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Developer:
Tri Ace
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PS2
Release Date: August 31, 2004

by Tony Ames




After enough delays to make fans wonder if the games subtitle was an omen, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time has found its release at least. And it was worth the wait, because itís better than most probably dared hope.


While the flaws in the games presentation are so minor that noting them seems like whining, such is the obligation of the reviewer. That said, character animations tend to be stiff, especially in the face. Also, due to some spotty camera angles enemies sometimes have the disturbing habit of jumping from nowhere. Still, the game is bright, the characters look good (if heavily animť influenced) and spell effects add a healthy level of eye candy.


The audio presentation of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is pretty sweet too. Voice acting is top notch, ranking with Xenosaga and even Kingdom Hearts for quality. Of course, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time and Xenosaga use many of the same voice actors, so thatís to be expected. Meanwhile, the most diverse soundtrack youíll ever find in an RPG is playing. While most of the score is classical with a hint of Star Trek, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time also sports everything from Japanese pop to rap, to one memorable track that Iím pretty sure was Jazz.


Arguably the game needed that musical diversity, because Star Ocean: Till the End of Timeís plot is best described as ambitious. While our hero, Fayt, is vacationing with his parents, a sudden assault shatters his world. His parents captured and he trapped on an underdeveloped planet, Fayt finds himself increasingly involved in local politics as he struggles to save his parents.


All this is just a foundation, however. Religion, war, divine judgment, genetic experimentation, even the nature of existence, all play a role. Frankly, one could get a headache trying to take it all in. Fortunately, the cast has well defined personalities and there are many lighthearted moments, so it never becomes truly overwhelming. Ultimately, the plot is a bit unwieldy, but the trip is fun enough to make it worthwhile.


Besides, Star Ocean games are more about engaging gameplay than epic plots. And engaging is a good word for Star Ocean: Till the End of Timeís gameplay. Battles are real-time, in which you can free swap control between the three characters you send to the battlefield. From there, what you can do is determined by what the game calls Fury, a meter ranging from 0 to 100%, with all attacks draining a set percentage from this meter. Being at 100% Fury also initiates the Anti-Attack Aura, a shield that deflects minor blows. However, you enemies also have a Fury meter, and can just as easily shield themselves from your minor attacks. Which just means you have to use a stronger attack to break the shield, or wait for the enemy to attack. Coupled with the inherent activities of an action-based combat, thereís definitely plenty to do.


Gameplay isnít without problems, though. The difficulty of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is uneven, with disc one being a cakewalk while disc 2 presents life-threatening challenge with every battle. Although, this does at least give one a chance to adapt to the system before the nasty things come out to play. More problems arise in non-combat gameplay. See, the game has a strong tendency to drop you in some town or dungeon with no clear idea of where you should go. Coupled with the fact that enemies respawn whenever you exit a room, and navigating becomes quite the chore. There are also a handful of minigames which are just painful to work through.


For all that, though, I never felt I wasnít enjoying the game overall. And while Iíve not yet gone beyond the 30 or so hours required to complete the game, thereís a fair bit to do afterward, including an enormous bonus dungeon complete with insanely nasty optional bosses. Definitely a plus for those who enjoy that sort of thing, or just really love Star Ocean: Till the End of Timeís combat. And I somehow imagine that will be a lot of people.


Final Grade: 85%




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