Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Evolution of The Star Ocean Series: 1996 To 2016 4#

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Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
Developer – tri-Ace
Publisher – Square Enix
Release date - August 31, 2004

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time 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 2003 by Enix, its penultimate release 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.


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.


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 role-playing video games. 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). Each character also has a Fury meter, which governs how fast the character moves over the battle screen, and how often actions can be performed. Standing still will replenish Fury, while any movement will continue to drain it or cause the character to lag. 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.

When the player strikes an enemy, the Bonus Battle Gauge will fill. When the gauge reaches full capacity, the player will enter "Bonus Battle". In "Bonus Battle", the player receives special bonuses, which can help benefit a character's EXP, Fol, items received after battle, etc. However, if a character receives a critical hit, runs away from battle, or dies, the gauge will deplete completely, resulting in the end of "Bonus Battle" and any bonuses the player received. The Bonus Battle Gauge will also reset if the player turns the game off and turns it back on, or restarts their save file.

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.


One of the major influences of the design changes from Star Ocean 2 to Till the End of Time was Star Trek. The combat system was mostly unaltered from the previous title, but characters were rendered in 3D instead of 2D and more strategy was incorporated into the fights. Transitioning to a completely 3D environment from a 2D/3D mix was a lengthy process, and was only possible due to the increased power of the PlayStation 2 console. In terms of story message, game producer Yoshiniro Yamagishi stated that the main message the game communicates is one of "trust". Several characters and dungeons did not make the cut for the final version of the game, but most of what developers wanted found its way into the game. Gameplay balance was adjusted between the Japanese and American releases, as well as fixing various technical errors that occurred in the original Japanese release.

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