I’m one of those kids who grew up playing Japanese RPGs. It wasn’t a genre that got very much respect from publishers, who would merrily skip series entries and release games out of order, to say nothing about the awful quality of localization. Still, games like Revelations: Persona, the SNES and PlayStation Final Fantasy games and Valkyrie Profile kept me playing regardless..
One of my favorites as a kid was Star Ocean: The Second Story, a surprisingly forward-thinking PlayStation RPG that included a lot of features we take for granted today like crafting, combo attacks and multiple endings; my adoration of that game led me to follow the Star Ocean series as they continued to be developed. That’s why we’re talking about the latest release, a 4K and full HD remaster of Star Ocean: The Last Hope on PlayStation 4.
With Earth entering an environmental crisis after World War III, the world’s governments band together and decide it’s time to find a new homeworld that hasn’t been nuked into oblivion. Toward that end, the Space Reconnaissance Force was established to boldly go where no man has gone before. We follow the adventures of one SRF member, the unfortunately-named Edge Maverick, as he and his fellow spacefarers (both human and otherwise) explore the galaxy and spend a surprising amount of time doing the usual JRPG stuff. You’ll be digging around in a fantasy ruin full of spellcasting monsters before you know it.
Also, yes, his name is “Edge Maverick.” Momma and Daddy Maverick knew they had a winner on their hands. At least name him Edgar and let him use “Edge” as a nickname or something.
The Star Ocean series has varied drastically in quality over the years. As mentioned, I’d argue that Star Ocean: The Second Story was one of the highlights of the PlayStation era. Even the PlayStation 2 follow-up Star Ocean: Til The End of Time was solid if not spectacular. Meanwhile, last year’s Integrity and Faithlessness was a turd of impressive proportions, a game that might have made my worst of the year if it hadn’t had to share the “limelight” with No Man’s Sky and Mighty No. 9.
The Last Hope is, mercifully, not as mind-bogglingly awful as Integrity and Faithlessness. It would be pretty impressive if the developers had managed to flub things that badly twice in a row. Instead, it’s one of the more standard JRPGs you can get hold of. Anime tropes are the order of the day, particularly early on; to say that The Last Hope starts slow is something of an understatement. If you can power through the early bits and the myriad talks about the power of friendship there’s some more interesting content once the game gets going, including a pretty amazing take on future civilizations interacting with less developed civilizations that almost makes the game worth playing for itself.
You’ll be fighting plenty of battles, of course, and despite this taking place in the future it’s mostly going to be the usual fare with swords, bows and magic – even your more futuristic party members like elf-like aliens Faize and Arumat and android Bacchus play much like their less advanced counterparts. Combat is an action-RPG hybrid with a focus on timed dodges; successfully avoiding attacks will result in a Blindside where your character performs some fancy acrobatics or a quick move to get behind the enemy where they can deal bonus damage.
Other twists on the formula include a set of steadily-growing bonuses that accumulate as you perform tricks like killing multiple enemies at once; these can simplify the process of level grinding but can be easily lost if you drop the ball and take a critical hit. As with the plot, this starts out a little slow but becomes more enjoyable if you’re able to stick with it.
Given that this is a remaster of a game that originally launched on the Xbox 360 (specifically it’s a remaster of the later PlayStation 3 International version) it’s worth taking a look at The Last Hope’s presentation. In terms of framerate and performance there’s not a lot to complain about; the increased power of the PS4 allows for drastically improved visuals over the original Xbox 360 release in particular, to say nothing of the ability to play in 4K if you so choose. On the audio side, well…the voice acting is still godawful. There’s no two ways around it. I’m not even one of those “Japanese or it’s bad” sorts and I must unfortunately admit that the voice acting in this game is detrimental on every level; in particular, little girl Lymle’s endless “kay”s render her a greater villain than anyone who’s actually playing for the bad guys’ team.
That aside, if you’re willing to be patient and allow it to come into its own, Star Ocean: The Last Hope 4K and Full HD Remaster may surprise you. This is certainly the definitive version of the game, so if you haven’t played it and can deal with critical amounts of anime in your JRPGs then this is worth checking out. You might want to mentally prepare yourself for Lymle, though, ‘kay? She’s going to haunt your nightmares.