That's right, folks...it's time for Steve's Too-Late Review--when you get to read a review of a game that's been out for a few years, but I've only recently played! Woohoo! You'll find almost nothing useful in this unless you haven't played the game...so if you're a few years behind the gaming scene, or in case you've just missed this title, here's the review of...
STAR OCEAN: TILL THE END OF TIME
So I just finished playing this game about an hour ago and I wanted to get this all down while it's still fresh. I'm always wary when I begin a new game, especially an RPG...since the RPG scene is so fragmented into little groups of particular series lovers, particular battle system lovers, and those who enjoy a particular visual style or storyline...well, to be honest, the games can be pretty hit-or-miss. Final Fantasy is a giant in the RPG world because Square-Enix has managed to strike a perfect balance between moving story, dynamic skill/battle systems, engaging visuals, and enthralling musical scores. Unfortunately, not every software company has hit that perfect conflagration of elements...so sometimes I can find myself 10 hours into a game and struggling to care about the story or battle system.
I'm not ashamed to admit that's what happened with Star Ocean, despite the fact that's it's from Square-Enix. I actually began the game about two years ago, excited to try a newly purchased RPG. As the minutes of gameplay passed, I became upset with the moderately steep learning curve for the battle system (which is an active-time battle system; I usually prefer turn-based systems. Maybe it was just steep for me...but in my opinion the battles don't get really cool until more than a third of the way into the game.)...coupled with the seeming lack of actual story development. It seems as though the story has enough to grab your interest right at the start of the game...and then gradually looses it about the time you're on Elicoor II for a while. Your characters are stuck on the planet for a looooooong time, so I just lost interest and put the game down in favor of something else.
Just a month ago, I decided to finish the game during my month off from college for winter vacation. Enough! I hadn't completed the game yet and it was beginning to wear on my mind. So I hesitantly picked the game up, remembering my earlier frustration...yet determined to plow through and finish it, no matter how horrible it became. I was surprised to learn that as the game progressed, it became more and more interesting and involved. I don't know if the designers purposely made the game this way, but it seems like the last 20% of the game is the best--as far as exploration, puzzles, character development, skill-gaining, and treasure! So as I kept playing, things just kept getting better and better.
The story is absolutely trippy! I won't spoil the surprise, but about two-thirds of the way (or maybe even close to 75%) through, everything that you thought you knew is thrown out the window and your characters recieve an enlightenment that just completely blew my mind. There was a very creative plot twist that brought the story to another level. It was awesome!! From here on out, the locations got more and more beautiful and detailed, and the enemies became more and more difficult and challenging to fight. Whereas in most of the first portion of the game I was hurting for cash, by the end of the game I had accumulated over 2,000,000 dollars (called Fol in the game)!! I had actually earned more. That was just the amount left after I'd pimped all my characters out with awesome equipment and accessories. Sweet, sweet, sweet. This, combined with the item synthesis system gives you a near god-like ability to just completely max your characters out to insane levels of strength. Needless to say, I didn't need to level grind very much in order to remain capable of defeating the enemies as they progressed in difficulty through the game----though at one point there is an unbelievably large jump in enemy strength that required an hour or two of grinding for experience and Fol.
Now, despite all of this awesomeness near the end of the game, there were a few problems. Firstly and foremostly, the dialogue during cutscenes...awful, just awful. I don't know who the hell they hire to do the voices, but they sound...well, cartoony...and in such a mind-blowing sci-fi RPG, it just didn't seem to fit the tone. Pacing of dialogue was a little off, as well...but no biggie. The fight music is the same throughout the entire game (except for the final boss and a few bigger bosses)...which got old, let me tell ya. Also, some of the enemies were just plain old goddamned annoying. Stupid fucking quad-footed robots sentries. There were times in the game where I wanted to punch someone in the face so hard some kid in China would feel it....but in a way, this is a good thing. I enjoy games that piss me off sometimes; that means that the game was a challenge. It makes me appreciate that "The End" at the bottom of the credits after the final cutscenes.
So, in closing, if you haven't played the game by now, try it out. It's definitely worth the $15 (or less) that you'll chuck for it at the nearest used videogame store. The Clear Game replay option, combined with the extra dungeons that you may have missed the first time through definitely make this game a candidate for another try. So that's it! Enjoy the game!