hope in JRPGs since my third pokemon game...

Being a JRPG fan and having never enjoyed a Pokemon game I really must ask why? Pokemon is almost a genre unto itself and isn't really indicative of JRPG's as a whole.

Neither is anything by Square-Enix.

PedroSteckecilo:

Pyronox:
Yeah, I kinda lost hope in JRPGs since my third pokemon game...

Being a JRPG fan and having never enjoyed a Pokemon game I really must ask why?

Because I honestly have seen little to no evolution in this genre. Real-time combat is a nice addition, but they still go back to that same bizarre system of battles.

I like graphics, gameplay, mechanics, animations, but all this does not compare to the evolution of a game. It's like they think because it worked before, it will work now.

If they want to survive they're going to have to take the necessary steps to ensure their game is different, innovative and works.

It's an idea some developers seem to forget after a while. They start off with an great new title, have a phenomenal success, then dismiss innovation because they're scared they'll lose a part of their audience. Sure you might keep "those" people that like the same thing over and over, but in the end you lose more than you could ever benefit.

Conservatism has been a plague to gaming and technology (and if I may be so bold, politics as well) for far too long now.

EDIT: I'm just using pokemon as a landmark for the golden age of jrpgs, not necessarily as an example for what a "good" jrpg is.

Pyronox:

PedroSteckecilo:

Pyronox:
Yeah, I kinda lost hope in JRPGs since my third pokemon game...

Being a JRPG fan and having never enjoyed a Pokemon game I really must ask why?

Because I honestly have seen little to no evolution in this genre. Real-time combat is a nice addition, but they still go back to that same bizarre system of battles.

I like graphics, gameplay, mechanics, animations, but all this does not compare to the evolution of a game. It's like they think because it worked before, it will work now.

If they want to survive they're going to have to take the necessary steps to ensure their game is different, innovative and works.

It's an idea some developers seem to forget after a while. They start off with an great new title, have a phenomenal success, then dismiss innovation because they're scared they'll lose a part of their audience. Sure you might keep "those" people that like the same thing over and over, but in the end you lose more than you could ever benefit.

Conservatism has been a plague to gaming and technology (and if I may be so bold, politics as well) for far too long now.

EDIT: I'm just using pokemon as a landmark for the golden age of jrpgs, not necessarily as an example for what a "good" jrpg is.

Please elaborate, as I've seen lots of advancement in the RPG's.
Jack Shit from Square-Enix, but other companies.

Persona 4, Valkyria Chronicles, the gust games maybe 2D but have a lot of interesting game play elements.

Nazrel:

Pyronox:

PedroSteckecilo:

Pyronox:
Yeah, I kinda lost hope in JRPGs since my third pokemon game...

Being a JRPG fan and having never enjoyed a Pokemon game I really must ask why?

Because I honestly have seen little to no evolution in this genre. Real-time combat is a nice addition, but they still go back to that same bizarre system of battles.

I like graphics, gameplay, mechanics, animations, but all this does not compare to the evolution of a game. It's like they think because it worked before, it will work now.

If they want to survive they're going to have to take the necessary steps to ensure their game is different, innovative and works.

It's an idea some developers seem to forget after a while. They start off with an great new title, have a phenomenal success, then dismiss innovation because they're scared they'll lose a part of their audience. Sure you might keep "those" people that like the same thing over and over, but in the end you lose more than you could ever benefit.

Conservatism has been a plague to gaming and technology (and if I may be so bold, politics as well) for far too long now.

EDIT: I'm just using pokemon as a landmark for the golden age of jrpgs, not necessarily as an example for what a "good" jrpg is.

Please elaborate, as I've seen lots of advancement in the RPG's.
Jack Shit from Square-Enix, but other companies.

Persona 4, Valkyria Chronicles, the gust games maybe 2D but have a lot of interesting game play elements.

Well I guess I'll have to try those (but don't count on it, I got like 10 games to finish atm -_-) otherwise, I just havent seen the genre moving really.

No amount of innovation or gameplay is going to save your JRPG if your story-telling is lacking. If you can't attach yourself to the characters because the voiceovers are annoying, the cutscenes are intrusive, and you have little impact over the choices you can make in the story, why bother?

I plunked down my $59.99 for SO4. Was excited about the multiple disc JRPG I was about to jump into it and was so horribly disappointed in the first hour that the game immediately found a new home on my shelf where all the other games I no longer give a crap about reside. Maybe one day I'll give it another go, but not while there are other more worthwhile games I haven't finished yet.

I can agree with most of what has been said in the article about Star Ocean and add a few like the fact that the camera is unruly at best, and the graphics have that overblown blinding shine to them. But for some reason I still decently like(definitely not my favorite but not the worst I have played) the game even though the story unravels in a completely linear progression it is still a interesting story and the story is kind of built into sections that all start coming together in the end which makes it like bite sized chunks to devour.

As JRPG's in a whole I have seen many with much better story telling than many games from the anywhere else. Although I do think Square has rested on its history too much Lost Odyssey was decent but most games they have put out lately pretty much have had game breaking graphics glitches and/or characters that you could just not care about. Granted multi branching stories are great but sometimes it just works better to tell the story the way it was meant to be and multi branches can cause convolution.

I think the biggest reason people are not seeing the innovation from JRPG's is because they are to busy kissing squares butte buying their games then trying other games. In the genre that are much better with way better stories.

I call 'em Rail Playing Games for a reason.

The genre is pretty much dead on the current consoles yet at the same time it's coming back. The actual jRPGs are dying but instead everythign else develops gigantic cutscenes and because those aren't interactive they get tons of quicktime events applied.

Looked fun until you mentioned the voice acting and then tortured us with making us listen to it.
Ugh, I had to claw my ears off...

Frank_Sinatra_:
Looked fun until you mentioned the voice acting and then tortured us with making us listen to it.
Ugh, I had to claw my ears off...

This actually spawned an interesting discussion while Funk and I were video capturing for this game. I wonder what other people's thoughts on it were.

Which would you prefer

-Game with voice acting, but it's terrible.
-Game without any voice acting, but maybe that money was invested into a new feature.

Do you think that voice overs have become the norm for RPGs and that without it a game would be as well received even if it was superior to a game with bad voice talent?

I personally could see some games doing better by canning their voice talent and investing that money into better writers, graphic engine, etc. If you are not going to strive to do something well then why bother, play towards your strong points. A good percentage of RPG gamers grew up on games that never had voice acting, I don't see a game releasing without any having a major effect on sales. At least for a percentage of the market, there are bound to be some who would think the game would be incomplete without it or that it's simply unacceptable for a game to release without it now days.

What is it with everyone crying out about the horrible voice acting? I've heard much worse voice acting, and had to withstand much MUCH worse writing. It's not fantastic, but I found it bearable.

That being said, I was quite disappointed with the game. The story was far too simple: It took me 80 hours to beat, but I felt like I had played it for 5 thanks to the straightforward plot told at a snail's pace.

I've also gotten in the habit of enjoying my games in hour and a half chunks, since I really don't have the time these days. This game was tough for me since the size of the dungeons was absolutely ridiculous, and it didn't help that the game uses save points sparingly at best.

The end game is also terrible. I mean, There's sooo much to do, but you don't want to do any of it for one simple reason: item creation. At the end of the game, the item creation can only be done on Disc 3, but majority of the environments are on Disc 2. Thanks to the fact that the discs can't read each other when installed to the hard drive, this forces constant disc swapping.

Slycne:

Frank_Sinatra_:
Looked fun until you mentioned the voice acting and then tortured us with making us listen to it.
Ugh, I had to claw my ears off...

This actually spawned an interesting discussion while Funk and I were video capturing for this game. I wonder what other people's thoughts on it were.

Which would you prefer

-Game with voice acting, but it's terrible.
-Game without any voice acting, but maybe that money was invested into a new feature.

Do you think that voice overs have become the norm for RPGs and that without it a game would be as well received even if it was superior to a game with bad voice talent?

I personally could see some games doing better by canning their voice talent and investing that money into better writers, graphic engine, etc. If you are not going to strive to do something well then why bother, play towards your strong points. A good percentage of RPG gamers grew up on games that never had voice acting, I don't see a game releasing without any having a major effect on sales. At least for a percentage of the market, there are bound to be some who would think the game would be incomplete without it or that it's simply unacceptable for a game to release without it now days.

I would prefer that too. If the voice acting is going to suck then don't give it to us, put the money somewhere else.

Slycne:

Frank_Sinatra_:
Looked fun until you mentioned the voice acting and then tortured us with making us listen to it.
Ugh, I had to claw my ears off...

This actually spawned an interesting discussion while Funk and I were video capturing for this game. I wonder what other people's thoughts on it were.

Which would you prefer

-Game with voice acting, but it's terrible.
-Game without any voice acting, but maybe that money was invested into a new feature.

Do you think that voice overs have become the norm for RPGs and that without it a game would be as well received even if it was superior to a game with bad voice talent?

I personally could see some games doing better by canning their voice talent and investing that money into better writers, graphic engine, etc. If you are not going to strive to do something well then why bother, play towards your strong points. A good percentage of RPG gamers grew up on games that never had voice acting, I don't see a game releasing without any having a major effect on sales. At least for a percentage of the market, there are bound to be some who would think the game would be incomplete without it or that it's simply unacceptable for a game to release without it now days.

I'm currently playing Suikoden: Tierkries on the DS and I can attest that I'd often rather play it with no sound than listen to the terrible voice acting. Thankfully it's not 100% and I can go through most dungeons while enjoying the music without needing to listen to the poor vocals.

Some JRPGs can be very lazy and this seems like one. Voice acting is a recurring problem...

carnkhan4:
Some JRPGs can be very lazy and this seems like one. Voice acting is a recurring problem...

I wouldn't attribute it to laziness so much as lack of investment in professional voice actors and experienced producers.

Slycne:
-Game with voice acting, but it's terrible.
-Game without any voice acting, but maybe that money was invested into a new feature.

I had a Gamecube last gen, no voice acting was pretty much the default there. Hell, Nintendo still doesn't use much voice. Can't fault them, especially with characters that just look Japanesy, VAs try to voice them like that then and that usually ends up painful. Especially the "loli" characters tend to suck, sounding screechy as hell.

Slycne:

carnkhan4:
Some JRPGs can be very lazy and this seems like one. Voice acting is a recurring problem...

I wouldn't attribute it to laziness so much as lack of investment in professional voice actors and experienced producers.

I don't understand this recent tendancy for crappy localization from Squeenix, usually they do such a GOOD job, I mean look at Dragon Quest VIII, several world regions each of which uses a different dialect from the British Isles? That's a fantastic localization, they did something similar with FFXII, the people from Rabanastre had some sort of American accent, the Arcadians were very proper English accents, I think the Nabradian's were another accent from the Isles and I think the people from Bhujerba were Polish. What ever happened to that?

Hell look at Final Fantasy IV DS, it had great voice acting and an awesome rewrite of the script, granted it was all a little over the top but it really worked.

Ah, Square Enix. Every time Atlus brings the genre two steps forward, count on them to take it seven steps back.

Sounds familiar: Item creation and combat were pretty much the only things I liked about SO3 as well. That and Albel, cause Albel kicked ass

sanzo:
Sounds familiar: Item creation and combat were pretty much the only things I liked about SO3 as well. That and Albel, cause Albel kicked ass

I have to say that combat was a truly redeeming factor in SO4. It was faster paced than SO3, more strategic, and controlling each character felt like a unique experience.

PedroSteckecilo:
As one of the most stedfast defenders of JRPG's on this site I still kind of agree with John Funk. I don't really ever want the JRPG to go away completely, I don't completely hate cutscenes (though the Play 5 Minutes, watch a 15 Minute cutscene ratio really must change) and I horribly FEAR every RPG becoming either a Diablo clone or a crappy attempt at another Oblivion or Fallout style game.

I do however strongly feel that JRPG's need to grow up, at least a little. The formula of Dungeon, Town, Cutscene must be broken, and broken hard. The only gameplay most JRPG's offer is in Dungeon Exploration and Combat whereas in Mass Effect the simple act of TALKING is transformed into a fantastically variable element of gameplay, why can't JRPG's follow suite, at least a little.

As well some attempt at giving the players more of a role in guiding the story would also be appreciated, why not make shorter games with more branching plots instead of 80+ hour epic monsters which are super linear from start to finish... not saying I will never play another Xenogears, but again, why not at least make the attempt.

And FPS's have evolved, at least a bit, though if Killzone 2 is any indication, they need to start innovating and soon. Still, saying that an FPS is "just" running and gunning is like saying an RPG is just grinding and finding (leveling up and searching for treasure). If they are, they're clearly not good examples of the genre. The FPS, thanks to folks like Valve and 2K Boston, has become an interesting genre for telling a story through action and in some cases it becomes about emulating a specific tactical style ala Rainbow Six.

Well said! The cutscene to gameplay ratio is the main reason I don't play JRPGs (well, that and the repeated use of really young teenagers or younger androgyny's with painfully shrill voices). Its the same reason I don't play MGS.

Looks like any another JRPG game. Maybe the voice acting is a problem because the only damn characters they have in these games are annoying teens with questionable genders and stupid haircuts.

Games like this keep making the good, unique JRPGs(scarce as they are) look bad.

haha "was paid for playing SO4 and still hated it". Squarenix JRPGs have always felt like something made on a production line, same old parts, just slightly different paint slapped over it. Arent the japanese supposed to be hard working? For someone who could care less about over dramatic stories filled with very long cut scenes i never hold out much hope for most JRPGs. Playing this one last night reminded me of why ppl are still so caught up in FFVII, cos nothing better or different has come out yet.

Lvl 64 Klutz:
What is it with everyone crying out about the horrible voice acting? I've heard much worse voice acting, and had to withstand much MUCH worse writing. It's not fantastic, but I found it bearable.

I felt the same way, with the exception of the little girls, the voice acting was the same as any other game. Most of the problems were more do to poor writing then poor voice acting. Had they not done voice overs the dialog would of been just as bad, only forcing you to read it.

I thought the crafting system was down right horrible. I'm not a huge fan of crafting so that might be part of it. The problem I had with it was how I could collect every chest mine every node buy out every vendor and still not be able to make anything remotely useful because of missing rare items or not knowing the way to create the recipe. If the crafting system was easily ignored it wouldn't be a problem, but with the way 9/10 chests drop crafting materials rather then useful items it gets old quick.

The story was overall disappointing from blatantly stealing things from star trek, going into warp using antimatter and crystals and other such things, to the the poorly thought out plotpoints and ending. I had never played a star ocean game before, there was many points that I couldn't tell if it was just bad writing or if it was trying to connect to the other games story lines

The games saving grace really was the combat, it was fun and the AI is not that bad once you turn off the useless spells and abilities.

On a side note: "Edge Maverick" finally a name more manly then "Max Power" ;)

Codgo:
Looks like any another JRPG game. Maybe the voice acting is a problem because the only damn characters they have in these games are annoying teens with questionable genders and stupid haircuts.

Aye, I've always wondered why, when it comes to Japanese RPGs that the main protagonists almost always seem to punk ass little 14 year old kids (or generally kids anyway) who are somehow tasked with saved the entire world from destruction. Is this some kind of cultural factor that I just don't understand? This may explain why the only JRPG I have actually purchased was Lost Odyssey which gracefully saw fit to make the principle characters a little more mature (900 odd years or so to be more specific :)). Okay, so it still did have kids, but at least they weren't heralded as mankinds only hope for survival.

I will say one thing though - I may not be buying this game, but personally I think Edge Maverick is an alright name - provided it stays within its JRPG environment! :)

xmetatr0nx:
haha "was paid for playing SO4 and still hated it". Squarenix JRPGs have always felt like something made on a production line, same old parts, just slightly different paint slapped over it. Arent the japanese supposed to be hard working? For someone who could care less about over dramatic stories filled with very long cut scenes i never hold out much hope for most JRPGs. Playing this one last night reminded me of why ppl are still so caught up in FFVII, cos nothing better or different has come out yet.

Except almost every JRPG done by Atlus

Shin Megami Tensei > Final Fantasy

MarsProbe:

I will say one thing though - I may not be buying this game, but personally I think Edge Maverick is an alright name - provided it stays within its JRPG environment! :)

Also, thankfully, the cheesy name can be explained with an important plot point about halfway through the game.

Lvl 64 Klutz:

MarsProbe:

I will say one thing though - I may not be buying this game, but personally I think Edge Maverick is an alright name - provided it stays within its JRPG environment! :)

Also, thankfully, the cheesy name can be explained with an important plot point about halfway through the game.

So, he's some kind of "Maverick" right? That, and he was born on the "Edge" of space, which is surely an achievement in itself. I am of course just theorising here.

sanzo:

xmetatr0nx:
haha "was paid for playing SO4 and still hated it". Squarenix JRPGs have always felt like something made on a production line, same old parts, just slightly different paint slapped over it. Arent the japanese supposed to be hard working? For someone who could care less about over dramatic stories filled with very long cut scenes i never hold out much hope for most JRPGs. Playing this one last night reminded me of why ppl are still so caught up in FFVII, cos nothing better or different has come out yet.

Except almost every JRPG done by Atlus

Shin Megami Tensei > Final Fantasy

To be honest i dont think ive ever played an atlus JRPG, then again i dont check the box for who made it. Any good current games they have released?

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