I have many fond memories of the Xbox 360 era; it was the first time I played a Dynasty Warriors game, the first time I ever played online, and surprisingly the first time I had played a JRPG and really become emotionally attached and excited to find out what happened next. I never owned a Playstation until I bought my PS4 so I didn’t play games like Final Fantasy until XIII came to the Xbox. Before my Xbox, I was purely a Nintendo fan yet I had only dabbled in games such as the Tales series a few times. The first few JRPGs I played were Lost Odyssey, Blue Dragon, The Last Remnant, Infinite Undiscovery and Star Ocean: The Last Hope. Whilst Star Ocean had the weakest story out of the aforementioned titles, I put in many hours and spent many weeks trying to obtain the prized 1k Gamerscore – an achievement I never obtained! As soon as I heard that Square Enix was remastering the title for PC and PS4 owners, I knew I had to get my hands on it to see if it was as good as I remember or if it is just another fish in the (Star)Ocean.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope was originally an Xbox 360 exclusive, which was a shock to PlayStation owners back in 2009, as Square Enix was seen as primarily a Playstation-first kind-of developer. However, this exclusivity lasted barely a year until the PS3 was presented with an updated version of the game with new Japanese voices, updated shadows, new gameplay mechanics and different character images. Fast forward to 2017 and it seems Square Enix is wanting to revisit their older Star Ocean titles as they are well aware the fans would love to replay the classic adventures.
In 2017, on PS4, we received both Star Ocean: Till the end of Time (a PS2 Classic which is playable on PS4) and Star Ocean: The Last Hope (A full remaster which I’ll get into further down). In Japan, they also brought out a remaster of Star Ocean: The Second Story; however, this hasn’t yet been localised into English on the PS4. Some people say the sudden interest in reviving older Star Ocean titles is because of the lukewarm reception fans gave Star Ocean 5: Integrity and Faithlessness – However, I don’t really share this opinion as I loved that game and couldn’t stop playing it until I achieved the Platinum, which took me about 200 hours. Personally, I believe it is just because the first game came out in 1996 and the second in 1998 so they may be building up to a 20ish anniversary?
The story is, in my opinion, the weakest part of the game as it’s very generic and obvious at points. SO: The Last Hope is a prequel to all of the other Star Ocean games which begins as all of humanity has been forced to come together, following the aftermath of World War III, to work towards venturing out into space and finding new habitable planets for the people of Earth to relocate too. Our main protagonist is Edge Maverick (Did I mention it was generic..), a young member of the Space Reconnaissance Force (SRF) who was aboard one of these exhibitions. Whilst on their journey, the team are forced into an emergency warp due to a meteor strike which leads to Edge’s team being separated from the rest of the fleet. This forces them to land on the closest planet to locate and regroup with the other ships.
Whilst upon this alien planet, Edge teams up with his childhood friend, Reimi, who was the second in command on the ship, and ventures out to explore and investigate. Along the way, you become skilled with your sword and Reimi with her bow as you slaughter every lifeform you literally bump into. Upon finding the remains of one of the fleet, you encounter a crew member of an ally ship. He explains a meteor landed and as they investigated it further, a monster rose from the depths of the ocean and attacked them. The dying crew member caused the ship to self-destruct in order to wipe out the beast – however, this didn’t work. You are joined by an alien named Faize as you attack the monster, acquire a stone that falls from the creature as you slay it and then returned back to your ship, which Faize’ race has turned into a mobile command centre.
After reporting what you have just seen, the current captain hands over command of the ship to you, Reimi and Faize so you can continue the mission of finding a habitable planet for the humans. As you venture out across various planets, space stations and even familiar locations but within different timelines, you discover a much deeper plot that’s taking place which you, and your allies, must work together in order to overcome so that all species can survive in the universe. Along the way, you will come across many new allies who will join you and aid you in your quest. All of which, you can take full control of and customise everything from their behaviour during battle to the skills they unlock as they grow.
The main thing that drew me into this game back on the 360 was the combat style. I had played games with Active Time Battle systems and Real-Time Battle mechanics but this was a little of both. upon entering a fight (by bumping into an enemy on screen – no random encounters here) you are placed into an ‘arena’ type situation – a small section that is decorated in the same textures of the place you are currently in. You have full control of one character at a time – so, if you are controlling Edge then you hit X to attack or the shoulder buttons to use pre-defined skill attacks whilst you can also press triangle to bring up a menu to use magic, skills and items. Whilst you are controlling a character, the other allies (up to 3 at a time) will also be in the battle fighting with their own AI. At any point in or out of battle you can change the behaviour of the non-controlled characters to your liking, so if you want one to purely heal the team – so be it, or if you want one to attack with nothing but brute force with no spells – that’s fine!
You can also press left or right during the battle and switch between playable characters, so even though you don’t control them all at the same time, you can still control them all within the battle. This mechanic has been seen quite a few times now with FF-13 and the Tales series to name a few, but at the time it was all new to me and even now, it’s a joy to play the game as it involves a lot of strategies and ensuring you set your characters up with the best behaviours for their types. The battles soon become addictive more than repetitive once you unlock new skills and fully learn the mechanics as you can build up a ‘combo-board’ which is filled with gems based on how you take down your foes. This board rewards you with more EXP, more SP (Skill points) or other bonuses based on how you build it up. The final part of the combat, which I feel really helps make this game it’s own, is the blindside attack. if you hold down circle you go into a ‘Super Saiyan’ mode where, if you push left/right and dodge just before an attack, you can auto shimmy around to the back of the enemy and lay a load of attacks on the enemies back to deliver a tonne of damage. It is crucial you learn how to master this attack as it will be required to get the upper hand on later enemies.
Along your journey, you will encounter many different races and species of allies and foes. You initially start off with two controllable characters, Edge and Reimi – both Humans from Earth who were childhood friends and followed each other on the initial journey which led to this new adventure. From there you will meet up with a ‘mage-type’ ally who is able to cast spells, a more advanced mage who loves to say ‘Kay’, a Robocop-style scientist who lost his body and had it all reconstructed out of metal which makes him incredibly strong, a cat-girl who may or may not have landed at an area 51 style location, and others who are a bit of a mix-match of the previous characters.
Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses in and out of battle. For example, some are great at spell casting and healing yet weak with low defence whilst others may not have healing capabilities yet they have immense defence and are best suited as a melee attacker. Outside of battle is where certain skills come into play – Edge can dash by pressing Square, Reimi and Bacchus can forage/mine for resources and Meracle allows you to ride on massive, fluffy bunnies (kinda like Chocobos). In regards to resources, after you have progressed quite far into the game you are given the chance to synthesise new items by combining resources together – just like in other Star Ocean Games. so be sure to pick up and mine everything you can so you can create better, stronger weapons and accessories later on.
Another thing that returns, which Star Ocean fans will be well aware of, is the Battle Trophies. These are 100 in-game trophies per character (so 800 in total) which must be achieved if you are going for the platinum. They start off simple with ‘Defeat 100 enemies’ or ‘Attack first five times in a row’ – then they turn brutal like ‘ Deal 99,999 points of damage without a weapon’ or ‘Defeat 100 enemies while HP is 5% or less’. The Battle Trophies unlock on all difficulties but don’t carry over with NG+ – but, they do save every time you earn them, so if you do a playthrough and complete four characters BTs then do another playthrough and do the other four boards then it will still register correctly. I will, at some stage, aim to complete all the BTs on my account as I did with Star Ocean 5 – however, it will easily take multiple playthroughs and at least 200+ hours to obtain them all, maybe longer.
And now onto the main event – the reason why the title of this game is so long! I played through the game on the PS4 Pro on a 1080p TV but I’ve also played it on a regular PS4 which was also on the same TV and I can easily say that I’m more than impressed with the options on offer here from Square Enix. As you can see above, we have PC-like settings for everything, each with a bit of information telling you what it will affect if selected. On the Pro, you can choose 1080p/1440p/2160p (the base PS4 only has 720p and 1080p) and on both systems, you can mix and match all of the other options like shadow quality, draw distance, texture quality and even which Anti-Aliasing to use. This allows you to either opt for higher quality and resolution at the sacrifice of some frames during gameplay (slowdowns and a bit jerky) or if you want to lower the draw-distance and resolution in order to get a rock-solid 60fps. Personally, I played the game in 1440p on the Pro with most of the other options at max and thoroughly enjoyed it.
True, the game doesn’t look anywhere near as nice as Star Ocean 5 or other modern JRPGs built specifically for the PS4, but for a remaster the game holds up pretty well. The HQ Textures really help the characters look a lot sharper along with the boost in resolution over the ps3 version. The only downside (not an issue for me but I know some people will be put off) is that the game is being presented as digital-only. However, with that said, it’s also a budget price – which is great as a lot of games tend to come out with full AAA prices even though they are just a remaster of a previous game.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope was one of my first ‘real’ JRPGs that I played, reliving the game on the PS4 with much better quality and a more stable framerate was amazing for me. This is a game that you can pick up and play in either short bursts or long stretches (although save points are far apart, the ‘rest mode’ on the PS4 really helps) and offers a lot of variety as well as logical thinking and re-reading of notes to find your goal. If you like JPRGs and never played this on the 360/PS3 or if you did but have fond memories of it, then I completely recommend you pick it up – even though it’s digital-only, the game is presented at a decent price and you easily have over 200 hours of gameplay if going for the platinum.
Star Ocean - The Last Hope - 4K and Full HD Remaster
- Looks great for a remaster with enough graphical settings to tweak with
- Amazing price for a game that will offer over 50 hours for a single playthrough
- Class and weapon variety is great, so much to experiment with
- If going for the platinum, expect over 200 hours easily
- The version they remastered is the superior PS3 version and NOT the Xbox 360 one
- The story is a bit predictable at times and seems fairly generic
- We learn about the playable characters, but NPCs come and go without any real bonds
- Save points are far apart, thankfully Rest Mode works fine with the game
- The graphical options are great but it would be nice for a low, medium and high option for people who don't understand the various options