Anyone that likes a good mix of Luke Skywalker and Mr. Spock will enjoy Square Enix’s latest venue into the role playing game universe with Star Ocean: Till the End of Time for the Playstation 2.
Our adventure begins in a galaxy far far away. Oops, sorry wrong game. Young Fayt Leingod and his family are vacationing on the island paradise world of Hyda — think of it as intergalactic Club Med complete with volleyball and battle simulators.
It’s a vacation our blue haired hero isn’t too keen on, but his childhood friend Sophia tags along to pass the time. Soon the tranquil island paradise is rocked by explosions and Fayt and Sophia are forced to flee for their lives without his parents.
Fayt and Sophia are rushed to a rescue ship as military vessels from the Pangalactic Federation battle with a mysterious race that is intent on capturing Fayt. Eventually, Fayt and Sophia are separated when everyone aboard the rescue ship is forced to flee in life pods. He crash lands on a remote planet and the adventure to rescue his parents, be reunited with Sophia and save the known universe begins.
Till the End of Time is one of several installments of the Star Ocean series, but this is the first time the rather unknown series has come to Playstation 2. Players can expect the same level of graphic excellence that Square produces for all of its games.
The CGI video snippets are top notch and complement the science fiction nature of the storyline. Epic space battles haven’t looked this good since George Lucas remastered Star Wars. The one drawback to this graphically intense story line is the lack of action during the first portion of the game. The first half-hour to hour is running around and setting up the storyline, but even the running around is interrupted by cut scene after cut scene after cut scene. Much of the energy gamers have when playing a game for the first time will be dissipated before any real heavy action begins.
What sets Star Ocean apart in the Square Enix role playing world is its real time fighting system. Unlike that other RPG series that Square makes, Final something-or-other, which has primarily used active and turn based fighting systems, you have complete control of the character throughout the battle. This has some pros and cons as every fighting system does. When fighting alone having complete control of one character can be a blast. The game allows a strong and weak attack at both close and long range and as player’s progress and gain experience, Fayt and the other characters can learn skills to augment their attacks making them more powerful.
Instead of a timer bar which determines when Fayt can attack, game developers created fury. At the beginning of each battle, the characters start out with 100 percent fury. Each action, whether it be running, fighting or using symbology, the games equivalent of magic, fury is decreased. If fury gets too low, characters cannot attack. Luckily, the fury bar refills quickly when at rest, so there is little lag time and characters can begin wailing en masse.
The difficulty with this battle system comes into play when several characters, up to three, join Fayt on the battlefield. When a big baddie is trying to hack you into pieces its easy to forget about the magic user in the corner being pummeled by big baddies’s little brother. If you forget the side characters fighting style, the extra characters may just stand there and get pummeled. Don’t worry though, players can switch control of characters so if Fayt’s doing great, they can take over playing the little guy so he can heal and in some cases run away from the big baddies.
Perhaps one of the most useful and unexpected bonuses to Star Ocean is the built-in dictionary that provides definitions and historical background for terms and people Fayt meets along the way. The Star Ocean universe and history is vast, so it helps to get background information. Also, for any techies out there, there is a detailed explanation about the games technology. They can sink their teeth into the explanations of Creations Energy and gravitic warp engines.
The game’s soundtrack goes well with the science fiction aspects of the game and the more rural setting has more subdued tunes. Unfortunately, the music sometimes overpowers the dialog. If you don’t have the subtitles on, players are forced to turn their head like the RCA dog and go “What did he say.”
All in all, Square has created a solid space faring RPG with mind blowing graphics and addictive storyline. The game also spans two DVDs so keep your calendar open for a while. You won’t be going anywhere for some time.