As a newbie to the Star Ocean franchise, I really had no idea what to expect from the game. I just mentioned I hadn't sunk my teeth into a good RPG for a while and this was recommended to me.
Made by Square Enix, this RPG is a sprawling adventure that covers events occurring over several planets. Anyone familiar with the Final Fantasy games will feel at home here as there are a lot of shared design elements and terms. Describing Star Ocean as Final Fantasy in space is tempting, but Star Ocean really does stand on it's own.
One of the main differences between this game and its Fantastic cousin is how the battle system is setup. Enemies are on the map like more recent Final Fantasy games, but if you manage to sneak up on an enemy you will get the first move. Enemies can also sneak up on you though to get the advantage. I'm writing this review a couple of months after finishing the game and have recently been playing FFXIII which borrows a simpler version of this game play element, but here you have a lot more control over this aspect. It seems a little random in FFXIII.
Battles also take place in real-time. You control one character and can set up how you wish the rest of your party to act. You can switch characters on the fly to utilize any character specific commands you need to access you haven't automated. The combat is fast and rewarding, and there are many epic battles while battling weaker enemies will take no time at all. Of course the combat isn't as deep as an actual fighter, but you will have to watch your timing to deal out blocks and counters. Although you can level your characters to the point where you can button mash fights and still win, the game is at it's most rewarding when you actually take advantage of the full range of battle options.
Where the game really wins is it's sense of exploration. You will jet to different planets sporting different races and environments to explore. Sure there are some drab areas (enemy spaceships, caves ect), but overall I found the map a joy to run around. I especially enjoyed the villages. RPG's always seem a bot empty if there is no locals to interact or barter with. There are an insane amount of items to collect and if you are a 100%'er this game will keep you busy for months. The Last Hope really is an epic space opera and the scale of the game really is quite huge.
Reception to the games characters and storyline have been a bit mixed. Personally I really enjoyed them, well the characters at least. The overall storyline seemed to come and go and be a bit vague, but each characters storyline was much more interesting. The party you gather is diverse and their reactions to each others exploits are often amusing. What I really enjoyed though was that talking to other characters at certain times and selecting differing answers will effect how you get on with other members of your party and even the games ending.
The biggest disappointment though is that the voice acting is so bad for certain characters you almost don't want to interact with them. Mouth movements seem to have no direct involvement with the sounds supposedly coming out of them and Lymle is the most annoying girl in videogame history. And that's saying a lot, kaaaaay!?!?!?!
Overall the game has a lot going for it, engaging real time battles, vast exploration and mostly interesting characters. It's not perfect though, sometimes it's tough to interact with certain items, the pacing can be a bit off and the voice acting may even stop some from playing through. However I really had a ball and would recommend this game for anyone looking for a solid adventure. No doubt anyone that loves Final Fantasy and is waiting for the next installment will enjoy killing some time here.