Square Enix announced Star Ocean: The Last Hope as an Xbox 360 exclusive in 2008, as part of a trifecta of Xbox 360-exclusive RPGs (The Last Remnant and Infinite Undiscovery were the other two). The announcement was a huge surprise from the PlayStation-centric developer/publisher, but it was merely a year later that Star Ocean defected back to its PlayStation roots. Now the prequel has made another leap into the PlayStation universe with the Star Ocean: The Last Hope 4K & Full HD Remaster for the PlayStation 4. If you loved it the first time, here’s your chance to play it again. If you’re like me and missed it the first time, well hey, here’s a chance to check it out. Then again, is the game worth checking out if you never played it during the first go around?
It’s Certainly Prettier
Nothing has changed from the Star Ocean: The Last Hope International version that released for the PlayStation 3 in 2010 in regards to content. It’s still the same story with the same side missions, characters, etc. Visually, it did receive a face-lift. That said, though, the true face-lift is only available for owners of the PlayStation Pro.
For those of us with the standard old PlayStation 4, we’re treated to smoother graphics—the typical upgrade affair from the PS3 to the PS4. Those with a PlayStation 4 Pro get additional options, including switching between a Classic and Modern art style, which was introduced in the PS3 version. From what I have seen online, the Modern art style changes the character portraits to an anime appearance. Since this was an option back in 2010, it’s very, very strange to not see this option on the standard PS4. I only had one visual option to change and it was for turning on or off the blindside animation. PS4 Pro users can also change things like the shadow buffer, camera blur, depth of field, self-shadowing, and texture resolution. I’m sure that was all very nice.
However, a simple face-lift doesn’t make the game better than it was before, especially since nothing about it changed, including all of its problems.
JRPG Stereotypes 101
If there’s a mandated list out there for JRPGs to follow, Star Ocean: The Last Hope follows it to a T. The game contains every stereotype you can think of with the characters and nearly every JRPG trope. It’s all as heavy-handed as the protagonist’s name, Edge Maverick. Within the first hour or so, I got to see the Tidus-esque hero, the super serious girl who doubts herself, the half-elf (yes I know he’s not really a half-elf, just bear with me here) who looks to Tidus to be a hero, the annoying child mage, an android with feelings, a rival for Tidus who is the best at everything he does, and a snobby unattractive superior who values things over people. Later on, a cat-girl and a powerful mage with uncontainable boobs enter the scene. At one point I started to wonder if the developer was making fun of the genre with how over-the-top these stereotypes were.
It doesn’t help that the voice-acting for these characters is fairly bad. It’s either overly-dramatic or overly-dull, as though the director couldn’t convey to the booth what they needed from the dialogue. The script only made it worse, especially with what the characters say each and every time they finish a skirmish or level up. I desperately looked for a way to turn off their victory speeches the tenth time I heard Reimi (super serious girl who doubts herself) say, “Diligence! Diligence”) after earning a new level. Perhaps it was possible with the PS4 Pro, but that wouldn’t have helped me regardless.
The story itself is rather standard for a game of this genre as well. The Last Hope is a prequel for all of the Star Ocean games, taking place right after the end of World War III when nuclear war has rendered the planet uninhabitable. Edge and his childhood friends Reimi and Crowe are among the few chosen to leave Earth on starships to find a new home planet. Naturally, everything goes wrong on their journey, causing the ships to crash land on planet Aeos—all except for Crowe’s ship, which has gone MIA. Even worse, the wildlife on the planet is inhospitable, killing many crewmen and setting back the entire mission further than it already was. Of course this means that Edge steps up to fend off the monsters, which then leads to him being named captain of his ship and sent to survey surrounding planets as well as find Crowe’s wayward ship.
As you would expect, Edge gets involved in each planet’s problems and saves (most of) them from world-ending catastrophes. Some of these problems are fun little references to what plagues the other Star Ocean games, such as the Bacchulus disease that gripped the original Star Ocean. While they are nice nods to the other games, each one feels very forced and padded. Edge’s journey doesn’t have a natural flow to it, which made me wonder with each planetary touch-down what crazy scheme would delay Edge this time.
Same Innovations, Same Problems
The Last Hope rests on many stereotypical JRPG conventions, but it’s innovative in unexpected ways as well. The Blindside technique in combat isn’t your typical dodge-at-the-last-minute-to-slow-down-time mechanic. If you perform a particular dodge when an attack is coming (your regular dodge away won’t suffice), the character will immediately “warp” to the enemy’s backside. It’s a great way to avoid a potentially devastating attack as well as land multiple critical hits. The only problem is the input lag and occasionally the game’s inability to detect a simple dodge from a blindside. To dodge, you press the circle button. To trigger a blindside attack, you hold down the circle button. Every now and then, the game would interpret my holding the button down as wanting multiple consecutive dodges. I was able to avoid the enemy’s attack true enough, but I missed out on those precious critical hits.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to utilize the blindside ability as much as I would have liked. The battles were often so chaotic, there either wasn’t enough time to activate a blindside or too much was going on to even think about performing a blindside. I only used them when I could isolate an enemy or during a boss fight if their attack was slow enough. I had similar issues with the Rush gauge, which fills as you deal damage and take damage. When released, the Rush character moves faster and deals stronger attacks. Since boss fights take a considerable amount of time, even with the real-time action combat, utilizing Rush is the only way to shave off seconds.
One issue I cannot believe was not fixed (other than the input lag) is regarding the map. Pressing the Options button opens up the overworld map and pauses the game, but you still cannot scroll around the map. If you want to see where a fork in the road branches off to, you’ll have to wait until you further down one of the branches for the map to show you. This “frozen” map shouldn’t have existed in 2008, much less 2017. Why bother having a map at all if you can’t use it like map? If all it’s going to do is show me what’s in my vicinity, I can use the HUD mini-map for that.
Fun at Its Heart
Despite everything that irritates me about this game, from the stereotypes to the voice acting to the useless overworld map, I could not stop playing this game. It’s enjoyable to run around a new world, talk to the inhabitants, maybe pick up a fetch quest or ten, and kill all the things. I did wish for the ability to save whenever or at least more save points, as the combat is challenging on the normal difficulty setting. But it didn’t stop me from carrying on from one save point to the next, eagerly awaiting what puzzles I needed to solve or which new special art I could use to devastate a foe. I became absorbed in tweaking my characters’ skills, since you could not only change which skills were active but also level up individual, combat, and field skills. Any time skill points (SP) were awarded, I was in the game menu, seeing if maybe now I could upgrade Edge’s critical hits skill or Faize’s HP boost.
Not to mention, you get to ride around on a fat, fluffy, pink bunny. How could that not be enjoyable, not to mention adorable?
If Square Enix and tri-Ace really wanted to do this remaster justice, they should have done more than a graphical boost. They should have fixed the overworld map. They should have at least given non-Pro folk an option for the Modern art style. Perhaps they should have also worked on the input lag, included the ability to skip long cutscenes (even if it’s the first time seeing them), or skip through dialogue. Even a direction marker on the HUD mini-map for quests would be nice. As the Southern saying goes, if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. Slapping a fresh coat of paint on a dilapidated house isn’t going to suddenly make the house warm and cozy. It’s really hard to recommend this game to first-timers with all of the problems and the JRPG stereotypes. I can’t recommend it to long-time returning fans unless they owned a PS4 Pro. At least with a PS4 Pro you can choose the lipstick color.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope 4K & Full HD Remaster review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a standard PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.