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Evolution of The Star Ocean Series: 1996 To 2016 5#

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Star Ocean: The Last Hope
Developer – tri-Ace
Publisher – Square Enix
Release date - February 19, 2009




Star Ocean: The Last Hope is an action role-playing video game developed by tri-Ace and Square Enix who also published the game, initially only for the Xbox 360, and the fourth installment in the Star Ocean series. Famitsu revealed that the battle system featured four party members, and was more team-oriented. The game also features more of a sci-fi emphasis than past titles with the ability to control your own ship. This ship is quite large, and is able to land on at least 5 planets or other space-based destinations. Players are able to travel through the "star ocean," jumping across planets. The game takes place a few centuries before the original Star Ocean (around S.D. 10, or approximately 2087 AD). The game's plot revolves around Edge and his crew combating a mysterious threat called the "Grigori".

An international version of the game was released by Square Enix as a worldwide PlayStation 3-exclusive on February 9, 2010. Officially known as Star Ocean: The Last Hope International, the game contains both Japanese and English voices as well as new content that is exclusive to the international version of the game.

Story

The Last Hope takes place on Earth in the year 2096 (S.D. 0010) where the world is on the brink of destruction. In A.D. 2064 World War III broke out after several clashes between the World Republic Federation, the ruling government body on Earth, and its enemies around the world. Weapons of Mass Destruction were utilized by both factions of the war without hesitation, razing the lands on Earth. The declining situation lead the people to believe that the end of the world was nearing, but the critical situation forced both factions to declare a ceasefire. In the aftermath of the war, most of the Earth's population has been killed and the natural environment was deteriorating at an alarming rate.

The surviving population of mankind were forced to live in the confinement of underground cities and the countries banded together to form an organization known as the Greater United Nations. The Universal Science and Technology Administration or USTA was established by the Greater United Nations, its mission was to locate a new home planet for mankind in the far reaches of outer space. A.D. 2087, Professor Trillas Bachtein succeeded in his warp drive experiments which was a breakthrough in space travel. In S.D. 0001, the first year of the newly established Spacedate calendar, the USTA secretly put in motion its Space Reconnaissance Force or SRF project which would then in S.D. 0010 send the first human expedition into outer space to locate a suitable planet for the relocation of mankind.

Gameplay

The Last Hope utilizes the same real time battle system like previous games in the series, new features include a new Rush Gauge and Blindsides. The Rush gauge allows players to perform a preemptive strike against his opponent or use a special ability or attack. Each character will have and utilize their own individual Rush gauge. Blindsides allow the player to counter attack an enemy who is targeting the player by slipping behind the enemy quickly out of his line of sight and launching a preemptive strike on the enemy from his back. One noteworthy change in the system is the number of characters that can be controlled and fought with in battle returning to four, as in the first two Star Ocean games (it was limited to three in the previous title, Star Ocean Till the End of Time).

A new feature in The Last Hope is allowing the player to take the role of captain of the spacecraft, the SRF-003 Calnus, which has been sent to scout new frontiers by the USTA. The Calnus possesses a flight deck where the player can select which planet he would like to fly to, a recreation room where the player's teammates can hang out and interact with one another as well as a conference room where the player gathers with the crew to come out with new ideas for Item Creation. The battle arena contains the battle simulator, a feature from previous games such as Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, which allows the player and his teammates to practice combat. The crew's quarters allows the player to choose which characters share the same room, and the correct pairings can lead to special actions between characters known as Private Actions.

The Private Action system (often shortened to PA) is a feature that returns from previous games in the Star Ocean series, where the main protagonist, Edge, can interact with his teammates. PAs consist of actions such as conversing with them during rest after exploration or battle, the player can form a rapport with him/her, which increases the member's affection or respect for the main character. Choosing the correct choices during actions would unlock special events or cutscenes between Edge and the team member. Placing characters in the same room also builds up rapport and unlocks even more PA events. If a member is severely injured in battle, a special "Rage" mode can be unlocked which allows close members to attack enemies with more power. PAs are also able to change the ending of the game with different cutscenes being shown, there are a total of about 100 PAs which can be unlocked in the game.

The Battle Enhancement Attribute Type (BEAT) System is a new feature in The Last Hope which allows the player to choose the preferred type of fighting styles of team members, these include offense, defense, sneak attacks, etc. As combat experience increases, the team can achieve higher combat rank statuses, which unlock advanced styles, known as Action Upgrades.

BEAT.S is a type of offense fighting style, which is actually a special Blind Sides technique. In effect, the team member forgoes defense and initiates multiple Blind Sides to confuse the enemy, then unleashes a flurry of highly damaging attacks while also raising your offensive stats (ATK, INT, HIT).
BEAT.B is a type of defense fighting style, a special Rush mode power play style. The team member fights the enemy directly in front with special attacks. During this time, the member is almost invulnerable to enemy attacks while raising your defensive stats (HP, DEF, GRD).

BEAT N is a neutral style of fighting as it doesn't upgrade any particular ability, but combines the stat enhancements from the other BEAT styles. It also does not upgrade with battles since it takes on the parameter boost of BEAT S and BEAT B. This is often used as the default BEAT for a character and the player can change it at will.

New special attacks can be unlocked for team members as their levels increase such as long-range, melee or area attacks can be performed. Link combos can be performed through chaining special attacks together. Symbology or Heraldry allows characters to cast symbols which may use up more MP depending on the type of users; for example, melee-orientated fighters would use up more MP rather than spell casting orientated-ones. The casting times of symbology vary according to the statistics of the user, Link Combos can also be combined with Symbology to create multiple chains of Symbology attacks.

Development

Star Ocean: The Last Hope was originally announced at the "Star Ocean Special Stage" at the 2007 Square Enix Party as the tentatively titled Star Ocean 4 with no platform. An Xbox 360 release was revealed during the 2008 Xbox 360 RPG Premiere. In a special interview with Xbox Japan, weeks before the game's release, game producer Yoshinori Yamagishi revealed that the team began planning out Star Ocean: The Last Hope immediately after they finished developing Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, so actual development time took about 5 years. The game uses an improved version of the game engine used in Infinite Undiscovery. He also mentioned that the biggest problem the team encountered while creating the game is capacity, as making a RPG on a seventh-generation console requires vast amounts of data and coding thanks to the complexity of graphics and animations. The game also runs at a constant 60 frames per second. Pre-rendered movies are done by a collaboration between tri-Ace and Visual Works, while character design and illustration (only in the Japanese version) is handled by Katsumi Enami, best known for his illustration work in the light novel and anime series Baccano!

When asked whether the title would release on the PlayStation 3, Square Enix producer Yoshinori Yamagishi replied "We can say that it will be released first [on the Xbox 360]. Whether we'll release it on the PS3 is undecided. We may release it, we may not. Square Enix and The Last Hope's development team later stated that there were no plans for a PS3 version. In an interview, Yamagishi said that Xbox 360 was the first seventh generation console to come out, and its "extremely well-made hardware", from a developer's standpoint, as the reasons why he choose it to develop Star Ocean: The Last Hope on. In a test play session held for Microsoft Japan employees and some prominent bloggers, when asked if Star Ocean: The Last Hope follows after Star Ocean: Till the End of Time's plot twist, Yamagishi stated in a Q&A session that the world of SO4 exists in a parallel universe from the one in the first three Star Ocean games. When asked if tri-Ace will remake the first three games on a new generation console, Yamagishi stated that he would rather work on a new sequel to Star Ocean than develop remakes, as the development time for them would be very consuming. Since then Yoshinori Yamagishi has stated that he finished with Star Ocean after achieving all he set out to do with the series.

On September 14, 2009 Star Ocean: The Last Hope International was announced in Japanese gaming magazine, Famitsu, exclusively for the PlayStation 3. Released in February 2010 on a single Blu-ray Disc, it contains additional content not found in the Xbox 360 version, such as dual voices (Japanese and English), original illustrated character portraits for dialogues, and multiple new soundtracks.







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