August 18, 2005

Star Ocean: Till The End of Time

Writing about web page http://na.square-enix.com/games/starocean/

Title:
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

This game is made by Square-Enix (formerly Squaresoft), who were responsible for what many regard as the pinnacle of console RPGs – the Final Fantasy series. You may have heard of them.
This, though is not a Final Fantasy game and while I would be a liar if I said the bonus DVD featuring FF12 footage did not inflence my buying decision, I was kind of hoping there'd be a decent game on the other disc, too. I was wrong on two counts: there are two other discs (only the second 2DVD PS2 game I've encountered) and it's rather a fine game.

Square have done some other games besides FF before, and while some (like Unlimited SaGa) felt like they were made up of ideas rejected for inclusion in the next FF, others were sufficiently different to stand on their own.

Star Ocean
There was a "Star Ocean II" on the PS1, but it's rather rare, and whatever SO1 ran on I can't find it – so I'm reviewing with no knowledge of the series as a whole.
The whole style is the anime-type thing we've seen before, so if spiky hair, big doe eyes and pointy noses and ears rub you up the wrong way, it's not for you.
It is two types of game squished together. In the main you explore around, talking to people and advancing the story much like any other console RPG, with all the usual levels, equipment, magic skills as well as a few other things like inventing and cooking which I haven't managed to unlock yet after about 12 hours of play. The other part is the battles – they are real-time button-mashing affairs, switching between characters at will while the configurable AI controls the other party members, in battle you gain various trophies which are redeemable later. For some reason these trophies require a whopping 1.2Mb of your memory card (with each save game taking 500kb) – and are not transferrable, so plan your memory cardage before playing.
Despite the name, the boxart and website pics – I haven't seen much in the way of space adventuring, having consecutively crashlanded on two "underdeveloped" planets and had to utilise my sword-swinging and face-punching skills to sort them out. Remember the Prime Directive, space cadets.

Controls
Overall rather well done, certainly very simple and hard to make an error. When you're in a small room your character seems to move a bit fast, though, and it can be a bit frustrating to get them to line up just right in order to activate usuable items. There is no indication items are usable, apart from obvious treasure chests, so it's trial and error for a while until you learn to spot them. Battle is okay, there are a few more moves than just hit-hit-hit and it's actually quite a small part of the game time-wise.

Attention to detail
The character models are quite well done and used in all the cut scenes – a few sword-poking-through-the-character and "steel hair" glitches, but you almost expect them in these types of games. The backgrounds though, deserve a rather special mention, still in a cartoon style they are much more detailed, and while they do have a stack of reusable stock furnishings they do manage to make every location seem custom-drawn. While many locations are simply labelled "Private Home" they have made the effort to make them all look unique.

Fun?
Yes, it's quite fun. I'm still playing it and taking time time to enjoy it, too – rather than rushing to the next quest. Will I play it again when I've finished it? Very unlikely.

I've given it four stars – while it's not as jaw-dropping as Jade Empire, I expect it will last me a lot longer.


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