Hands on With Star Ocean: The Last Hope

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Star Ocean: The Last Hope is the fourth main installment of the Star Ocean saga and marks the arrival of the series on next generation consoles. Star Ocean: The Last Hope takes place before the original Star Ocean title, when in the aftermath of World War III humanity turns towards the reaches of space.

I got a chance for a brief demo of the game, which was set up next to Square-Enix's other big upcoming title of the convention, The Last Remnant. Admittedly it was my first hands on with one of the Star Ocean titles, which I've often heard about or watched friends play but have never gotten a chance to try myself. That being said, getting acquainted with the game's combat mechanics was both a relatively easy and enjoyable experience.

The demo had players controlling the main character, Edge Maverick, around what appeared to be a small dungeon. The outside area consisted of snowy terrain, but content outside the dungeon was locked off. Though the demo was limited to winding pathways and narrow halls, moving around was rather painless due to the ability to dash for short periods of time at the press of a button.

As is typical of most games, you run up to enemies on your screen to begin an encounter, gaining an advantage if you end up ambushing them and the reverse if they end up getting you first. In combat players are allowed control up to four characters, which in the demo included two close range melee characters, an archer, and a caster. Players can toggle control of each of the characters freely by hitting the right bumper, allowing them to choose who they want to play.

The combat was real time, fast, and rather seamless. The quick pace of battles left no time to get bored, and being able to string together fights so quickly was rather refreshing.

While there are likely intricacies to completing combos that I hadn't quite mastered, mashing the A button sufficed for winning and the visual result was almost as nice. Even though I was just mashing the attack and jump buttons (jumping was completely frivolous), the rewarding visuals made it feel like I was doing much, much more. I found myself trying to vault enemies in the air at the end of a battle just to watch it with the cinematic slow down effect that happens when an encounter wraps up.

If there was anything in particular that stood out about the game it was the visual quality of the game, which appeared to be well designed and nicely detailed. So far with the way it's shaping up, Star Ocean: The Last Hope appears to promise engaging and fast paced combat, clean visuals, and what will hopefully be an overall refreshing experience. Xbox 360 owners can look forward to the upcoming release of the game, which is slated to hit U.S. stores on March 3, 2009.

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