I know what you’re thinking. Why not Star Ocean: The Second Story? Unfortunately, I never had the chance to play the game which is widely considered to be the best in the series. I did, however, play its successor, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (commonly referred to as Star Ocean 3). Released for the Sony PlayStation 2 in 2003, Star Ocean 3 added a new generation of graphics to the popular RPG series.
In the distant future, technology has advanced to the point where humans can travel freely into outer space. Contact with aliens has been made, and a system of laws has been set up to govern how aliens and their worlds are interacted with. With far off planets at their disposal, humans set out to explore these distant worlds.
Fayt and his friend Sophia, the story’s protagonists, are spending a vacation at the resort planet of Hyda IV when an alien race suddenly attacks. Fayt and Sophia evacuate, but at the expense of being separated from their parents. After a series of events, the two eventually end up on Elicoor II, a planet with civilization that resembles that of 17th century Earth. The bulk of the game’s story takes place in the fantasy setting of this planet, where all of our favorite fantasy tropes such as magic, castles, and dragons exist. Having been thrown into this world, the protagonists have no choice but to live among the natives and assist them in their ongoing war with a neighboring nation. It isn’t until much later in the story that our heroes finally leave Elicoor II and discover the much larger threat at hand.
There’s quite a lot to this story (the game even includes an extensive in-game encyclopedia), and depending on where you are in the game, Star Ocean 3‘s story can constantly shift genres. Personally, I didn’t mind this at all, but some may say that the story is a bit of a mess because of this. That issue aside, I still really enjoyed the story, despite some far-fetched and outright ridiculous and/or cliché moments.
The gameplay was something new to me at the time. I had only played a few other action RPGs prior to this one, and thus I was still very used to turn-based battles with menus. The Star Ocean games are known for abandoning that system and instead make use of real-time battles with lots of button pressing – and this game is no exception. Much like a typical fighting game, battles are won by tapping the right buttons at the right time and by doing combos. One thing that will make your life much easier while playing this game is to make sure you fully explore the maps that you come across. Fully revealing an area’s map will usually grant you an item that increases your movement speed in battle, something that comes in handy quite often.
An interesting mechanic to this game are the battle bonuses. After a certain number of battles, you can unlock a special bonus. The best of these bonuses by far is the 300% EXP bonus, which can be abused if done right. The bonuses don’t last forever though, and one slip-up can cause you to lose it. Also, if you save the game while a bonus is active and later reload the game, the bonus is gone.
The graphics are nothing short of great, considering the time the game was made. Beautifully rendered 3D environments really help bring this game to life. The music, however, felt rather mediocre to me, and none of the tunes were particularly memorable to me. However, the game’s other qualities make it overall an excellent addition to anyone’s PlayStation 2 game library.
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is available for the Sony PlayStation 2.