Ever been woken up by a slap in the face? Star Ocean is a harsher JRPG experience compared with what you might be used to. We've become used to the JRPG as a relaxing visual feast, but Square's latest hits much harder.
On a basic level, this is a space-faring adventure that has you planet hopping, meeting locals and wiping out the indigenous wildlife with swords and fire. Just like early-age colonists, but with porcelain doll features and less body hair.
For all its futuristic sci-fi airs Last Hope has a colourful palette, forests rich in colour and spaceship interiors gleaming with tech-heavy architecture. Its story leans heavily on the lighter side of space opera, as relationships evolve with all the threat and depth of a teen sitcom.
After a few years of delving the depths of the human psyche in Battlestar Galactica or the underbelly of planetoid occupation in Mass Effect, the anime schlock is jarring.
But Star Ocean knows how to be a complete bastard. Picture the scene: Edge Maverick (yes, that really is his name) and his crew land on a new planet and take their first hesitant steps into a new world.
Across the nearest field is a village, beyond that in the distant hills is the outline of our first dungeon. Flash forward three hours and we're still in that field, grinding our levels up so they're sufficient enough to survive longer than a minute in the dungeon. It's been a long while since grinding was a necessity, and it's a lot of effort for not much payback.
Star Ocean's real-time battles are a bit livelier, and are activated by engaging on-screen enemies as they roam the environment.
You're transported to a free-roaming arena where you pull off chain-attacks and specials against multiple foes while the AI controls your allies, following pre-determined strategies selected by you beforehand. It all feels a bit chaotic and we're not convinced there's a deep level of tactics here.
On the plus side, Star Ocean runs smoothly and the short loading times are a godsend. This is further up the JRPG chain than others in the genre, but we're still a galaxy away from the RPG that feels like it's from the future, not the past.
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Pretty, but flaws stop it touching the stars
- Huge scope
- Amazing musical score
- Edge Maverick is a top name
- Battles too chaotic
- Item creation ability confusing