Have you ever seen Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal? Well, the characters in this almost look like a gaggle of uncomfortable puppets, and I’m glad that the fifth game doesn’t look anywhere near as stuff and frightening. Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope itself is a mixed bag, and after the world’s lengthiest tutorial I was on my way on a space-spanning journey.
Alright, you got me. I started the tutorial but got bored with it and bit the bullet without understanding all the of game’s controls. I’m familiar enough with games that I was able to pick it up pretty quickly though, because that tutorial is a nightmare. Anyway, The Last Hope is set in a world where World War III has broken out, and a new world must be found because Earth has quickly become uninhabitable. Edge and his crew are among those who have the mission to find a new planet for Earth’s population and, of course, this takes him into space.
Have you ever seen Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal? Well, the characters in this almost look like a gaggle of uncomfortable puppets.
The Last Hope had a mixed reception when it originally launched back on PS3, and this isn’t going to be its chance to turn those who didn’t like it around. It’s a serviceable JRPG, and the voice-acting is far better than it’s been widely complained about, but the control scheme, visuals and plot make this a hard one to swallow. It juggles too much, but doesn’t have the polish that the game needs to live up to its lofty ambitions.
The plot isn’t particularly bad, but it falls into the same hole that Metal Gear Solid 4 did – it has very lengthy cutscenes where not a whole lot of importance is happening or being said. It’s so focused on telling a rich, deep plot that it fails to make it all that enticing. You can’t pause cutscenes either, sadly, which should be a feature in all games by this point.
If you’ve played a Tales game, then you’ll likely take to The Last Hope fairly quickly. You can run around the map as you slash and dodge your foes, and there’s a unique feature known as “blindside” to let you get the upper hand in battle. You charge with circle, and as an enemy comes in for the attack you can hit the analog stick to quickly zoom around them to attack from behind. Getting the timing down can be a pain, but it’s worth keeping this technique in mind as it’s a great help.
The Last Hope can be challenging but the AI carries its weight, thankfully. You can switch between your party members with R1/L1, and each character has their own skills and equipment which make them a vital asset. If you’re struggling but the AI is focused on another enemy, you can switch to them to ensure that one enemy is quickly taken care of before you bundle on top of the remaining enemies. The gameplay itself is pretty fun, but it’s similar to Tales in that it doesn’t feel all that fun to me — it’s easy to button mash rather than experiment, and I think The Last Hope could’ve excelled had it had more MMO-inspired elements like Final Fantasy XII and Xenoblade Chronicles do.
I think The Last Hope could’ve excelled had it had more MMO-inspired elements.
The Last Hope isn’t a pretty game, and it’s slippery camera and irritatingly unhelpful map means that you’ll be wandering more than you’ll want to just to progress the story. Character models are stiff and look like animatronics, although the 2D portraits are far nicer — thankfully, you can switch between these when it comes to menu and battle art, but not in cutscenes! The short burst sprint mechanic doesn’t make exploring much faster either, which is a shame considering that the areas don’t give you too much to explore.
The English voice-acting fares much better with the likes of Matthew Mercer, Laura Bailey and more lending their voices to the English dub. You can play it in Japanese if you’d prefer though, but I opted to stay with the English dub. Sure, some characters aren’t particularly great, but the main cast tend to be decent. The music isn’t memorable but gets the job done, although it feels a tad too heavy-handed at times and can break the atmosphere of a scene.
It really isn’t all that bad, but there’s much better to play and a great JRPG is never too far away.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope isn’t quite the JRPG that I wanted it to be, and it has a bunch of issues which makes it hard to recommend. It’s far from an awful game, but its horrible visual style, repetitive, unengaging combat, and vague directions make this sometimes frustrating to play. It really isn’t all that bad, but there’s much better to play and a great JRPG is never too far away.
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