Cidolfas's RPG Reviews: Star Ocean: Till The End of Time (PS2)
You Are: Fayt Leingod, an Earthling youth caught up in destiny. His friends include Sophia Esteed, his childhood friend; Cliff Fittr, a Klausian and member of Quark, an anti-Federation group; Nel Zelpher, an Elicoorian mage; Maria Traydor, human and leader of Quark; etc. etc.
Your Goal Is: Overarchingly, just to find your parents, who were captured in an alien attack. However, like most RPGs, ultimately you need to save the world. Once that's done, you can go on sidequests!
General System: Like the other Star Oceans, you collect tons and tons of items and invent stuff. The invention is far less fun in this version. Instead of actively trying to invent items, you hire inventors to do it for you. You fight, they invent. Unfortunately there is very little input you can give into their inventions. Nor do you get the items immediately: once they're invented, you have to buy them in shops. You *can* do inventions yourself (or with your inventor friends) in workshops, but there are so many items and it's so hard to tell which one you're making that annoyance runs large. You can also refine items to make their "factors" more powerful, but this process is slow, tedious, and very expensive.
Battle System: Like in other Star Oceans, battles are real-time, with two characters controlled by AI. Items can only be used every few seconds (equipment can also be changed every few seconds). Spells can be cast, but they take a while to charge. Each character has 15 Capacity Points to spend on battle skills - two short skills, two long skills, and two "effect". Generally you can only fill up four or five slots unless you're only using low-level skills. In battle, each character has a Fury meter which goes down as you attack or use skills. If the Fury meter is at 100% and you're hit by a "weak" attack, an Anti-Attack Aura will activate (stunning or attacking the enemy, or healing you). A "strong" attack, however, will break your Fury to 50% instead. There's also a Bonus Gauge, which will fill as you fight medium-to-strong enemies, providing effects like tripling EXP or increasing your recovery rate after battle. (It's kinda cheap that any enemy that lands a critical hit on you breaks the gauge.)
Graphics: The 3D anime look popularized by Xenosaga (many XS voice actors are here as well, by the way). The graphics are actually quite nice and very detailed. The only thing I don't like is that there's no real way to have the camera "follow" you like in e.g. Wild ARMs 3. You get used to it, but it's annoying.
Music: Motoi Sakuraba finds a sound kit! Very rocky music, most of the time, better than his usual stuff. Unfortunately, the music has a bad tendency to drown out the dialogue - the first game I've ever played that made that mistake.
Story: Wow... there's a hell of a lot of promise here, but it mostly falls flat. There's one or two good twists, but they're actually spoiled hours in advance by the otherwise useful game Dictionary. -_- The voice acting is excellent, but the script isn't as good as, say, a Final Fantasy.
Challenge: Choose Your Own.
Length: You can finish the game once in about 50-60 hours, but to do all the side quests will probably take you well over 90. And if you want to get all (or most) of the Battle Trophies, you're looking at hundreds of hours.
My Thoughts: I really want to like this game. But there's just so many annoyances - the total lack of a pause button, the way they force you to walk for ten minutes to get to particular places, the way NPCs get in your way all the time, and above all, the awful Invention system. Battles are fun, but there's a spike in difficulty level near the end of the game which left me being slaughtered - I had to consult FAQs and beg for advice from online buddies before I could continue. That is NOT something that should be happening in a game. The dungeons are variable and have some neat puzzles, and I like the fact that you can avoid enemy battles by seeing them on the map. The optional dungeons are mostly fun, but Sphere 211 is just plain tedious, and its "final" boss is cheap as all get-out. The game *is* fun to play... but there's just too many things wrong with it. Even if you did like Star Ocean 2, you may be turned off by its sequel.
Overall Rating: 6.5/10