I’ve been a fan of the Star Ocean series since I first picked up Star Ocean: The Second Story as a kid. I then went back and played the first game, before moving onto the rest of the series as and when they came out. However, whilst I did enjoy the later games when I first played them, none of them quite lived up to the epic game that The Second Story turned out to be.
Now that I’m older and (somewhat) more mature, I thought it would be a good time to revisit some of the later Star Ocean games and see how I felt about them now. So, to start with, we’ll be looking at the PS2 game Star Ocean: Till The End of Time. Released on the 27th of February, 2003, it was the only game in the series to be released on the PlayStation 2. In Japan, it received largely negative reviews upon release due to bugs, but in North America and Europe, it was rather well received. In fact, IGN even ranked it 58th in their top 100 PS2 games!
So, with such divided opinion, how could I not do a review of the game myself?
For those of you who have played through Star Ocean 3, you’ll completely understand when I say that the story starts off really interesting, and then ends really weirdly. Now, I don’t want to put any spoilers in this review, so I won’t give away the ending of the game… But what I will say is that it comes out of nowhere.
The game starts off with you in control of Fayt Leingod (a very prophetic name if there ever was one), as he is on holiday. The planet gets attacked, and you are separated from your loved one, crash-landing on another planet after fleeing. This “underdeveloped” planet adds a nice mix of the science fiction elements of the game and more traditional fantasy style RPGs. From here, things just go from bad to worse as you find out that the Vendeeni, an alien race with super-advanced technology, is trying to destroy the galaxy.
Yes, that does sound familiar, as it is a very common storyline for space opera games especially (I’m looking at you, Mass Effect). However, it really is the characters and interactions that boost up Star Ocean: Till The End of Time’s story.
As you progress through the game, interdimensional travel comes into play, and that’s where everything starts to turn on its head. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, so all I can really say is that the first half of the game is a very fun and entertaining storyline (if a bit cliche), but the second half just sort of happens, with no real pre-warning or foreshadowing. There is a massive change in the tone of the game and the flow of the story, which will either surprise and intrigue you, or leaving you with a very puzzled look on your face whilst you try to work out what the writers were thinking.
The gameplay of Star Ocean 3 is very much the standard RPG formula. You will run around following the story, carrying out quests whilst engaging in random battles. Your characters will level up and earn new abilities, and there’s a veritable tonne of NPCs to converse with. However, there are a couple of aspects of Star Ocean: Till The End of Time’s gameplay that really stick out.
The first is the battle system. Rather than using the standard J-RPG menu-driven battle system (like Final Fantasy), Star Ocean 3 opts for real-time combat system (like its predecessors or the Tales Of series). You run around the 3D battle area, using different buttons to perform various attacks and combos. This adds a lot more interactivity to the battle scenes, increasing the tension of each battle as you have to work out what is the best position for Fayt to attack from.
The second is the crafting system. Whilst this is a big part of Western RPGs, it is generally a much smaller and rarer thing in big name J-RPGs. In Star Ocean 3, it can be referred to as Item Creation, where you craft different items through a number of “trades”, including Cooking, Smithery and Alchemy (amongst others).
This meant that you could improve your skills in one type of trade, gaining between items from that craft. This crafting system added some great depth to the game, increasing the number of things to do as you tried to gather the right materials to create exactly what you were hoping to get.
In terms of the graphics, the game has actually aged rather well. One thing I can say about most retro games is that, if the developers chose to use an anime style, it typically holds up against time far better. This is because you can be more forgiving of the graphics, as they aren’t trying to be too realistic.
The 3D battle scenes are a bit bland, but then, when you are so focused on a fight you probably don’t want flowing grass, rustling trees and dancing flowers to distract you. The enemies are fun and unique, and the environments & locations are all designed very well for the various planets and levels of technology. In fact, the mix of sci-fi and fantasy RPG styles works perfectly, with no one place ever feeling out of context with the rest of the game’s style.
The menus, which are always important in RPGs, are probably some of my favourites on the PS2. The clean design and relaxing colour palette mean that they don’t make your eyes tired, which is a huge positive.
Even the animations feel high quality, with everything looking smooth and really colourful. Honestly, the graphics of Star Ocean: Till The End of Time are one of the game’s best selling points! Especially for a game that came out 15 years ago!
And That’s All Folks
Looking back at Star Ocean 3, it is pretty clear why reviews were so divided. In fact, I’m divided on the game myself. The graphics and gameplay are both outstanding, especially for a 15 year old PlayStation 2 game. The story is also really good, for the first half. But that second half of the game really does let things down in my opinion. The change in storyline style was a unique one, but it just feels so out of place and (to me, at least) drags the plot down and devolves it into a much lesser quality story.
If you’re looking for a fun and different game to play, then Star Ocean: Till The End of Time is definitely up your street. Just be prepared for a very confusing second half of the game.
Have you played Star Ocean 3? What did you think of it? Let me known in the comments below!