Star Ocean 4 - The Last Hope (International) User Review
Overall, I like this game, it's not without it's problems. Nothing that is enough to stop me enjoying it though. Let's talk about the upside first.
The characters are pretty standard. We have our Hero, Edge, and his childhood sweetheart/friend Reimi. Then there is Faize the aloof alien friend, and Lymle the slightly off-base Loli. The full list rounds out with Bacchus, Meracle, Sarah, Myuria, Arumat and Crowe. Character voices are mostly alright, though Sarah can grate a bit, Lymle's voice is annoying until you realize that it's actually right for the character. Japanese audio is available as well if you desire.
Graphically the game is an upgrade from the Xbox360 version. The game is vibrant and lively, although the color palette can be a little rough on the eyes at times. Character models are good, and Myuria is positively eye-popping. I was mildly disappointed that changing a character's armor did not alter their appearance. The game's cutscenes are nicely rendered. The graphical style of the environments often involves highly contrasting color choices that make the environment look a bit cartoony such as inside the space craft. I wouldn't say that the game looks like a PS2 title, but this style certainly hearkens back to a time when games were colorful and did not try for full realism in all things.
Sound is good. The music is a little 'typical' of Space Opera RPGs. Voice are generally good, although Sarah's voice will grate on many.
Combat is not turn based. If you've played Star Ocean before you know what to expect. You control the leader and can move around the battle as much as you wish. Everyone else is on auto-pilot. You can switch characters at will, and carry out specific actions as much as you want though. Combat is presented in a very turn-based manner with your enemies arrayed before you and your comrades. A word of advice, learn to blindside your enemies. Tri-Ace added the Bonus Board for the PS3 release. This makes Combat a bit more entertaining because you want to build the bonus board to gain additional multipliers on experience points, money, skill points and HP recovery at the end of a battle. If you build a good set of bonuses you can be earning double experience, or extra gold each time you enter battle. Beware though, if your leader is critically hit, it breaks the bonus board losing you half of your bonuses. If your leader is repeatedly critically hit in one battle, you can lose the entire board ad have to re-build it. This extra element of strategy during battle adds a dimension to the combat. You will want to level grind, but with a properly populated bonus board, leveling should not present a problem.
In addition to the basic elements of a JRPG, there are towns to explore, shops to purchase things at, and side quests. You can revisit places you've already been simply by traveling there in your ship, the Calnus. Some environments cannot be revisited, but it's clear during game play which these are. There are numerous 'private actions' some of which are cut-scenes for you to enjoy and some are interactive. Item creation is a element of the game, though it's not necessary to get through the game. The private actions you view and the choices you make will affect which personal endings you see when you finish.
Save points are few and far between in some places which can be an issue. The game is not too difficult, though I am not playing on the most difficult setting. If you keep your characters properly leveled up, you really should have no problems.
Now the downside. This game has some freezing issues. It seems like after 3 or so hours, the game will lock up and you have to use the PS button to exit. It had them on the 360, and they have not been fixed. The game is also particularly sensitive to data corruption of it's installation file. In fact I think that it freezes occasionally, causing corruption of it's own files. I ended up reformatting my PS3's HDD before I could play this game through. It froze so often that it was unplayable for me. I'm glad I persisted, it is an enjoyable game.
Enemies are repetitive clones of each other with slightly different colors. You'll see the same basic enemies on all the planets with only a few changes and a new color. After a while the sheer number of battles becomes a grind. Although the Bonus Board and your character's special attacks help break up the monotony.
The game's plot is a little fragmented as you spend your time completing seemingly separate stories on each planet. Of course they are interconnected, but it's not like there is one story driving you through the entire game.
Is it worth playing? Yes, if you like a good JRPG, especially in the Space Opera genre, then this is for you. It's no Xenosaga, but it's still an entertaining science fiction JRPG. The graphics are petty good, the sound is OK, the game play while not turn based is good.
On the downside, there are freezing issues for some, the story isn't as strong as it could be, and the variety of enemies is lacking.
Replay value isn't there for me. I've worked hard on this game, but it isn't currently dragging me back for another play through. All in all the game is 'good', but not outstanding.
If you like JRPGs and Science Fiction based story lines in RPGs, then this may be worth your money.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.