Star Ocean: The Last Hope was originally released as a 360 exclusive, back when Japan supporting Microsoft was still a thing. It was later ported to PS3 and now we have it on PS4 in the form of, brace yourselves, Star Ocean: The Last Hope – 4K & HD Remaster. Now I actually played through it completely on the 360, although I didn’t get all the achievements as that would famously take around one thousand hours. Still, what work has been done on this re-release?
World War III has ravaged the world. A truce is called and as the Earth is basically done for humanity decides to find their future in the stars. You play as Edge Maverick, a member of the SRF (Space Reconnaissance Force) who after a poor maiden mission is promoted to captain and tasked with scouting out humanity’s next home world. You’re joined by your childhood friend and fellow member of the SRF, Reimi, and as you’d expect assemble a larger group as the game goes on. Edge is promoted by chance really, and although young protagonists aren’t unusual in JRPGs the fact that someone so inexperienced would be tasked with making first contact and assuring the future of humanity is a little too far fetched.
The overall cast is quite weak. Full of cliches which wouldn’t be a problem in itself but there are a lot of cutscenes, both serious and not so serious, which just hit home how annoying or unlikeable some of the cast are. Early on you gain Lymle, a tiny child who can barely walk right and yet your crew decide she should join them on this incredibly dangerous mission. My memory of her made me switch from the English voice acting to the Japanese straight away. Ending every sentence with “’kay?” unsurprisingly grates very quickly and although she’s probably the worst offender she’s not the only one. The Japanese voices are less offensive although not without their faults as well, they’re just far more tolerable.
Still, the search to find a home planet does mean you get to visit and revisit many different planets. You have full control of your ship, the Calnus, which means you can follow the story or return to a previous area to complete some side missions or grind out materials for crafting. That’s not to call it truly open, you can’t explore planets that the story hasn’t already introduced you to and certain areas get closed off after completion but there is an illusion of spacefaring which is appreciated.
On these planets, which vary in technology levels, you get to do normal JRPG stuff. There are towns to rest in, talk to people, buy items and gain and complete quests. Outside of town are open areas to explore where you can harvest and mine for materials, fight enemies and find chests. These areas tend to be quite big and packed with enemies although you can avoid them as they roam the map once you get sick of fighting. In dungeons it’s similar but much more enclosed with an element of puzzle solving. Some can be a little samey as you move from one area to the next making them a little tedious to navigate and save points can be quite far apart which is a nuisance but that’s probably more to do with modern design changing perceptions.
Once you encounter a fight you’re whisked into an arena where you have full control of your character. You can do a basic attack, dodge behind your opponent with a well timed side step, activate Rush mode to deal extra damage and use specials at the cost of MP. Things take a while to get interesting due to a lack of options which results in you just mashing the attack button or dodging behind an enemy before mashing the attack button, but once you have a decent amount of specials you can use them quite liberally and they do make things more interesting. You can control any character you choose and they each play differently which is nice, some being more suited to certain situations than others though I found I stuck to one character for the most part.
The side missions I mentioned earlier predominantly involve grinding out kills to get materials, or crafting items which will also need materials. Items have a chance to drop or be harvested, they aren’t guaranteed, so if you’re looking to do everything expect to spend a lot of time running back and forth resetting areas so you can farm more enemies or harvest points. It’s not an element I particularly enjoyed, especially as the environments can be quite big.
The graphics have seen the most work in this remaster, as you might expect from the subtitle. The most interesting aspect is the options they give the player. On a PS4 Pro you can change resolution, set shadow quality, anti-aliasing, draw distance for character models, self-shadowing, camera blur, texture quality, and depth of field. I found turning the draw distance to ‘Far’ negatively impacted the frame rate at times so I knocked it down to ‘Medium’ and haven’t had any problems. It’s a nice idea but I can’t help but think that with some work the developers could make this look as good as it could be, without the options. With variances in PCs it makes sense, for a console beyond a ‘Quality’ or ‘Performance’ setting I don’t see the point.
In general it looks quite nice without reaching the heights of modern releases. The character models look good up close, helped by the fact that they were never intended to be photo realistic and environments look sharp but show their age the most with a lack of detail. You can sometimes see the seams on arms and the like but the extra work and effects have done a decent job of modernising the visuals and don’t look particularly out of place.
Then there’s the price, which is worth mentioning because it’s actually quite low when compared to other re-releases. Now, as you may gather, I’m not overly fond of the game. I like the amount of customisation you have with characters when it comes to developing the move set and passive abilities and the combat gets interesting eventually, especially if you dislike choosing items from menus. However I dislike the characters, don’t find the story to be that great, find some of the dungeons to be tedious and don’t like the reliance on repetitive grinding for all the side quests.
However if you already like the game or have any interest in it at all then the price of admission is low enough to throw caution to the wind. The time investment is a lot higher, especially if you’re going to attempt 100% completion, and that’s what you need to consider. I didn’t dislike going back as much as I’d feared, but even with a new coat of paint the flaws shine through.
+ A lot of customisation
+ Action based battle system
+ Lots of game here
- Dungeons and environments are overly long and tedious
- English voice over is so bad