TGS: Star Ocean 4 Hands On
10.10.08 - 12:32 AM

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is without a doubt my favorite PS2 RPG. Thus I was more than a little excited to get the chance to actually play Star Ocean: The Last Hope during the first press day of the Tokyo Game Show.

Tri-Ace did not miss the mark.

Graphically, the came is top notch. It looks considerably better than Infinite Undiscovery, Lost Odyssey, and even The Last Remnant in my humble opinion. The camerawork is fluid and cinematic, particularly when rotating your perspective, and I had no trouble finding my characters as they scattered around the battlefield. I also really liked the textures and use of light on character models. You'll notice it at the end of battles when the camera zooms in on whoever dealt the final blow.

Using Star Ocean: Till the End of Time's fantastic system as a model, Star Ocean: The Last Hope adds a fourth character, a meatier combo system, and new evasive techniques. Battle skills function similarly to the previous game in that you can set up to four at a time and launch them from up close or at long range. You can also set two 'link combos' which are connected to regular attacks. The effects of special attacks and magic are much more dramatic, with gorgeous lighting and animations. The wind-up times feel longer, though that may have just been the particular battle skills that were available. From the status menu I saw skills divided into four categories; field skills, special attacks, battle skills, and magic. The AI is much smarter too, as computer-controlled characters will chain regular attacks and battle skills with ease.

This time around, every character has their own unique evasion instead of the standardized side-step, which so far only Edge seems to have. The original move is great for dodges as I found out controlling Edge most of the time, but Reimi's straight jump is also fantastic for getting above the fray and sniping enemies with her bow, while Faize's flip is similarly useful. Lymle's has a quick rolling evasion which is great for quick getaways considering her slow movement speed. She is really good to control and use as a kind of tactical commander. I set her up with some classic spells for battle skills (Ice Needle and Firebolt are back, and they both look way better than before) and blasted enemies from the sidelines while my team diced up the rest.

Field map exploration is also pretty familiar, only now you can tap x for a short dash that is useful for avoiding enemies. I wandered around a maze dungeon for a while, then battled a dragon boss and saw some sweet cinema scenes.

While we do not know what will change between now and February 19th, Tri-Ace certainly seems to be on the right track for fans of the series.

James Quentin Clark