Wednesday 5 March 2014

Star Ocean - Until the End of Time Review (PS2)

The PS2 version of Star Ocean is the third in the series, but like many other Square franchises it is not necessary to have played the other games to know what is going on. The story follows a boy named ‘Fayt’ who is busy minding his own business on a holiday planet when it comes under attack from an unknown military force. Thus you are thrown into an epic tale spanning across the galaxy, with twists etc, you know how it goes- while Star Ocean may not innovate in the tale that is told, the way it unravels is a slight break from the norm.

The title is placed in a highly futuristic setting, it is then somewhat of an irony that the game crash lands you onto a primitive planet filled with knights and dragons where due to intergalactic law you can not use any form of technology more advanced than your surroundings. This means even though you have the technology to level a city at the flick of a button, you have to run round with a sword. At least it appears the developers have a sense of humour.

Combat is dealt with in real time. All of you who have had just about enough of random encounters and turn based fighting rejoice. Enemies can be seen on the map and engaged at the player’s choice. However, it can be all to easy to keep running past creatures while exploring the map meaning you are missing out on much needed experience- you have been warned. 

Combat itself works extremely well. Computer AI is decent enough and characters can be given set instructions to carry out. However they do tend to not heal themselves so boss battles often result in players taking control of the main healing character while the computer deals out punishment for you. During combat there are numerous special moves available at the touch of a button and skilled players will be able to string massive combinations together, indeed it all works so well it makes you wonder why we bothered with turn based fighting for so long.

Graphically the title is not outstanding. Characters and locations are nicely created but there is very little that will cause you to marvel at what is on screen. Cut scenes are well done but are normally only a few seconds long. This may please some people who do not want a constant precession of ten minute long story segments, but when the PS2 takes a few seconds to load up a scene which runs for about three seconds,  then takes a few more seconds to load up the game area again it creates an incredibly disjointed feel and effects the general flow of the game no end.

One of the titles undoubted strengths is the subtle beauty of the musical scores that run through it. While in space you are treated to cold, empty sounding melodies that float around the game area, truly outstanding. The only time the music falls down is when entering one of the many dungeons. After building a mood throughout the game with gentle melodies that perfectly fit your surroundings walking into the first dungeon area on a sixteenth century planet to be greeted by the sounds of Japanese synth pop is a little out of place to say the least. However, like so many things in Star Ocean after a few hours you get used to it and it begins to fit the overall feel of the title.

While many other RPG’s claim to be epic, Star Ocean definitely is. Spanning two discs there is more game in there for you money than almost any other title currently on the market. In order to get through to the end you are looking at putting in somewhere in the region of fifty plus hours. If you want to collect all the battle trophies and complete all the side quests, inventing sections etc, then you could easily see that play time double. When you take into account the multiple endings available it shows that Star Ocean is ready and willing to absorb how ever much of your time you want to put into it.

While far from being perfect Star Ocean is a well put together title that offers a lot of fun for RPG veterans and new comers alike. While there is not really anything that drives you through the game it is more than likely that players will stick with it until the end due to its easy going nature. Star Ocean is a game you have to play through at your own pace, there are so many things you can do that are optional it is a title that personifies the idea that the more you put in the more you will get out. Maybe not quite up to the standard of other square adventures of times gone by, it is never the less a highly enjoyable experience and one well worth checking out.

Overall 7/10

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