I may not have been wowed by the efforts of last year’s Star Ocean entry, Integrity and Faithlessness but my appetite for another Star Ocean is still strong – enter the 4K & Full HD Remaster of Star Ocean: The Last Hope.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope is one of the few games in the series that I haven’t played and, given its reception upon original release, I was definitely interested in seeing how the game has been improved since.
Having not looked into the specifics of the game prior to playing, I was initially surprised by the game’s setting. Set before the original Star Ocean, The Last Hope takes place on Earth, which itself is on the brink of destruction before World War III breaks out, razing the lands and nearly devastating the population of mankind. With the majority of Earth’s natural environment becoming uninhabitable, a ceasefire between the World Republic Federation and enemy factions was declared. With the surviving population forced to live in underground cities, the Greater United Nations was formed, which then established the USTA (Universal Science and Technology Administration) whose primary mission is to locate a suitable new homeworld for mankind.
Now, I personally find this an extremely interesting premise and the opening cinematic does a lot to convey the emotions and regret over a situation such as this. I find it somewhat haunting though, as it’s definitely an imaginable possibility this could be our future.
If there’s one thing I dislike more than anything when starting a new game, it’s being subjected to a lengthy and boring tutorial. When you’re eager and ready to go you just want to get playing. Thankfully, The Last Hope allows you to skip said tutorial section of the game and for most that would probably be an acceptable option. I opted to work my way through it and learn me some Star Ocean battle mechanics before quickly jumping off as the boredom set in. You can, of course, go over the ins and outs of battle and other systems by speaking to the right NPCs in-game; they’re probably worth a visit at some point as the game gives you no hints during gameplay.
I have, as mentioned, a serious dislike for this style of game mechanic explanation, it sucks all the initial enjoyment out of starting a new game. I prefer to have snippets of information slowly introduced when necessary as I’m more likely to retain that knowledge going forward. That said, at the end of the day it all comes down to personal preference and what might work for me may not work for you. Ultimately this was only a minor annoyance that largely didn’t impact on my eagerness to continue or my overall enjoyment of the game.
Chaining together skill combos and changing characters on the fly is extremely satisfying and adds numerous options when forming a strategy, especially when it comes to boss battles. The ability to be able to focus on any one particular character or change during battle to meet the situation is refreshing even with the game being almost 10 years old. Some of the more recent JRPG entries from Square Enix could learn a thing or two from their older library of games. Battles that include multiple enemies can sometimes produce some very noticeable lag, even more so when combined with using skills. Whether this is down to the system itself, in this case a base model PlayStation 4, I cannot confirm. Aside from the frequent dropped frames, the battle system is very enjoyable.
Graphically, the game looks great, a little dated but owning its visual style well. The characters have seen a great deal of attention and look exceptionally detailed. The only downside to them is their channelling of Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds in that their movements and speech are reminiscent of Supermarionation, which as much as I’m a fan of the technique makes the characters of The Last Hope awkward at best. The main character takes this a step further by emulating Johnny Depp’s Edward Scissorhands which is an odd experience to witness. To be fair though, this was only immediately obvious during my first few hours of the game and it either improved as I progressed or I just stopped noticing.
There’s a number of different options to tinker with in the menu system relating to the visual look of the game, something I rarely choose to do but no doubt a good thing to be included. You can also change the resolution up to 4K if you’re playing on a PlayStation 4 Pro or a PC.
Apart from offering both English and Japanese voice options, there’s not much I can really say about the audio side of the game. The cast of both languages are well rounded and enjoyable and the soundtrack is decent but not very memorable.
Through all of its faults, I’ve really enjoyed my time with Star Ocean The Last Hope a lot more so than Integrity and Faithlessness and at only £16.99 (PSN) or £15.99 (Steam), I highly recommend giving it a go if you’re looking for a game to sink some serious time into.