An ocean of good and bad.
For many PS3 owners, the drought of good JRPGs has been almost enough to switch sides in the console war. With only a handful of titles out there, of which many are terrible, it’s almost enough to lose hope in the genre completely. Fortunately, Star Ocean: The Last Hope International Edition has arrived to fill the void.
[image1]For anyone who’s played and enjoyed previous entries in the series, you may stop reading now and just go buy it. It’s everything you loved about the earlier games with vastly improved combat, better graphics, and a story that’s, well, pretty much the same as all the others. You play as a young star-faring hero on a quest to save the galaxy filled with peril, self-discovery, and stock characters.
The overall story in any SO game is usually bland and filled with the same set pieces that you’d find in nearly every JRPG. But what has always set it apart is its fast-paced frenetic combat, and TLH is no exception. The battle system in TLH is deep, intuitive, and fun, as it better be considering how much fucking time you’ll spend fighting.
Most RPGs like Persona or Final Fantasy will let you grind out a few levels if you so need or desire, letting you spend as much time in combat as wanted or needed. TLO, on the other hand, doesn’t give the player that option and instead has you in combat with every alternate step. Honestly, if the combat system wasn’t so fun, I would’ve dropped this one in the first hour. The controls are nice and responsive and feel, I don’t know, more right on PS3. (A JRPG on 360 still feels out of place to me.)
The cast is, in combat, well-rounded and you’re given the option to control whomever you want, which is a nice touch. Out of combat, however, they’re insipid stock characters (all with stupid names): a robot, a spunky girl you’ve know since childhood, an elf, a supercilious tough guy that might as well have “stay outta my way” in neon lights over his head, and a cat girl. There’s also this little girl that joins you early on who looks like a Pomeranian wearing antique doll’s clothing and ends most of her sentences with "‘kay?" No. No, you obnoxious little tart, it is not okay. Now get the fuck out of here before we all get lumped into Megan’s Law.
[image2]TLH International Edition is a port of the 360 version with little changed or added. Changes include Japanese audio, alternate character pictures for menus and battle, and despite the box boasting that “the galaxy never looked so good”, the game can only played in up to 720p rather than 1080p/I. Not a big deal, but why lie about it?
As cool as a Japanese voice cast might be to all you pocky-scarfing, cosplaying otaku out there, it’s not that great. After a few hours of some of the worst English voice acting, I tried the Japanese voice cast to let my ears rest. While it is a much better than the English version, the subtitles are so small and neutrally colored that I couldn’t read them half the time and had to switch back.
The one big advantage of playing this over the 360 version is that the PS3 version is on one disc rather than three. On the original version, towards the end of the game, you’d have to get up to switch back and forth between discs – a hassle which is not found here.
It’s difficult for me to say whether this or the original is better. Sure, you don’t have to switch discs later on and the controls feel more natural on the PS3, but the lack of improvement or additional content leaves a lot to be desired. But if you don’t have a 360 and need a JRPG fix, you can do a hell of a lot worse than Star Ocean: The Last Hope International. While it’s not without its flaws, none of them are deal-breakers and it does enough right for you to suffer through the crappy parts.