Every character plays vastly differently in combat, letting you pick a style best suited to you.
When not in battle, you're exploring a series of open, outdoor locations that range from beaches to deserts to snow-capped mountains and beyond, as well as the occasional puzzle-filled dungeon. These beautiful-but-dangerous environments often contain resource nodes that provide valuable plant life or raw materials if you've got a crew member who can harvest them. These supplies and others earned through battle (or bought from stores) are then used to fuel your research in the simple-but-powerful item creation system. By finding item formulas in your journey or forming research teams and thinking long and hard enough, you can invent recipes for new weapons, armor, items, and even decorations for your ship. Once you gain the right ally, you can further customize your equipment by synthesizing the properties of other items in your inventory to generate some truly powerful gear.
The Last Hope features some top-notch visuals in its huge, open, and highly detailed environments, its abundant cutscenes, and its anime-inspired character models, but it also has a few notable issues. Sadly, the game has only a handful of unique monster designs, and it palette-swaps and reuses them ad infinitum. It's also exceedingly difficult to play on an SDTV thanks to incredibly hard-to-read text and muddied graphics. Sometimes just looking around you is an exercise in frustration thanks to the awful camera system; it zooms in ridiculously close at times and doesn't seem to know what to do whenever you're in a narrow hallway or traveling down stairs or a steep decline. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about The Last Hope is that all of the game's characters have a doll-like, glossy-eyed dead look to them, further accentuated by their complete lack of human emotion or expression. Besides being creepy, this makes supposedly emotional scenes unintentionally hilarious or just plain awkward to watch.
The game's frequently awful voice acting makes it even harder to connect with the characters. At its very best, The Last Hope's cast will make you groan. At its worse, they're absolutely unbearable. Anyone hoping to escape the lackluster dub will be disappointed to hear that the original Japanese audio is not preserved here, though you do have the option to turn off battle quips from individual characters. Celebrated composer Motoi Sakuraba returns to lend his talents to the Star Ocean series once again, and though the voice acting doesn't work, his soundtrack is perfectly suited to the various locales visited, situations faced, and battles fought.
To infinity and beyond!
When it's all said and done and you've finished the game, there's still plenty more to do. Besides offering two unlockable difficulty settings, there are tons of side quests to complete, items to create, recipes to discover, bonus dungeons to explore, and bunnies to race. The Last Hope also has Star Ocean: Till the End of Time's coliseum system, which lets you sign up for solo or group fights to battle your way up the ladders for prizes. You can collect dozens of battle trophies for each character by performing specific tasks with them in combat. And if you actually are interested in the story, there are multiple endings to see based on the relationships that you form as Edge Maverick throughout the game.
If all you're looking for is a strong, narrative-driven role-playing adventure, Star Ocean: The Last Hope isn't going to do much to satisfy you. But despite its deficiencies in this area, its huge number of extras and its addictive, deeply strategic and tactical combat system make it a lot of fun.