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The story line
The story line of The Last Hope occurs before the events in Star Ocean: The First Departure and tells the seemingly-realistic story of Earth's destruction at the hands of humanity in the often predicted WWIII, and humanities search for a new home somewhere in the cosmos in the aftermath of their own handiwork.
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The good parts
The story line once you come to understand its implications for the overall picture of the franchise shows signs of a master story teller who takes the road less traveled of not highlighting the antagonist so nothing is left to doubt. Like the TV show Lost Star Ocean: The last hope shrouds its secrets long enough for you to come to your own conclusions and invest time in characters as the main culprit.
The new elements added to combat game play evolve Star Ocean's combat from the hack and slash affair you remember to a deep and dynamic system that allows you to formulate high-level strategies, pinpoint enemies weaknesses, and dictate character development.
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Parts to forget
The first three hours of the game are absolutely vital to understanding the remainder of the story line, but this time drags on like a your grandma's tea party. Star Ocean thrusts you into the rude and often smelly hands of protagonist Edge Maverick for the majority of this uncomfortable time period, Funny, often hilarious lines in these opening scenes may make you walk away laughing or have you wondering if the writer was serious. During this time you're introduced to the characters briefly, really boring filler, before being thrust into a combat tutorial that breaks up the flow of the story, and seems to have been put in as filler also. Another thirty minutes passes before you're introduced to the first combat scene, which takes place in a very confining and hard to move around in space that the control system was almost too sensitive for at times. Three hours of misery, before the game starts.
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The graphical picture
The character modeling and texturing is amazing, the varied designs and atmospheres of the worlds really take your breath away when you first see them and immerse your senses in a vivid world that entertains and enchants.
The character animations for some reason aren't as good, occasionally the running and walking character animations would skip as they looped, and the lip syncing was off a couple of times.
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Sounds in the game
The music score is really fast and dynamic at times and too slow and uneventful at others and the songs are poor choices for the theme of the game.
The voice acting of the characters is decent, especially the main protagonist Edge Maverick, whose emotional comments matched my feelings at many points.
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The story line of The Last Hope bounces around from one mystery to the next, but the combat keeps the game together and points the characters down a specific and spelled out path. The combat is the real meat of the experience, the heart and soul that will keep you coming back for more. The combat system is innovative and learning new skills and abilities really made me want to level up and see what is next. The combat system made me feel confident enough to even undertake standard encounters in the field, which you can't do in all games.
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The bottom line
Putting the time and energy into following the story line of the franchise has given me a true sense of the scope of the game and of accomplishment and progression. Once Star Ocean: The Last Hope really started to talk to me and I started to explore the game and its fun combat system, I couldn't put it down. The real challenge is not giving up during the ludicrous story developments and strained verbal exchanges you have to watch to get to the fun.