Here is the first in what may be a long line of Game reviews. This will probably not be exactly how other people write reviews on games, but as it is my fist time trying such a thing it will be how I do it. I have picked out bits of the game I feel were interesting or note worthy and have written about them, as well as given my own opinion on the game play, storyline and characters.
Beware the spoilers!
Star Ocean: The Last Hope
Personally speaking I don’t tend to play games for the ‘game play’ experience. To be honest I tend to find ‘item creation’ or ‘customisation’ to be annoying; achievements within the game means nothing to me because it doesn’t give me anything that I can actually use in the game itself (like a really cool weapon, or xp to level faster) and I hate side quests for items that have nothing to do with the actual story. But I can see it from the point of view of people who do like that sort of thing, and in that regards I think the game does have a lot to offer someone who likes that aspect of playing games; though like I said, I’m not one to judge as I do not play a game for those reasons.
The battle screen I liked; much more interactive than the Final Fantasy system I am used to. However, I found it somewhat frustrating when I couldn’t get a spell off without getting knocked about. The pause feature was brilliant, because I could actually think about what spells wanted to use, or the battle skills, much easier than the battle system in Infinite Undiscovery for definite. The way you could shift between characters was a plus, and I enjoyed being able to use all the characters to fight.
The only real downside I have with the game itself, is the pauses when entering or leaving certain areas, that got a little frustrating; and the fact that you can’t pause during a cut scene, which would have been helpful as I tend to have people calling me at random intervals when I sit down to play, so being able to pause during a cut scene would have been great!
Ah... The storyline... Personally I found the story riveting. I would have preferred there to be slightly less time having to fight enemies in between cut scenes, but that’s just the way I am. I play games for the story, for the characters, and for how it all mesh’s together in the end. Games for me are like long movies, like seeing a book, with its individual chapters, where there is more time devoted to things that would get skipped out in a movie or whatever, and with the added bonus of having the satisfaction of killing the bosses of each level (I always enjoy that part).
The story itself made sense, and was a good one. It might just be my own background, I come from a history of reading fantasy and sci-fi books, I understand that there is often so much more going on in a story than what is said. Movies and TV shows cannot give you the same storytelling as a book can, and I find it sad that so many people who play games like this come from a background of only films and TV. Time constraints in films and TV make it virtually impossible to get everything into in there, and it is a similar problem for RPG’s, they have to make an exciting story, fit it and all the game play in, they have a larger ocean to work in, as games can take so many hours to play, but they still have those constraints.
As a book reader I tend to read between the lines, I think beyond what is presented on screen, and in my own head I analyse the characters and the plot more than I expect most people do. The reason I say this with such conviction is because friends of mine tend to just take games like this at face value, assuming that what you see is what’s going on and there is nothing else to it, which is something I think many of the TV generation tend to do, very rarely do they actually look for and realise what is being implied in the dialogue, or the scene presented to them. In fact, they tend to skip cut scenes altogether, storytelling is a somewhat lost art I think...
But even if you are not like me, and don’t analyse the plot in the same way, the story is interesting and diverse, the characters are good (even the one’s I didn’t like had a concrete purpose for being there... except possibly Meracle, but we can forgive her... every ship needs a pet after all). I am aware that I should probably actually say what happened in the game, but I won’t, this is my analysis of the story, how I felt about it; it wouldn’t be fair to tell you every single detail about the game now would it?
As for the voice acting... not nearly as bad as people think, so long as you don’t pay attention to the way their mouths move differently from the words.
Edge: The main character; to be honest, up until we arrived on the alternate earth (See below) I found him a cardboard cut out of almost every main character in games. Thankfully he was not the angst driven sap that leads the cast in some games, but he was that annoyingly positive character, the one who suddenly realises they can do great things, and constantly throw themselves into situations without thought and who will always come out fine (you know the kind). But as the game wore on, and after the alternate earth I began to like him more, he became more human and bearable, even when he did continue to do the odd stupid thing. His other redeeming feature was that he was not bigheaded, he was always sure to let Faize and the others know that he was counting on their help, and that he shouldn’t be hero worshipped like he was.
Reimi: I did not like her character, save for when she took command of the crew when Edge had his minor breakdown. I found her to be that rather irritating female character we always get who is in love with the main character but refuses to admit it and is constantly calling him a pervert or hitting him. She also was constantly being angst ridden, ‘Oh, I hated myself so much for being what I am’ etc, etc. Every scene she was in after it came out that she had been genetically modified was just a rehash of that one line in different words and became very boring, very quickly.
Faize: My ultimate favourite character in the game, even if he was always getting targeted during battle scenes. He was the most likable character in all the game, and though I felt he hero worshiped Edge just a little too much, I could forgive him that as he was a well rounded character other than that. Though he was not the most powerful person to have in the party for battles, in fact he seemed to be the weakest of all the characters in the game, but of course the storyline itself, and the role he plays can account for that. He constantly strives to better himself, but let’s himself be lead from the real path to reach that stronger, better person he wants to be, he takes the easy route. By joining with the Grigori.
Lymle: Most people seem to find her annoying, but I must admit I liked her character, as well as being a pretty powerful symbologist; she was a cute character in the game. The issue with her age, etc (please see Faize & Lymle’s relationship) was a little confusing, but when you set aside this and view her character for what it is, a child, then she makes a great deal of sense, and is not nearly as annoying (I found anyway). She is very perceptive, and notices things others don’t. I honestly liked her character.
Bacchus: Well... he’s a really smart robot man. To be honest I was not taken with his character, though I could see the purpose of him, and he was useful in battle, but aside from that there is very little I can or want to say about him.
Meracle: The Cat-girl! Yet another character people complain about, and I can see why, she is rather annoying, but on the whole I actually quite liked her, once I got past the minor annoyance that she was. There is no way she could possibly be classified as a teenager of 15, no matter what the book says, she acts like a 12 or 13 year old, which is fine (I just wish these games would give the characters realistic ages instead of handing them out whatever number comes up).
Myuria: ............... Yeeeeeeeah... There is so very little I can say about her. I mean, her back-story makes sense, it totally makes sense that she wants t kill Crowe, and why she joins the groups and everything... but seriously, did they have to dress her like that? I put up with her for the stories sake, but that does not mean I like her, or how she dresses! I know teenage boys play these games, but do the makers have to cater for them so strongly?
Sarah: Now her, I loved, I mean really and truly loved. Every single time she appeared in a cut scene I squeed. There is no explanation for it, I can’t tell you why this was, I just absolutely loved her. She was ditzy and strange, and she and the King of Astral were completely a couple, but she could do no wrong as far as I am concerned. Maybe at a later date I will be able to explain this madness, but as of right now I just love her.
Arumat: Powerful fighter, great to have in your battle party, and so very angst driven. He sort of reminded me of Vincent in Dirge of Cerberus, all ‘I bring unhappiness and death’ sort of thing going on there. But I quite liked him. Now if only Faize hadn’t left and I could have had both of them in my team... sigh... But all in all he was a great character to play, far more powerful than Edge, and I have a sneaking suspicion Lymle had a crush on him as well (well, can’t say I blame her, the Eldarian's are a pretty cool race)
Crowe: He is kick ass! Seriously cool and I would have absolutely loved if he had been the main character! For all his young age, he behaved exactly how you would expect someone in his position to act, and his fighting skill, Man I really wanted him to be playable, it would have been great!
‘Lightspeed’ Kenny & Heinz: I sort of wish these two had been in it more, for background, supporting characters they were brilliant! Heinz especially. Oh the scene when they confront the Calnus when he speaks is just epic. They are by far the best background characters in any game I’ve ever played!
Alternate Dimension Earth & Emo Edge
So many people seem to complain about how emotional Edge got after the destruction of the alternate dimension earth, and all I have to say to them is; You try living with the knowledge that you killed an entire planet! Though it wasn’t entirely Edge’s fault, and the other characters pointed that out, I think that his emotional outburst, as well as they way he acted afterwards on Roak, refusing to interact with the inhabitants of the planet, to be very real.
He had watched an entire planet, Earth, his home planet (he didn’t know it was an alternate earth at the time), be destroyed, all because he was suckered into letting the people examine the Calnus’ Ethlithum (I think that’s how it’s spelt) drive. That is a truly traumatic experience, and it was his decision to make, and though he thought he made it for the right reasons, he was wrong. Even knowing that a person can’t just bounce back immediately.
To this effect I thought that this leg of the journey was handled very well by the story writers, and I simply can’t understand why people complain that he’s being too emotional over the whole thing and should ‘get over it’. If it were me I wouldn’t be able to get over something like that. It would haunt me forever. This was one of the parts of the game that actually left me feeling like the main character was not nearly as annoying as main characters in these games usually are.
Faize & Lymle’s Relationship
Ah, the relationship between Faize and Lymle. Here is where I head into the realms of speculations based on how I interpreted the game. First and foremost I would like to point out that as far as I am concerned there was no Paedophilic relationship going on between them. However, it was implied that at some point in the future, when Lymle had grown up, there might be something more.
First up, their ages; Faize is stated to be 18 officially (a lie if ever I read one, but perhaps in Eldarian terms he that age), and Lymle is stated as being 15, but through a trauma in her past she looks and behaves like a child. This I think was a deliberate lie made by the translators of the game (I don’t know what the Japanese version said, so don’t complain at me, it’s just my view on the matter), to somehow try and explain why there appeared to be suggestive scenes between these two. However, if everyone stops looking at those scenes with a twisted eye they can see them for what they are, cute, scenes that hint at an interesting friendship with the potential to one day (when Lymle is old enough) progress into something more.
As far as I was concerned watching the scenes, (Nappy time, and the kissing scene in particular), Faize did not display any romantic feelings towards Lymle, Lymle however, in many scenes showed that she had a small, little girl crush on Faize. She behaves in that childish manner we see all children act in when they like someone, being mean to him, calling him names and the like, but he is normally the person she will stand next to or follow.
Now, as for the Nappy Time scene, I feel, having watched it, that Faize is somewhat put out by having Lymle on the ship as it is, after all, as a logical being (as he is stated to be) having a small child on board the ship, no matter how good at symbology, makes little logical sense, as they cannot be sure they can protect her, so he treats her in the only way he can, by assuming the role of something close to an older brother, telling her things that the others do not. Edge, while he tells her she should sleep in her own bed and not engage in nappy time with him, does not make her; in fact he seems rather easily swayed by her behaviour. Faize on the other hand tells her she needs to stop acting like a baby and grow up; this is, in essence, his way of protecting her. He is trying to make her self sufficient, and when she storms off in the manner that all children do when they are confronted by the truth of something they do not like, he doesn’t know how to react and so becomes flustered and annoyed, because he cannot understand why she can’t just understand.
The Kissing scene was sweet, and cute, and though Welch did the whole ‘Is it LOVE’ thing, I don’t believe that is how the scene should be taken, at least not entirely. The Kiss was an honest mistake on both their parts, and their reaction make sense, Lymle is unhappy and shocked because; 1, Faize did not get scared and pull back when she jumped out at him. 2, she has that little girl crush on him remember, and kissing is like forbidden for little kids... it’s the sort of thing that only happens when they really, really like the other person, and even then it’s just innocent copying of what adults do. Faize’s reaction also makes sense; 1, they kissed, and as accidental as it was it still happened, he probably thought it had been a prank, after all, as far as he is aware Lymle dislikes him so the idea is not so farfetched. 2, he was in front of Reimi and Edge. If it’s not embarrassing enough to be caught in a prank, to be caught in one in front of people you respect is even worse, so of course he get’s flustered and unhappy at the situation.
As to the rest of the game, and their relationship, I think Lymle sees Faize as a far more stable adult figure on the ship, since the beginning he behaved in a certain way, she couldn’t get past him in the same way she could Reimi and Edge, and he did not take her excuses. In essence he was somewhat closer to her than the others, like a family member, you don’t always like them, but they are consistent. When he began to change she notices first, because (I feel) she had come to rely on his being the consistent person on the ship for her, the one that would tell her what she should and shouldn’t do, scold her and the like.
Faize on the other hand, I don’t think has had much contact with children, so he treats her like he would anyone else, not afraid to tell her to stop doing something, or to behave in the correct way, the same way he would anyone else on the crew. Lymle is actually the person he is closest to on the crew, simply because of this odd way they interact, but I don’t think he has any actual romantic feelings for her during the game itself. There are implications of course, Reimi mentioning that only ‘good friends’ can fight like they do, which is similar to how she and Edge act towards each other and we all know they are romantically inclined. But I think that if there was ever going to be romance between Faize and Lymle it would be when she has grown up, and would be a very gradual thing where he realises she had indeed grown up and he doesn’t need to protect her in the same way anymore and begins treating her like the adult he has become, and she will have grown up some more and stopped being quite so mean to him.
Wow, that was more of a rant than anything else, and it was long and probably didn’t make sense, but I feel it is an important thing to note about the game, too many people now a day’s look at things like this an immediately jump to the worst possible conclusion, which is sort of sad.
Ok, there is little more to say about this than GIANT PINK FUZZY BUNNIES! I mean, seriously, BUNNIES! I mean really, what were the creators thinking... bunnies? Giant pink Bunnies? Oh god, I must have had a fit laughing when I found out I would get the ride around the land of Roak on a giant Pink Bunny... it was like... No, there really are no words to describe it. They are really, really cute though. I totally wanted to keep one forever afterwards! They don’t actually increase your land speed, but they are useful for crossing the Astral Desert.
The bad guys of the game were very good, the Grigori, Nox Obscures, the Missing Procedure (or whatever it’s called... I can never remember), and how it all fit together neatly was good, and they were interesting bosses to go up against. In some games I’ve played the bad guys are normally megalomaniacs wither trying to become gods or wanting to destroy the worlds. The bad guys in this were slightly different, doing everything to, essentially, remake the entire universe; if you stepped away from the role of the diehard good guy and listened to what they were saying it made sense, in a twisted fashion they made complete sense, destroy the world and make it anew, get rid of everything from now and begin a new world where you can shape it into a good, kind place. I can completely see why Faize was sucked in. They were compelling and interesting bad guys I thoughts.
This is a game that is well worth playing, the game play, story and characters were all interesting, the battle screen was a really fun one to use; but just remember to play the game with an open mind, you’ll enjoy it much more if you don’t take what other people say about it to heart. I would recommend it for people who, like me, enjoy the storytelling of a game, and getting in deep with the characters. It’s a long game, but well worth it. Very anime based however, be warned.