Star Ocean: The Last Hope International

Just Play it in Japanese, 'Kaaaaaaay?

Star Ocean: The Last Hope International finally brings tri-Ace's sci-fi JRPG to the States, and the rumors of the series' demise have been greatly exaggerated... Provided you play it with the right audio option.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: March 7, 2010
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It's starting to become something of a given; Microsoft picks up an exclusive property from the Land of the Rising Sun in an effort to secure some traction, the games sell moderately (some would even say impressively given the install base) and a year later, after the exclusivity contracts have ended, the game gets ported to the PS3. It's happened plenty of times in the past, and it'll probably happen again, but there's an important distinction that devs are just now starting to realize:


Blu-ray offers a lot of storage.

Freed from the need to make a simultaneous release equal across all (or, uh, both) platforms, we're finally starting to see the 25 gigs or so of space being fully embraced. Case in point: the so-called International release of Star Ocean: The Last Hope. Packing all three of the original 360 discs onto one BD and incorporating both Japanese and English language tracks (plus the option to toggle between "classic" and "modern" visual styles that swap out the dark colors and CG portraits in menus for a brighter, more neon-heavy look with hand-drawn portraits), there's no question that The Last Hope International is a different offering than what was released here in the States a year ago.

But is it better? That, of course, depends on your ability to handle games from Japan in general. There are plenty of things Star Ocean 4 isn't -- and bereft of clich├ęs and JRPG tropes is at the top of the list. This is exactly the kind of JRPG we got by the bucketload on the PlayStation 2, but the PS3 has been painfully lacking in terms of classic turn-based battles and teens-save-the-world scenarios. Perhaps that's why I enjoyed this whole 50 hour experience so much; there's been such a dearth of games that were previously so common that I've taken to taking whatever I can get.

As it turns out, The Last Hope International isn't a bad game. It's not even the terrible game that plenty have made it out to be -- literally half my friends list sent me condolences when they saw that I was reviewing this game, and yet... I don't really understand why. Yes, of course it's rife with typical anime-style truisms. There's a catgirl. There's a robot dude. There's a pointy-eared, pink-haired girl with heyuuuge boobs. There's a doting, self-assured love interest. There's a little girl that goes through the entire game spouting out retarded lines ending with 'kay all the goddamn time. The main character is a self-doubting teen with spiky yellow hair that slowly covercomes his personal demons to save the day.

And yet... I honestly didn't mind all that much. Sure, the ending meant that the 50 hours I'd spent seeing things through all the way didn't really feel justified and the battle system really only clicked toward the very end, but the actual journey was definitely worth it. Sure, tri-Ace still seems to have a huge hard-on for exploring uncivilized planets when there's tons of technology around, but at least there was nothing so crazy as the whole thing being just some MMO that you as the player crawl out of. And, to be honest, us sci-fi-starved PS3 owners have to take what we can get while Mass Effect takes its sweet time in making its way to our systems in all its encyclopedic glory.

What this means is plenty of planetary exploration, some timeline meddling, a few cross-dimensional trips and a standoff with an entity that thinks itself above notions of good and evil, and... well, no, that's probably all the explanation you need. Trying to break down how a teenybopper and his totally-not-girlfriend end up getting their own ship, explore planets and build a crew of increasingly unlikely volunteers (a ditzy angel-girl? Ooooooookaaaaaaayyyy!) is the fast track to Crazytown. Inbibed like you would any other goofy adventure comfortable in the knowledge that you'll have a couple eye-rolling "Oh, Japan..." moments is all the prep needed.
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