Flashback Zone – Star Ocean : The Last Hope

Flashback Zone - Star Ocean the Last Hope 1

Every once in a while you come across a game that’s awful, just… awful. Maybe a friend recommended it to you, you try it, and then you want to immediately punch said friend for wasting your time. But sometimes… once every few decades… something happens. You get screwed over by a game that seemed amazing from the start and then after investing your time and patience into it, it pulls a massive “SCREW YOU!” and leaves you in a ball on the floor wondering what you did in your life to deserve such treatment. This was my experience of Star Ocean : The Last Hope.

When I first started planning this article, I wanted to give it some kind of witty title like “Star Ocean : I’ve Lost Hope”. But there were two massive problems with this; 1. I don’t use witty titles on my articles because that would require me to be witty far too often in my life, and I’m by nature a lazy man, and 2. This game didn’t make me lose hope. What this game did was much worse. I still feel the scar in my heart that this game caused. This game did nothing short of violate me (metaphorically of course).

I’ve always been a massive fan of RPGs. Apart from the fact that they require thought and planning (unlike most shooters which are just “bang bang! ohhh he pulled the trigger 0.1 milliseconds before me!”), they just feel so much more worth my money. Growing up I learned quickly that on the rare occasions that my parents would let me go buy a game, I needed to make that game count. So a game that only lasts a few hours simply wasn’t good enough. RPGs, however, can last for tens and tens of hours. So I quickly became a fan of the genre as a whole.

So you can imagine then, when a friend tells me of this new RPG that’s come out that’s from a famous franchise that I’ve NEVER played before, I was ready to run down the the game store and buy a copy right there and then! Guess what? That’s exactly what I did… and it was the worst mistake I’ve ever made about a game.

The thing that hurts so much about this game is that for its time (and even now) the graphics are just fantastic. The colours and scenery all look beautifully crafted, and the combat system was just magnificent! I mean just look at this screenshot:

Flashback Zone - Star Ocean the Last Hope 4

Lovely… just lovely. The problem is that those are the only two things it really has going for it. I mean there’s pretty decent side quests and equipment modifications, blah blah blah, but that’s all pretty standard for an RPG. Although I should point out before I go any further that this game is actually a JRPG (Japanese Role Play Game), and little did I know, that this spelled disaster for the rest of my experience.

I had played JRPGs before. Final Fantasy, for example, who are actually made by the same company. But I had not yet been fully exposed to Japan’s darker side of entertainment. This game was about to change that. The problem is, it was going to do it gradually, little by little. Like the person at the bar that comes up to you with nasty intentions. He doesn’t just slip the item into your drink. No, no. They talk to you, make you feel comfortable, then they go for the metaphorical kill when you least expect it.

The game approached me very nicely. Introduced itself well. Showed off its suave and sophistication. It introduced me to the first three characters, and they seemed very nice.

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I mean look at them! Who wouldn’t be happy with that? That’s a very appealing set of characters to play as. Each with their own unique look and moves.

Then it showed me all the wonderful things I could do in the game. The battle system, which I’ve already said is fantastic. The beautiful scenery. The very promising looking storyline. But that’s when it happened. I got comfortable, and it made its first move.

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This. This is the beginning of the trip down the rabbit hole. This is where I started to see Japan’s dark side. For those of you (few though you may be) who are fortunate enough to see this and think “so what? It’s just a little girl.” I’m afraid that this is not just a little girl. It’s a lollita. This was the game showing me the nicest part of its weirdness. It’s just testing the water at this point. Seeing if I’ll keep playing. Sadly, it worked. I was in a false sense of security. I dismissed it as being just an odd addition to the game. Little did I know the worst was yet to come. Because after a pretty cool mission and an actually badass addition to the character list (Bacchus), it was time to slip the item into my drink.

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If you’re thinking “huh… that kinda looks like Earth” then you would be right, because this game was about to pull the biggest, lamest, most cliché twist it could think of. Ladies and Gentlemen… We’re going back in time. Oh yes! You heard me right! Back in time! If you just cringed a little… brace yourselves, because they’re not done yet!

Not only are we going back in time, but we’re going to go full cliché with this! We’re going to 1957… to New Mexico. Get it? We’re the Roswell aliens! Oh my god! Whaaaaat! No way!… Are you fucking KIDDING ME?!?!?! That’s it! I’ve drunk the drink with the special item in it and they’ve got me! I did not see that coming! From here on out it is just memories that I would do anything to repress.

Not only are we going to go down this never before used idea (he says with absolute sarcasm), but we’re not going to stop there! Because next we’re going to get a new character! This stupid thing!:

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What in the name of all that is sacred in gaming are these bastards thinking?! A cat?! You’re giving me a CAT?! In New Mexico… in 1957! Oh noooo, what am I saying? That makes perfect sense… to a crazy person! But oh wait! It gets better! Now there’s this evil group of people who run the military base, that want you to hand over your ship so they can use it for research and to finish their project. Sure! Why not?! GO FOR IT!

Oh wait! What’s that? We have to escape because something went wrong with the experiment and now it’s all going to explode? Sure! Let’s go! Oh what’s that? We just BLEW UP THE EARTH?! That’s right! You heard me! We just blew up the Earth!

We blew up the Earth…

I cannot begin to explain just how ridiculous this part of the game is. It literally came out of nowhere. It doesn’t fit AT ALL with what came before it. It just… it just broke me. I couldn’t believe what I had just had to endure. But I kept telling myself “I’m so far into this game. I can’t quit. This game won’t break me!”

And then… It broke me.

Just when I thought it couldn’t ruin the experience any more for me, the writers came up with the lamest, most “I can’t be arsed to do my job” excuse ever as to why, when we have just destroyed the Earth, the future (which through some lucky clichés we are now back in) is exactly the way we left it, with no destroyed Earth.

Are you ready? … We were in an alternate dimension. A different timeline. That’s right Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, they went there. It almost made me cry. I had never felt so abused, so screwed over in a game before. It felt like the writers had just run out of ideas, then taken some cocaine to help come up with a way to fill the rest of the story… and their buzz wasn’t over.

The final thing I experienced. The thing that made me, for the first time in my life, throw my controller across the room in a fit of anger and swear to never play that game again, was the next character:

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Oh, your eyes do not deceive you. That is an angel. I swear to the video game gods, as soon as I saw this… I just broke down. I couldn’t take any more. I knew… I knew! The second I saw her, I KNEW she was the next character for my team. After my aforementioned hissy fit, I took the game out, put it back in the box, and traded it in, for cash. I didn’t even want to swap it for another game, just in case that game got tainted through association.

This game ruined me. It violated me. It deserves to have a permanent position in the list of “worst games ever created” and stay there for all eternity rotting away in bargain baskets at the supermarket, stacked high in the trade-in stores because nobody dares to buy it. That is the punishment, no… the justice that this monstrosity of a game deserves.

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