Star Ocean: The Last Hope is the fourth installment of the Star Ocean main series for the Xbox 360 and PS3. The battle system features four party members, which can be switched around, and is more team-oriented than past games. The hero's name is Edge Maverick, and the heroine is named Reimi Saionji. The game features more of a sci-fi emphasis than past titles and includes the ability to control your own ship. This ship is quite large, and can land on a number of planets and other space-based destinations. The game takes place a few centuries before the original Star Ocean (around SD 10, or approximately 2097 AD).
An international version of the game has been announced by Square Enix for a worldwide PlayStation 3-exclusive release on February 9, 2010. Officially known as Star Ocean: The Last Hope International, the PS3 version will contain exclusive new content. Set to be included are different menus and character portraits and access to both Japanese and English voices.
The Last Hope takes place on Earth in the year S.D. 0010 where the world is on the brink of destruction. In A.D. 2064 World War III broke out after several clashes between the World Republic Federation, the ruling government body on Earth, and its enemies around the world. Weapons of Mass Destruction were utilized by both factions of the war without hesitation, razing the lands on Earth. The declining situation lead the people to believe that the end of the world was nearing, but the critical situation forced both factions to declare a ceasefire. In the aftermath of the war, most of the Earth's population has been killed and the natural environment was deteriorating at an alarming rate.
The surviving population of mankind were forced to live in the confinement of underground cities and the countries banded together to form an organization known as the Greater United Nations. The Universal Science and Technology Administration or USTA was established by the Greater United Nations, its mission was to locate a new home planet for mankind in the far reaches of outer space. A.D. 2087, Professor Trillas Bachtein succeeded in his warp drive experiments which was a breakthrough in space travel. In S.D. 0001, the first year of the newly established Spacedate calendar, the USTA secretly put in motion its Space Reconnaissance Force or SRF project which would then in S.D. 0010 send the first human expedition into outer space to locate a suitable planet for the relocation of mankind.
There are 9 playable characters in Star Ocean: The Last Hope.
Edge is a young member of the SRF originally assigned as a member of the crew of the SRF-003 Calnus, later becoming its captain after the events on Aeos. He was born on Earth and grew up alongside Reimi and his best friend Crowe.
Reimi is the second in command of the Calnus. Skilled with a bow she grew up with Edge and Crowe, although she knows more of their shared history than she lets on.
Faize is the first extraterrestrial Edge and Reimi come in contact with. A brilliant Eldarian, he is inexperienced in battle. He is also the first character to show an ability to use Symbology.
Lymle, or Lym as she likes to go by, is a talented Lemursian symbologist. She originally travelled with the group in order to save her grandfather from a terrible disease but later continued on with them. She gives nearly everyone she meets an affectionate nickname but chooses not to give one to Faize. Instead the two have a somewhat strained relationship although it is obvious that she cares deeply about him.
A Morphus Scientist, Bacchus lost his body during a terrible accident. Now almost entirely mechanical he works with the crew of the Calnus to finish his mission to save the universe.
Meracle is a Lesser Fellpool from the planet Roak in an alternate dimension. After the alien ship she had snuck aboard crash landed on an alternate Earth in the 1950s Meracle was captured and held in a government facility. After being rescued by the crew of the Calnus she joins them on their journey.
Myuria is a Morphus researcher and adept Symbologist. She is angry with Crowe and is tracking him down through the galaxy to get revenge upon him. Although the party encounters her fairly early on she does not join them until somewhat later in the game.
Sarah is a peculiar Featherfolk from Roak. Unlike other featherfolk she is unable to fly. She claims it is due to her inability to run, as she is able to fly if there is something giving her speed already such as jumping off a cliff or being thrown from the treadmill on the Calnus. She talks in a strange childlike manner, something that Bacchus claims he hopes is just for show.
A member of the elite Eldarian Thirteenth Armoured Division, Arumat is first encountered early on Aeos but does not join the party until much later in the game. He has a brash attitude, although he does develop feelings of friendship with the entire crew of the Calnus.
The game uses the same real-time battle system as previous games in the series with. There is a new Rush gauge: a feature that allows the player to either have a preemptive strike against the enemy or use a certain ability or special attack. Each character has their own unique Rush gauge status. Another new feature is the Blindside system in which the player can leave an enemy targeting them open to a counter by leaving their line of sight. This latest installment returns to having a four player fighting party. The game also includes real-time character switching allowing active party members to be switch for reserves during battle.
Skills are back like every other SO game. There are skills for battle and some for the field or Item Creation. Because of their use in and out of battle, they'll have uses throughout the entirety of the game, so they'll be a major part of getting through some things in the game.
Besides skills as in attacks, there are other skills that can be used in battle. Some are used to help you, like decreasing chanting time when casting Symbology, others are there to help you analyze the enemy.
SP is also back, and you have both party SP and individual SP. Both can be used to level up each character's skills.
On the field are certain other command skills. For example, Edge has a dash skill which lets you run faster, and Bacchus can mine in some areas for items.
Then you have Item Creation skills, which are used for, of course, item creation to allow you to make certain items or get better at making other ones.
A first in the series, the player takes the role of captain of the spacecraft, the SRF-003 Calnus. The ship is one of five assigned to scout new frontiers under the First Expeditionary Batch and authorized by the USTA. Numbered 003, the Calnus contains a flight deck where the player can pilot the ship to various planets throughout the game. Also on the main deck is the spacious recreation room where the player may place certain items, and the conference room, where the player can gather the crew to come up with new ideas for Item Creation. The crews quarters are located on the upper deck of the ship along with the battle simulator. The ship is one of the main sources of Private Actions that can occur in the game.
Commonly known as IC, Item Creation is a tradition throughout the Star Ocean series. The player can create weapons, healing items and accessories for use in the game. Raw items used in IC can commonly be found in shops, while rarer and uncommon types can be found in combat fields. In Star Ocean 4, a new feature called "Recipe Creation Conference" has been added. The player will be able to gather his team members in discussion of creating an item, but the abilities and stats of the final product will vary due to the team members' different personalities and characteristics, specifically their IC skills. This allows the player to experiment, creating the same items with different members each time for desired results. Creation of weapons and accessories can yield added effects using raw items, for example, the player can create an HP+30% healing item or a weapon with ATK+10% effect. This, in turn, leads to an enormous amount of variations for the same item. However, item creation has a failure rate and ingredients and supplies will be destroyed in the process. Welch Vineyard returns in this game, in charge of fulfilling IC requests from the player. Besides the usual items the player can build during IC, ship decoration items are also available for creation. These optional items spruce up the Calnus, adding more features such as new furniture, vending machines, a jukebox that plays unlocked tracks of Star Ocean 4 in the game, a biorhythm machine that analyzes the player's and team members' health status, and many others.
Commonly known as PA, Private Actions once again return in Star Ocean 4, where the protagonist Edge Maverick can interact with his team members. By conversing with them during rest after exploration or battle, the player can form a rapport with him/her which increases the member's affection or respect for the main character. Choosing the right choices and fulfilling certain conditions can unlock special events or cutscenes between Edge and the team member. The player can also select a team member to have as a roommate, which also builds up a rapport and further unlocks more PA events. In battle, a special "Rage" mode can be unlocked if a party member is seriously injured or near death, which angers other members close to them into attacking enemies with much stronger attacks. Finally, PAs pave the way for different cutscenes shown during the ending of the game. A total of about 100 PAs can be achieved in the game.
The main new feature in battle is the Rush system. Each team member can unleash special or preemptive attacks by building up their Rush gauges during normal attacks. Besides returning to 4 party members in battle, new features in Star Ocean 4 such as Jump add different varieties and styles during combat. Blind Sides can let the player evade enemy attacks and dash behind them, inflicting counterattacks from their blind sides. Another new mode is the Real Time Member Change, which allows the player to switch out active members for reserve members during battle.
The Battle Enhancement Attribute Type (BEAT) System allows the player to choose Edge's and active team members' preferred fighting styles, such as offense, defense, sneak attacks, etc. As combat experience increases, the team can achieve higher combat rank statuses, which unlock advanced styles, known as Action Upgrades. BEAT.S is a type of offense fighting style, which is actually a special Blind Sides technique. In effect, the team member forgoes defense and initiates multiple Blind Sides to confuse the enemy, then unleashes a flurry of highly damaging attacks. BEAT.B is a type of defense fighting style, a special Rush mode power play style. The team member fights the enemy directly in front with special attacks. During this time, the member is almost invulnerable to enemy attacks. BEAT.N is a neutral style of fighting as it doesn't upgrade any particular ability, but combines the stat enhancements from the other BEAT styles. This is often used as the default BEAT for a character and the player can change it at will.
Special Attacks and Symbology
As the player's and team members' levels increases, special attacks for each of them can be unlocked. A variety of long-range, short-range or area attacks can be performed. As level increases, these attacks will get much stronger and damaging. Link Combos can be created by chaining special attacks together, which makes it highly effective during boss battles. All these require MP to perform in battle. Symbology, or also known as Heraldry, allows the usage of magic by inscribing symbols or crests on the body. MP usage differs from each character; a combat-oriented fighter who isn't used to casting magic may lose more MP than an adept Symbology user does. Various symbols have different casting times, depending on the user's stats. Link Combos can also be used when casting Symbology for creating multiple chains of magic attacks.
When players encounter enemies out in the field, three types of encounters will occur:
- Preemptive Attack - Player runs into an enemy from the back. This allows the party to get a free hit before the enemy begins combat.
- Surprise Attack - Enemy runs into a player from behind. Enemies begin combat with partially filled Rush Gauges and there are commonly more enemies present.
- Ambush Attack - After seemingly defeating all enemies in the encounter, the party immediately runs into another set of enemies in the field. Instead, when the current battle ends, another battle begins, so the party will have to keep defeating enemies until there are no more encounters in the surrounding area. After-battle results are postponed until the last encounter ends. EXP gained and item drop rates increase with each battle in the ambush.
Battle Bonus Board
- Main article: Battle Bonus Board
Another feature is the Battle Bonus Board. Whenever the party battles, a bar on the right-hand side of the screen will start accumulating colored jewels. These jewels are rewards for accomplishing various skills, magic, Blindside moves, critical hits, etc, by the player-controlled character in the party.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope was originally announced at the "Star Ocean Special Stage" at the 2007 Square Enix Party as the tentatively titled Star Ocean 4 with no platform. An Xbox 360 release was revealed during the 2008 Xbox 360 RPG Premiere. In a special interview with Xbox Japan, weeks before the game's release, game producer Yoshinori Yamagishi revealed that the team began planning out Star Ocean: The Last Hope immediately after they finished developing Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, so actual development time took about 5 years. The game uses an improved version of the game engine used in Infinite Undiscovery, where it is able to generate much better graphics, and the stunning expression of light in real time. He also mentioned that the biggest problem the team encountered while creating the game is capacity, as making an RPG on the latest generation console requires vast amounts of data and coding thanks to the complexity of graphics and animations. The game will also be running at a constant 60 fps. Pre-rendered movies are done by a collaboration between tri-Ace and Visual Works, while character design and illustration (only in the Japanese version) is handled by Katsumi Enami, best known for his illustration work in the light novel and anime series Baccano!.
When asked whether the title would release on the PlayStation 3, Square Enix producer Yoshinori Yamagishi replied "We can say that it will be released first [on the Xbox 360]. Whether we'll release it on the PS3 is undecided. We may release it, we may not." Square Enix and The Last Hope's development team later stated that there were no plans for a PS3 version. In an interview, Yamagishi said that Xbox 360 was the first seventh-generation console to come out, and its "extremely well-made hardware", from a developer's standpoint, as the reasons why he chose it to develop Star Ocean: The Last Hope on. In a test play session held for Microsoft Japan employees and some prominent bloggers, when asked if Star Ocean: The Last Hope follows after Star Ocean: Till the End of Time's plot twist, Yamagishi stated in a Q&A session that the world of SO4 exists in a parallel universe from the one in the first three Star Ocean games. When asked if tri-Ace will remake the first three games on a new generation console, Yamagishi stated that he would rather work on a new sequel to Star Ocean than develop remakes, as the development time for them, would be very consuming. Since then Yoshinori Yamagishi has stated that he finished with Star Ocean after achieving all he set out to do with the series.
On September 14, 2009, Star Ocean: The Last Hope International was announced in Japanese gaming magazine, Famitsu, exclusively for the PlayStation 3 including new content that was not included in the original Xbox 360 version. This put an end to the many rumors that The Last Hope would receive a PlayStation 3 port.