Itís rare when American gamers get special editions of video games on these shores without having to resort to extreme importing methods; itís rarer still when we get an edition thatís as good as or better than the original Japanese title. So when Star Ocean: Till The End Of Time comes out this August, RPG fans should heartily rejoice. After all, weíre not just receiving the latest title in the Star Ocean franchise, particularly since it came out last February in Japan. Instead, weíre getting the Directorís Cut with additional cutscenes, characters and tweaks to the battle system. Feel like youíve won the lottery, fellow gamer? Well, come along with me as we go over some of the details of your prize (and no, you donít need prior information of the series to enjoy your spoils).
Star Ocean: Till The End Of Time is set in the space calendar year 772 and focuses around a young man named Fayt Leingod. A friendly guy born to influential parents in the Galactic Federation, both he and his childhood friend Sophia Esteed have joined his parents on a family vacation to a resort planet called Hyda. It seems like a normal day: Sophia goes off to the beach, while Fayt looks to have fun in a combat simulator. Suddenly the planet is attacked by an alien fleet, forcing Fayt, Sophia and his parents to flee to safety in the planetís emergency shelters. As the refugees look to escape the embattled planet, Fayt finds himself quickly separated from his friend and family and forced to take an emergency shuttle to avoid certain death. His bad luck doesnít end there, as he crash lands on a primitive planet. Itís up to the player to help Fayt get off this backwards world, track down his friend and family and hopefully discover why Hyda was attacked in the first place.
One of the incredible things that players will notice right off the bat is the amount of control and customization players have over the entire game. Before you even get into the story, players have to essentially define their playing experience by going through a number of options, such as the video or sound presentation, level of difficulty, and event presentation. Once youíve gone through this elaborate setup, youíll expect the same level of detail from other games and wonder why you arenít given the same courtesy that Star Ocean offers. Whatís more, the options that you decide not only work for the main story, but the numerous hidden game modes that can be unlocked with dedicated play.
As most RPG veterans know, a major facet of RPGs is combat and leveling up your characters, making them stronger and more impervious to harm. Star Ocean takes a number of variations from the standard format of battle that will engage players more than simply hitting buttons and passively deciding outcomes. First of all, random battles are completely abolished in this game. These have been replaced by representations of the enemies youíll fight on the map, which gives you the option to avoid stronger opponents until you feel ready to take them on. Once inside, combat is real time and takes place at a rapid pace, forcing players to pay attention to incoming blows and surrounding tactics of opponents. Astute players can set up counterattacks and even combine with party members (2 other characters are computer controlled based on player designed attack plans) to create combinations or synchronized attacks for major damage.
This is much more than simply hitting a button mindlessly, however. Players have the option between light and heavy attacks: light attacks are fast, but can be easily blocked, while heavy attacks do more damage but leave characters open to counterattacks. Landing blows successfully adds to your power meters, which boosts the amount of experience and money and skill points you receive at the end of a fight. This can be used to ďpurchaseĒ new skills for your characters, which can be used in combat. These include special attacks that inflict status attacks on enemies, ranged assaults on distant opponents, and symbology (also known in most RPG circles as magic). Players who become particularly good at eliminating monsters can pick up battle trophies, special awards based on accomplishing specific tasks in combat. These include ending a battle in less than 10 seconds or winning a number of fights without being injured. While the preview we had was brief, it showed off much of the anime-influenced style that will surely captivate gamers when the game is released at the end of August. Check back soon for a full review!
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