Star Ocean 4 is finally finished, at least in the sense that the final boss (all three million hit points) is down. tri-Ace just loves to throw in a ton of post-game content, so I’ve got plenty more to play around with before shelving the game. So final thoughts:
I hate part of the cast, partially because Japan loves to cram anime tropes where they really shouldn’t go and parts of this game came out worse for it. Reimi is supposed to be the overly/obsessively protective sister character who is also the impossibly shy lover. I hate this when it happens in shows, and I hate it even more here because she’s always slowing the game down whenever she’s like “NOOOOO EDGE THAT’S TOO DANGEROUS!” or “NOOOO EDGE DON’T EVEN ASSOCIATE WITH OTHER WOMEN!” If this only happened during private actions, it’d be just short of acceptable, but this shit should not be going on during important plot scenes. Goddamn it Japan.
Meracle is a cat girl. Granted, she’s a throw back to a character that was in Star Ocean one, who was pretty much the same character. However, that character never went around during important scenes doing cat things. Meracle does. Goddamn it Japan.
While Aurmat never left the active party once he joined, the actual character himself was pretty annoying. He’s the typical “RAAA IMA WARRIOR WITH A DARK PAST LEAVE ME TO MY SELF DESTRUCTION RA!” He carries a scythe and calls himself death incarnate. His last name is also Thanatos. He’s also got some sort of super-cancer body that will kill him eventually, but it gives him superhuman strength. He’s also the leader of a military division in the anime-Vulcan army. Apparently, they are perfectly fine with having self-destructive cancer victims leading men into battle. Goddamn it Japan.
Serah was another mainstay in my party, as she’s an awesome healer. She’s also retarded. No, seriously, she has serious mental issues. Several characters even find themselves commenting on how they hope that she’s faking it. That’s actually kind of sad. Uh….goddamn it Japan?
Then there’s the big one: Deputy Director Shimada. I’d find a picture of him, but his girth would probably fill the screen. He is easily one of the worst and most improbable characters ever produced by Japan. I can’t stress it enough that Shimada is an important head in Earth’s military program. Further more, he’s a head figure in Earth’s military in a time of great crisis when SHIT NEEDS TO GET DONE. Instead, Shimada is a fat blob who open bitches about how anything the rest of the cast does hurts his chances at promotions. Oh, and that his steak isn’t warm enough. Seriously asshole? Earth is mostly a radioactive wasteland, humanity is on the brink of destruction, and there is an intergalactic menace that wants to destroy the universe, and all you can think about is eating steak (where did he get steak on the goddamn moon anyway?) and your position within the military ON A DYING PLANET. I honestly don’t know what’s worse, that Japan thinks such a person could exist in the military in such a scenario or that Japan thinks that his ass wouldn’t be discharged faster than he probably can put away a ham sandwich. I’m not even going to dignify this with a “goddamn it Japan”.
The rest of the cast is okay. I think I said my thoughts on Edge last time, Lym is pretty original as far as lolis go, Bacchus is a killbot, Myuria has breasts, and Faize is anime-Spock. Also, this game has a member of the Kenny family in it, though he is only an NPC. I have also decided that there is a correlation in the quality of a Star Ocean and the prominence of the first family of Star Ocean. SO1 had a Kenny as a party member, and it was great. SO2 had a Kenny as the main character, and it was fuck awesome. SO3 didn’t have any Kenny, and it was dog shit (and that’s probably being unfair to dog shit). SO4 has a Kenny as an NPC, and it’s above average.
The plots kind of a roller coaster. It starts out with a fairly strong premise, but quickly gets bogged down with terrible anime tropes. It’s like a cheesy episode of Star Trek, just with said terrible anime tropes. By the end of the game it moves into the territory of cheesy Star Trek movie, just with….you know. The last portion of the game returns to the strength that the opening had, even if it is ridiculously drawn out.
The game play largely got better as it moved on. Combat became even faster, and the bonus board got to be even more fun to manipulate. Plus, I love what they did with the synthesizing skill. It adds more customization than any previous Star Ocean ever had. I do have issues with the item creation system as of the end game. While the system itself is fine, you never really get to take advantage of it and make anything significant. The stuff you can make with it during the first half of the game really isn’t that much stronger than what you can just buy or find. Worse than that, the vast majority of the stuff opened up during the later half that you’d actually want to use require materials that can only be found during the extra dungeons that don’t open up until after you already beat the game.
By the end of the game, I think I really started to enjoy the game’s soundtrack. It’s far from Motoi Sakuraba’s best work, but it was fairly catchy. Plus, I really loved the remixes from SO1 and SO2. I also mentioned last time that the voice acting was decent. This largely remains the same, though I hate Reimi and Serah’s voices with a burning passion.
The game still looked nice throughout the rest of the experience, though I think I found myself hating the shininess even more. It got so bad at times that it was actually managing to obscure enemies. Not fun.
The level design also significantly improved after the much hated Cardianon Mothership. The final dungeon even managed to be one of the few times a teleporter dungeon was utilized without being obnoxious.
In the end, I think SO4 might finally have warmed me back up to tri-Ace. They’ve still done much better in the past, and they could have done much better this time around, but they finally managed to make a game that wasn’t bogged down in horrible and gimmicky elements that bog the game down and ruin the experience. They didn’t even acknowledge Space-WoW, which I definitely appreciated. I think even they want to leave that terrible twist in the festering black hole in which it resides.
PS, that black hole is Star Ocean 3. Sorry, I had to get one more dig in.