Thursday, July 14, 2011

THEPLAYGAMER3: Star Ocean Till The End of Time











Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (スターオーシャン ティルジエンドオブタイム Sutā Ōshan Tiru ji Endo obu Taimu?) is the third main game in the Star Ocean series. The game was developed by tri-Ace and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 2 console. It was released in Japan, North America, and the PAL territories. The original Japanese release date was in February of 2003 by Enix, shortly before its merger to become Square Enix. It was re-released in 2004 as a two disc Director's Cut version with bonus features such as new characters and dungeons. The North American and European versions are based on the Director's Cut version. Till the End of Time takes place four hundred years after the events of Star Ocean: The Second Story.

Setting

The universe of Star Ocean is science fiction in nature, although like the first two games in the series, much of the plot is set on an "underdeveloped planet." It features a galaxy-spanning government in the Pangalactic Federation, several races and species of aliens, different factions, multiple colonized planets, and advanced technology. But despite this science fiction atmosphere, a form of magic exists in the universe: symbology, also translated as heraldry in the Japanese version and in Star Ocean: The Second Story. Standard symbology involves tattooing crests and runes onto one's flesh to draw out apparently latent power in the form of spells, and numerous underdeveloped planets make extensive use of it. Despite its supernatural connotations, Symbology is treated as a legitimate field of scientific study in-universe.

Characters

Fayt Leingod (voiced by Soichiro Hoshi in Japanese and Steve Staley in English) is the main character of Star Ocean 3. He is a seemingly-normal college student from Earth. His father, Robert Leingod, is a famous authority on symbological genetics, a highly controversial scientific field, and does much of his work on the orbital colony of Moonbase. Fayt is somewhat lazy when it comes to his college work and takes every opportunity during his vacation to Hyda IV, a famous resort planet, to ignore that work. He does this mostly by playing games, specifically, combat simulation holographic games. Sophia Esteed (voiced by Atsuko Enomoto in Japanese and Michelle Ruff in English) is a childhood friend of Fayt's who accompanies him to Hyda IV. Sophia was born on the orbital colony Moonbase and moved to Earth later. Because she is such close friends with Fayt and his parents, as well as her parents and Fayt's parents working together, she is considered a member of the family and refers to Fayt's parents as "Uncle Robert" and "Aunty Ryoko".

Shortly into the events of the game, Fayt is introduced to Cliff Fittir (voiced by Hiroki Touchi in Japanese and Dave Wittenberg in English) and Mirage Koas (voiced by Emi Shinohara in Japanese and Kari Wahlgren in English), his partner, who are Klausians born on the high-gravity planet Klaus III. They are members of the anti-Federation organization Quark, which is labeled a terrorist group by the Federation government. Both Cliff and Mirage have a special interest in Fayt which Fayt does not understand.

On the planet of Elicoor II, a backward planet with a technological level similar to that of 17th century Earth, the Kingdom of Airyglyph and the Sacred Kingdom of Aquaria feud. Nel Zelpher (voiced by Yuu Asakawa in Japanese and Wendee Lee in English) is an agent of Aquaria who specializes in infiltration and intelligence gathering and is a user of "Runology," which is suspiciously similar to Symbology studied in the Federation (or, for that matter, "Heraldry" on Expel in Star Ocean: The Second Story). Meanwhile, Albel Nox (voiced by Isshin Chiba in Japanese and Crispin Freeman in English) is the commander of the Black Brigade, one of the three military divisions of the Kingdom of Airyglyph, and is known as "Albel the Wicked," whom you fight early on in the game.

Later into the game, Maria Traydor (voiced by Michiko Neya in Japanese and Dorothy Elias-Fahn in English) is introduced, an enigmatic young woman hunted by the Federation.

Minor characters include Peppita Rossetti (voiced by Masayo Kurata in Japanese and Sherry Lynn in English), a young Velbaysian dancer from a group known as the Rosseti Troupe; Roger S. Huxley (voiced by Mari Maruta in Japanese and Mona Marshall in English), a young Menodix from the Lost City of Surferio, which lies in the Sanmite Republic on Elicoor II; and Adray Lasbard (voiced by Unshou Ishizuka in Japanese and Beau Billingslea in English), the father of Clair Lasbard and member of the Crimson Blade of the Aquarian Kingdom on Elicoor II.

Adray Lasbard and Mirage Koas were added into the Director's Cut version of Star Ocean: Till The End of Time. Mirage was already in the original version as part of the story, but she never joined the party. Adray is a completely original character who was not in the original version of the game at all, and was added primarily to increase the appeal of the game's second release.

Plot

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time begins on the planet Hyda IV where a young man, Fayt Leingod, and his childhood friend, Sophia Esteed, are on vacation with Fayt's family. Fayt is the son of a famous scientist in the field of symbological genetics. For an unknown reason, the Vendeeni — an alien civilization with highly advanced technology that spans only a single planet — attacks Hyda IV unprovoked, thus initiating a war with the Pangalactic Federation. Fayt and Sophia escape on the starship Helre, but are separated from Fayt's parents, Robert and Ryoko Leingod. The Helre is also attacked by the Vendeeni, and the two are separated.

Fayt's escape pod lands on the "underdeveloped planet" Vanguard III, a planet with technology equivalent to 16th Century Earth, and discovers an off-world criminal, the exiled Rezerbian Norton, plotting to take it over. Cliff Fittir, a member of the anti-Federation organization Quark, then lands and helps Fayt defeat this criminal. Fayt learns that Quark's leader wishes to speak to him and plans on rescuing his father, though Cliff does not reveal the reason behind this interest. After getting off the planet with Cliff and meeting his assistant Mirage, the Vendeeni again attack them — but they escape and crash-land on another underdeveloped world, Elicoor II. Elicoor seems to be around 17th Century Earth in terms of technological advancement. Fayt, Cliff, and Mirage crash-land into the capital of the Kingdom of Airyglyph, who believe that their ship is a weapon developed by the country they are at war with, Aquaria. Fayt and Cliff are imprisoned as a result (Mirage escapes), though they are soon rescued by an assassin-like agent, Nel Zelpher, who believes they are engineers from the technologically advanced continent of Greeton. She rescues them under the condition that they aid her country, Aquaria, with their technological knowledge or that she will kill them to prevent them leaking secrets to Airyglyph. This leads the two directly into the war between the two kingdoms and eventually into a great final battle between them. Then a new — at least to the Elicoorians — foe appears in the skies above, a Vendeeni battleship that has found their quarry. However, Fayt destroys the battleship with a previously unknown power of his, though another battleship remains in orbit. During the distraction, the leader of Quark, Maria Traydor, manages to arrive on Elicoor. It seems that both Quark and the Vendeeni knew of Fayt's unusual abilities, and he had been their target the whole time. The party vies with the Vendeeni over control of an unusual "out of place artifact" and Fayt's father, who is killed before Maria can finish interrogating him over his "crimes."

Fayt finds himself space-borne once more, and the galaxy has not stood still. Shortly after the apparently unprovoked attack on Hyda IV, a threat of staggering magnitude emerges in the form of ultra-powerful space-borne beings calling themselves "Executioners." The best ships of the Federation and the Vendeeni are nearly powerless against these new beings, and are quickly being forced into full retreat. The party, acting on a hint from Fayt's father, venture to the Moonbase research station, and Fayt is reunited with Sophia. While on the station, they are confronted by an angelic-looking Executioner that calls itself Proclaimer. It launches itself to attack, telling them that they must be destroyed.

Investigation of the Moonbase records reveals the truth behind the Executioners and their appearance. During the charting of a planet called Styx, explorers encountered an extremely advanced and extremely old Time Gate. When activated, it informed them that their forays into the field of symbological genetics had angered the Creator, and that they were to be destroyed. Even if they were to abandon symbological genetics, the reins would be taken up by another soon enough, and that they were not being warned — they were being sentenced.

The explorers beat a hasty retreat and informed the Federation of what they had found. Studies soon suggested that the statement came from another plane of existence; an entirely new universe. Further study revealed that symbology might be used to access this universe. The scientists agreed to use their own offspring; the subjects were Fayt Leingod, Sophia Esteed, and Maria Traydor. Fayt was the son of Robert and Ryoko Leingod, while Sophia was the daughter of Clive Esteed. Maria was an orphan who was later adopted by the fourth member of the team, Jessie Traydor. The three were symbologically altered in such a way that if they worked together, they could gain entry through the Time Gate. Maria was given the power of Alteration, which would allow her and those with her to remain in physical forms in the new world. Fayt was given the power of Destruction, as it was assumed they would need to physically defend themselves. Two years later, the younger Sophia was given the power of Connection - the key ability needed to make contact with 4D space. (This process of creating humans with inherent symbological power is quite similar to Nede's creation of the Ten Wise Men in Star Ocean: The Second Story, though this did not draw down the wrath of the Executioners due Star Ocean 3: Till The End of Time being out of continuity with other Star Ocean games.) The Vendeeni had been attacking in hopes of handing over Fayt to the Executioners and staying their wrath.

The party goes to Styx and finds the area flooded with Executioners. Escaping their ship in a small shuttle, they witness the mysterious beings and their awesome might first-hand as the Federation battleship Aquaelie which had escorted them is destroyed. Reaching the Time Gate, the party enters "4D space," a dimension higher than their own. According to the 4D beings, their universe is actually not real in relation to 4D space; rather, it is a computer simulation developed by Luther Lansfeld, the owner of the Sphere Company. Dubbed the "Eternal Sphere", it is similar to a real-world massively multiplayer online game for the inhabitants of 4D space.

Fayt and his allies learn that the Executioners are anti-viruses sent to delete anomalies in the Milky Way section of the Eternal Sphere. With the help of Blair Lansfeld, programmer and sister to Luther, the party manages to find Luther. Blair and the group believe that the residents of the Eternal Sphere have managed to achieve a level of intelligence equal to that of 4D citizens; Luther, however, considers them "mere data." Luther then decides that the only way to delete them is to delete the entire universe (apparently ignoring that he is currently in the Eternal Sphere). The party fights and defeats him, causing him to be deleted himself, but fails to stop the deletion.

However, the world is not destroyed for not entirely clear reasons. Blair mentions an "Eternal Sphere backup" earlier, but there's no evidence that it was applied. The characters decide that even if they really are just programs, they have achieved "consciousness" and therefore cannot be deleted. Alternatively, others suggest Maria's power of Alteration has something to do with it, perhaps even implying that their universe has truly become a reality unto itself and therefore not subject to deletion.

The ending slightly changes based on the "affection level" of the other characters for Fayt, derived from the player's choices during the game and in Private Actions. Fayt has an ending for each character if that character has the highest affection level with him, as well as an "alone" ending if no one has sufficient affection level with him.

Gameplay

While having many similarities to its predecessor, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time includes many elements that make it unique among the majority of console RPGs. Instead of menu-driven combat, Star Ocean 3 offers real-time interactive combat, similar to the .hack and Tales series. Battles occur when running into enemies on the main travel field or when certain pre-scripted events occur. In battle, the player directly controls one character, while the other two characters are controlled by AI. The player can, however, choose the tactics used by AI characters or switch which character they are directly controlling.

Enemy attacks can target either a player's hit points (HP) or mental points (MP). Players will also lose HP from using special attacks or lose MP from using symbology or runeology, which is functionally equivalent to magic in other games. If a character loses all of their HP or, unlike most games, if they lose all of their MP, they are knocked out and unable to continue participation in the battle (unless certain revival items are used). If all three characters are defeated, the game is over and the player must reload from their last saved game. If all the enemies are defeated, the player is awarded money (Fol) and experience points (EXP). When some groups of enemies are defeated, the player's characters can also receive a small amount of HP/MP, to counteract the HP/MP that was lost as a result of using special attacks or symbology/runeology.

Like the previous games in the series, the game contains an Item Creation feature that allows the player to create and enhance a multitude of items. A variety of trades are offered, including Cookery, Alchemy, Engineering, and Smithery. Workshops for Item Creation are scattered throughout the towns and dungeons of the game and can be invested in by the player to allow a wider variety of items to be made there. Once a player invents an item, they can file for a patent, and get money from the profits made off selling those items in various shops. The player is also able to recruit inventors to aid them in creating various items.

The Director's Cut version added a VS. Mode to battle against a second player or against the computer. Up to two human players could compete, either against each other or against another character controlled by the computer. Another addition was the use of "Battle Trophies" which may be acquired by completing various challenges in combat. For example, a player can receive a battle trophy for winning a battle in under 30 seconds, or for defeating a boss without receiving damage. Earning battle trophies unlocks bonus options such as harder game difficulty levels, alternate costumes, and a sound test.

Soundtrack

The music for this game was composed by Motoi Sakuraba, a long-time collaborator with tri-Ace. The soundtrack was eventually released in four parts:

Original Soundtrack Volume 1 - A 2-CD set containing mainly the softer and orchestral pieces from the game.

Original Soundtrack Volume 2 - Another 2-CD set containing the upbeat music, primarily the battle and dungeon themes.

Arrange Album - A selection of tracks from the game reworked in different styles.

Voice Mix - Similar to the Arrange Album, but featuring dialogue sampled from the Japanese version of the game along with the music.

The limited edition of Volume 1 also came with a box to hold all four albums.

When the game was revised into the Director's Cut, Sakuraba composed a few new pieces of music and released an album for them.

The song "The Small Bird That Forgot How To Fly" (飛び方を忘れた小さな鳥 , Tobikata Wo Wasureta Chiisana Tori) by the JPop singer Misia was used to accompany the game's ending credits.

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