Star Ocean Universe

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time Review

Story Overview: 400 Years have passed since the events of Second Story, here you play as Fayt Leingod, a human teenager who is on vacation with friends and family, but not too long into your vacation the location Hyda IV is attacked by another entity. This causes Fayt and the others to escape...but things go wrong and he is separated from his family, will Fayt be re-united with his friends and family again?

Story Review: The story is good, but not great; it starts slowly but improves into a more then passable RPG Story. Early you are thrown into the Elicoor II conflict thanks to the enigmatic Nel, Fayt is troubled by the events trying to combine getting home and not breaching federation law, the UP3. This diversion eventually turns into a somewhat un-original plot where youíre one of an elite few whom can save the world from its impending doom....

Unfortunately itís not up to the standard of the great dual story we were generously spoiled with in Second Story, which was truly a rare and tasty treat. Its success and the combination of the other brilliant aspects of Star Ocean 3 may leave you feeling short changed with the story. I still believe the story is passable enough with a few interesting and somewhat controversial plot twists; itís not the best but does the job to a satisfactory level. 7/10

Battle System: This I truly believe is Till the End of Timeís best attribute by far, the battle system is simply amazing. Itís one of the best Action RPG fighting systems in the PS2 era; itís fast, full of fast paced action & requires you the player to combine both timing and skilfully linking attacks to be successful; finally an action game which doesnít involve pointless waiting (FFXII) or button bashing (enter most other Action RPGs).

This is definitely a dramatic improvement on Second Story where magic halts battle progress and you have limited skills available, here you can link up to 4 skills as once, which is dependent on your capacity points and battle setups. These put you into a position of trying to balance your characters into a combination of your choice; or either all out melee style, all support of a mix of the two; it will take some considerable time to get the get what feels like a perfect balance Ė but thatís half the fun. Also during battle can also switch between your three active characters in battle as you please, unlike with games of the Tales ilk, early you may use a support character to get the attribute bonuses you with; and then swap to your melee style character to attack as you want to attack!

Another factor I appreciate about the Star Ocean battle system is the battle skill proficiency; even if youíre not leveling up youíre still improving your skills by usage. They either becoming more powerful, have affects occur more often or simply add more attacks depending on their type. Just like with Second Story persisting with your skills can develop them to be even more useful later in the game.

The AI of the computer controlled allies at first may seem nothing short of appalling, but they are designed to effectively mimic what you do should you use them. Say you use Maria and continually spam out Aiming Devices and nothing else the CPU will do exactly that when left to control her thereafter. It can however be tedious to invest time into the characters to act in such ways, and as every RPG gamer knows the same battle strategy won't win in every battle. Still, it's an improvement on brain dead AI support.

One criticism the battle system often receives is the reduction from 4 characters in at once to 3, most unlike Star Ocean - and in fact it's the only Star Ocean title with just 3 playable characters. This is made up for somewhat by the great range of skills to choose from and potentially smarter AI. Overall the battle system is very unique and of a high standard for an RPG. This alone was enough to keep me glued to the game for hours. 9.5/10

Characters: The characters particularly early in the game interact well and make the story amusing enough, particularly Nel, Cliff & Fayt in early proceedings. The later addition of "Albel the Wicked" really turns the interest up in the character category. However as the game progresses the emphasis on the individual characters decrease, this however is typical in the Star Ocean titles due to the optional character syndrome. Sure you may get more choice for your characters in battle, but actual dialogue does tend to suffer as a result, particularly in Till the End of Time with much less Private Actions then prior Star Ocean titles to engage in. Add that to the fact there are two late additions in the Directors Cut; Mirage & in particular Adray unfortunately renders them near useless in the overall scheme of things. The characters and interaction between them starts very well, although once the optional and Director's Cut only characters become available it deteriorates a quite few pegs. 7/10

Voiceovers: Been an action RPG you hear them a lot, thankfully they are head and shoulders better then those heard in Second Story, the voices suit the characters well, and they come with an abundance of various sayings during battle. With the exception of the Nobleman enemies which are designed to be plain annoying and make you want to kill them even quicker then actually possible. Just come post game voiceovers for script scenes are pretty much gone, although as RPG gamers we are used to that. Overall for English voice acting they are of a quality standard. 8/10

Graphics: Some RPG gamers really love a good looking game; others are not too fussed by them. Either way the detail here is of a high standard, particularly the frame rate during battles it excellent. The 3D rendered characters (which also can have up to 4 alt costumes) look great, and move smoothly during battle. This is again something dramatically improved from Second Story, sprites worked a treat in the past, but they aren't exactly the best to look at that's for sure. The only thing it doesnít have is FMVís to the quality of say a Final Fantasy game, but they are still good enough - itís a game not a movie anyway right? 8.5/10

Battle Difficulty: Itís not easy, even first time players on Galaxy will by no means find the game a cake walk. Till the End of Time adds a rarely seen factor in RPGís known as "MP Deaths", if your MP is depleted you will be KOíd; just like you would should you drain your HP completely. Itís something you will have to get used to quickly and until then it can be very frustrating, but it also means you can MP kill your enemies, so all is not lost Ė just understand this and use it to your advantage! There are also freezing status affects (resulting in one hit shattering kills if you can hit while the short freeze state is active) & Stun (Unable to move for a short period of time, or hit) conditions, which arenít seen too often. And then of course there are petrify, paralysis, poison, KO etc like with most RPGís.

On the other side of the coin, if you want additional difficulty you will not be disappointed. Enter Universe, or even worse 4D mode and you will be up for the ultimate challenge. Any hardcore gamers that want to frustrate themselves through tough battles will love. I find the range of difficulty outstanding, Galaxy, or even Earth is perfect for beginners, yet still challenging, I for one am sick of RPGís with fights that are too damn easy, this is definitely not an issue in this game! 9.5/10

Exploring/Dungeons: This is another one of the features I truly enjoy about Star Ocean 3. It has a distinctive feature that stores your progress via your map, with this you can automatically tell where you have been as well as where you have yet to discover. This makes exploring dungeons easier and far more realistic, you donít have a map ready as you go, and itís just another uncommon; yet great factor. It also comes linked with a completion rate, which is great in informing you of whether youíre nearly finished investigating the area, or have far more to do. On top of that itís great for item collectors as getting a 100% map completion will reward you with items that are at least good to boost your Fol.

The next factor about exploring is you can witness your enemies in advance, and the lands you walk look amazing, honestly they arenít far behind exploring and viewing your enemies in advance, just like you can in say Final Fantasy XII. The ability to see, and even scan your enemies via your map (permitting items found later in the game) can make it possible to not fight once in a dungeon. Itís far more refreshing and enjoyable to typical and at times rather boring turn-based combat. That and Iíve never understood the theory of getting into a random fight with a 20 foot dragon while your in a wide open where the hell did that come from? This is a problem no more in Star Ocean 3! 9.5/10

Item Creation: Typical of the Star Ocean series is Item Creation. Differing to Second Story you can only invent in nominated locations throughout Elicoor II, the main planet youíll spend time on in the game. While there are item creation facilities in most towns itís still far more restrictive then being able to inventor anywhere, and any time like in Second Story. The other frustrating factor is trying to predetermine the item you wish to create, this can at times be difficult by continually pressing x to refresh the Fol amount, although itís no worse then making random items in Second Story I guess. On the plus side however is the Communicator to the Craftsmanís Guild and you use to review information on items created before, to make them easier to duplicate. Also new to the Item Creation is the ability to sign 28 different inventors during the game, which at times have invention talents that exceed that of your playable characters. Compared to Second Story is has improved in some areas, although could have been a little more user friendly; I want to create Boots of Prowess, now! But I have to press x 20 or so more times before I can. :/. 7/10

Extras: Once you finish the main story it also features a Clear game option. Where there is still so much more you can potentially challenge yourself with after completing the game. With the aid of a bunny on the opening of your clear file you will be informed of far more areas to challenge you.

These include the Maze of Tribulations, 8 floors of tough battles and exploration. There is also the Urssa Lava Cave, 3 floors of challenging surroundings with even more tough and well, interesting battles. And finally the remainder of Sphere 211, for the hardcore gamers 111 floors to traverse with some unexpectedly tough battles which progressively increase as you scale higher; thankfully you can go back down and save regularly Ė because you will need to! As well as Cameo battles with over-powered versions of Lenneth and Freya from Valkyrie Profile. As well regular post game bosses in the Ethereal Queen & Gabriel. There is no doubt tri-Ace doesnít mind a little mixing of their titles, and I think itís great.

In the Directorís Cut only version there is also a new area called the Aquatic Gardens of Surferio here should you complete the puzzling area you will be rewarded with an item that allows you to engage the Star Ocean 3 characters in 1 on 1 competition. An interesting alternate way to enjoy the battle system of the game which can also be done in 2 player form, unfortunately 2 players only apply to versus mode; and not the actual fights during the game. Although if you've played with a mate before in a Tales of RPG before you'll know it's not always advantageous.

There is also the Ranking Battles at Gemity, yep even more! Here you climb up the ranks into some very difficult battles, with rewards of great exp, Fol & items. Similar to the Coliseum in Kingdom Hearts I guess, just bigger! This can be attempted late in the story, as well as post game. Everyone loves the battle arena style competition; these extras to the story are both intensive and rewarding. 10/10

Replay Factor: Well, if youíre sick of Role Playing gamers where there is nothing left before the 60 hour mark, you certainly wonít be disappointed with Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. Finishing the story and post game on just the standard difficulty, Galaxy Mode could take you up to 100 hours. With the addition of the insanely addictive and challenging 300 Battle Trophies to obtain & 2 tougher difficulties you will never almost run out of things to try achieving. Realistically youíd need over 300 hours to complete absolutely everything the game has to offer, it has potential to last forever if you love what it offers. 9.5/10

Final Thoughts: Not one for the fainthearted of RPG players, or those that consider an RPGís story the absolute most important factor in an RPG. Although if you like an RPG which is long and offers continuously challenging battles & tonnes of other challenges to tackle this is an absolute must. Looks fantastic, runs smoothly and tastefully in battle, offers top class challenges and replay value. All thrown into another epic Star Ocean story with typical UP3 issues and balancing getting home with whatís best for the land.

The developersí tri-Ace have backed up the fantastic Second Story with style, what Till the End of Time lacks in story is well made up for in just about every other aspect of the game. A must for tri-Ace fans and those that love RPGís with a bite!

Overall Rating: 8.6/10

Opinion by Fayt.