Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
Game Info
Platform(s)
PS2
Publisher
Square-Enix
Developer
Tri-Ace
Genre
RPG
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Great combat
• Huge game world
• No random battles
• Tons of customization

The Bad

• Story and game is poorly paced
• Graphics are showing their age
• Combat boils down to spamming healing spells on allies

 
Grade
B

The Star Ocean series, while not as popular as Square-Enix's two flagship series (Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior), has been a solid offering that chose to be more sci-fi than fantasy. The third installment finally made it to North America in the form of Till the End of Time which is actually the Director's Edition of the Japanese version. This enhanced version comes with extra characters, a versus mode and is devoid of the glitches that made the original Japanese release crash.

The story setup is pretty simple: Fayt Leingod, his parents and his close friend Sophia are on vacation on a resort planet when the planet comes under attack. Fayt and Sophia escape and then become separated when Fayt's escape pod crash lands on a planet that's some hundreds of years behind development-wise. After a rescue and subsequent crash on yet another primitive planet, Fayt becomes involved in a civil war and eventually the forced that have been tracking him down catch up with him AGAIN. For the most part, the story takes a while to get rolling, and even then it relies on a number of anime/manga conventions to push the story long. Later on in the game, the story takes a hard twist that proves to polarize most fans - some find it brilliant, while others thought it trivialized the previous two titles.

Unlike it's Square-Enix brethren, Till the End of Time features no random battles. When you travel through areas, you will see enemies on screen. Coming in contact with them will put you into battle. Combat is fast and furious as it plays out in real time. While your party consists of three characters, you only control one at a time. Depending on the abilities and AI pattern you give your allies, they will perform attacks and actions on their own. Each of the characters learn skills and attacks which can be equipped to one of the two attack buttons or just set as a defensive action. Since you are limited in how much you can set on each characters (skills take up a certain amount of "space" to equip), you'll have to make smart decisions about what to use. In battle, attacks can be executed by holding down the specific attack button at the range of the attack (short or long). Since the game plays out in real time, you'll have to take into account the speed of the attack, recovery, and its area of effect when performing attacks. Because of this, battle proves to be exciting and worth the time, unlike most turn-based affairs.

To keep players from spamming (overusing) attacks, each character has a Fury gauge that declines through movement and use of attacks and spells. When the gauge is at 100, characters automatically block quick attacks. This same block can be broken through heavy attacks, which, in rock-paper-scissors fashion, can be beaten with quick attacks. One other limitation placed on players is an item limitation which keeps you from buying a ton of items to use. Early on this may be a problem, but as you gain better healing spells and just get all around better at the game, this limitation seems less harsh.

Along with the standard story-forwarding RPG conventions, Till the End of Time has a item creation system that allows players to invent items for their own personal use and profit. Be the first to create an item and get the patent for it and you can earn all sorts of money from it. Of course, to make some of the better items, you'll need to find and recruit some of the best inventors the game has to offer. In fact, at one point in the game, you will be able to create an item to use on your weapons which completely "breaks" combat, ramping up your attack power noticeably.

Probably one of the better aspects of the game is the inclusion of trophies that can be earned by performing any number (or variety) of requirements. Defeating enemies in one hit, by a certain value of damage or without taking a hit all earn you trophies. Of course, to do this you have to start a trophy save file early in the game. Along with this are your standard RPG mini-games available as a diversion in Gemity, including a Battle Arena and an unlockable Versus Mode found in Peterny.

Visually, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time relies on its anime-style roots to present the characters. While this limits their visual moods to a degree, the character models are animated well enough to carry the action and story. Enemy models falls somewhere between interesting and just plain boring - some look nice and show some great detail, while others feel like filler. Locations fall into the same dichotomy - some areas are wonderfully detailed and most of the towns are pretty huge and have a lot going for them. Other areas, like certain travel paths, are plain with some seriously muddled textures. During combat and some of the more animated story sequences, there are some nice visual effects, but these seem lacking when you're just walking around the game world. Since this game took so long to get to North America, I have to think that the graphics suffer from being about a good year behind the times.

Audiowise, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time fares much like the graphics. The music and sound effects do a wonderful job at establishing tone. Music themes are appropriate for the locations and even a few tracks are enjoyable in their own right. While this soundtrack pales to the likes of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, it does a good enough job. Till the End of Time features a lot of voice acting, most of which is performed by seasoned anime veterans. Fans of anime dub will recognize most of the voices immediately. A few of the voices work nicely (Nel, Albel, Fayt), while others tend to be quirky (Cliff). And then there's the voice of Farleen, who actually made me want to skip story sequences because it was so wretchedly bad.

As much as I enjoy the gameplay and experience offered to me in Till the End of Time, there are some major aspects that could have used some work. First and foremost is the story. Not so much so the story itself as that's all up to personal preference, but the actual pacing of the story. The player spends way too much time on Elicoor II. So much time is spent on this planet that it throws the rest of the game out of whack pace-wise. In terms of gameplay, the biggest fault that the game has is that the further into the game you get, the less the player will find themselves actually attacking. Since battles go so fast and furious, you'll likely find yourself sticking with the healer and spamming heal spells on your attackers to keep them alive.

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time isn't perfect. It took a while to get here, but the resulting game is still an enjoyable effort to tide players over until the next Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior comes out. The combat is fun and there's a lot to do, so expect to invest a number of hours before you're done.

- - Kinderfeld

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